Where to Discover Local Art: Inside the Twin Cities Gallery Scene

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Nearly 15 years ago, I interviewed The New Yorker’s late art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, in this magazine. At the time, Schjeldahl had caused a kerfuffle with some of the thinner-skinned midwestern media over his pet theory about the art world. His concept delineated “transmitter cities”—New York, L.A., Berlin, and London—and “receptor cities”—everywhere else.

It was especially tough to hear because Schjeldahl is one of us—a Fargo native who discovered Cocteau movies at the Walker Art Center as a college student before becoming a fine art archdruid at The Village Voice in the 1970s. And yet Schjeldahl, a self-professed “aesthete,” seemed comfortably blunt about the Twin Cities’ stature in the art-transmission landscape.

“If you’re a glutton for aesthetic experiences, you’re probably going to be in New York,” he said.

In Schjeldahl’s estimation, it’s not that Minneapolis–St. Paul doesn’t have any worthwhile art—he pointed out that Minneapolis is actually kind of top-heavy, with two major institutions in the Walker and Mia, a respected art school in MCAD, and a handful of galleries where you can actually buy stuff—but we’re confined to “receptor” status because we don’t produce that much, and he believed that’s because there aren’t enough people here who really need it.

“People who get an aesthetic experience from the shooting scene in the action movie or the moonlight over the strip mall are fine,” he said. “They don’t need art. Art is for those of us who find that it’s not enough.”

I’ve long been irked by Schjeldahl’s assessment—it smacks of coastal elitism, sure, but it’s hard to find somebody who writes about art with a more supple authority; it’s clear he knows what he’s talking about. On the other hand, my skepticism is rooted in my own enthusiastic participation in so many of our Cities’ “live arts” scenes—music, theater, cuisine. This is where, respectively, our Cities have consistently produced art and artists—oftentimes good, sometimes great—for as long as I can remember. But Schjeldahl was clearly referring to the “industrial arts” like painting, sculpture, and photography—mediums in which collectors (the noun for serious art buyers) invest (the collector’s serious verb).

As an art scene, Minneapolis exudes this very comfortable confidence. Not arrogant, but it doesn’t strike me as self-conscious and wanting either.”

—Robert Cozzolino

And it’s no secret that, historically, most big-time Twin Cities art collectors buy a huge amount of their art from New York or L.A. galleries, even when the artist in whom they’re investing has gallery representation here, though that paradigm might finally be shifting. Rob Sherer–—who worked in a fundraising position at the Walker before leaving to establish an art consultancy business called The Orange Advisory—opened a new gallery in Northeast called TOA Presents one year ago. He sees a local collector class that just needs to be gently coaxed into investing in discovery over validation.

“I find discovery to be so much more interesting,” he says, “and supporting young artists to be much more rewarding.”

His new gallery space is geared toward bringing in sought-after, emerging, and mid-career artists who are well-known outside of the Twin Cities but maybe have yet to be shown here, as well as collaborating with coastal galleries who are interested in coming to Minneapolis for five- or six-week residencies. Sherer hopes the exposure and connections that ensue will help build up what he sees as a lack of market infrastructure.

“The curious thing about the Twin Cities is you do have Walker, Mia, and all these great colleges and universities that have programs and galleries and museum spaces,” Sherer says. “But there is so little infrastructure here to support the careers of emerging artists.”

The dearth of gallery infrastructure means there aren’t many lower-level art-handling or gallery assistant jobs waiting for art school students when they graduate, so most of our young talent ends up leaving for the coasts. Over time, this lack of infrastructure contributes to an erosion of our art-glutton pipeline. And that’s how you end up with a guy like Schjeldahl, scoffing at a population content to live out their aesthetic lives in twin receptor cities where the moonlight over the strip mall is enough to tide us over between the latest Walker opening and our next Manhattan vacation.

Now, receiving a powerful transmission to New York really can change everything. This last spring, Todd Bockley, who’s been representing Native artists at the Bockley Gallery in Kenwood for nearly 40 years, landed two Minnesota-based artists—Dyani White Hawk, a Lakota bead and quill artist, and Pao Houa Her, a Hmong conceptual photographer—in the Whitney Biennial, one of the most prestigious art shows in the world.

Robert Cozzolino, curator of American art at Mia, is one of Bockley’s biggest champions, and he understands the validation of getting artists into the Biennial.

“The culture is just now catching up to what Todd has been doing for a long time,” Cozzolino says. “He’s a model for treating his artists with respect and getting out of their way.”

But Cozzolino—who was trained in Philadelphia, a city whose proximity to New York has given it one of the most pathological inferiority complexes in the country—says Bockley and his artists understand they were needed by the Whitney more than the other way around.

“One of the things I’ve been really surprised about is that as an art scene, Minneapolis exudes this very comfortable confidence,” he says. “Not arrogant, but it doesn’t strike me as self-conscious and wanting either.”

He says the established Twin Cities artists that he has met—artists such as White Hawk or the painter Clarence Morgan—have distinct identities and seem to be assured in their practices.

“They know who they are, and they know they’re going to be making really good art and doing their thing,” he says, “and eventually people are going to find it.”

And while there are established galleries available to represent established artists, whether it’s Bockley or David Petersen or Weinstein Hammons, according to Cozzolino, the emerging artist-run galleries are the most exciting segment—galleries such as Hair and Nails in south Minneapolis and Dreamsong in Northeast. Both are run by power couples who are passionate about helping emerging artists, perhaps because they know the artist’s struggle firsthand.

Hair and Nails got its name because owners Kristin Van Loon, one of the choreographers and dancers behind the innovative HIJACK dance duo, and Ryan Fontaine, a sculptor and one of the founders of Mala’s and Medusa—two of the most seminal experimental music spaces in recent memory—“liked the idea that hair and nails keep growing after you die.” These two have been all in ever since opening Hair and Nails in 2016—they’re living this art stuff, literally: Their gallery space doubles as their living space.

“I started in art kind of late,” Fontaine says. “So, I felt like I had to take control of my exhibition—so I started doing pop-up galleries to show my work and my friends’ work.”

Van Loon says they’ve extended this DIY approach to every aspect of shining a spotlight on the artists the gallery represents.

“I’ve always loved zines and stuff,” she says. “So we just moved that practice into commissioning writing on every show and creating our own catalogs.”

While Van Loon and Fontaine’s goal with their space is to continue to nurture and organically build their own social network, Dreamsong is trying to bring the Twin Cities’ disparate local art scenes together as one. Dreamsong was founded in 2021 by the wife-and-husband team of filmmaker Rebecca Heidenberg and writer Gregory Smith when they bought Cameron Gainer’s former gallery space on 13th Avenue in Northeast.

“We’ve realized a lot of artists here want to understand how the art market works,” Heidenberg says. “They want to engage with it, and they want to engage in conversations with artists and with people outside of the Twin Cities, as well as inside.”

In that spirit, they spearheaded the inaugural Twin Cities Art Week in October, coordinating with more than a dozen other local galleries and art spaces, to try to connect people who share the same interests.

“One of the reasons Twin Cities Art Week could be really important is because there really isn’t a center to the art scene here,” Heidenberg says. “I know some people who are interested in the art scene here who don’t even know about some of the galleries or nonprofits and what they’re doing, who don’t go out and see stuff. It’s almost like it’s easier to go to New York than to find out what’s going on here.” —Steve Marsh

Editor’s Pick

Bockley Gallery

Established: 1984

Specialty: Contemporary Indigenous art

Just off of Lake of the Isles, the Bockley Gallery is the airy box at the end of the row of stores that also holds Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark Books. While it might look modest, in reality, the Bockley is one of the most important galleries in the country, owing to founder Todd Bockley’s longtime commitment to Indigenous artists.

The Bockley’s international stars have included dearly departed luminaries George Morrison (whom Bockley started showing in the 1980s) and Jim Denomie (who started showing there in 2007). Don’t miss current Bockley phenoms such as Julie Buffalohead, now collected by more than a dozen U.S. museums, who is cherised for her mixed-media, symbolically rich works often featuring trickster figures like hares and coyotes. Dyani White Hawk, selected for the 2022 Whitney Biennial, creates abstract works bringing the inspiration she finds in traditional Lakota patterns to canvas and sculpture. Mixed-media artist Andrea Carlson, whose work was picked by the Whitney Museum for display across from The High Line in Manhattan and was selected for the Toronto Biennial, is particularly known for her tangled, layered, mosaic-like drawings.

Not all the artists Bockley represents are Indigenous. Pao Houa Her, for instance, was showing at Bockley before her big solo show now at the Walker. At the end of the day, the Bockley is a must-visit for anyone who wants to know where international curators go when they visit town. 2123 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-4669 —Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Editor’s Pick

Northern Clay Center

Established: 1990

Specialty: Ceramics

Here’s a little secret: You don’t need to visit Northern Clay Center to buy art from it. Yep—the artist-crafted earrings, vases, bowls, and myriad other ceramic wares available at NCC at any given moment are all cataloged and sold online. But here’s another secret: Buying all that amazing art virtually, while convenient, robs you of a chance to experience one of the Upper Midwest’s premier ceramics centers firsthand.

That’s right, tucked away on East Franklin Avenue, barely a mile from the Mississippi in one of Minneapolis’s easternmost neighborhoods, Seward, sits one of the best ceramics studios in existence today. It’s one part ceramics education center with classes and workshops for kids and families taught by working artists, one part ceramics factory with a shared community studio and private and semiprivate studio spaces—replete with more than 40 wheels—and one part museum (its Winter Exhibition opens November 13 in the main gallery). Plus, of course, one part gift shop, where you can buy select items from the exhibitions in addition to a vast array of regular wares—many of which are made right down the hall.

So, whether you’re looking to learn how to make a vase, buy a vase, or, heck, kill both birds with one stone, Northern Clay Center is your place—virtually or physically. 2424 Franklin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-339-8007  —Drew Wood

Editor’s Pick

Weinstein Hammons Gallery

Established: 1996

Specialty: Photography

Weinstein Hammons became the preeminent gallery for modern and contemporary photography when Martin Weinstein opened it in 1996. In the beginning, Weinstein brought in special paintings and unique objects in addition to the historical photography that comprised the majority of his own collection. It didn’t take long, however, for Weinstein to segue to contemporary. “Martin realized you could acquire a pretty serious photograph for the same amount as an emerging painting,” says his longtime gallery director and, now, co-owner, Leslie Hammons.

Ever since, the gallery has specialized in showing a mix of editioned work by artists it represents (Alec Soth, Gail Albert Halaban, Erik Madigan Heck), artists it doesn’t (Sanlé Sory), and inventive historical group shows (Music Box, The Fashion Show).

Hammons became Weinstein’s full partner in 2018 and has worked to continue the gallery’s legacy of stewardship of the estates of important figures like Robert Mapplethorpe and Gordon Parks, in concert with the development of the work of the gallery’s roster of living photographers like Soth. “Our primary responsibility is to the artists we represent, in order to protect and assist their livelihood,”  she says. “That’s why we put on exhibitions at the gallery and bring their work to art fairs across the country and internationally.”

The gallery’s next exhibition features abstract aerial photographs shot in Africa by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. 908 W. 46th St., Mpls., 612-822-1722 —Steve Marsh

Editor’s Pick


Established: 2021

Specialty: Contemporary art

Rebecca Heidenberg and Gregory Smith moved from New York to Minneapolis in 2017 when Smith was admitted to an MFA program in creative writing at the University of Minnesota. It had been a longtime dream of theirs to open their own gallery space, but Dreamsong didn’t become a reality until the artist Cameron Gainer, the former owner of the building on 13th Avenue, gave the couple a tour.

“It’s just the perfect space,” Heidenberg remembers. “The scale is intimate but substantial—we debated awhile, but then we decided, Let’s do this.”

The gallery opened in early summer 2021, a perilous but important time to open an in-person gallery. Their first show was A Glitter of Seas, an exploration of maternity through a vast array of work by female-identified artists. Since then, Dreamsong has worked toward developing its own roster of artists working in a variety of mediums, as well as the inauguration of the Cloud House residency program (there’s a small one-bedroom house that sits next to the cinema).

“Having a commercial gallery seems important here,” Heidenberg says, “because there are some great ones, but not a huge amount of them.”

Their first artist in residence will be the Polish American artist Maria Kozak, who is part of a joint show, Dissolving Margins, with Los Angeles artist Julia Haft-Candell, which opened on October 29. 1237 NE 4th St., Mpls., 646-703-4473 —Steve Marsh

Editor’s Pick

Highpoint Center for Printmaking

Established: 2001

Specialty: Printmaking

One major problem with museums is that, unless you’re Thomas Crown, even if you see something you really like, you can’t take it home with you. That’s why a place like Highpoint Center for Printmaking is so great—you can fall in love with art from Julie Mehretu, Delita Martin, and other artists you’ll regularly see hung at Mia and the Walker and actually take a piece home with you without running the risk of ending up in jail for art theft.

Highpoint’s 10,000-square-foot Lake Street warehouse-like building sits smack-dab in the middle of Uptown and reflects the neighborhood’s eclectic, artsy, trendsetting vibe pretty much perfectly. In addition to the gallery that lets you purchase (most of) the work on display there at any given time, Highpoint has a vast printshop cooperative where Twin Cities printmakers and visiting artists from both national and international spheres can create original works and where newbies can come and learn the craft of printmaking.

The exhibition beginning November 4 and running through early December, Cloudy Boy w/ Clouds, is by Brooklyn, NY/Mesa, AZ–based Native multimedia artist Brad Kahlhamer and features monotype prints he created during a two-week Highpoint residency this past summer. And, hey, since Highpoint isn’t a museum, if you really like a piece, you might even be able to take it home with you—just make sure you pay for it first, Thomas Crown. 912 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-871-1326 —Drew Wood

Art Around Town

With scores of local galleries to explore—plus art crawls, events, and fairs—here are a few standouts for your list. —Justine Jones

David Petersen Gallery

Year est.: 2012

Emphasis: National and international establishing artists

Key artists: Rose Marcus, Lukas Geronimas, Mary Simpson

David Petersen Gallery, back in a new space on Cedar Avenue after a five-year hiatus, is already generating buzz. The gallery has a distinctly national feel, like it could transpose to New York or Chicago. Owner David Petersen exhibits heavyweight North American artists moving into their mid-careers—the mediums vary from drawing, painting, and sculpture to audiovisual works. Collectors can expect somewhat niche works that are as conceptually rigorous as they are visually compelling. The austere gallery space, free of wall labels and didactic texts, lets the art speak for itself. 4116 Cedar Ave. S, Mpls., 612-221-9539

Douglas Flanders and Associates

Year est.: 1972

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key Artists: Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol

Doug Flanders opened his art gallery in downtown Minneapolis when he was 22, converting a run-down ground-floor unit in the current Buca di Beppo building into an elegant venue. One of his first shows was Georgia O’Keeffe—Dolly Parton bought a painting. George Morrison, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine, and others followed, and his collection grew from 150 works to 15,000. Flanders continues to work with big-name and international artists, but his current gallery shows everything from masterworks to graffiti in all sizes and price ranges. First-time, longtime, and corporate collectors; home stagers, consignments; and appraisals are all welcome. 5025 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-920-3497

Form and Content Gallery

Year est.: 2007

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Sandra Menefee Taylor, Jon Neuse, Ellie Kingsbury

This artist-run gallery celebrated its 15th year in the North Loop this spring. Form and Content operates as a co-op: member artists curate exhibitions and run business operations. Expect a range of mediums, with an emphasis on painting, drawing, and prints from local artists. The gallery also aims to serve as a catalyst for critical thinking and dialogue about social issues. 210 N. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-1151

Groveland Gallery

Year Est.: 1973

Emphasis: Contemporary representational work by regional artists

Key Artists: Dan Bruggeman, Barbara McIlrath, Tom Maakestad

Soon approaching its 50th anniversary, Groveland Gallery is an intimate gallery just across the street from the Walker. The mostly representational artwork spans meticulous photorealist drawings and expressionist paintings, and there’s an emphasis on Midwest landscapes, from traditional horizons to grain elevators, neighborhood streets, and abstracted lakes. Director Sally Johnson works closely with the artists across their careers, acting as a liaison with collectors. Groveland aims to be a destination for established collectors and first-time buyers alike—the gallery even helps collectors stage and sample artwork in their own homes. 25 Groveland Terr., Mpls., 612-377-7800

Hair and Nails

Year Est.: 2016

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Rachel Collier, Emma Beatrez, Maiya Lea Hartman

A vanguard of the local artist-run scene, Hair and Nails is the work of husband-and-wife visual-artist-and-dancer duo Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon. They represent 13 long-term artists and bring in a mix of local and national artists each season. Artists are encouraged to use every inch of the gallery space: to drill into the ceiling or wallpaper the entire basement, furnace included. Fontaine and Van Loon have built lasting relationships with their artists, so the gallery has a family feel: Local artists coalesce there, and there are regular parties. Hair and Nails welcomes new and longtime collectors alike. 2222 ½ E. 35th St., Mpls., 415-987-3037

Juxtaposition Arts

Year est.: 1995

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Nate Young, Caroline Kent, Cameron Downey

Juxtaposition Arts, founded by Roger and DeAnna Cummings and Peyton Russell, has a gallery with a mission: to help young, emerging artists learn how to create work, have exhibitions, and curate shows. There are three gallery spaces on the north Minneapolis campus: One, an artist co-op, shows everything from painting, drawing, and ceramics to performances and experimental installations. The other two are slated to open in 2023. Expect to find emerging young talent from the metro area, as well as collaborations with established artists. JXTA also works at the junction of contemporary art and design, featuring furniture making and lighting sculpture. 1108 Broadway Ave. W., Mpls., 612-588-1148

Law Warschaw Gallery

Year est.: 2012

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Salome Asega, Ayodamola Tanimowo Okunseinde, Roger Shimomura

Macalester’s Law Warschaw Gallery is a platform for students, faculty, and art lovers in the wider Twin Cities community to engage with local, national, and international artists. Over the past five years, the gallery has brought in notable artists from New York, Seattle, Des Moines, Alaska, and elsewhere. Many exhibitions engage pressing social issues, from race and the long tail of colonization to cultural sustainability. Law Warschaw also collaborates with local organizations, facilitating hands-on workshops and public discussions with visiting artists. 130 S. Macalester St., St. Paul, 651-696-6416

Night Club

Year Est.: 2021

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key Artists: Christian Michael Filardo, Nancy Julia Hicks, Jordan Homstad

MCAD grads Lee Noble and Emma Beatrez watched innumerable DIY art spaces close during the pandemic—so they transformed their own home into one. Night Club, the current darling of the local DIY scene, resides in the L-shaped foyer of their south Minneapolis home, a former three-season porch. It’s a small operation, but the duo pairs local artists with emerging national and international artists, showcasing everything from painting, photography, and collage to ceramics and performance art. The works are often for sale, though that’s not the gallery’s raison d’être. 4025 3rd Ave. S., Mpls., 612-203-4031

PAPA Projects

Year est.: 2021

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Kathryn Kerr, Aaron Van Dyke, Erika Terwilliger, Adam Easton, R Yun Matea

Co-facilitators Jaysen Hohlen and Wyatt Lasky started PAPA Projects during the pandemic, at a time when so many galleries were closing their doors. The gallery lives in a communal artist studio space—it showcases many mediums, from paintings to abstract sculptural work and video installations. Hohlen and Lasky offer resources, from fabrication and installation to help with writing and documentation, and often give artists free run of the gallery, offering a space for them to take a turn from their typical practice. 708 Vandalia St., St. Paul, 612-850-3801

Soo Visual Arts Center

Year Est.: 2001

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key artists: Christopher E. Harrison, Andrea Carlson, Anika Schneider

Nonprofit art space SooVAC has shown more than 3,000 artists in its 21 years. Exhibitions are open call and selected by a panel of artists and community members, as opposed to a curator. The gallery focuses on emerging and underrepresented artists from Minnesota and supports them with stipends. Art buyers of all levels can expect to find work that challenges conventional aesthetics, from massive installations and new media to classic paint on canvas. SooVAC works with a deep collector base, facilitating relationships with artists over the long term. 2909 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-2263

TOA Presents

Year Est.: 2021

Emphasis: Mixed media

Key Artists: Candice Lin, Kim Benson, Lily Stockman

A passion project by former Walker fundraiser turned art advisor Robert Sherer, TOA Presents is a flexible exhibition space in Northeast Minneapolis. Sherer partners with national and international galleries, hosting their world-class exhibitions as rotating residencies. The gallery highlights emerging and mid-career artists, both local and national. Sherer founded it as a rebuke to the hyper-speculative nature of NFT culture and the pandemic groundswell of online viewing rooms, but still, TOA is unabashedly commercial: It exists to introduce collectors to rising artists and get those artists paid. 655 19th Ave. NE, Mpls., 773-844-2769

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