A Brief History of Patrick's Cabaret

Portions of this page are adapted from a research paper written by intern Raegan Jaeger (2015) and subsequently edited by intern Mayu Ando (2015).

Patrick's Cabaret was founded by Patrick Scully in 1986, with emphasis on the principle of providing a safe and accessible performance platform to local artists, especially artists of color, LGBT/queer-identified artists and those with disabilities.[1] Patrick’s Cabaret has served as a first stage for a wide range of emerging local performers. The works presented at Patrick’s Cabaret are often considered “fringe” or avant garde due to the uncensored, un-auditioned stage.[3]

On April 26th in 1986, Patrick’s Cabaret first began as a single evening where Patrick Scully invited other artists to join him in a show of works-in-progress, in a gymnasium at Saint Stephen's Catholic School. The evening proved so successful that Patrick’s Cabaret grew rapidly into an essential community resource. Patrick offered his services as an experienced dance teacher in exchange for use of the gymnasium space for the monthly performances. The realization that Patrick’s Cabaret needed a space of its own was translated from the growing audience and greater demand for performances. [9]

Patrick moved the shows to his house in May of 1989, and lived in the same space until the summer or 1994.[2] Patrick’s Cabaret served not only as a home for Patrick himself, but included misfit artists and the radically fringe. Ron Athey’s notorious performance at Patrick’s Cabaret took place in 1994, highlighting the era of homophobia and the AIDS epidemic, both of which were already tangled within the Cabaret’s foundation. With Patrick Scully as not only a teacher and performer but also gay activist and publicly HIV-positive man, Athey’s performance seemed as though it would be performed and reflected on as usual, however the controversial blood ritual at Patrick’s Cabaret stirred up national controversy, and would eventually be debated on congress floor. [8]

Ron Athey’s Performance was sponsored by the Walker Art Center. His Four Scenes from a Harsh Life would eventually send ripples through the nation (with the help of Mary Abbe) beginning with his Human printing press performed at Patrick’s Cabaret. The performance consisted of 12 incisions on the back of his co-performer, Darryl Carlton (a.k.a. Divinity Fudge). The incisions bled rapidly, as the blood was flowing Athey began making prints. The prints were made of super absorbent towels and were attached to a clothesline, suspending over the very audience watching the show. The show drew on these connections of the body, pain and what is beyond and unmistakably drew on AIDS and the discomfort associated with the presence of blood. The erroneous reports following the performance articulated dripping blood and an endangered audience, soon the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was under attack. According to art history scholar Lauren DeLand, "These precisely timed histrionics resulted in a compromise bill stripping $3.4 million from the NEA’s budget for 1995. However, the agency itself would shortly prove its own worst censor. In November of 1994, the NEA eliminated forever its funding program allowing local, nonprofit arts organizations to fund individual artists with federal grants" [8]. Although the Walker Art Center took front and center within the media for their $150.00 support of the performance, Patrick’s Cabaret had made its mark furthering its already edgy reputation.

After the period of being closed by City due to fire code violations and the lack of a theater license from June to December 1996, Patrick’s Cabaret becomes an official club allowing “members” to purchase weekly “memberships” to attend the performances. [5][6] Patrick set out to buy the three-story building (which later became the home of Open Eye Theater) with help of the arts community, but the deal was not finalized. [9]

An anonymous donor offered to purchase a space for the Cabaret, and so the purchase agreement for an old firehouse on 3010 Minnehaha Ave. S was signed on November 13th, 1998. [9] The donor purchased the building for $250,000, [4] allowing Patrick’s Cabaret to simply use the expansive space. The doors of the new firehouse officially opened on May 21st 1999. [7]

In March 2016, the organization was informed it must leave 3010 Minnehaha by the end of May 2016. The organzation continued on as a mobile venture, with an office at Intermedia Arts in South Minneapolis, performing at venues throughout the city.


  • April 26th, 1986: First Cabaret at Saint Stephens School
  • 1988: First grant received to pay artists for the first time
  • 1989: Moves from Saint Stephens School to 506 E 24th street
  • 1994: Ron Athey’s infamous performance supported by the Walker Art Center
  • June - December 1996: Patrick’s Cabaret is shut down by City for license violations
  • December 17th, 1996: Patrick’s Cabaret attempts to subvert licensing by becoming an official 'club' allowing ‘members’ to purchase weekly ‘memberships’ to attend the performances
  • 1997: Patrick's Cabaret becomes an official 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization and establishes a Board of Directors
  • November 13th 1998: 3010 Minnehaha Ave. purchase agreement signed
  • May 21st, 1999: Patrick’s Cabaret opens the doors of its new home
  • 2001: Patrick Scully leaves the Cabaret, and Sarah Harris is named Artistic Director
  • 2005: Patrick Scully returns to the Cabaret as Artistic Director
  • 2006 - 2008: Major renovations to the lobby to improve accessibility for artist and audiences with disabilities
  • 2008: Patrick officially leaves the Cabaret to pursue his own art, Amy Hero Jones becomes Executive Director
  • 2009: Arturo Miles is named Program Director, overseeing performance programming
  • 2011: First Roots, Rock, and Deep Blues Music Festival, produced by Music Coordinator Chris Mozena
  • January 2014: Scott Artley becomes Performing Arts Curator, overseeing performance programming
  • January 2016: Amy Hero Jones steps down as Executive Director, and Scott Artley is named Executive Artistic Director
  • March 2016: Patrick's Cabaret announces it will move out of its longtime home at 3010 Minnehaha Ave
  • June 2016: Patrick's Cabaret moves its office to Intermedia Arts as part of the co-working program ArtsHub, and begins producing programming at multiple venues
  • October 2017: Patrick's Cabaret is notified that Intermedia Arts will close the doors of its building, and moves its offices to the Calhoun Building on West Lake Street in December


  1. Timmis, Joan (1986 October) "Gym by Day, Art by Night" City Pages Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  2. Justin, Neal (1994-10-9) "Patrick's Place" Star Tribune Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  3. Mabery, D.L. (1992 June 30) "Not Ready for Prime Time" Skyway News Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-11

  4. Gold, Rachel (1998-12-1) "Anonymous donor gives Patrick's Cabaret a permanent home" focus point Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  5. Gold, Rachel (1996 December 18-24) "City approves Patrick's as a club" Focus Point Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  6. Steele, Mike (1996 July 18) "Artists rally 'round Patrick's Cabaret" Star Tribune Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  7. Steele, Mike (1998 November 19) "Patrick's Cabaret signs deal to buy new site" Star Tribune Archived from original. retrieved 2015-05-9

  8. Johnson, Dominic. "Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey" Place of Publication Not Identified: Univ Of Chicago, 2015. Print.

  9. Rubinstein, Marie (2005 September 5) “He’s Putting the Patrick Back in Patrick’s Cabaret” Twin Cities Daily Planet