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'We Need Art': Artists, Organizers Lament Cancellation Of Uptown Art Fair

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As unrest continues in Uptown Minneapolis, the area's largest festival is officially called off for the second year in a row.

The Uptown Art Fair, which typically spreads over four blocks of Hennepin Avenue, attracts 350,000 people each summer.

Meanwhile, protesters remain gathered at the parking garage where Winston Smith was killed by federal agents last month.

Uptown is full of new art these days. Some are portraits of healing, others are symbols of rage.

As it turns out, the art the area is traditionally known for won't be returning for a while, a decision made Tuesday.

Joseph Davis works as a manager for We Push For Peace in Uptown Minneapolis.

"There's a dark cloud over the whole community because of everything that's been going on, and those are the things that rise the vibration amongst our community, that kind of keep the hope alive," he said.

Jill Osiecki heads up the Uptown Art Fair, which employs 350 artists from 36 states and has run for 57 years.

"It was agonizing," she said of the decision to cancel. "It really was."

Last year they canceled because of COVID. This year, she credits the uptick in crime, shortage of police and lack of planning time.

"We knew it wasn't just a decision that would impact our organization, but so many, and I think that's why we felt that weight on our shoulders, and it was very hard to make that decision," Osiecki said.

Brian Geihl is an artist with Dogfish Media.

"I was right back there doing a silk screen print run yesterday and got the email and I was just kinda -- I had to read it twice, I was just in shock," he said.

Geihl is an artist who combines graphic arts, silk screen and photography. The father of four says the Uptown Art Fair was his biggest event of the year.

"It took some time to process and I am still processing it, the impact it will have on my business and my family," Geihl said.

Like the artists hit by COVID, and now this, he will sell his works online, as he and art fair organizers continue to get creative.

"We need art. Even, probably, art is more important than ever right now," Osiecki said.

In the meantime there is street art in Uptown almost everywhere you turn. Organizers say they plan to do a smaller scale fair in the fall.

The Uptown Art Fair will have an online gallery this year. Check their website for updates.

The Loring Park Art Fair is still scheduled for July 31.

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