Celebrating “Queerness” at Art-A-Whirl

Photos by Andrea From
Photos by Andrea From

Get ready, Minneapolis: Art-A-Whirl is back! Whether you’ve heard of it before and are already planning your visit, or this is your first encounter, you don’t want to miss this incredible exhibition of local art!

Anna Becker, Executive Director of Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association, or NEMAA, says, “Art-A-Whirl is the largest open studio tour in the nation, and it happens in Northeast Minneapolis… Over 1,000 artists and galleries participate in Art-A-Whirl each year across almost 70 sites, including studio buildings, galleries, businesses, and breweries.” This year, Art-A-Whirl is even bigger than ever before. According to Becker, Art-A-Whirl grows every year, “The first year, artists were pleasantly surprised that a few hundred people showed up to their spaces. Last year we estimate between 80,000—100,000 people came to Art-A-Whirl.” And the best part? Art-A-Whirl is free and open to the public!

Art-A-Whirl celebrates all kinds of art and artists, including many openly queer artists. Andrea From (they/them) is a great example of one of the many queer artists you can meet this year. From says, “I run Andrea Alice, Artist out of my home studio in South Minneapolis, where I’m often assisted by a spirited two-year-old and a sweet kitty named Waffle. I work mostly in watercolor and marker, and my flare for illustration heavily informs my work. I’ve been drawing prolifically since I could hold a pencil, and I never stopped having imaginary friends. Now I just call them original characters, and I draw comics about them.” Their beautiful, colorful art expresses so much joy and brightness. They say, “I came out when my little one was nine months old… It was a euphoric time, but also a lonely one… I started making art about my newfound identity, the explosive joy of finally knowing myself, and the questions I still had.”

From’s illustrations depict colorful characters and animals, often with the incorporation of the colors of different pride flags. Finding a home in the queer community has been a profound experience for From, both with art and in their life. They say, “Coming home to the queer community is the deepest sense of belonging I have ever felt. And it is time we started to educate the world about queer belonging, queer hope, and queer joy.” Pop in and check out their table at Art-A-Whirl. They will be tabling with “[their] incredible friend and colleague, Raven Mae of Whirlywind Artworks. You can catch us on the second floor of Grain Belt Bottling House. We love chatting with art enthusiasts, and we have everything from original paintings to cards and stickers, to jewelry by Raven.” Don’t miss out!

Another amazing artist gracing Art-A-Whirl with his presence is Olly Gibbs (he/him). Olly is, in his own words, “a trans-masculine full-time fiber artist & graphic designer… My husband, Keaton, and I share our work through our collaborative small art business Curlworks! [We] currently design and sell stationary, apparel, and handmade plush, with a focus on nature & queer representation.” Gibbs and his husband began participating as Art-A-Whirl Artists recently, in 2021, but they’ve been frequent visitors in past years. He adds, “This year will be our very first time participating with our new studio in the Q.arma Building (Studio 200) and I can’t wait to share our new space with everyone.” They’re both very excited to get to showcase some of their amazing art this year. Gibbs says, “Though my work is not always overtly queer (though it often is!), and there is definitely more to me as a person than my queerness, recently I’ve been trying to create more positive and affirming work for the trans community to hopefully help balance out all of the not-so-positive messages we’re usually blasted with.”

With so much negativity in the news and so many anti-trans/queer movements, finding a space for trans and queer joy is so important. Gibbs is a perfect example of promoting trans joy and creativity. He says, “We have so much new work to share with lots of goodies for sale, my husband will be bringing his elusive paintings, it’ll be really fun.” He also includes, “Our studio mate Jill Kittock is also VERY cool and an extremely talented artist and a wicked baker so if you aren’t yet convinced to come say hi during Art-A-Whirl, I hope her baked goods will entice you!”

Alicia De La Cruz (she/her) is another brilliant artist participating in Art-A-Whirl this year. She introduces herself: “Boozhoo (hello)! … I’m a two spirit Ojibwe artist hailing from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe here in Minnesota! I currently live in the beautiful art district of N.E Minneapolis.” De La Cruz is creates with beads, and her work, “…reflects the contemporary native art style and a touch of old-style Ojibwe art with my own twist. Especially important to me in my work is the preservation of my culture, through both language and art.” De La Cruz elaborates, “I enjoy using beadwork, painting, mixed media, ink, and marker in non-traditional ways to showcase my own identity as a native artist and also as a woman of the 21st century. I love the intricacy of beadwork, which inspires me to connect with my ancestors through a beautiful traditional native art form.”

De La Cruz recently won the Artist Future Award from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and has a fellowship with the Bell Museum, where her work will “culminate into a project to be shown at the Bell Museum and Mille Lacs Indian Museum.” De La Cruz’s expression of her art is influenced in all ways by her identities as two spirit and Ojibwe. She says, “As someone who is two spirit, it is an honor in my culture to be this. I use the colors of the rainbow VERY often in many of my pieces, and I like to say that rainbow is my favorite color. To practice an art form that is not often practiced and to also be a two spirit artist on top of that, I feel proud to represent Ojibwe Two Spirit peoples.”

This is the second year De La Cruz will be participating; she says, “I always get comments about how unique the art I bring is, and how it’s the first time for some people to ever see beadwork in person. It’s always amazing to both show my art and also educate a little about my culture and to be THANKED for bringing my art to art a whirl is something so special to me.”

Don’t miss out on Art-A-Whirl, the art event of the season! Click HERE for all the information you need about the who, the what, the where and the when.

Friday, May 19th – 5:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 20th – Noon-8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 21st – Noon-5:00 p.m.

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