Artists began migrating to Northeast Minneapolis in the 1980’s. At that time, a community of warehouses and artists’ studios had existed in downtown Minneapolis at the site where the Target Center stands today. When that area was cleared to make way for the arena, displaced artists were pushed into other areas of the city. Northeast Minneapolis, with its spacious warehouses and empty
factories, was a welcoming choice for many.

Today, Northeast Minneapolis is the center of the visual arts scene in Minneapolis, with more than 400 independent artists who live or work in the area. As the burgeoning Northeast arts scene was gaining momentum in the 1990’s, an organization formed to serve the interests of these artists. Since 1997, the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) has been an advocate for Northeast artists while using promotions and special events to help sell their work.

NEMAA’s hallmark event is Art-A-Whirl, Minnesota’s largest open studio and gallery tour. For one weekend in May, Northeast artists open the doors to their workspaces. The event provides a rare glimpse into the lives of painters, potters, filmmakers, aerialists, sculptors, photographers,
musicians, dancers, and others. The staff of NEMAA also curates an annual Fall Fine Arts Show, an exhibit of the
In 2003, City Hall officially recognized the Northeast Arts District, an area rich with arts, shopping, and entertainment. The Northeast Arts District’s boundaries are the Mississippi River on the west, Central Avenue on the east, Lowry Avenue on the north, and Broadway on the south. Giant warehouses that have been sectioned-off into artist studios—like the Northrup King, Thorp, and California buildings—can be found within this area. NEMAA is implementing programs that enable artists to continue working in this area. Soon, the Arts District will be identifiable with outdoor signage and an increased presence of art.

Visual artists founded the Northeast arts scene, inspiring the growth of several area art businesses and galleries such as Frank Stone Gallery, Two 12 Pottery, Icebox Quality Frames and Gallery, and Clay Squared to Infinity. Most recently, Northeast started attracting performing arts organizations such as Ballet of the Dolls, a dance company who in 2000 purchased and began renovating the historic Ritz Theatre in the Sheridan neighborhood.

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