Background: Laura Zabel is a frequent speaker on arts and community development at convenings such as the Aspen Ideas Festival, Urban Land Institute and Americans for the Arts. She was a 2014 Bush Foundation Fellow, was named one of the 50 most influential people in the U.S. Nonprofit Arts, and received the 2012 Visionary Leader award from the MN Council of Nonprofits. laurazabel.tumblr.com.
Rural Program Director, Fergus Falls
Programs: All Rural Programs
Background: Music (classical piano, teaching) and Administration (community development). Michele Anderson is a composer, creative writer and pianist with a BA in Music from Lewis and Clark College, and an MA in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College, where she was awarded the inaugural Rory Turner Prize in Cultural Sustainability. In 2015, Michele was selected by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for their Catalytic Leader Award.
Business Manager, Lowertown St. Paul
Background: Visual Art (painting, sculpture) and Administration (accounting). John Bell received his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in 2008 and his MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2010. His paintings and sculptures have been shown in Minneapolis at Soo Visual Arts Center and The Bell Museum of Natural History. His work was featured in a 2011 issue of New American Painting.johnmartinbell.com.
Community Organizer, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Community Development
Background: Sam Buffington was the community organizer for Frogtown Neighborhood Association for almost 10 years, and helped the organization become one of the most representative, innovative and influential district councils in St. Paul. Sam has worked for the League of Pissed off Voters, using Hip-Hop and the arts to encourage young people to become active participants in the electoral process. Through this experience, as well as his family's deep connections to the arts, Sam has recognized the power of arts and artists to create positive change in the world.
Rural Program Coordinator, Fergus Falls
Programs: All programs, Resources
Background: Visual Art (photography, design, make-up). Dominic Facio is a visual artist, designer and make-up artist, who has studied at Fergus Falls Public High School and Brown College. He is creator and head of the Fergus Falls Zombie Crawl, an annual community event, with experience in office workflow, design and social media.
Program Director – Health, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: All Health Programs
Background: Visual Art (painting). Nikki Hunt manages the Artists’ Access to Healthcare (AAH) program, winner of the 2010 Minnesota Social Entrepreneurs Cup, and the Personal and Community Emergency Relief Funds. She is author of the Guide to Healthcare for Minnesota Artists. A visual artist, specializing in oil painting, Nikki is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a degree in both Studio Art and Art History.
Katie Hae Leo
Development Director, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: All Programs
Background: Writing (playwriting, poetry, nonfiction) and acting (theater, film). As a performer, Katie has presented her work in various local and national outlets, including Dreamland Arts and Theater Mu (St. Paul), Asian Arts Initiative (Philadelphia), Phoenix Art Museum, and University of Regina (Saskatchewan, Canada). As a writer, Katie’s work has been published in such journals as Water~Stone Review, Kartika Review, Mascara Literary Review, and Asian American Poetry & Writing. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. www.katiehaeleo.
Artist Health and Resources Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Health, Resources
Background: Visual Art (illustration and design). Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dennis received a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MFA in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis. For the past year, Dennis has worked as a print technician and designer, most recently for Smart Set in Northeast Minneapolis.
Artist Resources Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Professional Development, Resources
Background: Theater (acting, directing, producing). Zaraawar Mistry is a co-owner of Dreamland Arts, a 40-seat theater attached to his home in St. Paul. He has performed in and directed many works for several Twin Cities theater companies, and mentored dozens of artists in the creation and production of original works for the stage. He has an M.F.A. in Theatre from UC, San Diego and a B.A. from Bennington College in Vermont. http://dreamlandarts.com/zaraawar-mistry/.
Naomi RaMona Schliesman
Artist Development Director, Fergus Falls
Programs: Professional Development, Resources, Hinge Arts Residency
Background: Visual Art (sculpture, installation, mixed media, performance and teaching). Naomi RaMona Schliesman received her BFA from the University of Minnesota, Moorhead, and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has shown her art nationally and has participated in artist residencies and fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center, Ragdale, Kimmel Hardening Nelson Center for the Arts and Hospitalfield Arts in Arbroath, Scotland. http://naomischliesman.org/.
Artist Resources Director, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Resources, CSA, Professional Development
Background: Visual Art (public art) and Literature (non-fiction). Andy Sturdevant is a public artist, writer and performer. He has written about art, history and culture for a variety of Twin Cities-based publications and websites. His artwork has been exhibited at venues in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle, and he has presented public programs with many organizations locally and regionally. Andy holds a B.F.A. in painting from the University of Louisville. www.andysturdevant.com.
Adia Morris Swanger
Professional Development and Operations Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: All Programs, Professional Development
Background: Theater (acting, directing and teaching) and On Camera (film, commercial, hosting). Adia Morris is a freelance artist and educator. She has performed at the Guthrie Theater and Park Square Theatre, and danced with Threads Dance Project. She has taught dance and theatre workshops for Guthrie Theater, Youth Performance Company, and Minneapolis Public Schools. Adia earned her BA in Classics from Duke University.
Carl Atiya Swanson
Associate Director, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: All Programs, National
Background: Theater (actor, writer), Visual Art and Administration (management). Carl Atiya Swanson manages Creative Exchange, a national platform sharing stories of artists with impact and toolkits for change. Carl is a theatermaker and writer of essays and poetry, and has served on the boards of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network – Twin Cities, and Dissonance, which advocates for health and wellness in creativity. He holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas. www.carlatiyaswanson.com.
Economic Opportunity Program Director, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Artist Resources
Background: Literature (non-fiction, journalism).Caroline Taiwo is a digital storyteller who creates content about art process, advocacy and community for Minnesota Public Radio, Twin Cities Daily Planet and other media arts platforms. Caroline is the Arts + Culture editor for Twin Cities Daily Planet and previously worked on Inclusion and Community Impact at American Public Media and the Healthy States advisory panel at Minnesota Public Radio. Caroline studied at Howard University and holds a B.A. from Hamline University.
Peter Haakon Thompson
Community Development Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Community Development, ReadyGo
Background: Artist. Peter Haakon Thompson’s primary mediums are participation, interaction and conversation. Some of his works include: The A Project, Art Shanty Projects, Expeditionary Conversation Tents, Mobile Sign Shop and the Temporary Table Tennis Trailer. He is a past recipient of a McKnight Fellowship for Photographers and holds a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. www.peterhaakonthompson.com.
Nancy XiáoRong Valentine
Communications Assistant, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: All programs
Background: Background: Visual Art (watercolor, ink). Nancy Valentine is a self-taught watercolor artist and musician with a BA in Communication from the University of Minnesota Duluth. She has a heart for community development and effective communication. In 2016, Nancy worked on a marketing campaign that received an Award of Excellence from Explore Minnesota Tourism. In 2017, she was awarded the Lake Region Arts Council Career Development Grant. www.nxvartwork.com
Katie Ka Vang
Relationship Manager, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Resources, Professional Development
Background: Theater (performance, playwriting). Katie Ka Vang is a playwright and theatre+performance artist. She has an MFA in Playwriting from Brown University and a BA in Innovation Marketing Management from Concordia University. She recently was the Director of Arts and Culture for the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) in furthering the growth of the Little Mekong Night Market and creating visibility for the neighborhood through place-based arts programming. She's received personal grants from Jerome, National Performance Network, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metro Regional Arts Council, and others. She has worked in the community using arts as a tool for social change. She is excited about connecting artists and communities with resources to help them thrive.
Community Development Program Director, Lowertown St. Paul
Programs: Community Development
Background: Craft Arts (textiles, design) and Community Organizer. Jun-Li Wang is a connector of people, places and ideas, with extensive experience in asset-based community development and place-based organizing. Jun-Li has received multiple grants for her projects Saint Paul Hello, an initiative welcoming newcomers, and Board Repair, a network supporting people of color on nonprofit boards. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MPS in International Development from Cornell University.