Xavier Tavera's Portraits Feature Powderhorn Business Owners


Tonight, Pillsbury House + Theatre will be hosting a reception celebrating a new photography project by Xavier Tavera. His portraits of small business owners will be on display alongside a newsprint publication the artist created for the project. 

Last year, Pillsbury House invited Tavera to participate in Art Blocks, a series where artists from around the Powderhorn area took on creative projects where they lived, and invited neighbors to participate. Tavera decided to take portraits of neighbors and families around his block.

"I'm an introvert," Tavera says. "I only wave from afar to my neighbors. This forced me to knock on the door. They invited me in, and I would schedule a portrait and take it inside or outside of their homes."

Although he had been living in the neighborhood for eight years, Tavera says it was the first time he had connected with his neighbors in that way. At the end of the project, Tavera hosted an exhibition where everyone could see each portrait, and at the end he gave them to his subjects.  

For this year's Art Blocks project, Tavera decided he wanted to do something a little bit different. Instead of individuals living on his block, Tavera took photographs of the owners of independent, family-owned businesses around the whole neighborhood. Using these portraits, he created a newspaper that includes each business's name and address. 

The goal is for people to grab these publications, and get an idea that Powderhorn is "an interesting place to be," Tavera says. He hopes it will encourage people to support the local businesses in the area. 

In total, 15 people participated in the project.

"People were willing [to participate] without much information," Tavera says. "I just told them it was an art project that I was doing with the help of Pillsbury House." 

Participants include tattoo artists, electricians, grocers, barbers, and café owners. "They're not only diverse in business, but also in race," Tavera says. Some businesses have been around since the 1980s, while one, a new grocery store, just opened on 37th and Cedar. 

For each session, Tavera says he could take as little time as 15 minutes, with 10 minutes of set-up, to as much as 45 minutes if he was chatting with people about the neighborhood. "I follow a similar pattern with everyone I photograph," he says. "I know it's imposing to have camera in front of you. You have to fight the fact that everyone wants to smile. It's very odd to put that mask away."

Tavera believes very strongly that portraits are a collaboration. "I can do all the technical stuff," he says. "If people who are there are not there with me, I'm not able to do a good portrait. I can only meet them halfway." 

Tavera will be offering the publication for free at Friday night's event. He'll also deliver several volumes to each business. The reception will also include the exhibition of prints of all the portraits, which the subjects will get to keep afterward. 


"Xavier Tavera's Art Blocks Reception"

6 p.m. Friday, December 17

Pillsbury House + Theatre

3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis