Wednesday, June 18, 2014

on the road: minneapolis

This summer is already shaping up to be full of adventure! Last week I flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet a new client and start a large commissioned project and then spent a week driving the 2,100 miles home to Boston.

In general, I only create artwork about things or places I've personally seen or experienced, and only use my own photographs… there is such a difference in art created from real experiences and memories that I couldn't do it any other way. These finished paintings will celebrate the culture, history and environment of Minnesota, so I spent a few days exploring, taking photos and chatting with anyone and everyone I met about what their home state meant to them. Luckily for me, "midwestern charm" is a very real thing. Every single person I talked to was friendly and kind enough to suggest places to go, things to do and offering local insights that I would otherwise have never known as an outsider.

After landing and picking up my rental car at the airport, I met my clients for lunch at their office downtown and then set out on foot to take photos. We've been emailing and sketching the design for months so I knew exactly what I needed and spent most of my afternoon wandering between the old city and uptown with my camera aimed at the sky, snapping the contrast between Minneapolis' towering downtown skyscrapers and crumbling factory ruins.

You know I love this stuff.

I found that Minneapolis, which I had previously only driven through once on my way from Seattle to Boston, was much bigger and more progressive than I had imagined, with a ton of public art, bike lanes and indie businesses everywhere, but still overflowing with charm and friendliness… the kind of neighborhood feel that you don't find in big cities too often.

In Minneapolis I booked my first airbnb. I was a little apprehensive at first… staying in a stranger's home sounds kinda crazy, right? But I found a room in Zach and Betsy's beautiful Ventura Village home and had a great experience. For 1/3 the cost of a hotel room, I had a clean room with a comfy bed, shower and linens right near downtown. Airbnb offers the option to book anything from a tent in someone's yard to a luxury mansion (or boat, or castle, or tepee…) almost anywhere in the world. A very secure system of reviews lets you check out your hosts and communicate before committing, and my booking was exactly what I expected and I felt safe the whole time. It's probably not for everyone, but it definitely works if you're trying to get the most local flavor out of your travels, or roam on a budget.

After I lost the daylight to take photos, I knew I didn't want to hide out in my room all night so I Googled "Minneapolis music events" and bought a ticket to the first concert that came up: Jamestown Revival, Kris Orlowski, and The Wind + The Wave at the Fine Line Cafe downtown. I'd never heard of any of them before this trip but they were all incredible! Jamestown Revival is easily one of my new favorite bands. The show was totally worth being the awkward out-of-towner alone at the bar (something you have to get used to when you travel alone.)

So good. I'd say they had the southern rock feel Creedence Clearwater Revival and the harmonic acoustics of The Head and The Heart or maybe Mumford & Sons. (If that sounds even a little intriguing, watch this.)

The next morning I got breakfast at Moose & Sadie and headed out to grab more photos on the outskirts of the city. Did you know that the Mississippi River begins in Minneapolis? The "Big Muddy"  that spans nearly a mile at some points in its route is just 30 feet wide at its origin, dotted with sweet little parks, rail trail bridges and Mississippi Toe Dipping spots.

And then... it was time to hit the road, and head North! More tomorrow :)


  1. I followed your trip on Instagram. I am just so glad you had a pleasant time in my home town! Moose and Sadie's is a family favorite :-)

  2. Beautiful photos! Love the Airbnb information. Stay inspired!!

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  4. I grew up in NW Mn and there are times I get homesick. Thank you for sharing your photos of "home." Although I must correct your statement that the Mississippi River starts in Minneapolis. It actually begins at Lake Itasca in Park Rapids, MN. (I highly recommend a trip to the northern half of the state with a stop in Duluth. It's a different experience).

    I'm excited to see your interpretation in art form!

    1. You're right! I meant that Minneapolis is where it begins as a navigable river, but Lake Itasca is certainly the headwater. I spent some time in Duluth and drove around the lakes region for my project, it was lovely :)

  5. OMG, you were here???? my stompin' gorunds. Wow Mae you captured some of my favorite places here in my hometown and I was pleased to here your thoughts on our fair city, and Duluth too? Another favorite place of ours. We'd just been up there Memorial Day weekend and my DD also a photographer was up near Duluth doing a photo shoot at an abandoned school house near Cloquet, some of her pics are on my blog. I would have hooked the 2 of you up in a heart beat. She's visited your blog many times, the areas you were shooting, are some of her favorite haunts as a photographer. She would have loved to tag along. Downtown is basically her playground and nothing is off limits. I'm excited to hear that you are doing a commission piece since your work is AWESOME and proud that your artwork will grace the place I call home. Congrats and happy you enjoyed your time here.

  6. Mae, I have never been to Minneapolis but loved seeing it through your artists eyes. Makes me want to take an adventure. Can't wait to see the new work that springs out of your trip. Do you find it hard to do commission work? Laura