Nola_redSo where is everyone going to be this weekend? Same place I am: Art-A-Whirl, the Northeast Minneapolis open studio tour, which runs Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Full disclosure: I lead a double life. And the slightly less profitable half is being a photographer, one of nine artists sharing a studio in the Northrup King Building.

The NKB has arguably become the epicenter of the Northeast Minneapolis arts scene, with something like 130 artists inside (like a clown car, but prettier). Howard Christopherson, proprietor of Little_RichardIcebox Gallery on the fourth floor, recently told me there’s something like 875,000 square feet in the entire complex, the vast majority of it empty old factory space; that’s nearly half the size of the Mall of America, which is saying something. He also relayed how this art crawl, which is the largest in the region now, got its name. Apparently, he and other artists were tossing ideas around just outside the Whirl-Air-Flow company headquarters and one thought led to another; it didn’t hurt that Tilt-A-Whirls were invented here, as well. Howard notes that the tornado logo of the event was his idea–because we often get tornados this time of year. Great.

What should you see on the tour? Several buildings on the tour are undergoing changes, demonstrating how the popularity of the arts are starting to morph the neighborhood. Check out the California Building, for instance, where condos strictly for artists (designed, I believe, by rising star local architect Jim Dayton, yes of those Daytons) are going up alongside. Or the Casket Arts Building nearby, which was a casket factory from 1887 until very recently, and is now run by the same couple as the Califonia.

You might check out the Tyler Street Studios, just on the other side of Central Avenue from Northrup King; many consider it the real heart of experimental, cutting-edge art in the Twin Cities. Now called the Crown Center, the complex has always been one of those funky places where artists were crashing illegally, etc., and now I’ve heard is in danger of being redeveloped.

Meanwhile, Icebox is opening a cool show this weekend, two shows actually, “New Orleans Red” and “Blues Roots: Portraits of American Music Legends,” by a New York photographer, with live music at the Saturday opening by Paul Metsa. Make sure to drink Howard’s wine, too, so there’s more for us in my studio…