It's a cultural 'awakening' on West Broadway

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2012 - 3:01 PM

Saturday's FLOW spotlights the arts scene in north Minneapolis as a catalyst for revitalization.

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Bill Cottman and Ariah Fine got a wave from Dudley Voigt as they installed a print in a window at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change on Broadway Ave. in North Minneapolis on Monday.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Call it dancing for fun and neighborhood development.

When a colorful, blocks-long "Soul Train" line boogies down W. Broadway in north Minneapolis on Saturday, the steppers and roller skaters will be taking part in more than an attempt to break a Guinness World Record. The street dancing, part of the seventh annual daylong arts crawl known as FLOW, is part of a project of revitalized dreams.

It's been dubbed "the Broadway awakening."

"When you drive down Broadway, it's more alive with art and culture now than even a few years ago, and you can see the transformation taking place," said Roderic Southall, a neighborhood resident who co-founded Northside Arts Collective and is director of the Obsidian Arts gallery in south Minneapolis.

When Southall and others view W. Broadway today, they think of the Lyn-Lake neighborhood 20 years ago. That formerly struggling area in south Minneapolis is now thriving in part because of catalytic cultural anchors such as the Jungle Theater, which attracted audiences and hipsters, who in turn were followed by developers and businesses.

On W. Broadway, the two cultural pillars are the Capri Theater, which underwent a renovation in 2009, and Juxtaposition Arts, a visual arts training and development program that maintains a gallery, graphic arts lab, artists' studios and a park on its multi-venue campus of rehabbed buildings on the corner of Broadway and Emerson Avenue N.

"We want to be like Uptown, with a thriving street life and lots of amenities, but not the same amenities," said Roger Cummings, one of three founders of Juxtaposition, which has five employees and a $600,000 annual budget. "What we want to see over the next 17 years -- and I believe we will -- is this community coming into its full potential, with bustling businesses, with great street life."

Over its 17 years, Juxtaposition has employed and trained hundreds of students, many of whom have gone on to top art schools and to Ivy League colleges. The organization also has become an arts property developer, recently acquiring a 9,000-square-foot building next door that it is making into studios and a multi-use gallery and performance space.

Approaching critical mass?

Saturday's festival will feature art exhibits in galleries, storefronts and office buildings as well as performances of poetry, music and dance at places such as the Capri and on several outdoor stages. One stage even will be mobile -- moved around a loop by 10 bicyclists, like a pedal pub.

The music lineup includes Boston-bred R&B singer Noel Gourdin ("The River"), the Voice of Culture drum and dance corps as well as rap, reggae and jazz acts.

The stages will also have alternative rock, folk, country and bluegrass offerings. The message: The North Side is populated by and open to many different kinds of people.

"We see this as a chance to invite everyone in to see what artists do every day," said Dudley Voigt, founding artistic director of FLOW. "When you go into an artist's studio, you come away with an understanding of their work and build relationships. Wherever the arts go, good things follow."

Farther afield, Asian Media Access and Homewood Studios draw hundreds to Plymouth Avenue. A stained-glass artworks place known as the Goddess of Glass anchors Lowry Avenue. And near the riverfront, the Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts, at 1617 N. 2nd St., teaches kids to act, dance and sing, with instructors who are often Broadway veterans. (The center is offering 2 and 7 p.m. shows of "Crazy for You" during FLOW.)

But the main artery, and draw, is W. Broadway, where the Capri and Juxtaposition are catalysts for positive change.

"We are an attractive destination -- over 80 percent of our patrons come from outside the two north Minneapolis ZIP codes," said Karl Reichert, executive director of the Capri, which hosts stage plays and jazz concerts by the likes of Dennis Spears, Regina Marie Williams, T. Mychael Rambo and Greta Oglesby. A subsidiary of the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, it plans an expansion that will include a dance studio and classroom for its theater and arts training programs.

"What that tells me, and I'm cautious but optimistic, is that we're approaching critical mass," Reichert said.

Dinner and a show

That optimism was echoed by Sondra Hollinger Samuels, who leads the Northside Achievement Zone, a collaborative organization that aims to ensure the area's 5,000 students graduate from high school and are college-ready.

"What we've always wanted in this community was to be able to have the full menu of options" for families, said Samuels, a longtime cultural worker in the area alongside her husband, City Council Member Don Samuels. "Now I can go out to a nice place to eat with my mother and husband and children, then go to a good show. I don't want to be Pollyanna about it -- we have a lot of challenges -- but there's good work being done over here. That's something to celebrate."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

  • FLOW NORTH SIDE ARTS CRAWL

    When: 2-8 p.m. Sat.

    Where: On and around W. Broadway in north Mpls. (see map on E6).

    Admission: Free.

    Info: FlowNorthSide.org.

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