Hennepin home to new pop-up park, vacant storefront gallery

The Hennepin Theatre Trust's Tom Hoch and Joan Vorderbruggen in the new Parklot. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

The Hennepin Theatre Trust is planning a Summer in the City celebration on July 11, 7 p.m.–midnight, to reveal its new pop-up park and launch its Made Here urban walking gallery.

Its pop-up park, dubbed the Parklot, is in a surface parking lot next to the Orpheum Theatre between 9th and 10th streets on Hennepin. It features landscaping, a yellow-and-gray checkerboard pattern painted on the pavement, a performance area made from wooden shipping pallets and a chalkboard that invites drawings from the community. It will remain open through the fall.

The Parklot will be the venue for the Summer in the City party, which will feature comedy improv from the Brave New Workshop, dancing, music, performance art and more.

Tom Hoch, president and CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, said he’s working on plans for more pop-up parks in downtown lots and indoor spaces.

The goal is to even out the experience on Hennepin, he said, which can vary drastically depending on what block you are on.

“As an organization we decided we should really expand beyond the preservation of historic theaters and what we put on stage, to promoting community cultural development — looking to arts and culture to weave together those disparate elements of downtown,” Hoch said.

The celebration will also serve as the official launch of the Made Here urban walking gallery, which will feature artwork in 36 vacant storefronts in 15 buildings throughout the Warehouse District.

More than 50 artists will have work featured in the Made Here gallery.

The projects are part of an effort to brand Hennepin as a Cultural District — highlighting the street’s many cultural amenities.

One of the highlights is a pop-up gallery featuring items from the Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum, including two huts from Djibouti, in a vacant building at 319 1st Ave. N.

Osman Ali, founder of the museum at 1516 E. Lake St., hopes the temporary exhibit attracts many visitors to learn about Somali traditions.

“[The exhibit] is about Somali nomadic society — where they are living and the way they are living back home,” he said.

An ongoing civil war in Somalia has led to the loss of the country’s museums.

He said he’s motivated to preserve as many artifacts as he can to help educate Somalis in Minnesota and other communities about the country’s cultural heritage.

The exhibit also includes murals and paintings by local artists.

The Made Here artists are paid $300 for the showcases and get help with installation, said Joan Vorderbruggen, the Cultural Arts District Coordinator for the Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Vorderbruggen said one of the key goals of the Made Here storefront project is to include artists that reflect the people who make up the diverse downtown community.

“It’s really super exciting to get to the phase of implementation. All of these are very grand experiments so we’re learning a lot as we go,” she said. “I’m excited to really be leading the charge to make the experience as a pedestrian in downtown Minneapolis a really exciting and pleasant one that’s artful.”