Singer Sarah Greer at the 2022 FLOW Northside Art Crawl (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the West Broadway Coalition)
Earlier this month the West Broadway Coalition announced it will no longer host FLOW, the Northside Art Crawl, and will instead redirect those resources to neighborhood economic sustainability.
FLOW was started in 2006 by the Northside Achievement Zone as a way to counter the neighborhood’s reputation for violence and drugs, and instead focus on its thriving culture. The West Broadway Coalition took over the art festival in 2010. At its peak, it drew thousands of people to more than 30 different locations in the community to buy art, enjoy music, dance and poetry, and participate in family friendly activities.
But Executive Director of the West Broadway Coalition, Kristel Porter, says the attendance numbers have decreased significantly since 2020, and that the WBC should be spending its energy on providing more direct aid to North Minneapolis.
“If we spend our time - which is hours and hours and hours and hours of time - putting together an event when we should be spending those hours to make sure that we don't lose the businesses that have been willing to stay here in service for decades, make it through a pandemic, make it through civil unrest, and are still here serving us when no one else wants to come in here and serve us, we will be failing North Minneapolis and all the residents in it that are currently losing businesses.”
Porter became the Executive Director for the West Broadway Coalition in November of 2022. She says the coalition has lost nearly half of its members over the last few years.
“Right now we're in a situation where the majority of the businesses on West Broadway have never been able to take out a loan, their credit is not in a position where they can do that. They can't purchase the buildings they are renting right now, the building they're in is falling apart, and the city is not communicating with them on public land that is being held by the city that they can access and build on… These are things that we need to do. And these are very important things.”
Porter says that typically art crawls are organized by artists, and she has been talking with neighborhood organizations such as Juxtaposition Arts to see if there’s interest in taking over the event.
“I think FLOW has the potential for being phenomenal, and I am excited for the organization that takes over,” she said.
In the meantime, Porter says WBC needs to get its businesses to a place where they can serve the residents of North Minneapolis, before looking at attracting tourists.
“We don't have any really good coffee shops on West Broadway. I can't even buy a pair of socks or a belt or a pair of underwear on Broadway. We can't even have our basic needs met on Broadway. Right now, we should not be focusing on spending $50,000 on an arts event. That's not our main focus.”
Porter says the West Broadway Coalition will be partnering with Open Streets Minneapolis, a nonprofit that hosts annual summer events featuring local businesses and promoting sustainable transportation, such as biking, walking, and rollerskating.