By DORIS RUBENSTEIN
Jewish participation continues to be strong this year in Art-A-Whirl, the annual art crawl hosted by the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NMAA). Now in its 24th year, Art-A-Whirl boasts of being the largest annual open-studio tour in the entire country. From May 17-19, visitors can stroll to over 60 locations to see the work of nearly 800 artists in every imaginable medium to see how art is made, ask questions, try their hand at some new art form or maybe even buy a piece.
There have always been many Jewish artists represented at Art-A-Whirl, and this year is no exception. Space doesn’t allow for all of the Jewish participants to be profiled here, but you can find an artist directory, as well as other information about the event, at nemaa.org/art-a-whirl.
Jews have a long history of appreciating artists. In Exodus, two artists are singled out to be recognized by name: Bezalel was the chief architect of the tabernacle (and has an art institute in Israel bearing his name) and Aholiab was his deputy. Who are some of the Minnesotans carrying on this tradition?
Wendy Shragg, of Wayzata, studied design at the University of Minnesota, where she learned about color theory and principles. Her art is full of color, whether in watercolors or oils, or even using digital means to create images that are at times whimsical or visually challenging.
She recalls: “As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved to create, and a few years ago, I began to feel an underlying tug that there was a path I should be pursuing. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of exploration rich with self-discovery. I came to realize that what I was looking so hard to find had been right in front of me all along. By letting go of the looking, and doing what I loved most, I discovered what I had been searching for. The creative piece of my life that had been my joy for so many years was urging me to play, and I realized I needed to do what made me come alive.”
Minneapolitan Andrea Canter has been a photographer of diverse subjects since childhood. She worked at it very part-time until she retired from unrelated work 15 years ago. Her first time participating in Art-A-Whirl was as a guest artist in 2016. This encouraged her to lease a small display space at the Casket Arts Building in Northeast, and she recently moved into a larger studio. While most of her photography is abstract, Canter has lately expanded into painting with acrylics and mixed media — rekindling an early childhood fascination.
Canter says that Art-A-Whirl is the highlight of her business year. “I love sharing my art with a diverse audience and hopefully selling it!”
Brenda Litman, of St. Louis Park, a painter, didn’t get into the art field until her family was nearly grown. She made up for lost time by earning her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota and quickly rented a studio in Northeast Minneapolis, just in time for the first Art-A-Whirl. Litman has shown her work many times at Art-A-Whirl over the years.
Litman says: “My Jewish heritage provides a framework for my art. The journeys and persecutions Jews endured through the centuries from ancient Egypt to the Holocaust and beyond form our collective memory. I feel for the displaced peoples in the world today, especially those at our southern border.”
Eileen Cohen, an Eden Prairie resident, has her studio in the Northrup-King Building in Northeast Minneapolis and shares it with two other Jewish artists. She’s also the exhibition coordinator at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony and works there with artists of all backgrounds. Regarding her work, she says, “I was particularly inspired by the repetition in the work of Liz Miller and Asako Nakauchi, and the use of simple forms or techniques that resulted in complicated structures.”
Whether your interest in art is strictly Jewish or more universal, Art-A-Whirl offers a rare chance to enter the studios of working artists and learn more about their art and lives.
Art-A-Whirl will run 5-10 p.m. Friday, May 17; 12-8 p.m. Saturday, May 18; and 12-5 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at various Northeast Minneapolis locations. For information and maps, go to: nemaa.org/art-a-whirl.