Above: Art-a-Whirl visitors at Northrup King Building in 2018. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune) 

Art-a-Whirl isn’t just a weekend anymore.

Launching at 5 p.m. Friday, northeast Minneapolis' annual rite of spring becomes an ongoing, around-the-clock virtual shop and showcase at nemaa.org/art-a-whirl.

Created for our pandemic era, the online Art-a-Whirl features more than 800 artists, videos of artmaking demonstrations, studio tours and interviews, and performances by bands that would’ve played the parties which draw tens of thousands to the neighborhood each year.

You can even order food from participating restaurants, then stop by to pick it up.

“In building this website, we are creating a virtual way for artists to connect year-around,” said Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) Executive Director Anna Becker. 

Artists who don’t already have online shops will now get them at no extra cost. Purchased artwork will be shipped or available for curbside pickup. 

NEMAA's board decided to go online because they realized that, even if Art-a-Whirl were postponed until the fall, it still might get canceled. "You can't play guessing games with peoples’ health  not the public, not our members,” said Becker.

Not having Art-a-Whirl in-person means savings for NEMAA, which bounced back from financial troubles in late 2019, paying off $74,000 in debts. The organization won’t have to pay for things like the trolley that takes people around northeast Minneapolis. But they are still honoring agreements with contractors.

In normal years, photographers would be sent out to take photos of Art-a-Whirl moments. Instead, they will document the studio buildings to create an archive of architectural images. 

Later this summer, NEMAA will revisit the idea of possibly live-streaming events, Becker said.