Minnesota Monthly contributing writer Tim Gihring’s recent essay, “Divorcing the Midwest,” (August ’14) was a humorous take on Minnesota’s identity crisis, suggesting that “North Coast” or simply “North” (the moniker emblazoned on the trendy hats at Askov Finlayson in the North Loop) would be more appropriate, looping Minnesota in with Wisconsin and other Great Lakes states.
Buzz on the topic has grown in local media, and in November, the Walker Art Center held a jam-packed symposium of panelists discussing Minnesota’s place in the country. Now, this week’s article in the Wall Street Journal takes the conversation to a nation-wide level.
WSJ writer Christina Binkley suggests that supporters of the “North” movement (a ground-up, informal campaign, by the way) are looking for Minnesota to be recognized for its innovative culture.
Tom Fisher, dean of the Minnesota College of Art and Design (who shares his ideas on the subject in our January feature, Future of the Twin Cities), believes that such ingenuity is a result of Minnesota’s “North-ness”—the harsh winters and cold climate are factors to be embraced, because they inspire creativity.
Moreover, that heritage-brand, rugged innovation is finally being recognized on the coasts (you know, where Minnesota is referred to as “flyover country”). In the Wall Street Journal article, Eric Dayton, co-owner of Askov Finlayson, shared a story of walking through Barneys in New York and spotting Duluth Packs for sale, saying that his “head almost exploded.” (Minnesotans have been buying the bags since 1882.)
Newfound popularity has been experienced by a handful of iconic Minnesotan companies—functional pieces gone stylish, such as Red Wing boots and Faribault blankets (even if the rest of the country pronounces the brand names, ahem, creatively). And whether the Minne-identity crisis is solved by a new name or not, getting a little homegrown heritage on the national stage is never a bad thing.