The LoLa Artists Weekend this month will include Katie Cameron at Cry Baby Clay, her newly opened shop and studio on Minnehaha Avenue. “I’m super excited to have my studio up and running in time for this year’s art crawl, and looking forward to welcoming people into the space!” she says.
Cameron is one of 61 artists featured in what is popularly known as the LoLa art crawl; her shop is one of 39 sites spread throughout the Longfellow community where visitors can meet local artists and buy original art and handmade items directly from the people who created them.
The event takes place Sept. 18–19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A directory and map are available on LoLaArt.org.
The League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) has been organizing an annual art crawl to showcase the art and artists of Greater Longfellow since 2009, with the exception of 2020 when it was cancelled because of COVID-19.
The artist-run, all-volunteer organization usually gets a lot of its funding from local businesses and organizations that sign on as sponsors, but when members of the planning committee met to discuss plans for this year, they all agreed that they didn’t want to ask anything of the businesses that have already endured so much over the past year and a half.
At the same time, they felt it was important to celebrate Longfellow’s creative resiliency after all the turmoil the community has endured, so rather than cancel the crawl for a second year, they decided to call it an “artists weekend” to signal that things aren’t exactly business as usual.
“Quite simply, it’s resources,” says LoLa co-chair Lisa Anderson. “Many of our neighborhood businesses were heavily impacted by COVID-19 and the civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd. We are foregoing any sponsorship requests this year because of this.”
Time is right to celebrate art again
Cameron has known about LoLa since she moved into the neighborhood from Seward a few years ago, but says, “the timing never worked out for me to participate until now.” The timing probably couldn’t be better this year –Cameron just opened her business at 4141 Minnehaha Ave. in August, so LoLa provides an excellent opportunity for her to introduce her interactive concept to the public. She describes it as “a personal studio and community clay resource” where she offers classes and workshops, studio access, clay firing services, private events, and clay kits. For the artists weekend, she’ll have information about all of those things, as well as an on-site activity (making a pinch pot) and finished ceramic pieces of her own for sale.
“It's gonna be fun!” she says, adding, “The clay activity will be low-cost and beginner-friendly.”
LoLa co-founder Anita White, whose art encompasses watercolor drawings as well as printmaking, will be hosting a few artists in her yard and garden, as she has done in the past. She has seen the event evolve over the years, adapting to changes in numbers, participants, and leadership, and is confident in its ability to continue to adapt to changing circumstances.
“The art crawl will be different than other years,” she says, “but more resilient and lovely for all that we as a community have endured and triumphed over.”
One of those who will be at White’s for LoLa is polymer clay artist Laura Burlis. She’s happy to be engaging with visitors and other artists again. “I’m really looking forward to seeing many fellow artists, friends and neighbors from the Longfellow area and reconnecting with them all. And just doing a fun art weekend! It’s been too long,” she says. Burlis will be demonstrating some polymer clay techniques as well as selling her own creations.
Art in the time of COVID-19
Of course, the long shadow of COVID-19 continues to hang over any and all events where people gather, and LoLa participants are tuned in to those concerns. Many sites are outdoors, and the small number of artists in any one spot makes for easy social distancing.
“One thing I love about LoLa is that there are so many sites and so many are outside in the fresh air, including mine, that it’s very easy to social-distance and to avoid crowds,” says Burlis, adding that Anita White’s yard is spacious enough to accommodate five artists with plenty of distance between them.
Several LoLa participants answered a request to describe their COVID-19 precautions, and many replied that they would be outdoors, including some who have received visitors in their homes in past years. One of those is printmaker Jean Shannon, a LoLa artist from the beginning, who reported that they are moving their displays outdoors “and on our breezy porch,” with mask-wearing expected.
Jewelry maker Valerie Tremelat will have a large canopy tent outside at her site, with “several tables set up for a make-and-take project so that people can spread out,” she says.
At another outdoor LoLa site, glass mosaic artist Chris Miller will be hosting other artists, all set up at a distance from one another. “I will have three artists dispersed across the open area of my front yard and a portion of my nextdoor neighbor’s front yard,” he says. “And my artwork will take over the entirety of my back yard.”
Several artists and site hosts who will of necessity be indoors for LoLa have said that they will require masks and provide them for those who need them, along with hand sanitizer. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends wearing masks in public indoor spaces, and these artists see their homes as temporarily public for the artists weekend.
The LoLa website, LoLaArt.org, will offer a searchable artist directory with a corresponding map, as well as a printable PDF of the map and directory, which some sites will have available in printed form for visitors to pick up. The online artist directory will also provide links to artists’ websites, Etsy shops, and other virtual places where people can view and shop for artwork from the comfort of their own home, if they prefer.
But for those who long to get out and mingle safely with real art and artists, LoLa artists are ready and waiting to greet you, with hand sanitizer and masks at the ready – an experience that Anita White calls, “Socially distanced art!”