Hennepin Theatre Trust COVID-19 Updates

Request for qualifications for "It's the People" public art project

It's the People billboard on top of the Hennepin Theatre Trust building

Hennepin Theatre Trust is seeking qualifications from Minnesota-based artists to create portrait photography for a public art program. Photographs will be used in the Hennepin Theatre District between 5th street and 10th street along Hennepin Avenue and online to celebrate the people who make the District such a special place.

Commissions: Five artists will be selected. Each artist will create one final portrait of their subject/s. These portraits will be featured on billboards, street pole banners along Hennepin Avenue, a fine art gallery exhibit, a vacant storefront display on Hennepin, as well as featured in artistic mailers and other marketing, communications, and promotions. The work will be made public in July of 2021 and remain on display for 12 months.

Panel participation: Each selected artist will be asked to participate with their subjects in one panel talk virtually or in person, depending on the circumstances of the pandemic later in the year.


“It’s the People” is inspired by the people whose experiences and stories create the unique vibrancy of the historic Hennepin Theatre District. It is a major outdoor public art project that captures the heart and soul of Minneapolis’ most famous street through portrait photography of individuals whose work and passion defines this historic artery in our downtown.

“It’s the People” is a highly visible way Hennepin Theatre Trust realizes our vision by driving cultural and economic vitality in the Hennepin Theatre District and across Minnesota. Centering the voices of the project’s artists and subjects is key to the success of this endeavor.

2020 brought unimaginable challenges that deeply impacted the Hennepin Theatre District. Twelve stages once filled with music and live performance went dark overnight. The densest emergency shelter-seeking community in the five-state area faced unimaginable consequences of the pandemics spread. Hundreds of high school students at FAIR School Downtown spent the year learning from home, many of them graduating without ceremony. Restaurants and hotels struggled to remain open with many closing for good, and unrest following George Floyd’s murder played out in our streets.

Meanwhile, historic legislation was passed to “Save our Stages.” Educators worked tirelessly to engage our young people in distance learning. Artists painted truth to power on boarded up windows. The community organized to protest systemic racism. Selter workers bravely protected and fed our communities most vulnerable, community outreach workers provided mutual aid and supplies to youth and adults in need. All the while, a new Hennepin Avenue continued to be built.

“It’s the People,” now in its third year, has evolved to be much more than large portraits on buildings. It is a bold statement with and for the community. With this year’s project we are asking artists to consider: Whose stories need to be told? Who are the people that need to be seen? To be celebrated? Why?

This opportunity challenges Minnesota-based artists to bring forward the stories of the people in the Hennepin Theatre District.

RFQ Selection Criteria:

  • Artistic excellence and prior experience creating digital designs or the ability to create work that can translate to digital.
  • Demonstration of unique design capabilities for high visual impact through portrait photography.
  • Previous experience or an interest in creating work for a broad-reaching public display, as well as supportive promotions and programming.
  • Ability to identify an individual or individuals who may be interested in participating as subjects whose connection to the Hennepin Theatre District is meaningful and compelling.
  • Prior work that demonstrates an ability to create content appropriate for a general audience.

Artist Eligibility:

  • Must be a Minnesota-based artist
  • Willingness and ability to work directly with Hennepin Theatre Trust district engagement staff to fulfill design requirements and a final design.
  • Willingness and ability to work with the Trust’s external relations teams to promote the project through various digital platforms.
  • Participation in one artist and/or panel talk in person or virtually, depending on the circumstances of the pandemic later in the calendar year, timeline TBD.
  • Ability to utilize the Hennepin Theatre District as a backdrop to your final portrait in any creative way that prioritizes safety considerations for the pandemic.


  • January 25, 2021 Issue RFQ.
  • February 24, 2021 Online information session.
  • March 1, 2021 RFQ application deadline.
  • March 8, 2020 Ten artists will be invited and receive $250 to advance a full RFP.
  • March 31, 2021 RFPs are due.
  • April 7, 2021 Five artists will be selected and notified.
  • April 12, 2021 Signed contracts, W9 and communications intake deadline for selected artists and participants, work may begin.
  • May 26, 2021 Final designs and all deliverables are due at 11:59 pm and will be pending final approval.
  • July 12, 2021 Project launches with new digital billboards, street pole banners, photo mailer, website, and various digital promotions.
  • July 19, 2021 Artist and/or panel talk in person and/or virtual session work begins.
  • August 2021 – June 2022(? Dates) work remains up with ongoing promotions, gallery, and storefront exhibits created with timeline TBD.
  • June 2022 All work is retired and added to Hennepin Theatre Trust’s archive at the University of Minnesota’s Andersen Library.

RFQ Submission Questions and Attachments:

  1. Affirm statement of legal Minnesota residency for applicant.
  2. Statement of Interest (250 words): Briefly describe why you wish to participate and how you would approach this project, the methods you will employ to make your work, the persons or people you would consider engaging, and the message you might want to communicate to the community through your final image.
  3. Artist Statement (250 words): Please share a little info about yourself and your artistic practice, informality is welcome.
  4. Jpg images to previous work samples (up to 5).
  5. Image list (titles, mediums).
  6. Submit how you identify (optional).

Frequently asked questions:

What does the opportunity pay?

Each participating artist will receive a stipend of $2500 Each participating subject will receive a $250 stipend to sit for the portrait and $250 to take part in the artist/panel talks.

Do artists have to pay for printing or materials with the $2500 stipend?

No, HTT will pay for printing and material hard costs for the project.

Do I have to create a design to apply for the opportunity?

No, we simply want to know a little about you and your idea, how you will approach the work and finally see some examples of work you have done in the past. 10 artists will be selected to advance a full proposal, and five will be selected as participating artists.

Do I have to know who my subjects are before I am accepted?

No. If selected, you will have the opportunity to confirm your subjects in your final RFP. It is helpful, however, to give a sense of how you might connect with community for the project in your statement of interest. Are you already working in a meaningful way with a community group or individuals who would be well suited to participate in this project? Are you able to tell their story and generate visibility for them in this way? Is the connection to the Hennepin Theatre District a compelling one? Do you know someone who is your everyday hero, making the District a better place to live, work and play? While it is not required in the RFP, it is helpful to know a little about your practice and who you might consider working with to determine if this opportunity would be a good fit. Hennepin Theatre Trust is also willing to connect artists with groups or individuals they might be interested in working with as well.

Is the work ongoing or will I simply be submitting a final portrait?

While the project is centered on the final images that the artists produce initially, there are many ongoing opportunities for the life of the project. Opportunities will be more clearly defined in the RFP process. For example, in addition to the final design being used in the public art project i.e., digital and static billboards and street pole banners, Hennepin Theatre Trust staff will also use the image for a full color mailer, a dedicated page on our website, and promotion on various digital platforms. We will also host artist and panel talks for each image, create a fine art exhibit in our Event Center, and a storefront display for this year’s show. Participating artists will be encouraged to post about the project and events on their social media channels or to their networks as appropriate. Trust staff supplies guidance and support for social media posting.

Is there a limit to how many subjects can be included in the final design?

Yes, your portrait may include between 1-5 subjects.

What will the process be for selecting the artists who will advance to create an RFP?

A panel comprised of former participating artists and Hennepin Theatre Trust staff will review, discuss, and select ten artists to advance an RFP.

What will be required for the RFP?

You will be required to submit your full portrait concept, timeline, and plan for your shoot in detail. You will also have to provide specific information about your subjects, including bios, permissions, and contact information. The Trust will supply supportive materials needed to complete the RFP.

What are the boundaries of the Hennepin Theatre District?

Hennepin Theatre District is an informal neighborhood designation. It is used to describe 5th through 10th streets along Hennepin Avenue and the immediate surrounding areas including 1st Avenue, Target Center, The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, and the ABC Ramps.

Please note, submissions for our request for qualifications closes March 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.