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Art Walks and Gentrification, a Minneapolis Case Study

Art walks, or open studio tours, often take place in once-gritty neighborhoods trending toward the hip and expensive, but how responsible are the events for the effects of gentrification that emerge?
June 7, 2019, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Sam Wagner

Cinnamon Janzer explores the question of whether Art-a-Whirl, the largest artist open studio tour in the country, held in May every yeear, contributed to the gentrification in the Arts District in Northeast Minneapolis.

Art-a-Whirl began in 1996 as a way for a handful of Northeast-based artists to showcase their work and drum up interest from a few individually invited local buyers. The following year, the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), a non-profit artist collective, was formed to support and promote the artists who had flocked to the area in search of affordable live/work options. For years the community of makers thrived, as did Art-a-Whirl. However, as the arts community in Northeast — locally referred to as Nordeast — grew, so did the commodification of arts culture.

What was once a "blue-collar and largely Eastern European community" has now become a place for "developed, regulated spaces home to tech companies and mass-produced art created by design firms," according to Janzer.

Dr. Brittany Lewis, a researcher at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, undertook a study of the gentrification of Northeast Minneapolis. Janzer explains the findings of the report in detail in the article.

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Published on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 in Next City
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