Dan Mather

If they’re coming outside of Art-A-Whirl, newcomers to the Northeast Arts District might only know they’re there because of the metal signs decorating telephone poles in the neighborhood. It often can be difficult to see the present in basements, garages, and studios in homes and warehouses throughout Northeast.

But the openness of the buildings and community members here will quickly erase the doubts of a stranger to Northeast. I recently stopped by the studio of an artist in the Northrup-King Building to talk about the creative community here.

Dan Mather operates Goldenflow Studios on the first floor and specializes in glass ornaments and sculptures. We stood by a table displaying some of his creations—colorful snow-domes shaped like apples with gold flakes swirling inside and glass ornaments with blues and greens like scattered showers on a Doppler weather radar—and he showed me around his studio.

Stepping outside past the doors which open up to a loading dock, I took a deep breath and caught a whiff of the rich oat smell wafting over from the blue and white towers of General Mills facility nearby. We had to raise our voices as a locomotive rumbled past on the train tracks just several yards away, a reminder of the area’s industrial roots. The train, Dan said, took some getting used to. But otherwise, he’s had free reign to build-out his studio according to his vision.

Dan used to work out of the nearby Quincy Studios, but when a photographer bought the building and expanded his space, he called up Debbie Woodward, the property manager of the Northrup-King Building, to see if she had any room. Debbie told him that the last remaining operations of the seed company were about to move out of the building and Dan could have first pick of the newly available section. The seed company had left behind a well-worn but blank canvas—no walls, no hallways, the floor caked in a thick layer of soot. Upon moving in, he built dry-wall, power-washed the floors, painted the new walls a crisp white, and used his glass-expertise to custom-fit the grid of window panes to individually open during the warmer months.

Gesturing to the furnace, bright orange with molten glass, Dan mentioned that he and other more industrial artists need spaces like these in the Northrup-King Building—places that have access to loading docks and concrete floors which can support the heavy machinery and don’t pose a fire hazard. He loves how artists have made this place their own—decorating the walls and areas outside their studio to represent the diverse array of creative skills and thinking here.

When he moved out of the Quincy Building, he found, according to his estimation, about eight extra hammers and six screwdrivers which had been lost to the abyss of a busy and cluttered studio. He took the tools he didn’t need and put them in a box outside of his new space, offering them for free to other artists. This was a good way to meet other people in the building, and in his three years here, he’s continued to participate in the understood system of generosity in the building. He loans epoxy to a woodworker upstairs in exchange for their tools. He hires an artist in the building to make high-quality prints whenever he needs to advertise his work. He partners with the metalworker next door to create apparatuses which hold his glass installations found throughout the Twin Cities.

“All part of the network,” Dan said—the cup-of-sugar system artists have here.