Happy first day of May to all!
One of the biggest events of the year for Twin Cities artists has always been the mid-May open studio art festival known as Art-A-Whirl. This year, for the second time, the event will be virtual. Some arts buildings in NE Minneapolis will be open and some artists will choose to have open studios on the weekend of May 14-16, but the bands, food trucks, and craft brewery events that accounted for much of the massive popularity of the event in recent years will be gone.
I haven't had a studio in NE Minneapolis so I can't speak from experience, but many artist friends had become disenchanted with AAW because of the size and carnival atmosphere of the event. Fifteen or even ten years ago it was possible to tour studios while artists were working and learn about their craft, technique and inspiration. Artists really do love to talk about their work. But by 2019, many artists with studios in NE were choosing to be absent and to rent out their space and walls to non-resident artists to use as pop-up gallery and sales space. I have been one of these temporary artists, hanging as many paintings as possible in ten feet of wall space and hovering in a corner for three days hoping that one of the hundreds of glassy-eyed passers-by might actually look at a painting long enough to ask me a question. I sold a few small paintings and ran through a lot of business cards, but frankly the experience was exhausting and a bit soul-crushing. I came away with the feeling that this was no way to get people engaged with my art and make any kind of human connection.
The silver lining of the pandemic motivated virtual event is that the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association that normally plans and executes AAW has put all of its energy into establishing a great online member platform, going beyond a mere directory to offering artists a keyword searchable online retail platform for their work, plus the opportunity to have video studio tours and demos. Last year, terrific NEMAA volunteers helped me to create a tour of my home studio which will still be available at my site on the directory (it offers a fabulously intimate view of my former second floor third bedroom). I recently began a new studio still life using traditional indirect painting techniques (i.e. this one will take weeks to finish) and have been documenting the starting process with video clips and photos that I hope a NEMAA volunteer will be able to turn into a short video which will go live on the opening day of AAW. The best part is that unlike the three day gallery that used to be AAW for me, much of my work will be available 24-7 for purchase for months to come and you can contact me any time through the directory to ask as many questions as you like about my training, process, inspiration, and even commissions (love them).
Please check out NEMAA's virtual Art-A-Whirl this year. While nobody has had the best time during Covid, many artists have had no opportunities to show their work and even more have lost the service industry and teaching jobs that funded their art careers. Your interest will be deeply appreciated. As always, I would love to hear from you and hope everyone is well and vaccinated.
All images copyright Jan M. Wagner Fine Art.