Changing the World With Art: 5 Minneapolis Art Galleries Making a Difference

By Aegor Ray

Minneapolis's rich visual arts scene is perhaps best known for the globally recognized Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Institute of Art (aka Mia). While these beloved museums feature a staggering diversity of artworks, the city's smaller, independently owned galleries are portals into a more intimate experience with art. At these five mission-driven art galleries, viewers are invited to celebrate the playful and brave experimentalism that makes this city's arts community so notable. These galleries offer even the casual arts viewer the chance to open their mind and expand their perspectives through the beauty and power of art.

  1. Hair and Nails
    Hair and Nails

    This contemporary gallery in the Corcoran neighborhood exhibits evocative, often three-dimensional or textural artworks as well as occasional performance arts pieces. Owners Ryan Fontaine and Kristin Van Loon curate a remarkable selection of works that grapple with the modern human condition through a diversity of voices, media and perspectives. Emerging artists taking on themes like displacement, borders and colonialism are given room to explore their ideas in the intimate and bright floor space—including a basement and backyard for sculptural works.

  2. Bockley Gallery
    Bockley Gallery

    The Bockley Gallery was founded in 1984 and has been located in the Kenwood neighborhood since 2005. The gallery displays a commitment to showcasing contemporary art by Native people, people of color and other marginalized creators. The space is small but open, offering a fluid and personal sensibility. Look for minimal exhibits at the Bockley Gallery, such as the recent installation of a single work by Star WallowingBull, Machine Head. The bold, graphic painting is absorbing and comments on the impact of the pandemic on life in America. 

  3. Soo Visual Arts Center (SooVAC)
    Soo Visual Arts Center (SooVAC)

    The Soo Visual Arts Center (aka SooVAC) features underrepresented voices in contemporary art. This gallery space routinely displays challenging and refreshing exhibits, with a rotating panel of local Minnesotan artists and arts professionals as curators. Always free and located in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood, SooVAC remains an accessible way to see art hand-picked by local creatives. The gallery also supports community-driven programming such as the Arts and Aging Program, a partnership with Walker Methodist Health Center in which local artists bring arts activities to seniors in long-term care.

  4. All My Relations Arts
    Woman looking at an exhibit at All My Relations Gallery

    Woman looking at an exhibit at All My Relations Gallery / All My Relations Gallery

    All My Relations Arts

    Located on the American Indian Cultural Corridor just south of downtown, All My Relations Arts is a significant national destination for Native art and artists. Rotating exhibits display cultural art forms like quillwork and ledger art to explore the contemporary American Indian experience and speak out against climate change, colonization and more. Through careful and celebratory curation, All My Relations Arts acts as a bridge between contemporary Native artists and the creative legacies that have offered the foundation for their art practices.

  5. Juxtaposition Arts
    Juxtaposition Arts

    Juxtaposition Arts, often abbreviated as JXTA, is a gem in North Minneapolis. A combination youth arts education center, skatepark and art gallery, it features beautiful, engrossing works uplifting the voices of people of color and other marginalized artists, locally and globally. Works by JXTA youth apprentices in contemporary art, environmental design and other courses are also featured in the gallery to showcase emerging local talent.

Aegor Ray

Aegor Ray is a writer living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is currently working on a collection of short stories.