On Friday I walked the western part of the Central neighborhood, and on Saturday I walked the central part, so it stands to reason that on Sunday I finished off the neighborhood with its eastern part. I started and ended my walk at the intersection of East Lake Street and Park Avenue South. (The segments shown in red are forward-and-back spurs off of the main loop.)
The foggy weather wasn’t particularly suited to photography, but I found it worked well for the vintage car wash sign at my starting corner and for some frozen rose hips I saw in the 32nd Street boulevard.
Once I reached the corner of 32nd and Chicago, I was able to give the fog time to lift by stopping in at Modern Times Cafe for some food. I had hoped 11:10 AM might be a lull in the Sunday brunch throngs (somewhere between the breakfasters and the lunchers), but the cafe was doing a thriving business, with handfuls of additional customers waiting both inside and out. Flying solo worked to my advantage though: the counter had five stools, of which only four were occupied, so I was seated immediately while the larger groups continued to wait.
The cafe describes itself as follows: “Modern hippy food created with our community in mind. Where punks take their parents.” Indeed, just as my choice of a gordita on Friday and collard greens on Saturday nodded towards two of the neighborhood’s constituencies (Latin@s and African Americans), today’s meal is as good a point as any for me to acknowledge a third group, one I’m even less comfortable labeling: the transgressors. Transgressive how? Well, that varies. Some may see themselves as hippies or punks, as the cafe suggests. Some may identify with one of the letters GLBTQ or somewhere else in the multifaceted reality that has dispelled the bland heteronormative gender-binary fiction I grew up with. And some may be “queer” in such other ways as devoting their lives to art or believing that food ought to be grown rather than manufactured.
Speaking of food, I ordered the “Chakra Khan,” a scrambled assemblage of brown rice, eggs, cheese, and vegetables. It would have been plenty to fuel my walk — or any other activity I could imagine— even if it hadn’t come with two slices of toast. (I opted for multigrain.) Its integrity equalled its heartiness: it tasted just like what it was. No putting on airs here.
Stepping out onto the sidewalk, I saw one of many ways that artists have left their mark on the neighborhood: bicycle racks. Not purely functional bicycle racks, but works of art that could also serve for locking up bikes. They had been created at the Chicago Avenue Fine Arts Center by two youths, Angie Raschio and Loren Zicruck, working under the mentorship of Kelly Brazil.
Stepping across the street gave me enough perspective to see the cafe’s facade in all its splendor. Regular readers will have already witnessed me geeking out over a sign’s lettering more than once, so I’ll simply link to Rachel Hutton’s review in City Pages for the story behind this sign.
On my first two days in Central, I had seen only a couple houses of worship, but they seem to be denser in the eastern part of the neighborhood. Indeed, walking the single block of 31st Street from Columbus to Park Avenue was enough to bring me in sight of three. First, at the southwest corner with Columbus Avenue, I saw the ornate Iglesia del Dios Vivo, Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad, La Luz Del Mundo, occupying a 1912 building in excess of 7,000 square feet. (It is not to be confused with the similarly named Iglesia del Dios Vivo, Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad, El Buen Pastor, which I saw in the western part of the neighborhood. Apparently the two diverged in a 1942 schism.)
Next, at the intersection of 31st Street and Park Avenue, I saw two more churches. On the northeast corner, the Church of Gichitwaa Kateri, a Catholic church serving a primarily American Indian congregation, occupies a somewhat smaller and much newer (1960) building. The exterior is comparatively free of ornamentation, though I discovered online that the interior has decorations of cultural significance.
Kitty-corner on the southwest of the same intersection a large (8000+ square foot) 1929 church building of beige brick had a rainbow flag flying outside. It houses the All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church, a congregation dating to 1969, which moved to this location in 1986.
I crossed Park Avenue on 31st, took Oakland Avenue a block south to 32nd, and headed back to Park Avenue as part of my general pattern of looping my way gradually southward. In the 600 block of 32nd Street, I was interested in an apartment building. Its architecture is somewhat unusual for the neighborhood, but that wasn’t what I found noteworthy. Rather, it was the small green sign out front announcing that this was the Park Cooperative Apartments, established in 1977. As in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, I was finding reminders that Minneapolis had been a hotbed of the cooperative movement in the 1970s, far beyond just food coops, and that some of these cooperatives proved durable.
The cooperative’s facebook page explains that “Park Cooperative Apartments is a 13 unit, resident-owned and controlled housing cooperative located in the Central Neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Established in 1977 after tenants gained ownership of the building through an occupant-organized rent strike against a neglectful landlord, Park Coop Apartments has remained an asset to the community through our dedication to provide accessible, affordable, and quality housing in a uniquely democratic environment.”
Heading south on Park Avenue for a couple blocks, I came to another church, larger and older than any of the others. Indeed, the Park Avenue United Methodist Church at the southeast corner of Park and 34th Street is older that the others both as a congregation and as a building, and the congregation has been in this building since 1911.
From there, I took 34th to Chicago, where I temporarily went one block south before returning back northward. The StevenBe fiber-arts studio and yarn shop at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 35th Street is surrounded by colorful, artistic touches. Even the alleyway is colorfully painted. Although I didn’t go inside, I gather that the shop and its owner, Steven Berg, are equally colorful; he describes himself as having “a daring sense of style” and believing that one should “glam it up.”
The next westward leg of my looping path was on 33rd Street. As I crossed over Columbus Avenue, I noted that the southwest corner of this intersection is home to the Columbus Gardens, an unusually old community garden. My photo emphasizes the gate at the corner, which was a product of the 2009 SPEAK project. However, peeking through the slats to the left of the gate one can see another sign in the background. It was painted in celebration of the gardens’ 20th anniversary: 1990–2010.
The artist (and arts administrator) Michael Hoyt has used the fence of his property at 33rd Street and Oakland Avenue for an “Art Block” project: a “Community Grow Chart” that neighbors can update each year “by marking their children’s names and heights.”
Other residents of the neighborhood also seemed inclined to express themselves visually. For example, a home on the same block of Oakland Avenue offered this combination of peace, light, and flowers:
After some further looping back and forth, I encountered yet another of the Youth Farm plots, this one in the 3600 block of Chicago Avenue. In addition to the Youth Farm portion, the same open area also supported some artwork. The first to jump out at me was a collection of three posts, each surrounded by three panels and topped with metalwork.
The painted plywood panels around the three triangular bases are weathered enough that the designs are sometimes hard to make out, but those I could make out are on the theme of hope. The metalwork at the top of each of the three posts is in better condition. The southernmost of the metalwork pieces features a bird “breaking free” of a cage, trailing the words “Hope is the promise and opportunity of equality.” The piece in the middle is composed of swirling ribbons in a blossom-like arrangement with multilingual words of hope. Finally, the northern piece has the word “Hope” in a blackletter (gothic) script with a skyline encircled by interlocked hands of varying skin color and surmounted by flittering butterflies. Interestingly, the same collection of visual elements and words also appears, in different form, in the gateway of the Jordan Area Community Garden in North Minneapolis. That’s because both installations came from the same SPEAK project in 2009.
The lot also includes another metalwork sculpture accompanied by a sign explaining that it is part of the broader SPEAK project.
After this collection of work by area youths, the next lot southward is occupied by the Bahá’í Center of Minneapolis, and then a stormwater detention basin at the intersection with 37th Street. Before turning back to the north, I paused to photograph a trash can adjacent to the stormwater area, because it exemplifies something I had noticed several places in the neighborhood. Namely, the trash cans have been painted decoratively.
Heading back north on Chicago Avenue and up the 3500 block, a picture-book-like mural on the side of a building was my first hint — had I known how to interpret it — as to what I’d find there. Once I was in front of the building, I discovered that it houses Frostbeard Studio, an artist-created business that stretched my notions of the possible. The tagline is “handmade goods for book nerds,” which to my unimaginative mind suggested such things as hand-stitched leather book satchels or handwoven fabric bookmarks. But then there was the sign saying “burn candles not books.” All in all, I was thoroughly puzzled and without the web site would never have figured out that they are making and selling scented candles with book-related aromas.
Next door, on the corner with 35th Street, Toni’s Market is decorated with a large mural regarding monarch butterfly migration, painted by Roger Peet and Barry Newman, and sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity.
After taking 35th Street back to Park Avenue, I was ready to head down to the southern border of the neighborhood at 38th Street. As I neared that point, a house in the 3700 block of Park Avenue stood out from its neighbors by virtue of a flower-box decorated with a dozen pairs of shoes. I learned that the homeowners, Nicole Infinity and Monica Rojas, are planning to put more up on their back alley fence. They are artists and educators who blog as “infinite monster”; their idea for the shoe project was a “nod” to a woman Rojas had read of who covered her house with shoes to draw attention to a neighboring drug house.
Turning up the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue, I came face to face with Blackeye Roasting Company, a welcome sight as I was eager to wrap my hands around something warm.
The inside is just as fashionably done up as the outside. Walls are covered in the “Waves of Chic” wallpaper pattern and white subway tiles, the counter is black-and-white marble, and fixtures made from pipes. More importantly, they poured a most enjoyable cup of “Moroccan Mint” tea, “a cooling combination of organic spearmint and peppermint, sweet tulsi, fennel, and laoshan green tea.” It may be a cooling combination, but for my hands it was warming.
The rest of the block was occupied by equally tasteful shops: Covet Consign & Design and its sister store, Covet Design; the Third Place Gallery of Wing Young Huie; the Fox Egg Gallery; the City Food Studio (a shared-use commercial kitchen); and even Mill City Autobody, which features striking murals.
After finishing up with 37th and 38th Streets, I headed north on Columbus Avenue — a straight shot all the way to Lake Street, since I had done the looping to side streets on my way south. My attention was drawn to the lot adjacent to Columbus Gardens by a colorful sign hanging next to the sidewalk that states this lot’s name: DreamsLand. A larger sign within the lot repeats the colorful logo and provides a description as well as space for announcements, a schedule of events, and ongoing activities.
The welcoming manifesto under the DreamsLand logo at the left of the sign is worth quoting in full. (On the sign it is also repeated in Spanish.)
Welcome to DreamsLand. In 2014, this property was purchased with the intention of making a free public park where all neighbors are welcome to engage in creative exchange in order to cultivate and deepen neighbor to neighbor connections.
DreamsLand is a platform to explore how artists and community members together can engage in the processes of collective visioning and effort towards equitable land use and physical development, the determination of a creative community benefit, and shared stewardship of the ongoing artistic activities at the site.
This space will remain open and flexible for people to use in different ways. From time to time there will be free events for people to participate in. As a member of this community, you are invited to actively participate in these activities to the best of your ability and level of personal interest. Otherwise, please feel welcome to use this space year-round. We only ask you to be respectful of the existing amenities and the surrounding neighbors.
Over time, we hope that the landscape and culture of DreamsLand will change and evolve to reflect the breadth of experience, cultural history, and dimensional richness embedded in the people of Central Neighborhood.
Behind the sign, existing amenities include an offset barrel smoker, seating, and a shed with a bulletin board.
In the next block, on the other side of Columbus, a house stood out visually, in part because of its colorful Black Lives Matter sign. I’ve seen plenty of signs on that theme, but none of the others made such an impact. This one reads “Black lives matter; White silence = violence; together with open hearts, peaceful action, in spite of fear, we can change this.”
And then finally in the 3100 block, I spotted a perfect microcosm of the direct-action expressive creativity that had been so much in evidence. The gate in front of 3140 Columbus Avenue had taped to it a sheet of paper. The first line (once properly interpreted) was the address, while the remainder of the blue lettering said “Boy of six made new shapes of donots.” Illustrations in orange showed two shapes: the moon and a seal. Clearly the story of what this “boy of six” had done was written by the boy himself. A mother of the boy explained to me that he had become fed up with all the gloomy news lately and decided to show that this is the kind of news he’d like to see publicized. I can think of a lot of adults who would agree.
Finally I was back to Lake Street, which has the Minneapolis South WorkForce Center and a variety of service-provider offices and retail businesses broadly similar to those I saw on prior days. Even in the commercial areas, activist art was still present, such as this mural calling for a stop to violence.
Editor’s Note: Max Hailperin is walking each of Minneapolis’ 87 neighborhoods, in alphabetical order. He chronicles his adventures at allofminneapolis.com, where the original version of this article was published December 1, 2016. We’re sharing them here at streets.mn, at a pace of one or two walks per week.