Joan Vorderbruggen has been one of the major champions of public art and artists in the Twin Cities for years. As an artist and general force of nature, Joan made a name for herself as founder of the “Artist in Storefronts” initiative, which transformed blighted and vacant buildings on Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis into vibrant art destinations. Currently, she’s the director of a similar, but grander-scale project in downtown Minneapolis entitled “Made Here” which is largest storefront art initiative in the entire US. Through Joan’s tireless vision, the local arts economy has been noticeably stimulated and areas where commercial vacancies are high have had increased tenancy as a result — truly a full circle success for the city. We had a chat with Ms. Vorderbruggen to find out more and learn about the upcoming season of Made Here, which kicks off June 1st and runs through the summer.
You have been the driving force behind Artists in Storefronts and now, Made Here for a number of years. How did it all start?
I started creating storefront displays for independent businesses in 2010 and found that I really enjoyed doing it. I won a few awards and began imagining creating visual displays for whole city blocks in dense commercial areas, activating blighted and vacant properties. I researched storefront art initiatives that had been successful on either coast and in January of 2012 enlisted the partnership of my neighborhood association for funding. In April, 2012 Artists in Storefronts was piloted with 20 visual displays along the primary commercial corridor where I live. I created five iterations of Artists in Storefronts before being hired by the largest performing arts non profit in MN to implement a similar initiative, Made Here. Next week we will launch what will be my ninth storefront project. Made Here is the largest storefront initiative of it’s kind in the nation.
The new season of Made Here begins in June. What are some of the things you are most excited about?
With this run of Made Here artist activists have made a huge impact on the overall project for the first time. We aren’t just decorating the city with beautiful work, we are also addressing issues that our communities are facing. Made Here has also expanded in some very innovative ways. We were commissioned to create a museum experience inside a newly renovated mall, as well as feature graphic design around a new construction sites vinyl fence wrap. This project is more than activations in vacant windows, it’s the public art arm of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
How do you think Made Here has impacted the local community?
In many ways, five commercial properties with a combined vacancy of more than 35 years acquired lease holders in less than 12 months of participation. We have paid MN based artists more than $70K in stipends as well as more than $30K in labor and commissions. We also really value the opportunity for the community to have a better pedestrian experience downtown, experience fine art and perhaps connect with it and each other.
What can visitors to the Twin Cities expect if they check out Made Here?
An urban walking gallery! You can download a PDF of our map which spans 15 city blocks and take a wonderful tour on foot or bike. Our website, http://www.madeheremn.org includes dedicated webpages for each of our artists showcases so you can use your gadget to find out more as you explore! Made Here is the cornerstone project of the new downtown Cultural District, which aims to be the premier walkable center of art, culture and economic activity! I hope anyone who visits will take a stroll and enjoy!