Northeast Minneapolis' famed Art-A-Whirl spins back into the future this weekend with a nod to its past.

"It's like a retro Art-A-Whirl," said executive director Anna Becker. "This year's will be the closest to what it was when it first began, in terms of activities."

Launched in 1995 by a handful of artists in northeast Minneapolis 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.

"Obviously, we don't want that this year," Becker said of those jam-packed events.

A year ago, Art-A-Whirl was forced to shift online and scrap its plans for a grand 25th anniversary celebration.

The pandemic ensures that nothing can return to normal — yet.

This year's edition, which runs Friday through Sunday, will be a hybrid of in-person and online events. As many as 800 artists are expected to participate, and some are actually opening their spaces to visitors.

To find out how individual artists are handling this transitional year, visitors can check out the nifty searchable directory at The lineup continues to evolve every day.

Similarly, you can also discover the status of participating galleries, bars, cafes and other businesses. The popular Art-A-Whirl venue Grumpy's will have regular hours this weekend, as will other venues.

Attendees must wear masks, practice social distancing and respect capacity limits on indoor venues.

In terms of performances and other neighborhood activities, Becker expects Art-A-Whirl to be more spontaneous, depending on how people feel as Gov. Tim Walz loosens restrictions on outdoor and indoor activities.

Meanwhile, the website for Art-A-Whirl's nonprofit organizer, the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, is far more robust than last year's, which had to be rebuilt quickly to adjust to the pandemic, and help artists sell work.

"It's like 2.0," said Becker. "The shop is like Etsy."

This year's directory offers an alternative for Art-A-Whirl fans who don't feel ready yet to jump back into art's social world.

@AliciaEler • 612-673-4437