by Damian Goebel
When artist Brooks Werner first moved to the Twin Cities, he said all he heard about was Northeast or South Minneapolis as the places to live and create his art. Then a friend suggested the Schmidt Artist Lofts.
“I was like, ‘heck yeah, I want to live in this building,’” he said.
Now Werner, along with artist and gallery owner Heather Friedli, wants the West 7th neighborhood to be as synonymous with art as those places across the river by taking steps to create a West 7th Arts District.
“Many people think of Northeast as the place to go and get art,” said Friedli, “we want the same for West 7th.”
Friedli and Werner are kicking off their plan on June 7 with a community listening session to begin creating ideas and identifying people who are interested in helping build the district’s plan and priorities. They are hoping this includes as many of the artists in the area as possible, as well as some local businesses and community members.
They said their goals for the arts district include highlighting West 7th artists who live and work in the community, increasing arts tourism and protecting the district from overdevelopment, all while staying grass roots.
“This is about bringing the community together,” said Friedli, “the wider community, not just the artists.”
They are hoping their partnerships will extend beyond the traditional definition of artists, including the many vintage and tattoo shops in the area, restaurants and other creative spaces.
While there are no defined geographic boundaries for the district yet, Werner said he is hoping a broad representation from the neighborhood will be able to participate in the listening session to help co-create what the district will be. He said this would include, “ideation, creation, local resources and bringing other collaborators who don’t flow through us.”
Friedli added that she sees the listening sessions as a place to see who wants to be involved and then create a vision for how they can help the community.
“We want to be there for support,” she said. “Not so much change, but support existing things with a dash of flavor.”
They are hoping to kick off the arts district as early as this summer with an event featuring live music and local art for sale, with other initiatives to follow.
Freidli and Werner see creating an arts district as an important step in the evolution of the West 7th neighborhood to attract visitors, artists, businesses and residents to the area.
“The more cool things we have, the more people will come and stay,” Friedli said.
Join the Conversation
West 7th Arts District Inaugural Community Q&A
Wednesday, June 7, 6:00 pm. Schmidt Artist Lofts multi-purpose room
Follow the West 7th Arts District on Facebook and Instagram @W7artsdistrict