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Above: The Bob Dylan mural by artist Eduardo Kobra is among the downtown Minneapolis attractions expected to draw sightseers during this weekend's convention. (Photo by Bill Hickey and courtesy Meet Minneapolis.)

More than 1,000 arts leaders are descending upon Minneapolis for the Americans for the Arts 2019 Annual Convention, which kicks off Friday and continues through Sunday at the Hilton.

“Minneapolis has so many wonderful museums, theaters and arts organizations – big and small,” said Americans for the Arts CEO Robert L. Lynch, explaining why the city was chosen. “Probably innovation is the keyword.”

Visitors will have lots to see this weekend, with Northern Spark happening Friday and Saturday nights and a public-art event opening Thursday, organized by Joan Vorderbruggen of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, who will be a featured speaker at the convention.

“It’s the People” consists of nine large-scale portraits by five Minnesota artists that will be on display along Hennepin Avenue, outside the FAIR School, the Saloon, Hennepin Theater Trust, Pantages Theater and City Center .

Nancy Musinguzi, who has worked with youth around Hennepin Avenue, photographed the staff at the Saloon, creating an image that is 20 feet high by 10 feet wide. Wing Young Huie worked with 30 high school students at FAIR School to make five banners showcasing their artwork. Xavier Tavera photographed a bus driver to symbolize the transportation workers of Hennepin. Maya Washington photographed theatergoers, and Jake Armour created an image of people in the workforce.

“We’re making good on our project to make big, highly visible projects,” said Vorderbruggen, who was also behind the massive Bob Dylan mural that's become a signature piece on Hennepin. “We are honoring what each artist had a penchant for in their work.”

The exhibition launches with a party at Hennepin Theater Trust from 5-8:30 p.m. Thursday, featuring music by DJ Izzie P, performance art by Blue Lady and more.

Above: Metro Transit driver Joe Hester, a mentor to drivers-in-training, is pictured here in "Transportation" by Xavier Tavera at 710 Hennepin Ave (Pantages Theatre) as part of "It's the People."

The jam-packed convention schedule includes dozens of sessions, from “How to Write a Public Art Emergency Preparedness Plan” to “Revolutionizing Arts Education Policy Through Data and Mapping.” Featured speakers will focus on themes of cultural equity, diversity and inclusion.

Hank Willis Thomas and Michael Murphy, co-founder of MASS Design Group, will discuss the “difficult parts of the shared history of Americans." Chandrika Tandon, founder of Tandon Capital Associates and a Grammy-nominated singer, will talk about how the creative economy can “drive optimism and community growth.” Hip-hop artist Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, aka Supaman, and theatermaker Mark Valdez will discuss how artists who work with heritage and culture not only build bridges, but community pride as well.

For the full schedule, go here, or download the conference app. Registration rates vary depending on membership status and number of days attending the conference.

Twin Cities artists represent in a big way at the conference. There will be performances and exhibitions by Dessa, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, Ifrah Mansour and Delina White, whose work is currently on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art exhibition “Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists." Featured speakers include artist Aaron Dysart, whose did a 2017 light installation at the St. Anthony Falls Lock, Adrienne Doyle of Juxtaposition Arts and Colleen Sheehy, executive director of Public Art Saint Paul.