Zinnia Folk Arts opening at 50th and Bryant

LYNHURST – Anne Damon’s store, Zinnia Folk Arts, is more akin to a gallery than a gift shop – and that’s intentional.

Damon, who will hold a grand opening at the 826 W. 50th St. store this weekend, relishes in the history behind the Mexican art that she carries, and is quick to deliver an explanation of the artist and significance behind each piece.

A recent visit to the soon-to-be-open space underscored her deft ability to call up details about the items she carries.

Along one wall sat an elaborate, three-foot-tall clay candle holder, in Mexican tradition a “Tree of Life,” that Damon explained was made in the 1960s by Heron Martinez. In other areas sat protecciones, believed to keep evil out and good in, heart-shaped blocks covered with charms called milagros, and ceramics from a host of different regions.

Damon delivered tidbits of Mexican history and culture as she explained how each colorful piece fit into the country’s heritage, something she hopes her customers will come to appreciate during their visits.

“I want people to know not just that this stuff is beautiful, but that it’s interesting and important,” Damon said during a recent visit to the store, which will occupy the former Kurimay Interiors space at 50th & Bryant.

The south Minneapolis resident’s knowledge comes from traveling to Mexico since high school, when she visited as an exchange student studying Spanish.

After more than 20 years of traveling, she still visits several times a year to scour markets and to stop at artists’ homes, personally selecting the handmade items carried in her store.

Her visits yield pallets worth of work that she has shipped back to Minneapolis.

Damon, who studied galleries while pursuing her master’s in arts administration, said such a collection is unique in Minneapolis, but not uncommon in larger cities around the United States.

Interest in her finds has come largely from travelers who visit Mexico, but are unable to bring art home with them after their trip, she said.

“When people go to Mexico, they see these beautiful things but then the question is, ‘How do you bring it home?’” Damon said. “Other people are just attracted to the quirkiness of things.”

Originally a home-based business, Damon opened her first store, at 46th and Bryant, in 2009. She later moved to Guild, in St. Louis Park, where she was given a small area to display her items.

Her new space reflects not just her desire to get back to her south Minneapolis roots, but to have more room to display her growing collection. The added room only adds to the museum-like aesthetic Damon said she has sought to create.

“I’m really trying to merge into that gallery area rather than coming off as a crowded gift shop,” she said.

If You Go

Zinnia Folk Arts’ grand opening will run from Friday, May 18 to Sunday, May 20. On Friday, the 826 W. 50th St. store will be open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and include food and drinks, catered by Ena. On Saturday, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Sunday, it will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Regular business hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit zinniafolkarts.com.