Back in 1995, a group of artists who lived and worked in Northeast Minneapolis got together to form the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA). A year later, in 1996, they put on the first Art-A-Whirl, an open studio tour, showcasing the artists’ talents and products.
Twenty-one years later, Art-A-Whirl is the largest open studio tour in the United States and NEMAA is about 900 members strong.
NEMAA’s mission is to promote connections between individuals, businesses and artists for the collective benefit of the community. And Art-A-Whirl is just one of three main events that NEMAA puts on to support that mission and their members.
Along with monthly studio tours, NEMAA produces the Fall Fine Arts Show to showcase the vast and diverse selection of fine art from their artists, and Wintertide, a biennial juried art exhibition showcasing exceptional artwork by regional artists.
But Art-A-Whirl is probably their biggest annual event, with tens of thousands of visitors descending on the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District over the three-day event.
For the 21st Art-A-Whirl, happening Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22, 2016, NEMAA has a couple of new things planned.
First, they are rolling out an app that will help you find everything you want, from specific artist studios to places to unwind and grab a bite to eat. It will also let you peruse trending social media posts (with the #ArtAWhirl hashtag), and discover “I Bought Art” sticker discounts from local retailers.
The app is launching right before the event and will be available to download for iOS and Android devices at artawhirl.org.
And speaking of “I Bought Art” stickers, those are returning this year, after launching last year. Every NEMAA member will have these stickers to give out to customers who purchase art. Customers can wear their stickers proudly, indicating their support of these local artists. In addition, many businesses will offer discounts to those wearing the stickers; which businesses will offer what discounts? You can find out on the app.
If you enjoy purchasing art in a potential bidding war, the Art-A-Whirl Silent Auction is something you’ll want to check out. And this year, the auction will accept online bidding for the first time ever.
The Silent Auction is NEMAA’s biggest fundraiser of the year, offering your the opportunity to bid on over 120 pieces of art, plus gift cards and gift baskets from local businesses. The labels on each piece of art includes the artist’s name and studio location so that you can visit them to view more of their work.
The online bidding capability will enable you to stay informed on the item you are following and make the winning bid. You’ll be able to view your bid via your smart phone, computer or via on-site iPads with NEMAA volunteers. Pre-register for the online bidding capability by clicking here.
Of course, many things are staying the same, such as the wonderful Art-A-Whirl Directory and Guide. The Directory includes information on Art-A-Whirl, such as listings of artists, information on artists, an area map, dining guide and more. Plus, it provides information on NEMAA events all year long. You can pick yours up for free at information booths during Art-A-Whirl.
And there will be trolleys. This year, however, three trolleys will be running throughout the event, making various spots throughout the NE Minneapolis Arts District. The trolleys will be driving in a clockwise direction on the Arts District Trolley route, and the entire circle will take about 45 minutes. Stops are clearly marked with signage, and each is designated with a light blue square on the Art-A-Whirl map.
Along with the free trolley rides at Art-A-Whirl, Metro Transit is once again offering free bus and light rail rides to Art-A-Whirl. You can print out a free pass to get you to and around Art-A-Whirl by clicking here.
And finally, the Minnesota Transportation Museum will be on hand with vintage buses transporting people to the A-Mill Lofts, a live-work space for artists.
“Every year, we strive to improve the visitor experience,” says NEMAA Executive Director, Alejandra Pelinka. “Along with making Art-A-Whirl a great event for the artists, we want to ensure that the people who come to it get the most out of their experience, while here.”
There truly is something for everybody at Art-A-Whirl, from family-friendly to hard-core art buyer.
“Art-A-Whirl has so many personalities. If you don’t like crowds, you can find some quiet spots; if crowds are your thing, there are plenty of those, too.” saysAlejandra. “Whatever you enjoy, our hope is you enjoy it so much during the event that you’ll come back to the area at other times during the year to support these wonderful artists and businesses.”
Art-A-Whirl is happening:
- Friday, May 20 from 5:00 pm until 10:00 pm
- Saturday, May 21 from 12:00 pm until 8:00 pm
- Sunday, May 23 from 12:00 pm until 5:00 pm
The Silent Auction takes place during these hours at the Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE, Third Floor Gallery #332.
So mark your calendar for the third weekend in May, make plans to visit Art-A-Whirl and experience why Minneapolis Happening readers voted Art-A-Whirl as the Winner in the Festivals category in the Happening List contest.
And for more information on Art-A-Whirl, please check out artatwhirl.org.