We Make It Here

The Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) is full of hardworking people relying on their creativity to do something noteworthy. Whether it's a business, artist, nonprofit, start-up, or artisan, we want to help tell their story.
Creative Enterprise Zone: We Make It Here is a project designed to celebrate and promote economic development in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ). This project will increase the visibility of diverse and innovative enterprises in the CEZ. The goals of Creative Enterprise Zone: We Make It Here are to build connections between creative enterprises and increase their visibility in ways that support their business.
For seven months in 2016, we will be featuring a business or nonprofit by pairing them with a visual display maker or public artist to design a bold on-the-street street depiction of the enterprise's work; a writer who will help tell the story to audiences across the region; and a happy hour to celebrate the enterprise's place in the Creative Zone and forge new connections and lasting relationships.

Featured enterprises:

The Improve Group

The Improve Group

The Improve Group: Using Measurements to Tell Stories
By Camille LeFevre

“We all have strong values and preferences about what we support, and we want to know that we’re supporting causes that truly make a difference,” says Leah Goldstein Moses, CEO of The Improve Group. Worst-case scenario? “An organization could take your donation and spend it on trips to Hawaii,” Goldstein Moses explains. Best-case scenario? “You’re using your time, passion or money to support an organization that’s creative, that listens to the needs of the people they’re serving, and is working hard to make a difference.” That’s where The Improve Group comes in.

The organization, a research and consulting business in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), helps mission-driven organizations maximize their public good. Through research, evaluation, studies, strategic planning and capacity building, the innovative and collaborative group helps “organizations find strategies to make a bigger difference and tell their story,” Goldstein Moses says.

For example, Can Can Wonderland—an indoor mini-golf course, performance space, and immersive arts and play environment in the CEZ—incorporated under Minnesota’s new Public Benefit Corporation designation in 2015. To meet the requirements of that law, Can Can Wonderland needs to report on the ways in which its programs benefit the public. The Improve Group helped Can Can Wonderland’s founders measure and share “how it provides a joyful artist experience for the community it serves and tell the story about its public benefit,” Goldstein Moses explains.

Leah Goldstein Moses founded The Improve Group 16 years ago after working with mentors at a middle school in Florida. “Our funder, the U.S. Department of Justice, wanted us to show how the kids were improving because of their mentors,” she recalls. “I was intrigued. How would you measure the difference?” She explored the process through a variety of projects and in graduate school. “Since then, we’ve worked with hundreds of organizations, helping programs articulate the difference they’re making and helping them refine strategies to make a bigger difference.”

Many of those organizations are in the CEZ, including the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, the Minnesota Literacy Council and MAP for Nonprofits. On December 1, from 5-8 p.m., The Improve Group will hold its grand opening in its new building, owned by Update Company, located behind its current home in the CEZ.  The event is part of the CEZ’s larger "We Make It Here" initiative. Artist Coal Dorius is festooning The Improve Group’s new space with an installation that reflects one of The Improve Group’s primary values: Joy.

“Our new location will provide us with more open space in which people can gather and collaborate,” Goldstein Moses says. “During the open house, we want to introduce the space to our friends, colleagues and community so they know it’s their space, that it’s for the community as a whole.” The Improve Group chose to move into the CEZ after mapping where every staff member lived: “This neighborhood was right in the center,” Goldstein Moses says. The location also provides clients with easy access to The Improve Group’s offices via the Green Line light rail.

“We’re really champions of the sector that’s trying to make the world a better place,” Goldstein Moses says, “and we’re excited about how that sector’s been evolving—from nonprofit organizations to public companies and consultants—and the ways in which entrepreneurs are creating new ways to make other lives better. We’re excited for the community to meet us!”

The Improve Group’s Grand Opening
661 LaSalle Street, Suite 300
St. Paul, MN 55114 Thursday,
December 1, 2016 from 4-7 p.m.

Creative Enterprise Zone: “We Make It Here” is a project designed to celebrate and promote economic development in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), St. Paul’s recognized center of creativity and enterprise. The goals of “We Make It Here” are to build connections between creative enterprises and increase their visibility in ways that support businesses. This project is funded by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Eight creative enterprises will be highlighted in the CEZ throughout 2016. See more at http://www.creativeenterprisezone.org/content/we-make-it-here


Studio On Fire


By Camille LeFevre

Just over a decade ago, graphic designer Ben Levitz set up his first antique letterpress machine in his basement between the boiler and the litter box—and began transforming the artisan print business in the Twin Cities. His new venture grew into Studio on Fire—which specializes in the art of “pressure-based printing… letterpress, foil stamping, engraving, all of which use pressure,” Levitz explains—with a client roster including agencies and design firms around the world. 

Levitz moved his operation, and the 1950s-60s era presses weighing thousands of pounds, to a warehouse basement in Northeast Minneapolis. When the building was sold, he says, “We put into motion something we’d wanted to do for a long time: Own our space.” A former semi-tractor service garage, later used for an adult arts program, on Carleton Street in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) was just the ticket. 

“This part of the Twin Cities is perfect,” Levitz says. “The vintage 1940s building, with its raw structure of huge steel girders, high ceilings, concrete floors and large operable garage doors fits us. We’re also on-grade, with plenty of space for our heavy equipment. And we now have windows with light and views to the neighborhood, which has plenty of amenities attractive to our employees,” including microbreweries like Urban Growler and Bang Brewing, restaurants like Foxy Falafel, and the Raymond Avenue Station on the Green Line light-rail line a mere block away.  

While moving Studio on Fire’s 15 employees and dozens of heavy-duty machines Levitz had an idea: “The building would be a great place to add a retail component.” He talked with long-time friend and client Dan Anderson at Dogwood Coffee, who lives in the CEZ’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood. “You have lots of coffee shops in Minneapolis,” Levitz cajoled Anderson, “but not one in your own backyard.” 

Anderson and Levitz looked over the building and decided to create a Dogwood outpost with windows looking into Studio on Fire’s production facility. Now clients, visitors, neighbors and coffee shop aficionados can grab an espresso and watch the pressure-printing machines and their operators at work. “It’s sort of like a tap room,” Levitz explains. “People literally get a window into the physicality of what we do.” 

During Studio on Fire’s family-friendly grand opening on July 29, “A Print Fair,” which is part of CEZ’s 2016 “We Make It Here” series, people will also experience—with all of their senses—the company’s beautiful, tactile work, which encompasses business cards, packaging and invitations. The day’s events include projects on presses for print giveaways and a steamroller with large moveable type printing a poster on the sidewalk outside. 

“So much of what we do has a sense of touch, but it’s also visual, so people experience it with more than one sense,” Levitz says. Pressure-based printing creates “an optical tactility via sculptural impression or imbues the material (oftentimes cotton, not wood fiber) with hot foil creating a bright metallic sheen. These aspects enhance the value of artisan print craft.” 

While most of the printing industry has gone to bigger, faster and cheaper, Levitz adds, “we make things people want to touch, feel, enjoy, look at, and hang on to for a while.” 

A Print Fair: Studio on Fire’s Grand Opening 

Friday, July 29 

1-7 p.m. 

825 Carleton Street
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55114



Food and beverages for sale by local vendors. 

Camille LeFevre is a writer, editor, curator and communications strategist living in the Creative Enterprise Zone. She’s also the editor The Line, an online publication about the creative economy of the Twin Cities. 

Creative Enterprise Zone: “We Make It Here” is a project designed to celebrate and promote economic development in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), Saint Paul’s recognized center of creativity and enterprise. The goals of “We Make It Here” are to build connections between creative enterprises and increase their visibility in ways that support businesses. This project is funded by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Creative enterprises will be highlighted in the CEZ throughout 2016. Learn more at www.creativeenterprisezone.org


Smallest Museum St. Paul at Workhorse Coffee Bar

Big creativity sometimes comes in small packages

“We Make It Here” gathering will celebrate Smallest Museum in St. Paul’s first anniversary in in St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone
By Kristal Leebrick

When Shannon Forney reflects on the Smallest Museum in St. Paul’s inaugural year, she zeroes in on the October 2015 installation: a micro-cinema complete with floodlights, seating and a film created by sculptor and installation artist Yousif Del Valle.

That minute, playful piece “illustrated the importance and relevance of art and transit and being open to new things,” Forney says, “and the transformative power of a tiny little exhibit.” 

The Smallest Museum in St. Paul, a vintage fire-hose-cabinet-turned-micro-museum just outside the doors of WORKHORSE Coffee Bar, 2399 W. University Ave., opened in June 2015. Since then, its rotating monthly exhibits have proven that even the smallest artistic venue can say something very big and very profound.

Come celebrate the museum’s first anniversary at the June Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) #WeMakeItHere Happy Hour Thursday, June 30, 6-8 p.m. at WORKHORSE. The happy hours are part of the CEZ Action Committee’s efforts to shine a light and support the creative work that happens in the Zone. The mixers are open to the public.

Del Valle’s theater featured a continuous viewing of his art film about the Green Line, a tribute to Auguste and Louis Lumière—the world’s first filmmakers known for their 50-second 1895 film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat—and a nod to the mass transit project just feet away from the museum. The clip examined the parallel between the fabled hysteria created when people first saw a fast-moving train bearing down on them in a theater more than a century ago and the anxiety that moved through the University Avenue corridor as light rail came in.

Now, the Green Line is a success story, Forney says. “We are a Green Line story.”

“We” are Forney and partner Ty Barnett, who opened WORKHORSE in May 2015 and held the grand opening of the museum a month later with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman cutting the ribbon. A $5,000 Knight Foundation grant funded a year of exhibits in the museum, many of which were created by CEZ and St. Anthony Park residents.

Exhibits have ranged from Sophie Durban’s tribute to the Witch’s Hat Tower in neighboring Prospect Park, complete with a Book of Shadows for visitors to sign with their own spells and incantations; Anne Jin Soo Preston’s miniature crocheted replica of the coffee shop that included “guerilla yarn-bombing” workshops leading up to the exhibit; and Abigail Allan’s “Frog Specimens,” which spurred an alliance with WORKHORSE and CEZ neighbor Twin Cities Reptiles. The 38-year-old reptile shop brought two exotic tree frogs as guests to the event, and it was “hands down the best artist reception we’ve had,” Forney says.

Forney worked in the CEZ for six years as program director at the Minnesota Regional Arts Council, 2324 W. University Ave., before recently taking the position of managing director at Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Hamline Midway.

“I was really excited that [WORKHORSE] would launch in a neighborhood known for its creativity and for seeking to attract creative people and creative minds,” Forney says.

The vintage fire-hose cabinet was icing on the cake.

“The first time I saw that cabinet, it reminded me of the Little Free Libraries—a little free art museum that could be accessed anytime,” she says.

Celebrate the first anniversary of the Smallest Museum in St. Paul and the CEZ on June 30 from 6 to 8PM. Angela Dimler’s photos of each exhibit will be on display, and there will be beer, wine and snacks (oh, and coffee).

Creative Enterprise Zone: “We Make It Here” is a project designed to celebrate and promote economic development in the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), St. Paul’s recognized center of creativity and enterprise. The goals of “We Make It Here” are to build connections between creative enterprises and increase their visibility in ways that support businesses. This project is funded by the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Creative enterprises will be highlighted in the CEZ throughout 2016.


Textiles at the Midway Commerical Building

Inside the Midway Commercial Building (aka, The Triangle Building) a burgeoning community of textile artists and entrepreneurs, fashion designers, costume creators and sewing students are behind the resurgence in industrial sewing  and “maker” textile culture in the Twin Cities. They’re not only creating costumes for theater, dance and fantastical events (think Comic-Con, Steampunk gatherings and the Renaissance Festival), but also designing couture. They’re learning, teaching and sharing their knowledge, wisdom and insights, as well as their stitching skills and business savvy. Together, they’re making the Midway Commercial Building a place of art, innovation and creativity. 
Event link
Read about the featured enterprises here
Their websites: Collective Spaces, Gina Sekelsky, Tulip Design, Judy Hornbacher, judy , KMK Designs, Scoundrelle's Keep.

​Alchemy Architects

In the back of the red brick building at 856 Raymond Ave. in the heart of St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), a small group of architects and designers are not unlike the medieval namesakes who tried to spin common metals into gold. Alchemy Architects takes some of today’s building concepts (think efficiency, sustainability and prefabrication) and turns them into international accolades that include whimsical, quirky and often thought provoking
Read the article here.
Event link
Alchemy Architects and weeHouse's website.

Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute

Happy Hour on March 31, 2016
6:30 – 8:30pm
Open to the public

Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute is in the business of helping students (K-12) find their voice. Creative writing is their passion, and each of their programs is linked to writing. Each week, over 60 students visit their space to publish a book in two hours. This is an exciting and creative endeavor. Additionally, they are open Monday through Friday for free homework help. During this time, students also learn about creative writing. 

Read the feature article here.
Event link

Soon to come:

Smallest Museum St. Paul at Workhorse Coffee Bar
June 30, 6-8PM

Workhorse Coffee will host a celebration of the first anniversary of SMSP: a vintage fire-hose cabinet converted into a 2 ft. x 3 ft. micro-museum. The celebration will feature photographs by Angela Dimler of all 12 Smallest Museum exhibits.

Studio On Fire
July 29, 2016

Studio on Fire is a best-in-class craft letterpress printer, which focuses on making premium print work that they love as much as their clients do. Studio on Fire is a group of a dozen people that get a sick sort of thrill from paper and ink. They think about craft like riding a bike – it is just second nature. If attention-to-detail were a drug, they'd be the junkies. Everyone that works there is committed to making distinctive objects.

August 25, 2016

IFP MN’s mission is to advance a vibrant and diverse community of independent film and media artists though education, funding, opportunities for showcasing their work, and networking. IFP MN positions themselves to be a destination where artists can come to meet and discuss creative ideas. IFP MN is proud to be in the Creative Enterprise Zone, and believe it is a strong community full of creativity, talent and innovation. Being a part of this community offers the opportunity to collaborate with other creative enterprises for mutual benefit. For example, students from IFP MN’s youth programs created a documentary about the youth employed at Elpis Enterprises. Because of the close proximity to each other, it was easy for the two organizations to work together. Students got a great filmmaking experience and created a high quality documentary that included not just the work of Elpis, but that also captured community responses to homelessness. Elpis Enterprises received a short film that highlights their work and that can be used to raise visibility for their organization. These types of partnerships make being in the Creative Enterprise Zone exciting.

The Improve Group
September 22, 2016

Improve Group recognizes the importance of the social innovation and nonprofit sectors in the CEZ community and are happy to be able to partner with these organizations to help extend their impact. They love the CEZ neighborhood and have committed to a new lease that will allow them to stay here for a long time.  Improve Group is looking forward to being a featured enterprise because this initiative highly aligns with our values of joy, innovation & creativity, collaboration & inclusiveness, thoughtfulness, excellence, and building a better world.

Can Can Wonderland
October 2016

Can Can Wonderland is a start-up organization, with an opening date planned for April 2016. Can Can is a public benefit corporation with a social purpose to be an economic engine for the arts. They have taken up the challenge to create an arts-immersive business that provides ongoing economic opportunities for artists and a myriad of ways for the general public to engage with and interact with art in new and surprising ways. This is primarily done by marrying art and play (art n’ rec, if you will) via indoor, artist-designed mini golf, a Coney-Island style boardwalk of artist-designed amusements, and two blackbox theatres.