by Casey Ek
St. Paul artists of all sorts are gearing up for another season of art crawls, and this year is promising to be like no other.
At the heart of the most prominent art crawl events is the St. Paul Art Collective. Formed in 1977, SPAC has its roots in the Lowertown warehouse district, which became a hotbed for the city’s arts scene. In the years that followed, the collective hosted artist showcases around downtown. In 1991, the collective began hosting art crawls more or less how they are experienced today, and many believe the St. Paul Art Crawl to be the longest running art crawl in the country.
Current SPAC President Diane McNew said that this year marks an era of rebuilding for the collective, which over the course of the pandemic experienced a reshuffling of leadership and membership at large. She hopes this year will allow the SPAC to grow into the communities it aims to represent.
The collective hopes to hone in on inclusion efforts, both geographic and cultural, McNew said.
“We’re looking to be more representative of more neighborhoods,” McNew said. “There’s just some culturally rich and diverse neighborhoods in St. Paul.”
Midway and Frogtown neighborhoods are among those into which the Collective hopes to expand.
Fellow SPAC Board Member Melissa Critchley said this year represents a “pivotal moment” for the collective.
“We have fresh people on the board and have fresh ideas,” Critchley said. “We have this clean slate, and we can do what our membership wants and really needs.”
Art buffs can expect to see a wide range of works at over 40 sites, from paintings, ceramics, illustration, jewelry, photography, block printing, glass, digital work, healing arts, fiber arts ( knit, sewing, tie-dye, and other dying methods such as ice dye, Shibori, marbling, paint and ink) and more.
If you go
The spring art crawl season will be broken up into four weekends. All studios are located in St. Paul.
West Side: F.O.K Studios, 106 Water St W
Cathedral Hill: House of heART 2
763 Holly Ave; Virginia Street Church
170 Virginia Street; The Milligan Studio
459 Selby Avenue
Summit Grand: Grand Hand Gallery, 619 Grand Avenue
West 7th: Friedli Gallery, 973 West 7th St.; Schmidt Artists, 900 West 7th Pl.
Raymond Station: The Bindery Building
708 Vandalia Street; Dow Art Gallery & Framing, 2242 University Ave; Kala Vandanam, 2327 Wycliff St Suite 214; Paul Gaston’s Pottery Studio & Gallery – Universe Buildings, 2147 University Ave W
Downtown: George Latimer Public Library
90 W 4th St
Historic Lowertown: Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative, 255 Kellogg Blvd E; Union Depot, 214 4th Street E; Northern Belle Tattoo – The Rossmoor Building, 132 10th Street E; Creators Space, 218 7th Street E; Mary’s Pence, 275 4th St E # 642; Master Framers, 262 4th Street E # 102; Calendula Gallery, 275 4th Street E, Suite 130; Art of Counseling, 275 4th Street E; The Lost Fox, 213 4th Street E; Lowertown Underground Artists (LUA) – Northern Warehouse Lower Level, 308 Prince Street
Spacial Effects Gallery, 1759 Selby Ave
Payne Phalen: ArT @ 967 Payne
967 Payne Avenue
South Como: Front Avenue Pottery, 895 Front Ave; Mark Granlund Studio, 1022 Brugess Street
Meet the artists
At the center of the semi-annual art crawls are the artists who are hard at work preparing their works for the public.
At Schmidt Artist Lofts MaryBeth Garrigan and Petra Johnita Lommen are working to complete their Avian Night Sky series, a collection of acrylic paintings set in black and blue that depicts birds in an effort to explore human transformation.
“Avian Night Sky is really basically using birds as a metaphor for migration,” Garrigan said.
Combining Garrigan’s naturalistic style with Lommen’s ethereal approach, the series showcases the pair’s embrace of mythology and astronomy. The pair, who have been collaborating for nearly a decade, said their work is a representation of their use of paint brushes as much as it is about their personalities and friendship.
“When we’re sitting here working, we’re also sitting here talking about things,” Lommen said.
Garrigan who as an art crawl committee member for the Schmidt Artists Lofts and procures works for the event said the public can expect a vibrant event. Unlike past years, Schmidt Art Crawl goers will have the ability to enter the paint studio to get live demos from the resident artists.
Across the river Ylli Haruni, an impressionist painter whose works will be on display at F.O.K Studios, 106 Water St W., April 14-16, on March 17 was making the finishing touches on a scene depicting the Minnesota State Capitol. Haruni said that if he has done his job to his liking, viewers will get the sense that a piece took him five minutes rather than the hours it actually took.
By limiting the amount of colors he uses and thoughtfully choosing his vantage points, Haruni constructs dream-like representations of recognizable and obscure locations alike, though his art crawl pieces will focus on local landmarks.
“People who come (to the art crawl) are intrigued to see how I see the places they walk everyday,” Haruni said. “That is my motivation.”
Events like the art crawl , Haruni said, give artists a chance to get feedback from people who are not friends or family and provide immense growth opportunities.
“If you go to a show and your own work is there, you see what your work is missing,” Haruni said.