We Were Made for This
Renee Powers. Photo by Kianna Notermann, courtesy of the artist.

By now, our new reality is starting to settle in. We’re all coming to terms with the fact that COVID-19 will significantly disrupt our lives for the foreseeable future. Life will likely look much different on the other side of this global pandemic. For creative entrepreneurs, many of us see this crisis as a double-edged sword. While creative businesses can’t operate the same way in this world as we used to, we identify with the term creative for a reason. We were made for this.

Below, I'll highlight some creative businesses in the Twin Cities that are using COVID-19 as an opportunity to explore different avenues and stretch some new creative muscles.

—Events Go Digital—

Staying home doesn’t have to mean missing out on all of the events our vibrant city has to offer. All Are Welcome Here has teamed up with Minneapolis Craft Market, Brio Marketing, and We Sparkle for the All Together Auctionan epic online event in support of NAMI Minnesota. In addition to raising money for an important cause, this auction will feature and lift up local artists, makers, and small businesses. The auction runs from April 20-27 and you can learn more here.

Have you heard of Beer Choir? It’s exactly what it sounds like. The Twin Cities Beer Choir chapter meets regularly at local breweries to drink and sing songs, like "Drunken Sailor," "Beer Barrel Polka," and "O Good Ale, Thou Art My Darling." Unfortunately, in-person choirs around the world have been temporarily silenced, but that’s not keeping Beer Choir from singing and imbibing! Join song leaders Adam and Sara for virtual happy hours every Thursday and Sunday. If you’re craving connection with other music lovers, a little frivolity, and a ton of fun, grab your favorite brew and join Beer Choir on Facebook live. Get all the details on their website.

The Rock What You Got Women’s Expo was meant to be a huge celebration of women and non-binary folks, their art, and their small businesses. Set to take over Rosedale Center, they were forced to move to a digital platform, but that didn’t stop the Rock What You Got team from bringing together some of the Twin Cities’ top talent! This livestream featured comedy from Khadija Cooper, music by Jearlyn and Billy Steele, a drag performance by Sasha Cassadine, a cooking demo from Amalia Moreno-Damgaard, and more. But the best part? The event turned into a fundraiser for Springboard for the Arts’ Emergency Relief Fund for MN artists who’ve lost income due to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can watch the recording of the expo on their Facebook page here.

In case you didn’t get enough digital drag content from the Women’s Expo, FlipPhone has you covered. I had the utter delight of tuning into their Tiger King drag brunch, full of the absurdity you’d expect. DJ Shannon Blowtorch held down the fort before and after the performances with a digital dance party that’s hard to beat. Upcoming events include a Broadway digital drag brunch and a Taylor Swift digital dance party. Find all the upcoming fun on their Facebook page here

Two of the Twin Cities most anticipated arts festivals have moved online as well, Wordplay and Art-A-Whirl. Originally scheduled for May 9, The Loft’s Wordplay festival is now happening all month long! It kicked off on April 7 with a live book talk, Q&A, and workout with Olympian Jessie Diggins, author of the new memoir Brave Enough. New events will be announced weekly, from YouTube content, Instagram Live discussions, and webinars. Keep an eye on the Wordplay site for the schedule. More information will be coming soon for Art-A-Whirl Online, so keep an eye on the NEMAA site for details.  

—Artists & Creators—

For product-based creators, the lack of opportunities to show their work has hit incredibly hard. But many are doing their best to provide online offerings and e-commerce options. For example, jewelry artist Melissa C. Mark has been featuring daily sparkles on her Instagram -- daily flash sales on limited edition items like pirate earrings, raw ruby necklaces, and hand-stamped honeybee charms.

Photographers have had to rework their business model as well. For freelance photographers, this has meant focusing on the sales of their existing prints or shifting to more digital content. Victoria Campbell is using this situation as an opportunity to raise money for No Kid Hungry while Laura Alpizar has put together a huge list of resources for anyone planning a wedding during this outbreak. For e-commerce businesses, local studio Soona has expanded their Anytime services, allowing anyone to send in their products, direct a photoshoot from home, and receive fully edited product photography with quick turnaround.

Pastry artist Rachel Anderson of Vikings & Goddesses Pie Company has expanded beyond the tastiest pies you’ve ever tasted. With so many restaurants closed and pantry staples missing from the shelves at Target, you can now order fresh pasta, empanadas, pupusas, and even frozen pastries directly from Vikings & Goddesses, complete with free delivery! See their menu and order on their website.

Many fabric artists have pivoted their inventory to accommodate the PPE crisis in our healthcare system. You probably know at least five sewing-savvy people in your life who are now making masks, but Winsome Goods, Homespun Trades, and Clothier Design Source are especially noteworthy. For every mask purchased, Winsome Goods is donating a mask to a medical or service professional in need. The first batch of masks went to Trillium Midwifery Care. Homespun Trades created a brand new product for their shop with healthcare workers in mind -- button headbands for face masks! Mask wearers can hook the elastic into these headbands to reduce the pressure and friction on their ears. Perhaps most impressively, Clothier Design Source has repurposed a significant portion of their supply chain to mass produce thousands of PPE units like masks, gowns, and shoe covers. If you’d like to help their cause, you can contribute on their GoFundMe page.

Finally, what can YOU do to help the artists, performers, creatives, and small businesses in your life? Take a note from The Coven, who has been spotlighting different artists each week on their Instagram stories. Share the work of your favorite creatives. Tell just one person about your favorite Etsy shop. Buy that EP of the local musician you love. Use whatever platform you have to shout out someone whose work you admire. You have more power than you think and it will mean the world to the creator.


Part of the spring 2020 Conversations with Creatives series,
made possible by Student Services Fees and created with WAM Collective.

Read more personal responses from artists and creatives coping with COVID-19 >>


About the Speaker

RENEE POWERS is a fan of stories, which is her polite way of saying she’s incredibly nosy. But this is ultimately what drives her interest in literature and interviews. In 2018, she founded Feminist Book Club, a monthly subscription box and community that highlights a feminist book and products from woman- and queer-owned businesses. She also hosts the corresponding podcast Feminist Book Club: The Podcast, which speaks to authors, writers, and readers about the intersection of feminism and literature.

Renee says, "We Were Made for This," celebrating artists and creative entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities area who are rising to the challenge of this moment, exploring new avenues to keep us all connected, help meet pressing needs in the community, and find fresh ways to stretch creative muscles.