10 ways to savor the return of Art-A-Whirl to northeast Minneapolis this weekend

After two years of pandemic-induced shrinkage, Art-A-Whirl returns to northeast Minneapolis this weekend with about 800 artists and gallery members participating.

Anna Becker, executive director of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), thinks this year’s event will be a healing one.

“Every artist and business owner I’ve talked to is really excited to welcome people back into the neighborhood,” she said. “There’s something irreplaceable about connecting face to face. We’ve all been missing those interactions.”

Launched in 1995 by a handful of artists in Northeast who banded together to invite the public into their studios, Art-A-Whirl grew into the nation’s largest open-studio tour, drawing as many as 50,000 people as bars and restaurants joined the party with live bands and performing artists.

In 2020, organizers had to shift online, scrapping its plans for the 25th anniversary event. Last year’s Art-a-Whirl ended up being a hybrid online-offline event.

Here are 10 not-to-miss activities — all free, except where noted.

Woodcut cards: Printmaker Emily Gray Koehler will show visitors how to print woodcut designs onto hand-collaged greeting cards using an etching press. Walk away with a cute print of a bee or a bird. (Thorp Building, 1618 Central Av. NE., wheelchair-accessible via Brickmania retail store.)

Punk patching and visible mending: Even punks need help patching up their tattered wears. Artist Jules Niemi helps people fix their own stuff, or provide a patch, which is great to place over the massive, gaping hole in your heart or soul. (Holland Arts, East Building, 639 22nd Av. NE., 2-5 p.m. Sat. bitternorthworkshop.com)

Quick watercolor portraits: Want a picture of your beloved but have zero painting skills? Mercury Mosaics offers quick, 10- to 15-minute solo portraits ($30) or more people ($40). (Thorp Building, Suite 125, 1620 Central Av. NE., 11 a.m.-1 p.m. & 2-4 p.m. Sun.)

Banksy selfie station: Hoping to get a piece of the traveling Banksy exhibition but don’t have $35 to spare? Pop into the Banksy Art-A-Whirl Rest Stop and snap a selfie. Banksy certainly wouldn’t mind, since he is against capitalism. Plus there’s free lemonade and water. (Lighthouse Immersive, 1515 Central Av. NE., noon-8 p.m. Sat., noon-5 Sun.)

Play with clay: Why spend hours at a potter’s wheel trying to mold slippery clay when there are already piles of oven-baked clay at your disposal? Mess around with pre-made objects, add designs, then go home and bake them. (Flux Arts Building, 2505 NE. Howard St., Studio A, pay-what-you-can, 5-10 p.m. Fri., noon-8 Sat., noon-5 Sun.)

Glass galore: Learn how to cut glass and create your own magnet with the help of glass pros. (Potekglass, 2505 NE. Howard St., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. & Sun., $15)

Nice letters: Snail mail is often associated with bills, junk advertisements or that random postcard that arrived two years late. At artist Wendy Shragg‘s studio, visitors are invited to work on their own “happy mail” — something you’d actually want to send or receive. (NE Tree House, 326 NE. Monroe St. 1-3 p.m. Sat. & Sun. Free.)

Metal stamped: Make your own designs and words with metal blanks and stamps with a bevy of provided supplies. (Holland Arts East, 639 22nd Av. NE., 12:30-1:30 p.m. Sun.)

Take a break, meditate: Prepare yourself for Art-A-Whirl on Saturday with a free hatha yoga class at 9 a.m. or an introduction to meditation at 10:30. (Meditation Center, 631 University Av. NE.)

Throwing down: At Lisa Elias’ metal studio, experience ceramic throwing by Oliver Elias while listening to live music Friday and Saturday from a variety of local acts including the April Fools, Silverteens, Good Diction and more. (1129 NE. Van Buren St.)

Art-A-Whirl
When: 5-10 p.m. Fri., noon-8 Sat., noon-5 Sun.
Where: Northeast Minneapolis.
Info: nemaa.org/art-a-whirl

Correction:
An earlier version of this story had the wrong title for NEMAA executive director Anna Becker and a photo caption misidentified one of the artists participating in Art-A-Whirl, Amanda Webster.