This spring in Minneapolis’s Whittier neighborhood there are few storefronts left empty. No, this struggling neighborhood did not suddenly turn its rough real estate situation around. Instead, the community is nurturing a neighborhood-wide celebration of art and renewal with Artists in Storefronts. ( Back it on Kickstarter)
Here’s the scoop: “Artists in Storefronts partners vacant and under-used commercial storefronts with local artists to create public exhibits within those spaces, a collective urban walking gallery! An ongoing project throughout the Twin Cities, Artists in Storefronts aims to work with neighborhood organizations, artists, and local businesses in an effort to promote creativity, revitalize local economies, and provide everyone with equal, open access to art.”
So with a little grassroots administration and some talented people, empty storefronts become a community resource, artists get a temporary gallery, and suddenly the sidewalk becomes a link between people and art. Total win+win.
Is it a museum? No, and that’s good! Museums aren’t often as accessible as next-door or around-the-corner or even on-the-way-to-the-bus. Having culture land, even for just six weeks, in your everyday world changes that world, changes the way you think about that everyday world. Then you start thinking about art and yourself and how these things fit together and then there is no end to the thinking– the thinking!
One of my favorite things when putting people and culture together is to let them mingle with each other. Interactivity, participation, and letting the people be a part of the process and the product is always worth more to me than the expertly curated playlist of culture.
Artists in Storefronts has fostered a few storefront projects that do just that. “Six-word Minneapolis” is a crowdsourced project by Emily Lloyd displaying thousands of six-word homages to Minneapolis like this:
Here’s a project called Before I Die from Candy Chang that turns a wall into a forum. Your mere participation in this work makes you part of it. It makes you an important piece of something larger. What you write matters. You matter. Rinse, repeat, over and over, how do you think that changes a neighborhood?
Art is no stranger to the street, though, and murals and buskers and even graffiti are so at home out in the world rather than inside walls. What about other genres of culture? Can other disciplines break out of their museums and find a place on the outside? Could an archive ever translate to the street? What would history look like if freed from walls or even the fences of outdoor museums? Maybe the better question is what would you want it to look like?