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Meet Six Twin Cities Organizations Showcasing Creativity

by Mia McGill and Ryan Stopera

A collage of video stills featuring cafe signage, people in conversation, street dancing, and live music.
Photo Credit: Ryan Stopera

These six organizations in Minneapolis and St. Paul highlight the connection between creativity and community togetherness.

The Twin Cities are home to a bustling arts scene, featuring nationally-recognized theatre and live music venues, award-winning arts nonprofits, and a wealth of community-centric creatives. Minneapolis-based filmmaker Ryan Stopera showcases six of the cities’ hidden gems in this series of short videos.

PF Studios

Part of Minneapolis artist-led gallery and performance space Public Functionary, PF Studios in Northeast Minneapolis is providing a supportive artistic community and space for artists of color.

“It’s a space where artists can meet, collaborate and build their artistic practices,” explains painter Leslie Barlow. “We center BIPOC emerging artists as well as other artists that have experienced marginalization or different barriers to accessing affordable studio space and supportive community.”

In 2019 PF Studios began as one space, Studio #400, with the goal to increase access to affordable studio space and empower young artists with tools and knowledge to grow their practice + community. Currently, there are over 30 artists practicing in the PF Studios program, and PF Studios spans four unique spaces

“I see myself in many of the artists that I work with… It’s just really important for me to be able to see a space like this for emerging artists of color,” says Barlow.

Flava Café

More than just a place for coffee, Shaunie Grigsby has made St. Paul’s Flava Café a gathering place and support system for gender expansive youth.

Grigsby founded the Frogtown coffee shop as a community conduit, not only to serve up delicious coffee to her neighbors, but also to provide mentorship, coaching, and other career-readiness opportunities for young women, nonbinary, and transgender youth of color—they have opportunities to develop skills at everything from barista-ing to marketing and events.

The idea of bringing an upscale cafe to her neighborhood was an important part of Flava’s conception, to Grigsby. “I wanted to be in Frogtown because I knew the historical significance of being in this community—and I wanted to make sure that wherever this coffee shop was going to be, that it was tied to the Black community and minority communities as a whole.”

“I wanted to make sure that wherever this coffee shop was going to be, that it was tied to the Black community and minority communities as a whole.”


Strangers Meeting Strangers

Strangers Meeting Strangers (SMS) is an immersive live event series in Minneapolis based around building new connections in front of a live audience, creating a rare low-stakes environment to organically meet new people in your community.

Through a variety of events since August 2022, Strangers Meeting Strangers has connected hundreds of people. These events, varying from standard “shows” to their special Valentine’s Day edition, allow attendees to connect on many different levels.

Equal parts performance and mixer, no two SMS events are the same—founder Liban Kano describes them as “a unique opportunity to witness the human connection unfold in real-time.”

Summer Cypher

Minneapolis-based Summer Cypher events provide free community space for creative expression through various mediums, from DJ’ing and graffiti art to historical education.

The variety in programming is community-driven, and purposefully leans into authentic, personal, and accessible art forms—”It’s not just murals, it’s real street activity,” says co-founder Teddy Grimes.

Co-founders Kimani Beard and Teddy Grimes aim to capture the “essence of street life at its finest,” and facilitate “person-to-person connection through the elements of hip-hop.”

“It’s from the streets. It’s for the streets.”


Konjo Treats

Ethiopian-American artist and pastry chef Yon Hailu is the creative force behind Minneapolis’s Konjo Treats, a cottage bakery currently in residence at PF Café.

With no prior baking experience, Hailu quickly took to it over the pandemic after getting a job at Minneapolis’s Patisserie 46, before founding Konjo with his own ideas and recipes.

He believes in the power of food as a way to bring people together, saying, “it’s a form of language, it’s a form of expression, it’s a form of connection.”

Cherry Pit

Founded in Madison, WI in 2019 and now based in Minneapolis, Cherry Pit is a community of artists and creatives passionate about impromptu collaboration across media.

Cherry Pit offers a unique and interactive live music experience that “blossomed from this connection between musicians and non-musicians creating sound together.” The lines between performers and audience blur to allow for one-of-a-kind jams.

The casual and accessible atmosphere is key to the entire essence of Cherry Pit—”We wanted to bring the house show to you,” says founder Marvelous Leonardo.

“We’re always going to have a jam session. Whatever event we have, it’s going to be an opportunity for people to collaborate.”