Made Here launches a second round of projects tonight

After coming to Block E last fall Made Here, a Hennepin Theatre Trust program charged with bringing art to vacant spaces in downtown, is broadening its scope. This summer, it will be taking over storefront windows and spaces at 15 different venues. Joan Vorderbruggen, the artist coordinator for Made Here, hopes the project will be a big enough success to change the downtown culture to where property owners feel compelled to welcome creative endeavors into temporary vacant spaces.

Vorderbruggen had a particular goal with Made Here to reach out to underrepresented communities and outstate artists. So for this second round of projects, she put together an artist advisory panel made up of 17 people who helped guide the selection process and outreach efforts. Because of that effort, 40 percent of the Made Here artists are from communities of color. "I'm really proud of that," she says.


The panel curated the artists on a point system, measuring criteria such as quality, diversity, and relevance to the communities that would see the work.

The process of selecting artists sometimes felt like speed-dating, Vorderbruggen says, because with the high number of submissions "we had to move through things very quickly."

There were 130 applications, of which 20 artists were selected, though there has been some additions since then and a number of people have chosen to collaborate. For example, spoken-word artist Kirk Washington Jr. decided to team up with photographer Jakari Perry for a mixed-media piece that shows off both of their talents. Additionally, there are also a number of contributing organizations, institutions, and businesses that are part of the project.

After the artists were selected, Vorderbruggen took the lead in coordinating which would fit well in the different spaces. She navigated issues such as making sure oil paintings weren't displayed in windows that got the brunt of afternoon sun, for example.

Now the panel is helping promote the launch, and will meet again after Made Here's run to talk about how to move forward from here. Vorderbruggen is excited to think toward the future. "We are committed to two years of this project," she says. One of the best feelings she has is seeing everyday passersby smiling and having a good experience as they interact with the art, or wiping a little smudge of glass where a kid has pressed his or her face against the window.

Among the highlights for this round include two Somali huts that were implemented in collaboration with the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum. According to Osman Ali, the museum's executive director, the huts were constructed by five elder Somali women. It's actually the second time the museum constructed a hut in Minneapolis, first doing a similar endeavor on Lake Street. "We took advantage of that experience, and then came to downtown," Ali says.

Accompanying the huts are murals, created by Aziz Osman and Mohamoud Ali "Madaxay," which reflect the two different regions where the huts are from. The artists also have paintings exhibited as part of the installation, along with a portrait of Ali by Pamela Gaard.

Other highlights include an interactive visual design by Playata, and a project by Robin Schwartzman called No Vacancy on the second floor of the building where Chevy's used to be. During the day, a sign on the building reads "No Vacancy," but as dusk falls, the windows are filled with lit-up silhouettes, giving a sense that the building is filled with activity. "It gives the perfect sense that when they are occupied, they are vibrant," Vorderbruggen says.

Other fun projects include an installation by artists from the Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts at the Highland Bank Court Building, where Beverly Cottman also has a display of chairs made to look like African queens.

The second project also marks the premiere of the Parklot, located in the parking lot of the Orpheum Theatre on Hennepin Avenue. Painted in bright colors with lots of seating areas, the pop-up park also has greenery and a performance area, and will remain open into the fall.

The Made Here opening event tonight will include free walking tours of the window showcases, large-scale projections on the Orpheum's outer walls, performances by street musicians, spoken word artists, break dancers, and Brave New Workshop improvisers, plus food trucks aplenty.


Made Here's second launch party 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday Hennepin Avenue, between 9th and 10th Streets, Minneapolis Free

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