In 1995 a group of artists who had recently established studios in several neglected factory buildings Northeast Minneapolis organized the first Art-A-Whirl open studio tour to welcome the public into their spaces. Art-A-Whirl rapidly gained popularity, becoming a neighborhood-wide celebration, drawing tens of thousands of visitors into the neighborhood for the three-day event to connect and engage directly with hundreds of artists through studio tours, demonstrations, and interactive activities. In 1997, the artist collective formed the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA) as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
In 2002, members of NEMAA, along with the City of Minneapolis, McKnight Foundation, and local businesses worked together to establish the formal geographical area that is today known as the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District.
Today, NEMAA has over one thousand members (artists, students, galleries, businesses, nonprofits, and community friends), and produces the annual Art-A-Whirl open studio tour and the NEMAA 10×10 Member Art Show and Fundraiser. We also promote our members and year-round open studio events in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District, and foster connections and opportunities between artists and businesses, individuals, and organizations.