Among music and music-adjacent businesses in the Twin Cities, black-owned businesses are underrepresented. Here are some black-owned or black-run music retailers, venues, theaters, mixed art spaces, and publications enriching the Twin Cities’ art and culture.
Urban Lights is the only black-owned record store in the Twin Cities, and specializes in hip-hop. Urban Lights is owned by Tim Wilson and is currently accepting donations following the monetary loss due to COVID-19 and the recent riots and destruction of businesses following the killing of George Floyd.
Live music venues
Pimento Jamaican Kitchen was started in 2012, and is known for its authentic Jamaican street and comfort food. Pimento also acts as a live music venue featuring many local artists and dance nights, including the Afriquency nights. Throughout all of the events that have unfolded following the death of George Floyd, Pimento has acted as a donation base and distribution center. More information about Pimento’s current operations are available here.
Palmer’s Bar has been a West Bank staple since 1906. It was formerly owned by the Minnesota Brewing Company and was a hub for rail and lumber workers, boat crews, immigrants, and more. It is now owned by Tony Zaccardi, and features performances by local musicians regularly. To support Palmer’s Bar throughout these times, you can send money over Venmo to Tony-Zaccardi.
Community mixed art spaces
New Rules is “a playground for creatives” in North Minneapolis that opened in 2016. CEO Chris Webley created the collaborative coworking space in response to the community’s need for affordable workspaces, networking opportunities and professional training. Today, New Rules operates flexibly as a gathering place, contemporary museum, acoustic music venue, art gallery, cafe and more. “As it grows, New Rules will adapt to whatever the Northside needs,” said creative director Nancy Musinguzi in 2017.
Juxtaposition Arts is a teen-staffed art and design center that has been mentoring youth artists for over two decades in North Minneapolis. They offer educational programs, art galleries and studio space as well as operate a retail shop and skate park. Their top priority right now is keeping their staff and apprentices paid as they respond to the pandemic. To support this effort, you can donate here.
Mosaic on a Stick is a Black and Indigenous-owned business in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul that prioritizes accessibility to art and creative expression. The community art studio offers classes and supplies to make mosaics. Their current project, building 10 mosaic planters to fill with pollinator-friendly plants on Snelling Ave, has been paused due to the pandemic. You can support their efforts by subscribing to their Patreon or subscribing to their newsletter.
Blackbird Revolt is actually based in Duluth, but this “network of artists, designers, photographers, painters, writers, orators and more” should be on your radar no matter where you live in Minnesota. They create art and host shows at venues like Zeitgeist Arts Cafe. Prints, shirts, stickers, and more are available on their website.
Capri Theater, soon to be New Capri after their grand re-opening this fall, is a hub for community productions. The Capri opened in 1968, and is now operated by the Plymouth Christian Youth Center to “enrich the skills, prospects and spirit of North Minneapolis area youth and adults, in partnership with families and communities”. As construction is underway on their building, Capri is offering virtual opportunities for creative connection, such as the Capri Glee! Zoom Choir. You can donate here to support their many programs and performances.
Penumbra Theater. Artistic Director Lou Bellamy founded Penumbra in 1976 to offer a place in the Twin Cities theater scene that spotlights black talent and narratives. Typically the professional theatre offers a full season of shows, classes for artists, equity training and other community services. They also pride themselves on employing more actors, choreographers, dancers, directors, and administrators of color than any other theater locally. Penumbra has shifted some operations online this spring, such as their now virtual equity workshops, but in-person performances have been cancelled until further notice. You can financially support their ongoing work here.
Pillsbury House + Theater was launched by Ralph Remington in 1992 as a professional arts institution committed to the Settlement House tradition of creating art in collaboration with the community. Their mission is “to create challenging theatre that inspires enduring change towards a just society. Through the Mainstage season and other community engagement programs” and their vision “imagines thriving communities where creativity is the catalyst for building personal, social and economic power for all.”
New Dawn Theatre Company opened in 2018 and is located in St. Paul. In a Pioneer Press article, founder Austene Van said the theatre wants to put a spotlight on voices that often aren’t heard, focusing on minorities, women, and LGBTQIA+ people. It serves the community when there is a necessity for more creative outlets to support and create space for a diverse group of artists to be seen, heard, and radiate into our communities at large. The theatre focuses on supporting the work that comes out of under-represented communities by putting on innovative and exciting productions. You can donate here.
The Somali Museum of Minnesota was founded in 2011 by Osmal Ali and other local organizers, artists, and cultural historians. It is the only Somali museum in the world and contains a collection of over 700 pieces and offers educational programs about Somali culture. This museum offers an opportunity for Somalis in the US to connect with their culture, as well as a place for Minnesotans who aren’t Somali to learn about Somali art and culture. You can donate here and check out their YouTube channel.
Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery was founded in 2018 with a mission to “preserve, record and highlight the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans in Minnesota” which is executed through workshops, exhibits, and educational events about the art, culture, and history of African-Americans in Minnesota. You can donate or become a member here.
Culture Piece Magazine was founded by Maya Clark in 2016 as a way to make millennials want to tune in, and to also provide a voice for them to be heard. The publication focuses on art, culture, and music. Culture Piece covers many subjects, including music reviews, fashion, personal essays, and events ranging from New York fashion week, to local events featuring local artists, and is accepting submissions here.
Sahan Journal is a non-profit digital newsroom that provides coverage for and about immigrants and refugees in Minnesota. It has covered recent protests and riots, and all coverage is free to access. You can donate here.
Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder was started in 1934 by civil rights activist and businessman Cecil E. Newman. It is currently run by his granddaughter, Tracey Williams-Dillard, who is the CEO and publisher. As per its website, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder has established itself as “a trusted voice for the diverse Black communities of Minnesota — championing voices and stories that might otherwise go unheard.” You can donate here.
Compiled by Sylvia Jennings and Darby Ottoson