General 7-29-2004

3 Art Fairs in August

Dean Seal introduces three very different street art fairs, all of them happening at the same time. Now that summer may finally be here, it's time to get out and enjoy it.

"The Uptown Encounter," Reeb-Myers

The Uptown Art Fair, staid and prestigious in its long-running success, has spawned an unruly pair of offspring. Both the Loring Art Fair and the Powderhorn Art Fair are anecdotally traced to artists who were successful at one time in Uptown, but didn’t make the cut, as the juried fair drew from more and more national artists. Now Uptown is firmly embedded in the national scene, and the two decendants are happily fostering the work of the locals.

Preceded in name by sponsor Metris, kind of like Target Center or Enron Stadium, The Metris Uptown Art Fair boasts 385 artists from all over the nation. These artists tend to be successful producers, who have a knack for upper-income tastes. There is a lot of landscapes and animal pictures, plus sculpture that is abstract and interesting without being too challenging. It’s a real pleasure to get a preview of the state fair with all the food-sellers pitching ice cream, pronto pups, and the first taste of cheese curds.

Those in the neighborhood, like me, try to find a way to get out of Dodge during this because of all the parking problems. You can actually rent your driveway out if you are in the mood to turn a buck, just like they do outside the fairgrounds. But lately I like getting in the stroll and hang out at Hennepin and Lake when the streets are closed, and the air is filled with the commerce of art, and the art of commerce. Whatever I think of specific pieces, I love the fact that the intersection is shut for three days to sell paintings and sculpture and assorted oddities.

For out of towners, and that is anyone without 612 in front of their phone number, it’s a chance to check out the new mega-bar Tonic, which has a nice balcony and three floors of space. The place seems packed most nights, so they are doing something right.

But don’t stop your detour there. This stretch of Hennepin has the best bookselling blocks in the state. Between Lake St. and 31st is Orr Books, which features great highbrow stuff like women’s studies, spirituality and Noam Chomsky. Next door, Borders has a big unionized store with one of the best magazine collections around. Across the street, Magers and Quinn has an enormous collection of great used and discount books, plus a collector’s department of books and manuscripts that make a bibliophile like myself begin to slobber. M&Q has a fine selection of art books at significant discounts. You can fill out a decent library in no time here on almost any subject. SmartBooks, on the north side of Lake and Hennepin, mixes used and new, with a well-edited collection of great reading. And Comic College on 32nd St. is one of the nation’s treasurehouses, with new and used comic books from eons back. Here is where you can blow $500 on original Spiderman comics in no time.

But that’s a footnote to the main event: Entertainment, 20 food vendors, family stuff to mess with, and location, location, location. This is one of those times when the phrase “most livable city n America” springs to mind. You walk down the Mall, examining stimulating artwork. You happen across the greenway, the deluxe bike path that bisects midtown at 29th Street, and it takes you down to Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun. What’s not to like?

Metris Uptown Art Fair: Lake St. & Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis(612) 823-4581 Aug. 6 2004 to Aug. 8 2004

The Powderhorn Festival of Arts in Powderhorn Park (34th St. and 15th Ave S.) has 170 artists. This famed progressive neighborhood, now becoming more stabilized, attracts a more avante artist and art appraiser. It seems to be cheaper, brighter, cooler and more friendly. Is it just me, or does the food taste better too? The Spirit of Mayday holds.

This park is one of the jewels of the system, with tall hills, a small lake, and great contour. It’s a neighborhood with many loyal fans, not nearly as transient as most of the rest of the United States. You may get leafletted by some politically active young people, which I think we should all be doing. Plan on talking to some earnest young Kucinich or Nader fan who says that we still have a choice outside of Kerry and Bush. Tell them politely to go back to their bongs and they will not harm you.

Powderhorn Art Fair, Powderhorn Park
Aug. 7 10am-6pm, Aug.8 10am-5pm.
(612) 729-0111

For sheer pleasure in a setting, however, Loring Park is hard to beat. The renovation a few years back, done by citizens who were tired of tax-cutting budgets and who wanted to save their featured amenity, turned out a stellar place to get a stroll, a bite and a canvas. The booths are laced around the pond, with iron bridges, a big dock, a nice playground, and plenty of goofing-off space. If the metaphorical breakfast at Uptown is steak and eggs with black coffee, and at Powderhorn it’s granola and banana yogurt with green tea, here at Loring it’s a steaming espresso and a pair of croissants, with Danish butter and Montana Blackberry jam. That’s metaphorical language, mind you; no one is actually selling the things. But you get the drift.

As the home of the Gay Pride weekend, Loring is also the comfortable home of many in the GLBT community, and they are active patrons of the arts. The art tends to be midway between Commercial-ish Uptown and Crunchy Powderhorn. If I needed to generalize, I would posit a slight inclination towards elegance. 130 artists juried in by the organizers make this the one most easily managed, most serene in comportment, most benign in crowd activity.

There are family events, audience participation, jugglers from Circus Juventas (kids learning circus skills from St. Paul), tango dancing and lessons, Shakespeare in the park (This year it’s the controversial Measure for Measure), artists, demonstrations about the craft, and various singers, accordions and an alp-horn (not sponsored by Ricola). This is also the opening weekend of the Fringe Festival, and some of the mainstay Fringe venues are here. The Women’s Club, the Loring Playhouse, and the theater at Minneapolis Community and Technical College are all on the perimeter of the park, so the idea of seeing a few plays and dawdling by the art is a very nice combo of opportunities.

Loring Park, Oak Grove Street and Hennepin Avenue
August 7th and 8th, Saturday, 10-6, Sunday 10-5.