This weekend, artists in Lowertown and other areas of the city are celebrating the spring version of the Saint Paul Art Crawl, a biannual event where artists open up their studios to the public. This year’s festivities are painted a bittersweet color, as it will be the last crawl for the JAX Building, which has been sold to developers. The artists must move out of the building by May 1, so this is your last chance to take a peek at what they’ve created in their spaces.
“I guess that there is a strange emotional significance about this particular art crawl,” says Alex Kuno. His studio is in the 262 Building, which also has been sold, but will stay as artists' studios for now. “So many people moving in or out,” Kuno says. “It’s a pivotal time in the history of the neighborhood.”
Kuno recently exhibited five paintings in Rome over Valentine’s Day. That show helped land him a feature in Juxtapose and Hi Fructose magazines, which exposed him to an international audience. “So that was surreal,” he says.
Kuno also took scans of the paintings he sent to Rome, and made a companion book, which includes detail shots and text. He’ll have copies of the book available this weekend, along with original drawings to go with each copy. He’ll also be selling new prints of some of his larger pieces.
Kuno’s partner Rachel Wacker, who is also an artist, describes the art crawls as kind of like a holiday. “There’s a great sense of community and togetherness,” she says. While artists need to mostly stay in their studios, many of them try to get out and see the work of their colleagues in other spaces. “I try to duck out to visit a few people,” she says. “I pick a few friends each year.”
This will be Wacker’s 14th crawl since she began working at the now-closed gallery Ecco Arts in 2009, and then moved into the neighborhood in 2010. For this spring’s crawl, Wacker worked on revamping 25th anniversary catalog for the event.
“One of the founders suggested moving in the direction of a coffee-table book,” Wacker says. They changed the program to larger and square images, and added section that spotlights the district, with art images sponsored by local businesses. The intent was to make the catalog more of a collectible item. They are free, with a suggested donation of three dollars.
In addition to visual art, the Saint Paul Art Crawl hosts performances as well. Sendero Flamenco, a JAX tenant losing its space, will be putting on the Lowertown Dance Showcase along with Kala Vandanam Dance Company this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. and again from 5 to 7 p.m. at Golden’s Deli in the Northwestern Building. On Friday, both companies will also be doing live statue performances at the Show Gallery, where visitors can buy a token to make the statue/performer dance for 10 seconds until they get into their next pose.
Sendero Flamenco's Tara Weatherly says losing their space felt like “a punch in the gut,” as the company has been so much a part of the Lowertown community. Often artists come in and watch rehearsals and sketch. While she and her dancers will be busy, she plans to get out and see what people are up to during the weekend. “There are so many cool things that happen,” she says. “There’s an energy about meeting different people, just to see what all my friends have come up with for art crawl.”
Kara Hendershot, who has been based in Lowertown for 12 years, plans to present paintings and in-progress work, including some recent experimental pieces. Recently, she has been taking longer with each painting, allowing herself more time to work on her concepts.
“I’ve been exploring themes that have been prevalent in my own life but haven’t pursued from different perspectives,” she says. These themes include family relationships, resiliency, and estrangement.
Hendershot's process changed a few years ago, after receiving an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. “I wanted to open up my experience,” she says. She did a dialogue project where talking with others served as a starting point for her work. “Words and phrases came out of those conversation that I would incorporate into images,” she says.
Hendershot believes the crawl's setup is a great way for artists to talk to clients about their work, and for visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the art process. It’s about building relationships, she says. “Once they get to know an artist, they are more likely to support them.”
This year’s crawl includes an exhibition at the Show Gallery featuring work from the JAX Project, photographs by Barbara Dodge of artists from the building.
IF YOU GO:
Saint Paul Art Crawl
Friday through Sunday
For more information, visit the event webpage.