America’s Heartland offers a treasure trove of creativity in every medium.
Group travelers can enjoy fulfilling hands-on art experiences across the Heartland states: pottery glazing workshops in Detroit; mural tours in Kansas City, Kansas; take-away textiles from Minneapolis; papermaking in Cleveland; a new artsy enclave in Omaha, Nebraska; and more. This mix of classic and modern art forms offers a glimpse into the creative spirit of the region while providing enriching educational experiences for all.
As an added bonus, each of the metropolitan areas showcased here is easy to access, making it even more convenient to encounter art in the Heartland.
Pottery Glazing at Pewabic Pottery
Detroit has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, earning the nickname America’s Great Comeback City. Its art offerings have also blossomed, with a mix of longtime favorites and new kids on the block.
Female founded in 1903, Pewabic Pottery is a National Historic Landmark. Eagle-eyed travelers might recognize its products at spots such as Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium and numerous buildings at Michigan State University, though this world-class operation is still largely unknown outside the Wolverine State. Tile-glazing workshops are available at Pewabic and have proven to be an immensely popular activity. During a one-hour workshop, visitors get to pick a tile design and learn how to properly glaze it.
Besides offering these regular classes, Pewabic has a store, exhibitions and a museum with self-guided tour options. There’s also an option to tour Pewabic installations around Detroit with an online map tool. The Detroit Institute of Arts has a Pewabic exhibit, as does the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Exploring Street Art
Kansas City, Kansas
The Kansas City area is a vast metro that extends into two states — Missouri and Kansas — and is known as the Paris of the Plains for its cultural jewels, which include a well-respected arts scene. The Kansas side boasts a great collection of street art, mainly clustered downtown.
One special project in this vein is the Avenue of Murals. Eight different murals, painted by local students and artists, help share the story of the various ethnic groups that have built a dynamic and diverse city.
A mural tour is fantastic for tour groups, since the murals are all outdoors. Additional murals can be spotted around town, including a couple in the cute Strawberry Hill neighborhood that overlooks the river and exhibits stunning skyline views, especially at sunset.
Textile Center of Minnesota
Minneapolis is a well-known artistic community, with stalwarts like the Guthrie Theater and the Weisman Art Museum, the only art museum in the United States designed by “starchitect” Frank Gehry.
A fun way to experience this art capital is with a visit to the Textile Center of Minnesota, considered a national destination for fiber art. It’s home to the largest-circulation textile library in the country, as well as a cool shop and multiple exhibitions.
Groups of four to 50 can enjoy the hourlong guided tour. The most exciting option, however, is the takeaway textile program, a hands-on experience for visitors. This is available for a minimum of eight guests, who can expect to spend two hours on this artsy activity. Past workshops have covered topics such as the art of felt-making, as well as the ancient Japanese practice of shibori, which bears some similarity to tie-dye. Each art-making class includes a tour, so they do not need to be booked separately.
Papermaking at the Morgan Conservatory
Cleveland is best known for its Great Lakes shoreline, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and its Emerald Necklace of verdant parklands. However, its arts and culture scene deserves some attention as well.
Though the Buckeye State has numerous cities with respected art infrastructure, Cleveland’s Morgan Conservatory is something special and harks back to yesteryear. As the largest arts center in the nation dedicated to papermaking, letterpress printing and book arts, it’s ripe for exploration by group travelers.
Custom group workshops are available. Guests can learn lesser-known arts like bookbinding, letterpress printing, papermaking, poster press printing, marbling on paper, paper casting and beyond.
New North Makerhood
Known for its beef industry and world-class zoo, Nebraska’s largest city also has multiple neighborhoods devoted to the creative arts. The newest and most exciting artists’ hamlet is the aptly named New North Makerhood Arts and Trade District.
Designed as a central hub for the creative class, this north downtown neighborhood boasts communal artist studios great for group exploration. When fully realized, the former blighted warehouse district area will cover about 30 acres, roughly 20 city blocks.
For now, pop into the multilevel Hot Shops Art Center for one of its regular open houses to see more than 80 artists at work. Among the most popular is the Crystal Forge, a glassblowing operation where you can watch the magic happen. Besides the forge, there are three other makers that put the “hot” in Hot Shops, among them a metal foundry, an iron forge and a ceramics studio. Hot Shops is itself a collection of dozens of artists’ studios and galleries.
Another co-working space that allows visitors is nearby Bench, which bills itself as a collaborative-use building for artisans and builders and offers monthly skills classes and access to a library of specialty tools. The new Millwork Commons, headquarters of a locally grown tech company that also serves as a community-building space, contains the locally owned Hutch furniture shop, another great artsy stop in the area.