What to Do When Visiting Minnesota for NAEA (Ep. 132)

With the NAEA National Conference coming up soon, it never hurts to start thinking about how to make the most of your experience in the host city. Luckily, Nic calls the Twin Cities home, and she has a lot of advice for you on what you can do in Minnesota. Listen as she and Heidi Miller discuss all the sites you will want to take in as an art teacher and an artist.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Nic: The National Art Education Association Convention is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That’s right. I get to welcome art teachers from all over the nation, and in fact the world, to my home state. In preparation for this, that’s how this podcast was developed today, to welcome any of you who are visiting the Twin Cities. I’m bringing a friend on, Heidi Miller, who is a local to St. Paul-Minneapolis and she’s going to tell us some of the hidden gems that she knows about in the area. Then, I’m going to take a few minutes to just tell you some of the places that I love to visit as well. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

Hi, Heidi. Thank you so much for joining us today and just sharing your expertise on Minnesota. Heidi, can you give us a little bit of a background on your teaching situation right now, and then also your affiliation with NAEA or AEM?

Heidi: Yeah, so I am currently teaching 9-12 Visual Art at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. This is my 10th year teaching, but fifth year at Robbinsdale Cooper, and I am also a professional development co-chair with the Art Educators of Minnesota. So working on different professional development opportunities for our art teachers in Minnesota.

Nic: Awesome. Thank you. You are bringing to the table all these amazing resources that we have within Minnesota, and we’re welcoming in nationally-wide and worldwide art teachers from all over the world. Can you please explain to them what galleries and museums we have available for them to visit?

Heidi: Yeah, so Minnesota is home to lots of different amazing cultures, and that’s one thing that we’re really hoping that we can exhibit here during the convention. And, I have written down a couple different museums and studios that I love to visit, and I’m hoping that you guys will also love to visit. The first one is called All My Relations Gallery. It is in Minneapolis in the Franklin neighborhood, which is traditionally our native neighborhood. And the mission of All My Relations Gallery is to honor and strengthen relationships between contemporary American Indian artists and the living influence of preceding generations, between artists and audiences of all ethnic backgrounds, and between art and the vitality of the American Indian Cultural Corridor, which is where the museum is located.

Nic: It’s so poetic. I love it.

Heidi: Yeah, so they not only want to show that some of the traditional native art, but also their big thing is really highlighting contemporary native artists, because they are so important to highlight. And, a lot of times when we think of our indigenous cultures, we think of them in the past and they’re still around and making amazing art, and doing amazing things with us nowadays.

Nic: Yeah. And yeah, I think that’s a beautiful area, too. It’s very decorated, very … Art is very prevalent in that area.

Heidi: Absolutely, absolutely. And just very much celebrating the indigenous cultures of Minnesota as well.

Nic: Okay. What else do you got?

Heidi: Yeah, so the second one is actually a studio. It’s called the Ricardo Levins Morales Studio. He is a social justice artist from Puerto Rico and he actually, after moving to Chicago with his family, landed here in Minnesota. He calls himself a healer, a trickster organizer, disguised as an artist.

Nic: Beautiful.

Heidi: So yeah, he’s just a really, really wonderful person. But like I said, he is a social justice artist. He kind of got his start making posters for the Black Panthers and also for the different farmers, laborists, environmentalists, peace movements and racial justice artwork. You might notice his artwork. He’s really famous nationally for his Trayvon Martin piece. He does a lot of screen printing because he really did not want to make art for the suburban living rooms. He really wants to keep art cheap enough for all people to buy.

Nic: Right. Yeah. That’s beautiful.

Heidi: Yeah, so he has a lot of artwork and up and then for sale at his studio.

Nic: Great. All right, and some representation from Somali culture as well, right?

Heidi: Yeah. So there’s this Somali Museum of Minnesota. That’s on Lake street, which is … I definitely suggest, even if you can’t go to the museum, Lake Street is just an amazingly culturally beautiful street. I don’t even know how long it is, but there’s lots of different cultures represented throughout the street and I definitely suggest, definitely visiting that. But-

Nic: Because, you’re talking like food and street art and everything on Lake Street, right?

Heidi: Yes, absolutely. And museums or different shops. It’s just-

Nic: Shops, yeah.

Heidi: So, the Somali Museum of Minnesota is one of the only museums in the world. There used to be a museum in Mogadishu, but because of all the conflict, it’s kind of not working right now or not in operation right now. Their mission is to kind of use the collection as a tool for education. Many of the younger generations of Somali Americans were born here and the elders want to make sure that the younger generation knows and learns about their culture, but also just for Minnesotans and other people to learn about their ethnic heritage and encounter Somali art and traditional culture for the first time.

Nic: Yeah.

Heidi: So they have traditional stuff, but they also do really try and highlight contemporary Somali artists that are working today.

Nic: Yeah, and Minnesota does have a large Somali community, so I’m glad that it’s represented in an artistic way as well.

Heidi: Yeah.

Nic: All right. Thank you for that one.

Heidi: Of course.

Nic: What else you got?

Heidi: Then we have the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery. That’s on Penn Avenue in Minneapolis, and their goal is to just preserve, record and highlight the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans in Minnesota. They just have a lot of really interesting exhibits, but one that I really enjoyed, it’s actually a permanent exhibit. It’s called Unbreakable, Celebrating Resilience of African Americans in Minnesota. And just highlighting, not only contemporary black artists, but also the history of how we have African Americans and how they’ve kind of migrated to Minnesota as well.

Nic: You said that was on Penn? Penn Street?

Heidi: Yeah, so it’s 1256 Penn Avenue North.

Nic: Oh, Penn Avenue. Okay. Thank you for that. And don’t worry about jotting all these down. I think what we’ll do is we’ll, Heidi and I will work together and come up with a bunch of links that we’ll include with the podcast, too. Does that sound okay?

Heidi: Yeah, absolutely.

Nic: Okay. All right. So we have three more that I think we need to touch on. Can you continue with them?

Heidi: Absolutely. So many people do not know, but we have a very big Hmong population here in Minnesota, specifically in the Twin Cities. And while the Hmong Cultural Center Museum and Library doesn’t really have a brick and mortar place right now, they’re really working on it. I was told that there are three different places that they suggest to really go take a look at and check out if you’re interested in learning about the history or working artists that are of Hmong descent.

The first one is the center for Hmong studies at Concordia University. It’s actually in St. Paul, so you will have to get on the highway, but I definitely suggest checking out St. Paul. The second one is the Hmong Archives at the East Side Freedom Library. Again, that’s in St. Paul as well. And then the third one is the Hmong Village on Phalen Boulevard. There’s just tons and tons of vendors who sell fashion and other items, who are also of Hmong descent. And, I was told that they will keep me posted if there are any exhibits, or shows, or gallery openings or anything by Hmong traditional artists.

Nic: Yeah, and Heidi and I were talking prior to speaking on the podcast, but we know that the Hmong culture in Minnesota is so strong, that they do find other outlets. We’ve seen them at the History Center and at the James J. Hill House, which is a old museum house that we run here in Minnesota as well. So we will update the podcast if there’s any updates on where locations are. And the other thing that Heidi mentioned was that you might have to travel. Uber and Lyft is very prevalent in Minnesota. So go ahead and get those apps prior, so that you can just jump on one of those and head to any of these that sound interesting to you.

Heidi: Absolutely. And it’s super easy and super affordable as well.

Nic: Right, absolutely.

Heidi: The last two that I have to talk about are just kind of, you can’t talk about Minnesota without our Scandinavian roots and there are two amazing places. One is called the Norway House. That’s on Franklin Avenue, which is actually in our Native American Cultural Corridor as well. So if you want to hit two different places, I would suggest hitting the Norway House and All My Relations Gallery at the same time. Basically, the Norway House is the museum or gallery that kind of highlights our Norwegian heritage. During the winter, they do a really amazing gingerbread display and it’s just kind of fun to see. It’s a little bit more contemporary as well.

Nic: That’s nice to know.

Heidi: Yeah, and then finally we have this beautiful mansion and it’s called the American Swedish Institute. They have-

Nic: It really is beautiful.

Heidi: Yeah. Oh, it’s just beautiful and they just do a lot of different artwork, and exhibits, and actually classes as well. It’s just fun to see.

Nic: Yeah, that’s a good point. I know that the Swedish Institute does have a lot of classes, so if that sounds interesting to you, jump on their website and check out the classes, and you could potentially go take a class on a different site that isn’t related to NAEA. There’s just so many opportunities in Minnesota.

Heidi: Yeah, absolutely. And just wonderful. I’m excited for everybody to see what Minnesota has to offer.

Nic: Yeah, absolutely. Hey, Heidi, thank you so much for joining us today.

Heidi: Of course.

Nic: I appreciate you sharing all these gems because that’s really what you did was you showed shared some secret gems that we have to offer here in Minnesota. Thank you.

Heidi: Thank you so much for highlighting Minnesota and including me on this. I’m really excited.

Nic: I so appreciate the insights that Heidi gave to us today on this podcast because I think it’s so valuable to have someone who lives downtown, knows downtown, just share what is interesting, what we should check out. So thank you so much to Heidi. Now I, living in suburbia, have a few places that I love to visit when I go down to the Cities as well and I’m going to just share those real quick with you. Of course, if you’re an art person, you’re going to want to go to the museums and galleries and the two biggest ones is the Mia and the Walker Art Institute. So Minneapolis Institute of Arts is called Mia or the M-I-A, and Mia has contemporary and traditional artwork throughout its whole gallery, it’s whole museum. It’s huge. It’s three levels and it’s just really beautiful work.

Nic: So I love the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I bring my students there on a regular basis and my family as well. The Walker Art Center is where you would think of the sculpture garden that has the Cherry and the Spoon by Claes Oldenburg. That is where Minnesota’s icon really, is that Cherry and the Spoon. So, if you want to see that head on over to the Walker Art Center where they have contemporary art within the gallery. It’s a beautiful building, and then of course the amazing sculpture garden.

For Minnesota, we are also known for hosting and having Prince live in our state. So we’re kind of a purple state on many levels. Our Vikings, Minnesota Vikings, and of course, Prince. So if you are in love with Prince and everything about him, you want to head on over to Paisley Park. Paisley Park is an Uber ride away. It’s not too local to the convention center. But if that’s of high interest to you, make sure that you make it a stop.

The Minnesota Textile Center is one of my favorite places, too, and I’ve actually had the opportunity as a host member, a host person on the team, kind of setting up field trips for NAEA, to set up a field trip with the Textile Center. So, I think Wednesday you can sign up for a trip to the Minnesota Textile Center, but if you don’t get the opportunity to do that, maybe you just stop by and check it out. They have a small gallery, but then they also have a weaving room, a felting room and they have a dining room. They have a really nice library as well, all revolving around fibers.

StevenBe’s, so the name Steven and Be. StevenBe is another fibers place that I like to visit. It’s just a kind of a funky shop. I like it a lot because it has every kind of yarn and string that you can imagine. Plus, it has wool roving and I like I’m purchasing from them when I’m looking for my wool roving, but I talked to them and just let them know that we were going to be in town, and they offered to do a make and take of a little pompom. So if you want to learn how to do that, or just go in there and use your hands, that is available to you. And then, they also are giving away a fibers box so it’s going to be this box, jam pack full of yarns and classroom ready supplies for you to either have shipped to you, which I think they said they’re willing to do, or purchase if you want. If you’re worried you won’t get to win in the contest, you can also purchase one and have it shipped to you as well. So, two really good fibers places, I absolutely adore them.

Now anytime that I’m talking to my friends about coming into town, I’m giving them the places to stop and eat. Down from the Mia, just a couple of blocks, there is a street called Eat Street, and I love Eat Street because it is jam packed full with all sorts of different restaurants from many different cultures. So we have Vietnamese, and we have German and my personal favorite is a Jamaican kitchen. It’s called Pimentos and I love it. It’s super spicy. You need to love spice to go there, but absolutely try Eat Street out.

You’re going to find something that will fit you, and kind of what I do with my friends actually, is we go down there and we order one dish and then we go to the next place and we’ll order one dish. And so maybe that’s the afternoon that you want to spend after learning art for so many hours. Maybe you need to head on over to Eat Street. But if you’re at the convention center and you want a really good breakfast, sit down breakfast, Eggys is not too far from the convention center. So Eggys is a place that I would recommend that’s local to the convention center.

And then the Chroma Zone. You guys, street art is all over Minneapolis. And if you follow my Instagram, you know that I love street art. One of the places that you could go, that just is kind of concentrated with some street art is the Chroma Zone. Chroma Zone. All these things that I’m mentioning right now, I’m going to have links to them in a slideshow that I’m making, that I’ll include with this podcast, but I’m also going to have available at the host table at NAEA. So if you need to, either way you can get it on the links with this podcast or at the host table, because I do have another link that can bring you to several different breweries in town. I’m sure this is everywhere, but Minnesota’s brewery life is definitely exploding. We have lots and lots of options and opportunities. So I have a link to all the places that you might want to give a try and check out.

But if you’re looking for something a little bit more playful, a little funky, you want to hop in your Uber again and go down to Can Can Wonderland. Can Can Wonderland is a indoor mini golf course that was developed completely by Minnesota artists. I love this place. It is so funky, and weird and surreal. You walk in and it’s kind of in this basement area and every single hole that you golf is designed by a different artist, so it’s really funky, really fun. And if you look at their website, you’re going to see that they have other things. They have pinball machines that you can play, like old classic pinball machines and they also have something called Tappy Hour. I mean, who doesn’t want to try Tappy Hour? You can go there, put on some tap shoes and learn how to tap dance. I mean yeah, that’s something you need to do.

Another kind of fun, funky place is the Upstairs Circus. This is in the North Loop, so again, I’ll have a link here, but the North Loop is really known for having a great nightlife, great restaurants, one of them being the Upstairs Circus, and that is actually a crafting bar. So if you want to meet up with friends but make a leather pouch or metal stamp, some jewelry or something like that, that’s all available at this place called the Upstairs Circus. Super fun.

So again, I just want to point out to you that this whole thing I’m trying to put together with some friends and just have a really nice slideshow presented of different places to visit when you’re in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have so much fun here and it’s just, I can’t wait for you guys to all come to Minnesota and explore the reasons I love my wonderful state.

If you are attending NAEA, I’d like to encourage you to stop in the vendors’ area and visit the Art of Education University. Not only will you get to meet some of those faces that you see online all the time in person, you will also get to hear what’s new at the Art of Education University, and we always have some very cool swag. So be sure to stop by and say hello.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.