This year I received my most intimidating yet rewarding assignment to date when our friend Debbie asked me to photograph Art-A-Whirl in her family’s historic Minneapolis building, The Northrup King.

What’s Art-A-Whirl? It’s an annual open studio event that takes place all across Northeast Minneapolis and is free to the general public, and it’s about buying original artwork just as much as it’s a way to connect with the artists themselves. It’s also a great opportunity to get a glimpse into the creative processes of the artists who participate, and to tour some of the unique venues and iconic warehouses that burst at the seams with creativity during Art-A-Whirl weekend.

I fell off my chair at the chance to shoot this. Never mind the fact that some of my favorite artists and makers hold space in the 100 year old Northrup King Building, home to almost 200 artists and 30 entrepreneurs and nonprofits — it was simply such an honor to document an event that is so important to the creative arts communities of the twin cities and surrounding area. How could I possibly document it all?

Welcome to the Northrup King Building on Art-A-Whirl 2017, which also ended up being the rainiest weekend in Twin Cities History.

In the moments between downpours of torrential proportions, I hustled into the building with my camera, ready to go. Conditions outside couldn’t stop people from getting inside, where art lovers from all over the state filled the halls in droves to roam open studios and galleries, buying and appreciating art and local goods.

Art-A-Whirl brings people from all walks of life to the city to buy pieces of art they can take back home to the communities where they live; and in that way art gets spread around the world. It all makes me so happy to see!

One of my favorite instillations at Art-A-Whirl in the NKB was Friendship is Magic, created by artist friends Clea Felien, Damali Abrams, The Glitter Priestess, and Ambivalently Yours.  The instillation filled a room with girl culture throwbacks, creating a floor-to-ceiling experience in pink and blue which asked the question, “In a world where adults are encouraged to cultivate potentially beneficial business connections instead of friendship, what does it mean to celebrate friendship instead?” 

I loved it, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever heard of GirlCreative, but I kinda sorta really definitely believe in the power of fierce female friendships!

 I was profoundly impacted by the messaging behind some of the art I saw. The piece below is by an unnamed artist in studio 428. It hasn’t left me, and I don’t think it soon will:

I also loved getting to know as many of the artists as I could, and even meeting some of their family. This is Dyan Padgett‘s son standing side by side to a portrait she painted of him with his brother years ago – and I think he looks exactly the same today!

Head to the NKB on First Thursdays as they invite you to “meet with painters, sculptors, photographers, jewelers, wearable fiber and textile artists, glass blowers, furniture makers, pottery/ceramic artists, and more”. For more information on First Thursdays and to download a guide to the historic building and all of its interesting inhabitants, visit the Northrup King Building Website.

It was incredibly inspiring to be around these talented artists and to observe their creative process through my lens, so the world can see that art is alive and well at the NKB.

In that way, I feel my work on this most rewarding assignment can contribute to art being spread around the world, too.




And to navigate your visit to next year’s Art-A-Whirl, be sure to download the nifty NEEMA APP, designed by our very own website builders @von91!

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