Wonder what makes a particular art gallery special? Ask the director of another gallery.
The folks in charge of Twin Cities art spaces are quick to praise the work that others are showing, the vibe that others are creating. The scene is diverse and, unlike in other cities, spread out beyond a few districts. In New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, art galleries are clustered. But in the Twin Cities, each can feel like its own destination. Local gallerists know this, adding to a sense of community.
"We are willing to send people to other spaces," says Alex Blaisdell, gallery director at Highpoint Center for Printmaking. "There's something Midwestern to it — we're all happy to help each other."
At no time is that clearer than during Twin Cities Art Week, running Sept. 27-Oct. 1, when galleries are putting on gallery crawls, artist talks, film screenings and exhibition walk-throughs. There will be a party in the backyard of a space once owned by a former Walker Art Center director. Another gallery owner is making pancakes.
Rebecca Heidenberg of Dreamsong Gallery started Twin Cities Art Week to recreate the ease of getting to many galleries in one evening as she was able to do when she lived in New York.
"In the Twin Cities, because the spaces are all over the place and people have different hours and different schedules, it's sometimes hard to do that," Heidenberg said.
A gallery can be an intimidating space, especially on a quiet weekday, when it's just you and the person behind the desk. Questions arise: Do I say hello? Do I pay? Do I ask about the work? (The answers: Yes! Mostly, no. And of course! Curators and artists love talking about the work.) But this week is zero pretense, all party.
The galleries highlighted here range from newcomers that show emerging artists to institutions that have been around for decades. A few focus on a single medium, while many are multidisciplinary. Some are run by nonprofits, some by artists. Some represent at international art fairs, while others have a more DIY style.
"We have great university galleries, we have small artist-run spaces, and we have several major institutions, and a few really great commercial galleries [participating]," Heidenberg said.
Allow us to guide you through the scene.
David Petersen Gallery
4116 Cedar Av. S., Mpls.; davidpetersengallery.com
Known for: National names in a disarming space.
Key artists: Lukas Geronimas, Rose Marcus, Pamela Sneed.
At first, you won't be sure if you're in the right place. The sign on the white storefront advertises tax services. But above it, in blue painter's tape: David Petersen Gallery. Inside, Petersen welcomes you. "Make yourself at home," he says. But this room feels very far from home. On this day, it's wallpapered, floor to ceiling, in colorful drawings of gardens, by Los Angeles artist Lukas Geronimas. You contemplate the three figures in the room's center. You read Petersen's writing about the show, which quotes rocker Courtney Barnett, invokes Rodney Graham's 16mm art film "Phonokinetoscope," and is, in the end, more mood than information.
"I've gotten guff about not being more didactic," Petersen says. "But I don't like going to shows that give me the answers."
He opened this space on Cedar Avenue after a five-year hiatus. His shows, marked by buzzy openings, tend to feature artists from the coasts. Their materials vary. But like Petersen, they all ask questions, often with a wink.
Twin Cities Art Week: From noon-2 p.m. Saturday, Petersen is making pancakes. While noshing, check out Geronimas' show, "Variety Garden."
Highpoint Center for Printmaking
912 West Lake St., Mpls.; www.highpointprintmaking.org
Known for: A home for printmakers, from kids to masters.
Key artists: Jim Hodges, Julie Mehretu, Cole Rogers, Donovan Durham.
At Highpoint, you can not only view finished artworks, elegantly displayed — but witness art as it's being made. The gallery is just one piece of the bright, 10,000-square-foot space on Lake Street, a hub for printmaking. Big windows frame artists inking and printing and toying with new techniques. There's a classroom, too.
"Highpoint is a living thing at all times," says Alex Blaisdell, gallery director.
Looking to buy? Peruse recent artworks made as part of Highpoint Editions, a program that invites artists better known for other media into the studio. (A huge Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibition a few years back captured the resulting magic.) Invest in a limited-edition print from a coveted artist such as Delita Martin, Julie Mehretu or Aaron Spangler for thousands of dollars. Or if your budget is a few hundred, check out racks with works made by members of the center's cooperative print shop.
During Twin Cities Art Week: Stop in to see Fidencio Fifield-Perez's solo show, "On Looking." On Saturday, noon-4 p.m., learn about relief printing on fabric, taking home your own patch.
1900 Columbus Av. S., Mpls.; waitingroomart.com
Known for: Artist-run space with DIY ethos.
If you're used to art being presented in a white cube, Waiting Room will cure you of that notion. This basement space features rough walls, exposed pipes, unexpected nails. Since its founding in 2014, Waiting Room has lived in different venues across the Twin Cities. Three years ago, its second director, Kristina Johnson, decided that it ought to live with her. Inviting artists into her home to show or to curate, she watches their brains whir. One artist cast those nails in gold.
"It's a peripheral space that has this capacity for mistakes to be made," Johnson says. "Institutions can't lend themselves to that riskiness. Waiting Room, in this iteration, is kind of inviting those messier moments."
The next risk is her own: She'll present her paintings in a show this month.
During Twin Cities Art Week: See Johnson's work during a reception from 3-5 p.m. Saturday.
2123 W. 21st St., Mpls.; bockleygallery.com
Known for: Indigenous artists on the rise.
Key artists: George Morrison, Dyani White Hawk, Pao Houa Her, Stuart Nielsen.
This simple space in the Kenwood neighborhood contains just a fraction of what Bockley Gallery is up to. Todd Bockley started the gallery nearly 40 years ago, wanting "to highlight artists from this region who were not getting their due," gallery manager Emily Marsolek says. Not only Indigenous artists. But quickly, that became his specialty.
The art world has caught up. Last year, two Minnesota artists whom Bockley represents — Dyani White Hawk, a Lakota painter and bead artist, and Pao Houa Her, a Hmong conceptual photographer — shined in New York's prestigious Whitney Biennial.
While the Minneapolis Institute of Art is hosting an epic exhibition of Jim Denomie, another Bockley artist, the little gallery is hosting a humbler show: small oil works that Denomie created during a daily painting practice in 2005. Some hang, framed, on a purple wall. But most lay flat on tables. It's a presentation Denomie would have appreciated, Marsolek said. When he showed at a fancy art fair in Miami, he planned to lay his artwork on a plastic folding table from Home Depot. (Bockley was able to dissuade him.)
During Twin Cities Art Week: Walk through Denomie's painting-a-day series from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday.
1500 NE. Jackson St., Studio 144, Mpls.; publicfunctionary.org
Known for: Inclusive, imaginative hub for artists.
Key artists: Leslie Barlow, Alexandra Beaumont, Lissa Karpeh.
Public Functionary's ever-growing space in the Northrup King Building is a community first, a showcase second. That's clear even in the galleries, which spotlight some of the city's most exciting early career to emerging artists. Many of those artists are part of the PF Studios program, which supports and develops young, underrepresented artists in a variety of disciplines.
"In the long run, what that does is shift the cultural landscape within the city," says Tricia Heuring, director and curator. "Because you get more experimental work, you get more diverse perspectives."
The nonprofit's time at Northrup King began with artists, with studio space. One studio swelled to five. One gallery became two. Now, there's even a cafe.
A supportive community that brews a good coffee and throws a fun party? What a thing to witness.
During Twin Cities Art Week: Parallel shows in Public Functionary's two galleries use dance to think about community and cultural memory. Yasmin Yassin's "Dhaanto" honors a dance troupe based out of the Somali Museum of Minnesota. Za'Nia Coleman's "Saturday Mornings and the Faces We Remember" explores the legacy of the Hollywood Studio of Dance in north Minneapolis. Both artists will be in conversation at 7 p.m. Friday.
Weinstein Hammons Gallery
908 W. 46th St., Mpls.; www.weinsteinhammons.com
Known for: A sharp eye for photography — and more.
Key artists: Gordon Parks, Alec Soth, Vera Lutter, Erik Madigan Heck.
Weinstein Hammons Gallery is both a neighborhood gallery and a national voice, somehow managing to feel both intimate and important. The warm white walls of its south Minneapolis space regularly showcase 20th-century luminaries, including Robert Mapplethorpe and Gordon Parks, and living, in-demand photographers such as Alec Soth and Gail Albert Halaban. But paintings appear on occasion. Sculptures, too.
Founded in 1996 by Martin Weinstein, a trial attorney turned photography lover, it is now co-owned by Leslie Hammons, who had been its longtime director. She's the force behind the gallery's smart group shows, including "The Fashion Show" in 2014 and "Music Box" in 2021, a collection of about 50 images that captured the ecstasy and mystery of live music, sometimes in a single image. Those shows include artists the gallery represents, of course. But Hammons casts a wide net, drawing in surprises.
During Twin Cities Art Week: Get a sneak peek at "Funispace," an exhibition of 11 new black-and-white photographs by Justin Newhall, which opens in October. Hammons and Newhall will give a tour from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.
1237 NE. 4th St., Mpls.; dreamsong.art
Known for: Contemporary artists, female-identified and underrepresented artists.
Key artists: David Goldes, Alexa Horochowski, Lee Noble.
On opening nights, crowds of people spill out onto the sidewalk. But on an ordinary day, the gallery looks like a corner store. The building used to be owned by former Walker Art Center director Olga Visa and her husband, Cameron Gainer. Filmmaker Rebecca Heidenberg and her husband, Gregory J. Smith, a fiction writer, bought the building in 2017.
There's a two-gallery ground floor, a backyard space that doubles as a film screening venue, a courtyard, and a house for an artist residency, still in the works.
At Dreamsong, expect to find a range of artists, from those who use materials in unique ways to popular local artists such as Ta-coumba T. Aiken, who had a solo exhibition there last year.
During Twin Cities Art Week: View Lee Noble's exhibition "Lurkers" and experience a live performance from the artist on Friday at 8 p.m. Stop by for a BBQ and closing party of Twin Cities Art Week in the gallery's courtyard on Sunday from 5-7 p.m.
Hair + Nails Gallery
2222 ½ E. 35th St., Mpls.; hairandnailsart.com
Known for: Contemporary art, local emerging artists.
Key artists: Cameron Downey, Emma Beatrez, Rachel Collier.
Hair + Nails Gallery isn't named after a salon, although it seems like it would be.
"It is a common practice for galleries to name themselves after the use of the building before they moved in," co-founder Kristin Van Loon says. "The name was an invention out of thin air. The more romantic reason is that hair and nails are the part of us that continue to grow after we die."
Gallerists Van Loon and Ryan Fontaine opened the gallery in 2016.
"He toured with the punk scene and was always the person that made space for others, and as a choreographer in HIJACK, I also did a lot of grass-roots touring," Van Loon says.
The two artists live in the house next door, making the gallery an extension of their creative practice. The space has a ground floor, a backroom and a basement level, which artists with solo shows can easily take up — and the art party extends into the backyard, where there is also a mini sculpture gallery.
During Twin Cities Art Week: On Sat. at 3 p.m., take a tour of Sophia Chai's exhibition "Mouth-Space" with the artist, and experience a dance performance by HIJACK.
Second Shift Studio Space
1128 Payne Av., St. Paul; secondshiftstudiospace.org
Known for: Emerging regional artists.
Key artists: Jovan Speller, Roshan Ganu, Zoe Cinel.
When Guggenheim-winning artist Chris Larson, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and his wife, Kriss Zulkosky, a labor delivery nurse, decided to open a gallery, it was because they wanted to give back.
Second Shift Studio Space, housed in an old linoleum shop on St. Paul's East Side, is part gallery and part free studio space. The gallery in front shows artists at the end of their yearlong residency, which is open to those who identify as women, trans or gender-nonconforming.
The couple purchased the shop in 2017, and transformed it into what it is today.
Part of the inspiration was knowing how hard it is to be a working artist.
"I saw Chris working like six different jobs, and to be able to make his art as an adjunct at like five different institutions at once," Zulkosky says.
Second Shift makes it easier by providing free studio space for a year.
Recent artists-in-residence have explored topics ranging from chronic illness to the challenges of immigration. Each artist-in-residence also hosts an art talk, with soup provided.
During Twin Cities Art Week: On Sat. from 6-8 p.m., Second Shift hosts an open house to celebrate new residents Anna Lehner, Dahn Gim, Jaida Grey Eagle and Ivonne Yáñez. On Sun. from 10 a.m.-noon, have breakfast with the new residents.
717 10th St. S., Mpls.; gamutgallerympls.com
Known for: Eclectic mix of contemporary art
Key artists: Chuck U., Reggie LeFlore, Human Shaped Animal
On a warm September evening, friends and followers of prolific artist Chuck Ungemach, better known as Chuck U, gathered in the courtyard behind Gamut Gallery. A couple of Prince murals were leaning against a fence. Heavily tattooed folks roamed about, drinking beers and sparking water. Inside, the walls were covered in colorful, graffiti-inspired and at times psychedelic artworks from Chuck U's "lowbrow" show.
There's a sort of DIY ethos about Gamut Gallery that opening night encompassed. Director Cassie Garner jokes that the space she runs and co-founded with Jade Patrick and James Patrick 12 years ago literally "runs the gamut."
"Each show is like a juxtaposition between the show coming up and the show that was just in the past," Garner says. "We make sure that every show is like kind of a 180 from the show that just happened."
Looking at the current calendar makes that clear. Emily Quandahl's solo exhibition of abstract painting, opening Oct. 14, follows Chuck U's lowbrow exhibition "It Might Be," which closes Saturday. Case in point: One is abstract, the other is heavily graphic and gritty.
Tucked away on quiet street in Elliot Park, a working-class pocket of downtown, and just down the street from the old-school Band Box Diner, Gamut has made a home for itself. It's been in this location for eight years, and before that downtown at 10th and Marquette.
Jade Patrick and Garner happened upon this spot while touring spaces but finding nothing that fit their budget. They decided to grab lunch at Band Box. They spotted this storefront for rent, and the rest was history.
Gamut isn't involved in Twin Cities Art Week, but it's worth a visit off the beaten path. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.