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A Whirlwind of Creativity: The 2024 Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl Review

By John Wheeler

It was a freakishly warm May in Minneapolis when the Art-a-Whirl kicked off its 29th psychedelic trip around the sun. 

The city, which mere months ago was a windswept (through unseasonably warm and brown) wasteland of wan smiles along with those little nods that silently say “I can’t believe we’re out here”, transformed into a boiling pot of artistic fervor and creative madness.

I dove headfirst into the whirlpool on Friday night, the air thick with the scent of oil paint and hops. The studios in Northeast Minneapolis were like portals to other dimensions filled with interactive art experiences, each artist a mad scientist or shaman guiding wide-eyed wanderers through their visions. The night was a blur of colors and sounds, a carnival of the senses where the only rule (artistically speaking) was that there were no rules.

By Saturday, the sun was a merciless overlord, but the masses were undeterred. They swarmed the streets like bees to the hive, drawn by the promise of raw, unfiltered expression. I found myself working the door of a legal cannabis smoking lounge, located in the back patio of Stone Arch Glass Studio, which just so happens to be where Minnesota Legit is brought to life.

The heat from the torches was a stark contrast to the shady breeze under the big-top tent of the Legit Smoking Lounge. As easy as my job was, I couldn't help but be a little jealous of the class participants.  Sweaty though they were, their condition was merely a side effect of the fiery dance of creation, which is the lifeblood that truly makes the studio a shining gem in the industrial landscape of North East Minneapolis.

The art studios open house event was an official stop on the Art-a-Whirl tour, and the studio had promised a spectacle of glass artistry. True to their word, the space was transformed into a museum of shimmering glass pieces, each reflecting the stories and skills of the local artisans. 

Some guests executed a perfect action plan upon arrival: 

1. With a clear head, enter any and all contests and guessing games.  

2. Pop by the smoking tent for a dab or two and some light conversation.

3. Get in line for the glass blowing class and enjoy watching the artistic talent do their thing while vibing to the old school funk and soul playlist picked out by yours truly.

4. Create a magical artistic expression in the glass blowing class.

5. Rummage through our bin of free sunglasses, vintage scarves and jewelry (long story, but there will be more next time).

6. Hit the tent one more time to sample some different flower while they wait for their newly created pieces to harden in the kiln.

7. Pick up a new Legit pipe and maybe a hat before heading off to find a food truck.

All day long the studio buzzed with activity; the air was filled with the sounds of glass clinking and the soft roar of dozens of flames.  The MN Legit artisans moved with a rhythm all their own, but nonetheless felt like a choreographed performance of their craft. 

In the Legit Smoking Lounge, the studio’s connection to the local culture was evident.  It was a space where art met function, and visitors could appreciate the craftsmanship of the glass pieces in a new light.

As the day wound down, the setting sun cast a warm glow over the studio, turning the glass artworks into a kaleidoscope of colors. The experience was not just about observing art but about feeling the passion and heat that goes into creating each piece. It was a reminder of the transformative power of fire and human ingenuity.

Leaving the Stone Arch Glass Studio on Saturday, I carried with me not just the memory of an art form but the warmth of a community that thrives on creativity and collaboration. The Art-a-Whirl 2024 visit to the studio was a testament to the enduring beauty and allure of glass art, a tradition that continues to spark fascination and wonder.

Then along came Sunday, the big comedown, but the energy never waned. The artists, those brave souls who dared to bare their inner worlds, were the true stars. They didn’t just show their work; they bared their teeth and hearts, challenging every onlooker to look deeper, to feel something, anything.

For one weekend, Minneapolis wasn’t just a city; it was the pulsating heart of the artistic universe, beating in time with the strokes of a brush and the chisel of a sculptor.

In the end, Art-a-Whirl 2024 was a testament to the human spirit, a wild ride through the peaks and valleys of creativity. It was dirty, it was beautiful, and it was gloriously real. Until next year, keep it Legit, Minneapolis art scene!

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