The days are longer and warmer, it’s time to make your plans to get out and experience some of the best visual art our local scene has to offer as well as get to know some of the artists who identify as part of our community.
Presented by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), Art-A-Whirl is an open studio tour in Northeast Minneapolis. It’s a great opportunity to tour private artist studios and galleries, connect with the artists, and purchase original artwork. During Art-A-Whirl, private art studios, galleries, homes, storefronts, businesses, and restaurants have artwork on display and are open to the public, creating a fun atmosphere to connect with artists and purchase original artwork.
Over the last 20 years, it has become the largest open studio tour in the country. See the work of more than 600 artists in more than 20 media including clay, furniture, glass, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and much more. The artists’ open studio tours may include demonstrations, live performances, and large-scale exhibitions. Studio tours offer a great opportunity to ask questions, discuss techniques, experience art first-hand, and purchase unique artwork directly from the artists for your home, garden, office, or self.
Though primarily known for his watercolor work, Calvin has worked in oil, oil and cold as medium, and acrylic mixed media as well as various sketch mediums. Graduating with a degree in fine art, Calvin ventured into the publishing business and didn’t pick up a brush for 25 years. He says, “A friend pulled me back into art around 1999, telling me, ‘It is time to get back to something you really loved.’ I have been doing art ever since.”
In Studio 321 in the Northrup King Building, Calvin will be offering a full range of work, both framed and unframed. He will also have a couple boxes of nude sketches for sale that he calls “tack-y art” (because they are so cheap you don’t have to be worried about just tacking them to a wall) in addition to close to 100 different designs of note cards created from originals.
As for what inspires his work, Calvin has no easy answer. “To narrow it down to a sentence or two: I paint a lot of landscapes,” he says. “But I don’t just want any landscape…I want to paint the feeling of that particular day, of that particular moment, the mood and emotion of that place.”
Working in acrylic on canvas or creating sculptures in aluminum, plywood, ebony, and sterling silver, Jim Dryden remembers it was at three years old when he thought all of the crayons in the box were like people who had feelings. “I believed that if I didn’t use all of the colors equally some of their feelings would be hurt,” he says. “I made some ugly pictures this way.”
A deep love of modernism and an interest in math and science are the basis of Jim’s inspiration. His most recent collection of paintings, “Set Theory,” is inspired by Georg Cantor’s mathematic set theory (think Venn diagrams) and uses patterns of overlapping circles to consider the idea of inclusivity/exclusivity and how we are all connected to one another in some way. “Gravity,” Jim’s current collection of sculptures, takes the two-dimensional shapes from his paintings and arranges them in three dimensions. The sculptures are made of individual parts that are not attached, and so they must stand by the force of balance and gravity.
“I’m not certain what Patrick Pryor, the gallery director, will select for this show, as all of the Kolman Pryor artists will be included in the Art-a-Whirl exhibition,” Jim says, “but, I would expect there will be examples of both my painting and sculpture.”
Christi Furnas began to consider herself an artist in high school. “It was a great escape from all the conformity and stress,” she says. “It gave me an identity that was unique and something I could be proud of. I don’t know if I would have made it through school without my art teachers. Art in the schools is so important because it helps kids deal with all the emotional crap that is happening around them.”
Now Christi works in oil as well as pen and ink, and finds her wife to be the greatest inspiration. “She is not only inspiring but she is a huge support when I get down, or have a creative block,” she shares. “She is a writer, so she understands that artists don’t only work from inspiration, but from having discipline. I am certainly not inspired every time I sit down and write, draw, or paint. I would get nothing done! She helps me get off my butt and go to the studio.”
That studio is Steadfast Studio and Gallery in the Solar Arts Building, where Christi’s work will be on display during Art-A-Whirl. “I am currently working on a graphic novel; I’m still in the early stages,” Christi says. “I just received an Artist Initiative Grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board to start the project, so people will primarily see illustrations of possible characters from the future book. I will have a range of sizes, some framed and some not. I will also have a couple of examples of my oil paintings, which are much different.”
Growing up, Mike Welton’s dad would take him to new building developments since he was in the real estate development business and the idea and interest of buildings took hold at a young age. “I took painting class five times in high school and I’m not sure how I got away with that, but I knew I enjoyed it and was good at it,” he says. “After a desire to escape the digital detail required for graphic design, I started painting every day 19 years ago; after a year I had my first solo show that sold out.”
Using sharpie pens and plenty of oil mediums in his newer paintings, Mike’s graphic design experience influenced his painting in terms of attention to design and details of the image. “My visual attention Is caught by letter forms and angular geometric shapes that architecture has along with signage,” he says. “My most popular works are paintings I started painting 10 years ago of iconic Twin Cities signs and buildings.”
Fans of his work can catch him in Studio 367 in the Northrup King Building during the event.
As an artist in one form or another since their teenage years, Meg Brown began as a photographer before spending the majority of their mid-20s and 30s as a painter, until 2011 when Meg’s dad passed away. “I basically quit art, and lost all direction,” Meg says. “That ‘break’ from art was more of a struggle than a break, and I started playing with clay to keep my hands busy. I took a couple classes at Northern Clay Center and I was hooked! By fall of 2013 I set up shop with a couple of other artist friends, and set out to create functional art.”
Nearly three years later and Meg is still working with B-clay (a porcelain/white clay mix). It’s freedom that inspires them most. “Nine-to-five jobs never really worked for me, I am much happier and productive when I create my own schedule and making art is just that,” they say. “I usually don’t say no to an opportunity to make art, whether it’s a medium that I know well, or something that I’m learning for the first time. I recently made a short documentary (my first of many films), Raising Owen: A Genderqueer Love Story, which provides a short look into the lives of a Minneapolis family navigating non-binary parenting. I love art and I try to make art for everybody, but I specifically focus on queer/trans folks and sex-positive work.”
Meg has been working non-stop since January to beef up their stock and get ready for Art-a-Whirl visitors in Studio 451 in the Northrup King Building. “I love this event because it’s a chance for folks to see where we create,” Meg says. “It gives a sense of magic and really enables me to connect with folks that I don’t get at other art shows. I’ll have tons of queer and kinky mugs as well as my hand-built flasks and drink tumblers.”