“I’m pretty new to the neighborhood,” Nancy Musinguzi says as she walks through Northside Minneapolis space New Rules. But since she moved from New Jersey in 2014, she’s made more connections than many long-term residents, especially in the arts community. Both a hip-hop and documentary photographer and a youth engagement professional, Musinguzi now relies on her relationships and eye for powerful art as the creative director at New Rules.
New Rules is a B-corporation (benefit corporation) that founder/CEO Chris Webley has kept undefined on purpose. It’s a co-working space; it’s a gathering place; because of the art on the walls and the culture it speaks to, Musinguzi calls New Rules a “contemporary museum.” Located at 2015 Lowry Avenue North in Minneapolis, the building hosts African drumming and dance classes, community members looking for a productive workspace, and art by about a dozen different artists. Webley plans to open a café, both to smooth out income and to provide a hangout spot for Northsiders.
New Rules is full of visual art — more on that later — but they also support music. On Saturday, local Afrofuturists ZULUZULUU will play an acoustic show at the gallery (free with an RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org). Musinguzi shares some details:
ZULUZULUU’s never done an acoustic performance before, so this is going to be unprecedented. The community engagement piece — getting people to get engaged and involved in conversations that matter. And having an artist-centered discussion around change, how artists are making change, how they’re using their voices to affect change, and to amplify voices that cannot be heard otherwise, through music.
Acoustic Radio is raw, unplugged — it’s real. No advertising. No commercial, consumer bulls— coming between you and the music. Getting the fans closer to the music and the artists themselves is the goal.
MMYYKK from ZULUZULUU designed a flag that hangs in the gallery and decorates the event’s poster.
As it grows, New Rules will adapt to whatever the Northside needs. “A big thing about New Rules is being accessible to the community,” Musinguzi says. “Providing what the community needs, not what we think we should be doing.” She brings up food and nutrition as focus areas for the Northside, saying, “We don’t have a lot of spaces to go to be well. Eat well. There’s Subway down the street and a store here and there, but ultimately, nothing, really.” She does highlight Appetite for Change and their café Breaking Bread for their excellent work against this issue.
New Rules also features work by several local artists, and seeing it all in person is highly recommended. All sorts of media are represented, from photographs to paintings to jewelry. “These artists are changing the way people look at the Northside,” Musinguzi says. “Bringing them all into one space was very intentional and important for me.”
Here’s a bit more detail about many of the featured artists, as narrated by Musinguzi.
This is a multigenerational exhibition. You have all these different generations living in the Northside and beyond who’ve made a living from their art, and what Chris really emphasizes at New Rules is entrepreneurship and black leadership in the community. As an artist, I interpreted “black leadership” to look like this, which is generations teaching one another about work that they do and how they envision one another through the arts.
I met Robin Hickman when I first moved here. We were introduced at Youthprise, and she was keynote speaker at my gallery opening. Her great-uncle is [noted photographer] Gordon Parks. So I met her, and she was enthralled with my work, and I was like, “Dude!” She has this really great artistic practice, and she creates black dolls and does photoshoots with them and makes them life-size. I thought her artwork is really important in the conversation about representation in that imagery is everything. Representation is everything. Young black girls and kids don’t have these things mirrored in their everyday lives, and they kind of lose parts of themselves as they grow. Robin Hickman kind of represents that piece — having a living but also making a statement in your work.
Bobby Rogers is an amazing visual artist. He started out as an illustrator; he went to MCAD. He’s a brilliant photographer, but he also does his own art direction, so his work really represents black beauty; black emotion; just blackness itself as an all-encompassing identity. In his art, he has a fantasy — you don’t even know how to describe it. There’s so much context and so little context at the same time. He always prints this big.
Bill Cottman is one of the older artists in the Northside. He’s a photographer, but he does mixed media, and he couples visual art with literary art. Making really bold statements about everyday life.
I really admire him for his veteran status in the community and how many risks he takes. His work is very interactive. This cart sits in the middle of the room, and people have to come up and go through his stuff. You can’t do this in a museum, right? So imagine a museum where you could say, “Can I buy this?” And they say, “Yeah.” You don’t have to go to the museum and get the plastic version of it.
Philli Irvin is a really awesome visual artist from the Northside. He’s 19 years old, and he’s currently at Columbia College in Chicago right now. So he dropped that off weeks ago. That’s a self-portrait, and it’s just a block of wood. So impressive.
Ali Afrixa is a younger documentary photographer, just getting his work out there. He said he’s never seen his work printed, and I was surprised. So when he came in to see the exhibit and saw his work on the wall, he just stood there for 30 minutes. Like, “Is this real?” Giving artists those kinds of opportunities is one of my biggest goals being curator here. Creating the opportunity for artists to see their work come alive, and how it impacts people.
Martasia Person is a Northsider, but she has this really awesome, incredible, inspiring story. She was a troubled kid when she was younger. Then, she turned her life around — studied fashion in LA — and moved back here and started her brand (Bold Maniere https://www.instagram.com/boldmaniere/). She’s focused on integrating high fashion with hip-hop culture; she says it’s a mix between trap and fashion. She makes these statement pieces, and I love this [shirt] because it looks like a news article, but it’s not. It’s just people’s names listed, which is as informative as you can get. I was really impressed by her work.
PLOT are a super brand. They used to be in South Minneapolis, but now they’re in Northeast. They’re great friends of ours.
Ron Brown is an incredible — I call him a comic artist, but he draws on canvas. Really intricate, loud scenes with a lot going on.
We have jewelry by Southsider Sol. She’s an incredible artist. She makes all her jewelry by hand; buys the material; bends it. I’ve watched her do it for hours.
Kenneth Caldwell is a Northsider. His father’s also an artist. He has this Impressionist style — kind of mixes pop art with contemporary issues and motifs. These iconic images.
Imani Creates is a Northsider, too. She’s shown her work here a few times.
MMYYKK’s flag, ZULUZULUU’s masks, and Ghanaian-meets-Western clothing (supplied by Variety of Africa), and some of Musinguzi’s work round out the gallery.