April 01, 2009

There's no shortage of smaller American cities attracting attention these days for cutting-edge art and architecture. But Minneapolis, it's fair to say, is leading the pack. Celebrity architects have already completed expansions of important local arts institutions (Herzog & de Meuron at the Walker Art Center; Michael Graves & Associates at the Children's Theatre Company), and three more major openings are on the way this year: Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theater, Cesar Pelli's downtown public library, and Michael Graves's addition to the Institute of Art. (Frank Gehry has also announced plans for an addition to his 1993 Weisman Art Museum.) The design boom is at the heart of a wider revitalization of the city, as seen in booming neighborhoods like the Mill District (home to the Guthrie, as well as new condos, shops, and restaurants), and hotels catering to style-driven travelers. The sleek Graves 601 Hotel (no connection to the architect) began the trend in 2003. It will be joined early this year by the first outpost of New York's Chambers hotel, which will have Modern art installations and a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant, and next spring by the Ivy Hotel + Residences from Starwood's Luxury Collection. Children's Theatre Company 612/874-0400; www.childrenstheater.org. Graves 601 Hotel 866/523-1100; www.graves601hotel.com; doubles from $189. Walker Art Center 612/375-7622; www.walkerart.org.

Walker Arts Center & Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Since the Walker’s new addition opened in 2005, it has become just as well known for its eye-catching architecture as for the art inside. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the striking building, with its asymmetrical windows and shimmering aluminum mesh façade, houses plenty of light-filled space, 20.21 Restaurant and Bar by Wolfgang Puck, a cinema, and a 385-seat theater for innovative dance, music, and theater performances. Still, it’s the rotating art exhibitions and contemporary permanent collections, such as video art by Bruce Nauman and sculptures by Donald Judd, that continue to win the most accolades. Stop at the adjacent 11-acre sculpture garden too, where the whimsical Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture is set dramatically against the downtown backdrop.

 

Tip: Admission is free every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and all day the first Saturday of each month.

Graves 601 Hotel

Geared toward the fashionable set, Graves 601 is within walking distance of all of Downtown’s restaurants, theaters, and bars; Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins; and just three light-rail stops from the Metrodome (home of the Minnesota Vikings). The atmospherically lit, high-ceilinged, and high-concept lobby is sleek with floor-to-ceiling wall installations, and permeated with electronica, which is piped into all public areas of the hotel. In the 255 rooms, all is quiet and modern; the beds are outfitted with Frette linens and backed by chic glass headboards etched with stylized Minneapolis landmarks like the Stone Arch Bridge. Pick up a complimentary bottle of Fiji water after your workout in the compact (but sufficient) fitness center.

Children's Theatre Company

Both fresh creations and classics from children's literature are brought to life at this family-focused regional theatre. A Minneapolis institution since 1961, CTC boasts performances of the highest caliberTony Award caliber, to be precise (CTC won in 2003 for outstanding regional theatre). Through programs such as Threshold, a "play laboratory," young actors are able to collaborate with the country's leading playwrights to develop new works for the CTC stage. The Michael Graves-designed Cargill Stage, added in 2001 to the company's downtown Stevens Square location, expanded the theater's reach into the teen audience with productions that include more mature themes and durable crowd pleasers like High School Musical.

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