With a beer in one tentacle and a book in another, Paper Darts is taking back the lit scene, one lame pen and quill metaphor at a time.

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Hello to All This: Gentrification and Artistic Dreamworlds

Lizzy Shramko


New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city. 

Over three years ago, Patti Smith—a patron saint to New York City's storied art, music, and writing world of yesteryear—delivered the above words. It reads like an epigraph, one that should be chiseled into every newly restored Brooklyn brownstone. The statement was notably made in context with a conversation with Jonathan Lethem (who is emblematic of a very different New York City) and directed towards students at the prestigious art institution Cooper Union. Smith was speaking to these artists about writing, creating art, and the economic shifts that have rippled across the city and subsequently killed off artistic culture. 

While Patti’s directive to “find a new city” is a compelling one, it ignores an issue that seems more important. Why should these artists run away from home in the first place? Even if it seems like New York City is now out-of-reach to the troves of middle class, (usually) white bohemians with liberal arts degrees (who also frequently have basic knowledge of Photoshop), hasn't this very population of creative professionals contributed to the problem that causes their newfound inaccessibility? In contrast, New York City certainly remains relevant for the millions of New Yorkers who, born and bred in the city, still thrive and create art in their respective boroughs.

So maybe the question is not about how young and struggling artists might "find a new city" to invade. Instead, it's how they can build these communities at home.

This provides perspective  on the collection of essays Seal Press recently released that speaks to the XY parabola of creating art in New York City. Titled Goodbye to All Thatit is a collection that borrows nostalgia from Joan Didion’s defining essay of the same name. It features reflections on the city from women writers who followed in Didion’s footsteps, leaving home for the city that never sleeps.

While Didion’s essay was an eloquent soliloquy that spoke to the unique complexity of New York, she also used the city as an accessory to her writing—something that she could always walk away from. Or in other words: for Didion, her time in New York was always transitory. And each move she made, first to and then away from the city, required a freedom not afforded to most. Once Didion had outgrown the city, she was able to return safely to sunny California, with fond memories and probably better taste in coffee. 

The essays featured in Goodbye to All That are written by both native New Yorkers and transplants alike. But that mythological yearning that informs the way that non-New Yorkers, especially artists, are taught to see New York is on full display. It makes me ask: Why is it that this one city (which, yes, is powerful and dynamic and filled with creative energy) has become a necessary space to inhabit in order to produce meaningful work? Each of the writers speaks to their drive to experience this city. Some of the contributors knew at a young age this is where they had to live “to be” a writer. Others never left for fear of failure. But no matter what caused them to choose to live in the city, each of these writers come to the same conclusion. After getting out-priced, noticing how loud the city is, or just becoming aware of the extreme lack of space they have—something that women writers historically have not had enough of—they all decide to leave.

After reading Goodbye to All That alongside cultural theorist Sarah Schulman’s The Gentrification of the Mind, certain parallels become elevated here. Schulman’s work describes her experience living in NYC through the AIDS crisis. As she watched her friends and family die, she witnessed the literal displacement of bodies bring forth gentrification at phenomenal speeds. In comparison, one thing that becomes evident is this: many of the shifts that the transplanted writers in Goodbye to All That experienced are symptomatic of their own journey to the city. The disappearance of affordable housing—and of affordable food and affordable transportation—happens because these mobile bodies are able to foot the bill. At least, in the beginning. And hey, in exchange for the cultural prestige and the legitimacy that accompanies a move to New York, who wouldn’t eat ramen every night for dinner or couch surf for an indeterminate amount of time?  

As Schulman points out, the reason artists move to cities is “because they want to be part of the creation of new ways of thinking.”

In Minnesota, and the Twin Cities more specifically, these new ways of thinking are being explored in dynamic ways. In 2010 Minnesota spent more money per capita on the arts than any other state—double what New York spends. The Twin Cities is known for a thriving theatre scene and also one of the remaining independent book publishing hot spots in the country. But as the old adage goes: mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Minnesota has some of the highest racial disparities in the country, including the outstanding educational opportunity gap between white students and Black, Latino and Native students. Larger arts institutions, like the Walker, have a membership that is painfully white, a monolithic that is reflected in many of the independent galleries peppered across the two cities. So how do we prevent the Twin Cities from becoming the next New York? How do we challenge gentrification in the arts and streets? How do we cultivate artistic communities with resources, while simultaneously supporting emerging artists from diverse backgrounds?

To be clear: this is not just an argument of inclusion for inclusion’s sake. This is an argument of inclusion for art’s sake. A diversity of skills, points of view and visions contribute to artistic communities that imagine—and create—different, complicated and beautiful worlds. This diversity is precisely what built New York into the magnificent artistic space it was and is. 

And so, I return to Patti’s challenge to “find a new city,” and offer this in response: what if that search for newness is exactly what led us to this mess of gentrification, commercialization, and inaccessibility? What if our art was not predicated on displacement? What if instead of looking outward for cultural meccas to help us materialize our work—whether it is writing, painting, videos, or music—we built sustainable art communities exactly where we are? This is particularly relevant to people who aren’t normative and who are exiled from the communities that they were raised in. Whether you are gender-queer or a punk with green hair or black fashionista dude, NYC offers a refuge where your “weirdness” is not attacked (always) and is (at times) celebrated.

But what if we cultivated nurturing and challenging artistic communities that provided this refuge here at home?

It seems in Minnesota our particular challenge is to confront the gentrification of the artistic communities that exist and are being built (something that individuals and organizations are doing now in North Minneapolis, in St. Paul, and across the metro) and build dynamic artistic dreamworlds in the here and now. 


The (Fangirl) Guide to Literary Musicians

Dakota Sexton

I try to join any conversation I hear that name-drops David Byrne. It doesn’t happen often just because of my total lack of tact, or chronic fangirl-itus when it comes to The Talking Heads. It’s also because I’ve signed my heart over to anything Byrne touches. The man has not only collaborated with folks like St. Vincent to Arcade Fire, he’s also produced more than twenty-five-some art installations and interactive projects. In 2008 he designed nine custom bike racks for the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), a series which notably included racks in the shape of a liquor bottle, a high heel, a dollar sign, and a dog.

The DOT sadly passed on the liquor bottle design, deeming it to be “in bad taste.”

But more to the point (at least, of my fandom), Byrne has also become a respected writer. In 2009 he published The Bicycle Diaries, a collection of essays that chronicled his experience traveling with a folding bike to meetings and gigs throughout the world, including in Buenos Aires, Manila, and New York City.

It’s one of my favorite reads. I don’t think I wave my fangirl flag about this because Byrne just wrote something I liked, though. It’s kind of a feat to be genuinely respected by both critics and fans alike outside your one breakout thing.

I mean, for every artist that’s done it successfully, there’s always a James Franco or (more frequently), a Corey Feldman.

But there are also many musicians who have gained genuine traction as authors and critics. They’ve written everything from creative nonfiction to YA and (so very much adult) post-apocalyptic fiction.

Laurie Lindeen

Heartbreaking and funny and sad are basically all the adjectives I like to feel in nonfiction. Laurie Lindeen accomplishes all of that in Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story, a memoir that portrays her take on the eighties music scene and her experience as the frontwoman of Zuzu’s Petals. To be fair, she also wins a lot of points for living in my hometown.

Alex Kapranos

Better known as the frontman for the band Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos is also a former assistant cook and chef. He talks up both in Sound Bites, a book of fairly tightly-written essays about what he eats on the road and what he’s had to prepare in the back of a kitchen. I promise the book doesn’t just rely on the commercial appeal of Kapranos eating weird food or being a celebrity. It’s like, real literature, guys.

John Darnielle

This is definitely a man whose songs have a special place in the hearts of all writers feeling lonely, childlike, hopeful, or drunk. Darnielle is the fairly brilliant author of the Black Sabbath-focused book Master of Reality as well (for the 33 ⅓ book series). His writing additionally appears in the anthology Topograph: New Writing from the Carolinas and the Landscape Beyond.

Richard Hell

Despite his wide recognition as the frontman of the eponymous punk band Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Hell actually “retired” from music all the way back in 1984. He has since published a (sometimes bizarrely) diverse range of work, and for two years between 2004 and 2006 he was a film critic for BlackBook magazine. I read Hell’s debut novel, Go Now, from cover to cover at the age of 17. To be brief, it was awesome.

Tim Kinsella

You might already be in love with this guy for his involvement in bands like Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc. In the past, writing by Kinsella has included the similarly-lovely, music-themed novel The Karaoke Singer’s Guide to Self-Defense. But it gets even better. His second novel, Let Go and Go On and On, is actually forthcoming from Curbside Splendor in 2014.

Colin Meloy

Given that Meloy studied creative writing at the University of Montana and his band The Decemberists are kinda famous for complex storytelling, it’s probably not a surprise that he can actually write. But did you know he wrote a YA novel starring a seventh-grade girl obsessed with bikes and birds? I didn’t. I am, however, a sucker for anything with a bike and/or bird slapped on it, and ordered it immediately after finding out. It’s called Wildwood.

Nick Cave

If (perhaps instead of seventh grade girls) you generally favor stories about the post-apocalypse and sex and violence, there’s a novel for you by Nick Cave. It’s called The Death of Bunny Monro. The book wasn’t released with any accompanying soundtrack. But you can definitely make that happen. Just put together a playlist that includes songs like “Red Right Hand” and “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man,” and suddenly you’ve got the perfect Nick Cave-flavored night on your hands.

Patti Smith

No matter what, everyone should have a crush on Patti. She once referred to her work as just “three chords merged with the power of the word,” but with stuff like her 2010 memoir Just Kids, statements like that sound awfully modest. She’s your feminist famous author dream girl, and I welcome her to visit me and read bedtime stories about life in the ’60s with Robert Mapplethorpe any night. She also agreed to be a friend’s valentine once, but that’s really neither here nor there.

Other Reads

The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
The Story of Pines by A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol
The Progressive Patriot by Billy Bragg


Paper Darts' Founders Usher In New Era of Storytelling


Four years ago, Paper Darts was founded with the intention to transform how story and art collide. We have explored, experimented, and pushed boundaries through Paper Darts with design, words, and community building to promote transformative storytelling. For the past two and half years, Paper Darts brought that same creativity to
Pollen through an extensive publishing partnership.  

Today, we're excited to announce that Paper Darts co-founders, Jamie Millard and Meghan Murphy, will take Pollen to the next level through a merge with the organization OTA and a substantial grant from the Bush Foundation to make this full-time, hire staff, and also substantially invest in the freelance writing and art communities. 

"Together, we are cultivating a petri dish of creativity, pragmatism, and idealism from across the region and globe. Where there is inspiration, there will be resources for action. We want to make the Midwest a prosperous space for dreaming and for doing. We will seek out the most talented writers, illustrators, photographers and makers to competitively compensate them as they capture the inspiring stories of leaders throughout our region," said Jamie and Meghan (together in perfect unison). 

As co-founders of Paper Darts and part of the executive leadership team for the new OTA-Pollen, we swear on every tentacle that we will continue to support, reinforce, and grow the creative class freelance market to usher in a new era of storytelling. We will continue to work with the other amazing volunteers, especially Holly Harrison and Courtney Algeo, at Paper Darts who make this little monster possible. We hope the Paper Darts community will join us on this new OTA-Pollen journey.


Jamie and Meghan 


Learn more at www.ota-pollen.com


Infographic: What Does the Fox Say (In Books)?

Morgan Halaska + Holly Harrison

In case you didn't hear, viral video sensation "The Fox" by Ylvis has been given the picture book treatment by Simon & Schuster, just in time for Christmas. We took this opportunity to do some hard-hitting investigative journalism on what, if anything, the fox says in literature.


More Fun, Less Deadly Books That Should Be Theme Parks Instead of The Hunger Games

Alyssa Bluhm

Earlier this month when rumors spread that The Hunger Games trilogy would be getting its own theme park à la Harry Potter, my first thought was, Why? A theme park modeled after books about political unrest and children killing each other? Sure, that’d be great for parents who secretly plan on bringing their kids home from family vacation in a casket — but for everyone else, why bum your kids out on vacation when you could just give them the actual Hunger Games books to read?

The theorizations of what the theme park would look like aren’t much better. TIME’s ideas sound a lot like the synthetic alternative to hunting in the woods the old-fashioned way, and Melville House thinks the park should include a roller coaster that gives riders a “harsh glimpse at what it’s like to work in the coal mines.” Maybe I only hate these ideas because I grew up in a place where you can do all of this for free, or maybe I hate them because a sugarcoated playground rip off of The Hunger Games misses the entire point of the books.

At least when Harry Potter was adapted into a theme park it made sense — even though that series is peppered with political uprising and death, it still centers on the fun and magical elements of a world we can’t possibly experience outside our doors or in a book. And here’s hoping that The Lord of the Rings theme park rumors come true long before The Hunger Games do — but in the meantime, here are some books that would make not only family-friendly theme parks, but also incredibly entertaining ones.

Magic Tree House

In case it’s been too long since you were a kid, let me refresh your memory: two kids have a tree house that takes them to different countries and eras in which they have to solve a mysterious riddle in order to go home. In the end, all of the riddles are used to save literature as we know it, and the kids become Master Librarians. Cool.

Not only were these books awesome because I really wanted a tree house as a kid, they also gave digestible insight to the history and culture of other parts of the world. A Magic Tree House theme park would be a lot like Disney’s Epcot, except actually fun for kids. With settings like ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, and the Cretaceous period, there is an endless array of rides and attractions to choose from. And for good measure, the hotel that goes along with the theme park would be a bunch of tree houses, because tree houses will never not be awesome. But enough about that — who’s up for a ride on the Great Wall of China roller coaster?

The hotel that goes along with the theme park would be a bunch of tree houses, because tree houses will never not be awesome.


While I’d love there to be one giant theme park for all of my favorite book musicals, few of them are based off a novel elaborate enough to make the theme park work (even with all of its 1,500 or so pages, more people die in Les Miserables than in The Hunger Games). Wicked, however, is perfect.

Wicked makes for a better theme park than the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because, first of all, the Wicked Witch in the original turns out to be not very wicked at all. One of the major overlooked themes of the world of L. Frank Baum/Gregory Maguire is learning to reject stereotypes and accept people for who they are — a sickeningly wholesome 1950s-esque message kids wouldn’t get while trying to kill each other in a post-apocalyptic arena. Second, the political messages of Wicked are at least served up alongside magic and talking animals. If at any moment things get too sticky, characters could break out into “Defying Gravity” or “Dancing Through Life” to cheer things up.

House of Leaves

As I see it, House of Leaves deserves to be turned into a theme park (or at least a seasonal attraction) more than any other book. Here’s the setup: a house is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and starts expanding internally as time goes on, calling to mind this house. For all its confusing details and unreliable narrators, the house leaves much to the readers’ interpretation, allowing for the possibility of a choose your own adventure-style experience. It also has versatility — what could be just a weird house any other time of the year could become the ultimate haunted house in the fall. If House of Leaves were actually built, it would be the ultimate cross between storytelling and architecture — especially because the narrative includes enough footnotes to make David Foster Wallace dizzy. I’d love to see a house with footnotes.

If House of Leaves were actually built, it would be the ultimate cross between storytelling and architecture — especially because the narrative includes enough footnotes to make David Foster Wallace dizzy.

Every Book by Roald Dahl Ever

Okay, maybe not every book — but definitely Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda (for similar reasons as Wicked), to name a few. Although someone is already trying to take on the challenge of making an edible chocolate factory, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be expanded into an entire theme park, right?

Aside from a chocolate river and candy flowers, the park would mix together all of the best parts of Dahl’s works: a giant peach roller coaster, anthropomorphic animals, BFG’s giving people lifts to opposite ends of the park instead of sky gliders, glass elevators for the adults to ride in, and so on. But there’s one condition: this theme park just has to be called the Dahl House.


How to shop the MCAD Art Sale with total confidence

Meghan Murphy + Holly Harrison

Good news, allies. We scouted the MCAD Art Sale for you—top to bottom, round and round, like eight times—and gathered your must-sees and should-buys below. There were over 6,000 pieces to take in and only four eyes between us (eight if you count our glasses), and even though opening night is a little less manic than Friday and Saturday are, the whole thing is a sensory onslaught that's difficult to capture or quantify—which is precisely why you should go live it. That, and to buy some sick and really affordable art.


Ryan Hughes


Ashley Peifer


Colin Marx


Rosemary Valero-O'Connell


Jarad Jensen

Jarad used to intern with us at Paper Darts. We were admiring these great, geometrical pieces from afar and once we shouldered our way to them we were surprised and thrilled to know the artist printed on the tag.


Vadim Gershman


Jonathan Williams


Mel Nguyen


Kayleigh Fichten

We kept coming back to her paintings and staring lovingly at them. Holly left with a bitty $35 piece and has been making out with it ever since.


Adam Hamilton

Most of his art walked off the walls the second Jay Coogan stopped talking. Heartbreaking.


 John Foster


Tessa Binder


Edward Perrote


Matt Reimers


Nina Keim

Andi Jordt


Jared Tuttle


Photos from
Thursday Night


Can't even wait for the MCAD Art Sale

Meghan Murphy + Holly Harrison

Throughout Paper Darts' few years, we've partnered with loads of Minneapolis College of Art and Design students and alumni. They've volunteered on our staff, they've illustrated content for us online and in print, they've exhibited art with us in the Paper Darts Pop-Up space. You'd assume that's because of proximity. We're in Minneapolis; MCAD is in Minneapolis — yeah cool whatever. But that's only part of it.

The truth is, MCAD is a force. Their superb programs and faculty churn out so much talent that it's not uncommon for us to stumble upon artists online, decide to find a way to meet and marry them, and then realize they studied at MCAD.

TL;DR: The annual MCAD Art Sale is this week, and holy crap we're excited. The chance to buy one-of-a-kind pieces created by students and recent grads at affordable prices? Again, holy crap.


A few MCAD favorites from over the years:


Jas Stefanski


 Samantha French


Bill Rebholz


Michael Gaughan


Gregory Euclide


Allegra Lockstadt



Teagan White


 Bill Ferenc


Robert Algeo




Caitlin Skaalrud


Andres Guzman



Tuesday Bassen


Megan Frauenhoffer


Lea Devon Sorrentino

2013 | Artist | Lea Sorrentino from Elsewhere on Vimeo.

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