Take a bite out of local art and culture

With so many artists and venues in the Twin Cities, it’s practically our duty to embrace local scenes.

Alia Jeraj

Last week, I visited the Minnesota Historical Society for the first time, during the launch of a literary anthology of essays composed by 16 Minnesotan writers. Five of these writers read selections from their work, and many others attended the event. Afterward, the audience enjoyed coffee, cookies and a chance to chat with the writers. 
Though I spent the entire night embarrassingly starstruck, I did manage to strike up some conversations, including one with an author whose work I’m citing in my senior project. 
In addition to a new book, I left the launch with an overwhelming sense of inspiration and excitement. I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I live in a city that has such a vibrant arts scene, one that provides such a wide array of opportunities like the book launch I’d just attended.
The Twin Cities boasts a music scene that consistently appears on lists of the country’s “best.” We also have thriving theater, dance and visual arts scenes, and the area even features a number of prominent publishing houses.
Many of these venues and galleries host touring shows and exhibitions, but many also provide spaces where local artists can perform and display their work. As Twin Cities residents, we have so many opportunities to experience art that our neighbors create; it’s time we take advantage of that. 
Many performances, gallery openings and readings featuring local art are found in much smaller venues than better-known institutions like the Orpheum or the Ordway.
Many of these smaller venues also provide their guests with opportunities to meet and speak with the artists, offering the unique chance to get to know people behind the art we enjoy.
I see striking congruencies between local art and local food. For example, art has the power to nourish us. It also strengthens the community by helping to foster connections between like-minded people. I recently wrote about the benefits of developing relationships with those who cultivate our food, and I see similar benefits in doing the same with our artists.
Perhaps people shy away from certain artistic experiences because they feel they lack a certain understanding necessary to appreciate art culture. However, many local events provide the opportunity for us to ask artists what their work means to them, what their creative process is and what they hope it conveys. Twin Cities arts events often provide an experience deeper than we get from simply consuming a finished product. 
Finally, local art helps us understand how those around us process shared experiences. The book whose launch I attended is a collection of essays written by Minnesotans of color, and it speaks specifically about how they experience race in present-day Minnesota. 
I don’t want an appreciation of local art to limit anyone from catching the next touring band, Broadway show or art installation. But let’s broaden our artistic palates and support local artists in addition to national names. 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].