The last nail went into the coffin of the fabled Warehouse District’s arts scene a good 15-16 years ago, when the Target Center behemoth lumbered into town and planted its big-arena butt right in the middle of First Avenue in Minneapolis.
But with ground ceremoniously broken for the new baseball stadium (in the shadow of the garbage burner — hey, everybody, let’s go see the Twins at Incinerator Yards!), it almost seems like they’re paving over the graveyard to build a multi-tier parking deck.
Art-scene hipsters d’un certain age, though, remember the slightly scruffy, artsy milieu before it turned into a Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups, a boom town of sports bars, nightclubs and the Block E development. Though the milieu could be a wee bit pretentious (What do you expect? They’re artists, for God’s sake.), it was thriving and vital, with an undeniable energy, and even some good art.
Forced out by high rents, many artists fled to Northeast Minneapolis, which now can reasonably lay claim as the city’s art locus these days. Even so, those old stomping grounds downtown haven’t lost all their pull.
Thom Barry quietly reopened his gallery at 530 N. Third St. about a year ago. Form + Content opened early this year at 210 Second St. N., and Circa Gallery has just come full circle, recently moving back to 210 Second after a long stint over by Loring Park. And late last month a new gallery opened in the venerable Colonial Warehouse building at 212 Third Ave. (now in the recently christened “North Loop,” according to the new designator some marketing genius dreamed up).
The 212 Gallery debuted with “blackandwhiteballsand friends,” showing artists who work or have worked in the building: photos by Dinah L. Biermann; sculpture by Allen Christian (“House of Balls”); paintings and drawings by Venus (All the Pretty Horses) DeMars; drawings by Kristina Knutson, and mixed media paintings by Terrance Meyer.
Gregory Stavrou helmed the first show in the narrow L-shaped gallery. Stavrou is a former director of Interact Center, located in the same building and home to the Inside Out Gallery. He touted the 212 Gallery as a way for building management to show they cared about things like “the history of community in which they are sitting,” namely as a hotbed of art activity some 20 years ago.
While Stavrou and the 212 Gallery will part ways at the end of the month, the gallery will remain open, said Michelle Nichols, of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, which manages the building. They are in negotiations with a new curatorial staff from the local art community to take over the gallery, and she reiterated Stavrou’s goal of a revival of sorts for the neighborhood’s artist community.
It’s too soon to call this a renaissance. For one thing, it’s doubtful the critical mass of artsy types could ever afford to live and make art in the neighborhood in the numbers they did before, assuming they wanted to. It’s nonetheless a hopeful little sign.
The 212 Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 612-333-7996. (No website available yet.)