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Hennepin Theater Trust Collaborates With Other Downtown Organizations to Create Community Engagement

Article by Claudia Kittock

Most of us have had the joy of attending a play in downtown Minneapolis, promoted by the Hennepin Theater Trust. An evening of magic and joy is always something to relish. However, did you know that Hennepin Theater Trust is so much more?

The Global Pandemic of Domestic Violence, Location: 730 Hennepin Avenue, Photo credit Steven Lang

breathe, Location: 924 Hennepin Avenue, Photo credit Steven LangOne of their projects, Made Here, is billed as a "walkable urban art experience," connecting people to local art and showcasing Minnesota artists - with projects as diverse as the artists who created them. The spaces used to display the art are empty storefronts or commercial spaces in the West Downtown Minneapolis Cultural District.

If you haven’t heard of Made Here or have no idea where to start, it isn’t that difficult. Made Here is best experienced on foot (or bicycle). You can determine your own self-guided path to explore all the Showcase windows by starting with the information available online. If you're standing in front of a window, just connect to the Made Here website with your smart device.

panel of 19 artists and art professionals choose the artists and the work. This group of artists are great advocates for Made Here and are passionate about not only the work being done, but the artists themselves.

Another facet of the work Hennepin Theater Trust has created and sponsors is 5 to 10 on Hennepin. This project brings the community together to enjoy unique urban festivities, including live music, family-friendly activities, games, food and public art. The work has attracted national attention, highlighting the power of the arts to spark new community connections and conversations and transforming our city into a thriving, inclusive destination for everyone.

Photo credit Scott Knight Photography

Photo credit Scott Knight Photography

Photo credit Scott Knight PhotographyLast summer, more than 1,200 people participated in 5 to 10 on Hennepin experiences that spanned several several blocks, featuring live performances from over 20 local artists. Musicians performed on the Jack Link’s sponsored Northern Lights Stage. At several of these performances, the Trust provided art supplies for children to create sidewalk art! It was a huge success and will be expanded this summer.

Strong community partnerships were key to the success of 5 to 10 on Hennepin. They worked across a wide range of sectors, integrating the diverse perspectives of local city government, social service organizations, major corporations, small businesses and cultural organizations.

Highlights of this collaborative work:

Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (MDID) and Metro Transit supported the transformation of sidewalks into community spaces with more than 50 street performances and 28 days of chess along Hennepin Avenue.
Salvation Army Harbor Light Center collaborated along with two local artists — Bianca Pettis and Erin Sayer — to create a colorful new mural on the center’s exterior walls.
Kulture Klub Collaborative teamed up to curate and present more than 30 performances on the Northern Lights Stage presented by Jack Link’s, and develop an enriching arts internship for one of its youth.

Artist Bianca Pettis painting a mural on the Harbor Light Center. Photo by Eric Best

Minneapolis MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) partnered with the Hennepin Theater Trust and Harbor Light residents to conceptualize their mural project and establish a visible, positive presence at their monthly programs for everyone in the community to feel welcome and safe.

Photo credit Scott Knight Photography

The Chess program is worth another mention. During the summer, chess boards were set up along Hennepin Avenue on Wednesdays from 11 am to 7 pm. It was incredibly popular and the anecdotal information from this program was incredible. Here are a few quotes from participants.

“Kinda crazy, we were both just passing by, we totally just met and started playing, thanks man. This is a great idea. If I knew it was going to be here I would come down all the time.”

“Well, I came down for 5 to 10 with Mad Dad’s to work. Me and this guy just met. Who do you think is going to win? Thank you guys for doing this, it is so good for our community.”

“This is the way I want my town to be. The energy around it is great. Even if I wasn’t playing, it makes me feel better about being here. We actually just met here tonight.”

“We came down together tonight for 5 to 10. This is the first time my wife has played, she’s not bad. Really appreciate all the trouble you have gone through for us to have so much fun.”

Intrigued?  Want to help?  There are a number of ways to participate in these programs from Hennepin Theater Trust.

Come to events!
• Spread the word. These are incredible programs, free to the public, and worth everyone’s time. Let friends and neighbors know what you have learned.
• Donate. Go to to learn about all the ways you can be part of this vital resource.

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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