open studio tour tips by Nicholas Harper

Holy hell, it’s that time of year again, time for the annual NE Open Studio Tour! What is it exactly? It’s the largest open studio tour in America! Now in its 22nd year, it takes place in Northeast Minneapolis which houses the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, which was, might I add, voted the Numero Uno arts district in the country!

Hundreds of artists will open their studio doors this weekend allowing the public to enter their sacred space. And tens of thousands of people will flood the neighborhood gladly taking them up on the offer. The atmosphere is frantic and festive, celebratory and at times chaotic, and always memorable.

With literally hundreds of studios to peruse, galleries to explore and various venues from gift shops to individual homes all offering original art peppered throughout the neighborhood, it can be a bit daunting, especially for the first timer.

Allow me to share 10 tips for getting the most out of the weekend that I think even the most seasoned tour goers might find useful.

ONE:  With over 50 bars and restaurants in the neighborhood it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of what’s most important to take in during the three day tour. Keeping in mind that this is first and foremost a studio tour, at no other point during the year is it possible to have direct access to so many of your favorite artists in person and in the very place where they make their magic than this weekend! One can hang on the patio of a bar any weekend and the summer months in Minneapolis are ripe with outdoor music concerts and block parties so don’t let this opportunity to visit art studios slip you by. There are far more than any one person can take in over three days so the more time you spend on the patio throwing one or five back during tour hours, that’s less time you get to explore and less art you get to experience. You might just miss out on the piece that would have rocked your world and made your living room wall the envy of all who enter…

Side Note: Obviously you’re gonna get hungry and thirsty while whirling, so by all means, take in a meal and enjoy a cocktail at one of the many great venues NE has to offer and at night, after the studios have closed, let the good time roll! And if you can, supporting the restaurants and bars that support local artists is all the better.

TWO:  A little research can go a long way in making your weekend a bit more hassle free and fruitful. Do a bit of research online beforehand to hunt out those studios and artists you really want to see, perhaps dedicating Friday night to hitting them up specifically. Then ask the artists whom they would recommend for tips. If you like a particular artists work, ask who they like. This is a great way to find out about artists that you perhaps haven’t heard of before.

THREE:  Don’t just visit the artists you know. Be sure to do some exploring. If you’ve done this before, go to the building you haven’t spent much time in or even spend an afternoon going to one off locations like home studios, shops etc. Saturday is a great day just to get lost and roam. If the weather is nice I recommend traveling via bike, as it’s a great way to see the hood.

FOUR:  If you see something that moves you, don’t hesitate to buy on the spot. Some people approach tours like this thinking they’ll see everything and then go back to get the things they liked most on the last day. By that time, odds are, someone else has already purchased the piece you can’t live without, but now have to.

FIVE:  If something is really making your heart melt but it’s out of your price range, don’t be shy about asking if the gallery or artist is open to a payment plan. I’ve had a payment plan at the Rogue Buddha since I opened and most artists are more than happy to work with you and your budget. Just think, that money you save by heeding tip number one and not sitting on a patio all day could provide the 20% down needed to be well on your way to owning a beautiful work of art that will last a lifetime.

SIX:  In general, don’t haggle on price during tours such as this, especially on Friday or Saturday. Most professional artists have spent a lot of time working in their costs such as production time, materials and mental anguish (hours of crying and asking why we do this art thing) into the retail price. While it might be appropriate to discuss pricing flexibility at other times during the year, this isn’t the best time for that. This of course does not apply to mothers of the artist, who should always get a price break…

SEVEN:  This is a follow up to number six.  While generally there are no bad questions to ask an artist about their work, one question stands out as annoying and therefore warrants a bit of explanation. “Why is it so expensive?” This question unlike any other makes most artists cringe. If you think about an expensive timepiece, a luxury automobile or a couture outfit, what is it that one is buying? Beyond the object itself, one is buying craftsmanship, quality, expertise and exclusivity in that the object is limited in quantity and perhaps a one of a kind as most artwork is. A great artist brings all of these aspects to his or her work and the price should logically reflect that. I believe that art, more than any other purchase one can make, is an investment in ones quality of life and if seen from this vantage point, price becomes less of a factor in making a decision.

EIGHT:  If you’re new to the arts, don’t be shy about asking questions and trust your instincts. If you don’t “get” a work of art, don’t beat yourself up about it or think that it’s above your head. Feel free to pick the artists brain to see what he or she was intending or thinking about when making something. If it still doesn’t speak to you, no worries, there’s really nothing to “get” beyond your own honest reaction and emotional interplay with the piece. And don’t be discouraged if nothing jumps out at you. Not everything is for everyone and you never know when or what piece will captivate your soul. But when it does, you will surely know it, even if you can’t explain why.

NINE:  Be open-minded. While you may think you’re on the hunt for a sculpture or a painting in a particular style for a particular spot in your home or office, keep an open mind for those things that surprise you and even take you out of your comfort zone. For me, the best art isn’t that which blends into a home décor scheme, but rather begs for conversation and closer analysis by those who come into contact with it. But most of all look for those works that move you personally at a gut level. So what if it clashes with the couch or makes your mother blush when she’s over for dinner.

TEN:  Remember the studio is a sacred space for most artists, its where we laugh, we cry, we swear and most of all, we expose our soul via the work we create. Your support of the artists in Northeast by visiting the studios, promoting your favs and if so moved, making a purchase or two or three… is what helps give this neighborhood vitality and defines it as a one of a kind place to live and work and sets it apart from anywhere else in the country.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you find it useful as you set out to roam the streets and studios of NE Minnie. I also hope you make the Rogue Buddha Gallery one of your must see attractions this weekend! But most of all have a great time and enjoy everything Northeast Minneapolis and the artists have to offer!

Cheers!

2 thoughts on “open studio tour tips by Nicholas Harper”

  1. All great ideas! I especially like this one, “If you like a particular artists work, ask who they like. This is a great way to find out about artists that you perhaps haven’t heard of before.” So not intimidating to do. Thanks. Am sharing on the Flare page 🙂

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