It’s hard to think of any place more creative than an art gallery, theater or museum. Places where things—artwork, exhibits, productions—are always changing. There’s hardly a reason to reinvent yourself when what you’re off ering so often varies.
Even still, these venues fi nd themselves itching for a structural change. And many of these Minnesota cultural institutions have made updates and undergone face-lifts—large and small—that have catapulted themselves into further creativity, allowing planners to host events with barely a thought on the décor aspect.
A Refreshed Icon
It’s arguably one of the most well-known structures in Minneapolis—its ubiquitous image found in tourist relics across the state. Walker Art Center’s “Spoonbridge and Cherry” in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is immediately recognizable by those old and young.
But there’s more to the Lowry Hill museum than its famous sculpture. What started out as a room off of a man’s house with a few paintings 125 years ago has turned into one of the five most-visited modern/contemporary art museums in the U.S. that boasts more than 700,000 visitors per year
To celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2015 as a public institution, the Walker announced a $75 million renovation that completed in early June. “This was a project many years in the making,” says Sherri Beier, director of event and building services. “It was meant to bring a unified, one-campus feel to our 19-acre expanse of urban green space.”
A new entrance opened on Vineland Place as well as a new restaurant led by Doug Flicker. An artist project space now features a constantly changing selection of new commissioned work, and the Walker Cinema and Main Lobby are now more visible. Hundreds of trees were added to the Walker hillside and the upper garden.
The museum lends itself to host myriad events in a whole new space, while the Sculpture Garden is owned and operated by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.
Options abound with room for up to 1,500 guests. The 3,100-square-foot Skyline Room can host 50-400 guests, while the Garden Terrace Room and Terraces, which have 1,700 square feet of indoor space and 2,500 with outdoor space, can hold up to 250 people. More of a meeting space, the Crosby Conference Room has 800 square feet and can host five to 100 guests. The Cityview Room has space for 125 with an outdoor patio. Three main floor lounges also are available. “The Walker is really unique in that it offers so many different options within the campus to host an event,” says Beier.
All food and beverage is handled through Culinarie International—its in-house exclusive caterer. “We have had rave reviews on the food and the ability to customize menus and offerings,” Beier says. “The views from the Skyline Room never disappoint, and the outdoor terraces are unlike any other outdoor space in the city with sculptures on view and amazing views of the skyline.”
Trio of Theaters
Each of the three Minneapolis-based theaters that make up the Hennepin Theatre Trust (managed by the Historic Theatre Group) are mainstays in Minnesota. Collectively, they have been open in some form or another for 293 years. But while they fall under one group, each one has a completely different feel. “Each of the theaters has their own distinct personality,” says Rick Hansen, director of booking. “When you walk into each one, they are completely different in aesthetics.”
The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1921. At the time, it was the largest vaudeville house in America. It went through many transformations and many hands, including Bob Dylan who sold the theater with his brother in 1988.
The theater underwent a $10 million restoration in 1993, extending the stage by almost 20 feet to accommodate Broadway shows. It reopened its doors in December of that year with a concert by Heart and started of January 1994 with the Broadway production of “Miss Saigon.” The theater has a capacity of 2,618. “Since then, the Orpheum has been the venue for the most popular Broadway shows and concerts to tour through Minneapolis,” says Hansen.
Also built in 1921 was the State Theatre. It, too, opened as a vaudeville house, then became a cinema house in 1925 and a church in 1978. In 1989, it was purchased by the Minneapolis Community Development Agency as part of the LaSalle Plaza development project. Two years—and $8.8 million—later, the State reopened with the Minnesota Opera’s production of “Carousel.” While the venue has made drastic changes since its inception, the six chandeliers and the murals on the wall are the originals from almost 100 years ago.
The oldest of the bunch, Pantages Theatre opened in 1916—also as a vaudeville house. From its opening to 1961, the theater went through three renovations. In 1984, it closed and would not open until November, when the City of Minneapolis worked to renovate the building during a six-year project at a cost of $9.5 million. During the renovation, the original architectural drawings were found, which allowed the architects to restore much of the plasterwork and character.
Each theater is available for rent and, with so many options, can accommodate almost any function. The Orpheum has a capacity of 2,618, the State can fit 2,146 and the Pantages has space for 1,014. All license and insured caterers are allowed.
“Our theaters are inspiring from the moment you walk into them,” says Hansen. “Each theater speaks for itself with intricate details, history and beauty. That alone is inspiring for performers, business and shows of all kinds.”
Through a Child’s Eyes
Minnesota Children’s Museum opened in 1981 and moved to St. Paul in 1995; the recent $30 million two-year expansion and renovation is the largest project it has undergone since its move. The museum now has 10 new exhibits, which include a four-story vertical adventure, a fire station and post office, laser maze, expanded toddler area and so much more. There’s also a new café, more bathrooms, an additional entrance and another elevator. The party rooms were renovated and space for group visit orientation, which can be used for event space, was created.
“Children and adults alike have great fun while developing their creativity, critical thinking and many other skills we all need to thrive,” says Sara Kerr, director of content and communications for the museum.
Planners can select from three open event spaces on the first floor—two of which are connected by a glass partition and can be opened for a larger space. In total, the three encompass close to 4,000 square feet. Catering is done exclusively through Lancer Catering.
An event at the museum is truly a different experience. It has all the makings of a typical event in an environment that allows guests to let out their kid side—even if only for a few hours. “[The museum] is gorgeous, open, modern and very engaging for kids and adults who used to be kids,” says Kerr. “Families— kids and adults—love it.”
A Single Focus
Come for the Broadway-caliber productions, stay for the client experience. At the nearly 50-year-old Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, customer service is first on the menu. “We take pride in relationship building,” says Robyn Anderson, wedding and events manager. “The client is first priority, and we are there to support them as we produce a memorable event.”
So, to maintain that customer satisfaction, the theater underwent renovations that began in early 2016 and is ongoing. New features include carpet and counters, updated lighting and banquet spaces, and refurbished restrooms. Being one of the oldest and largest dinner theaters still operating in the United States, those in charge of the renovation have been dedicated to maintaining the original aesthetic of the venue.
Two spaces are available for special events at the 625-seat theater. The Club Theater, which features a balcony that overlooks the main stage, can seat 200 guests, while the Ballroom and Dance Loft can sit up to 275 guests. On any given weekend, Anderson says, the kitchen might be serving more than 1,000 guests. Quite the amount of customers to please, and the theater does it with aplomb.
We believe that our venue inspires guests to host their wedding or event with us because it is unique, well-known and all-inclusive in its offerings,” says Anderson. “We recognize that every event is unique and with that tailor an experience that suits their vision.”
From Start to Finish
Northrop plays a substantial role in the lives of students at the University of Minnesota. “Northrop has a place of pride on the University campus, sitting at the end of the mall, opposite Coffman Memorial Union,” says Christine Tschida, director of Northrop. “We’re told it’s the second-most recognized building in the state, but it’s surely first in the hearts of U of M alum.” What an undertaking, then, it must have been to renovate the 88-year-old building back in 2011.
After 38 months, an entirely new venue was born—one that looked similar on the outside but was completely new on the inside (aside from the lobby, which was completely renovated but meticulously returned to its former glory, as well as the grand staircase and proscenium). Seats were enlarged, acoustics drastically improved, restrooms were added, and the auditorium was rechristened. It’s now referred to as the Carlson Family Stage.
“Many were worried about renovating this beloved icon, but the seamless blending of the old and the new is really a remarkable achievement,” says Tschida. “Memorial Hall looks just as it did, only more beautiful because it sparkles now.”
The 3,480-square-foot Carlson Family Stage can hold up to 2,692 guests, with a main floor that holds 1,100 and three wrapped balconies. Seven other rooms make up more than 23,000 square feet with room for 70 to 1,000-plus guests; the West Lawn is available for tenting at certain times of the year.