PSFK selects the best cities that will refresh your creativity, like Minneapolis that offers big-city culture with small-town authenticity.
PSFK has partnered with the Lincoln Motor Company on Hello Again, a series that rediscovers global urban centers to showcase the innovative cultural, artistic and culinary happenings that are putting these destinations on the map.
Minneapolis may be known for its 22 lakes, but beyond its beautiful scenery, this small metropolis may be one of the most interesting cities between the two coasts of the United States. With landmark architecture, a thriving art scene and a burgeoning startup community, Minneapolis has reinvented itself as innovative cultural hub that seamlessly merges the energy of a cosmopolitan city with the feel of a small town. This friendly Midwestern mecca’s new tag line could read ‘where great ideas and lifestyle come to thrive.’
The best place to begin recharging your creativity in Minneapolis is at the Walker Art Center. One of the most important and progressive contemporary art museums in the country, its symmetrical metal and glass expansion, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is also a massive architectural feat. Inside, you will not only experience an impressive array of important 20th and 21st century art, but can participate in the Walker’s new-media program, which uses various digital technologies as a means to educate and inspire. The center creates regular free podcasts geared toward current exhibitions, which can be downloaded beforehand or are available at the front desk on courtesy iPods. Just outside the Center is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden — one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture gardens, with permanent and temporary sculptures throughout the park. At its center sits the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen that features a giant maraschino cherry on a metal spoon, which has become an unofficial icon of Minneapolis.
However, if you want to get to the heart of the Minneapolis art scene, then make sure to time your visit for the Art-a-Whirl, an annual event featuring more than 70 studios, galleries, and art spaces that open their doors, fostering a dialogue between consumer and artist. Occurring this year in mid-May, you can view and purchase the works of over 500 artists in a variety of mediums, as well as see performances, demonstrations and large-scale exhibitions. This is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Minneapolis art community and speak with locals about the art they create and love.
Minneapolis has no shortage of quality independent theater companies, but the Guthrie is a standout, not only for its repertory theater program, but also as an architectural landmark that sits on the bank of the Mississippi River. Housing three stages, two restaurants and several bars within the Jean Nouvel-designed building, the Guthrie is a Minneapolitan entertainment destination even if you are not taking in a play. During the day, the theater offers iPod walking tours that take you through the intricate design of the modern building, from the amber box glass gallery to the cantilevered lobby, known as the Endless Bridge, where you can see unparalleled views of Minneapolis, including the Stone Arch Bridge and St. Anthony Falls that rush into the mighty Mississippi. If you want to take in Minneapolis all at once, this is the place to do it.
If you are searching for inspiration in retail, head 15 minutes outside of town to the gigantic 4.2 million square-foot Mall of America. Over 40 million people walk through its doors each year to find one of the most exciting retail venues in the country, with over 500 stores, 50 restaurants, a theme park and aquarium all housed within its walls. This city-within-a-city hosts over 400 interactive events a year, from music performances to book signings. Although it may seem like a traditional mall, the combination of unique entertainment venues, and the abundance of stores and restaurants constantly hosting new retail concepts, makes the Mall of America an innovative and inspiring destination.
When hunger strikes, head to Northeast Minneapolis, the current epicenter for cool and hip urban Minneapolitans. You’ll find many trendy bars and eateries dedicated to local fare, but try Red Stag Supper Club, the first LEED-CI certified restaurant in the state. LEED-CI is an industry benchmark for green design and construction, which the Supper Club fulfilled through innovative and energy-saving techniques. Using new technologies, the restaurant consumes 70 percent less water and half the energy of an average eatery, practices toxin-free housekeeping practices, keeps a commitment to green education and composting, and salvages or reuses materials in the building of dining furniture. Completely lit by LED bulbs, this sustainable restaurant pays homage to the supper clubs of neighboring state Wisconsin’s past, which were not only places to eat, but also places to gather and stay the evening. The Red Stag Supper Club serves traditional fare with a 21st century twist. There are refined versions of chicken and dumplings, as well as liver and onions, on the menu, all made from ingredients sourced at local vendors. This is sustainable luxury dining, and a reminder that you are in the Midwest, but with big-city flavor.
If you’re looking for a place to do a bit of work on the go, or come up with your next great business idea, pop into CoCo Mpls, a collaborative working space reimagined on the trading floor of the former Minneapolis Grain Exchange where freelancers, small businesses and corporate workgroups gather to share ideas. More private than a coffee shop but less formal than an office, this is a place where the creativity can be nurtured. In conjunction with Google for Entrepreneurs, CoCo hosts Black Box Mondays each week. Open to the public, this free event provides a space for people in the tech startup community to meet and do… whatever they like. From panel discussions to hacks, classes to demos, this is an opportunity to flex your creative muscle with like-minded peers.
Afterhours in Minneapolis is more bustling than you’d expect for a city in the Upper Midwest. There are plenty of live music venues, bars and comedy clubs. But if you are searching for one last burst of inspiration, when the clock strikes midnight, head to the Southern Theatre to witness one of the most unique shows in Minneapolis: BALLS Cabaret. This variety show, created 22 years ago by singer-songwriter Leslie Ball, is a weekly display of artists performing in an assortment of disciplines (often for the first time live) in front of the audience. The open mic format lets anyone come on stage to express themselves artistically in five-to-seven minutes without censorship. Audience feedback and participation is welcomed, even solicited. It is the venue to see new talent emerge and form, collaborate with performers and add the perfect final note to a day absorbing the creativity that Minneapolis has to offer.
Residents of this city may be known for their kindness and humility, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to show off. Their community is filled with inspiring architecture, art and a commitment to embracing all things local. This is a cosmopolitan city filled with a plethora of cultural amenities and surprises in the middle of the American heartland.
Photos by Scottie B. Tuska of Alleycat Photography.