I left the shantyboat in Muscatine, Iowa and bombed up to Minneapolis in a borrowed beater car to go to an art conference and pick up my new ships mate.
Hand-In-Glove was an inspiring collection of artists and art administrators focused on social practice art, that is art that “focuses on social engagement, inviting collaboration with individuals, communities, and institutions in the creation of participatory art.”
There were panels on creating inclusive art spaces and communities, discussions about place, race, geography and power, workgroups on sustainably working as artists (read: how do we make money?), and connections with tons of inspiring artists.
A huge crowd of highly-engaged artists filled The Soap Factory in Minneapolis. The panels were a refreshing mix of race, gender, and class — such a change from my über-white art community in my California hometown of Santa Cruz.
I picked James up from the airport and we hustled off to the conference’s delightful dance party in St. Paul.
We arted it up and then spent a little time goofing around Minneapolis. Near the house where we stayed (thanks, Brakeshoe!) we discovered one of those typical bar/restaurants with a full-size ferris wheel and wild animal mini golf course. You know, like you find everywhere.
We also discovered the magical Minneapolis Open Streets. A neighborhood block party spanning more than twenty blocks sprawling through at least three distinct neighborhoods. It was crowded with people from all over the city. Restaurants and bars moved their tables out into the street.
At one point while James and I were sitting on the curb drinking beers with Hazel kickin’ it in the grass, watching skaters ollie off of the urban landscape and kids throwing frisbies back and forth, we contemplated just how many laws back home we and others would be breaking.
When we got back to the place we were staying we excitedly described the scene. Our friend Alex delivered the punchline, “Oh, so it was a good one? They do that throughout the summer in neighborhoods all over town.” That’s it. A town that supports artists, has restaurants with ferris wheels, and closes down streets regularly so neighbors can hang out and have fun together? Aw jeez, harrowing winters notwithstanding, I’m there.
We picked up the trailer in Winona generously stored for the last few months in Secret History interviewee Louise Prondzinski’s yard and headed back down to Muscatine to rendezvous with our river home on the shantyboat.