Community art gallery showcasing local works opens in North Minneapolis

March 4 marked the grand opening of the new affordable framed art gallery, Walrus.

The inside of Walrus art gallery Tuesday, Mar. 23. Walrus is a new community-based art gallery that sells and showcases work by local artists.

Frankie Carlson, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

On the corner of North Lyndale Avenue and 44th Avenue is a charming building now home to North Minneapolis’s newest framed art gallery. Originally built in 1893 as the headquarters of a sawmill company, the building now houses Walrus, an artist- and community-led consignment shop focusing on the sale of framed local works, along with a small selection of vintage pieces.

The store officially opened its doors to the public on March 4 and is open for operation Thursdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The tagline of Walrus is “affordable framed art.” Within the shop, you can encounter pieces from $25 to $2,500, about 90% of which is made by local artists. Out of this 90%, about one quarter is art made by artists of color who are local to North Minneapolis. Courtright and the staff at Walrus hope to see this percentage grow significantly, and hope to highlight works coming from from the community over any others.

Part of Walrus’ mission is to prioritize the representation of artists of color. The stores organizers hope to give artists local to the Northside a place to showcase and sell their works locally, and give an option outside of having to apply for gallery showings. Walrus intends to help address and combat issues of underrepresentation within the Minneapolis art community, and the larger art world as well. One way Walrus hopes to empower artists is by allowing featured artists to price their own work.

The shop’s owner, Michelle Courtright, made the first steps toward opening Walrus, following the closure of her restaurant. Fig + Farro, a climate-sensitive vegetarian restaurant and Uptown staple, closed its doors in the wake of COVID-19. Several months after this, Courtright became inspired to pursue a new venture that addressed something that she thought to be lacking in the Twin Cities art community.

“I had had this idea, many years back,” Courtright said. “I go to all the events — MCAD Art Sale, Art-A-Whirl and almost all of those — and Minneapolis is a very event-based town when it comes to art. I felt an art gallery that was for affordable framed art could survive being open all the time, rather than being event-based.”

In the two weeks since their opening, Walrus has already collected and sold hundreds of framed works, with a line of patrons waiting outside of the doors on opening day.

While the shop has several employees, a number of volunteers also help out at Walrus. Volunteer coordinator and working artist, Katherine Story-Sutter, said that volunteering at Walrus has been an inspiring experience that has exposed her to countless new artists and pieces.

“The opportunity to participate in our volunteer core I think is a really big draw,” she said. “It’s already been affecting my work and my understanding of art, there’s so many explosive ideas that are being introduced to me every day that I’m here.”

The staff at Walrus recognize their position as a white-owned business moving into a historically Black neighborhood. Gallery coordinator and working artist, Madison Rubenstein, was vocal about Walrus’ intentions to support the interests of and begin a dialogue with members of their community.

“I think that because the space itself is owned by someone who’s white, and I myself am white, and this project is in a neighborhood that is historically Black, that we are not there to just go about our work. We’re there to find out what the community wants the space to be,” Rubenstein said.

Looking forward, Walrus hopes to host various art events and gatherings such as illustration classes for local youth, and paint and sip, which pairs wine tasting and art.

Courtright and the rest of the staff at Walrus are beyond excited to share this new gallery with the art lovers of North Minneapolis, and those all across the Twin Cities.

“I can’t believe how lucky I have the great artwork every single day,” Courtright said. “I mean, Minneapolis is a gem, we have so many good local artists; it’s amazing.”