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Laura Zabel
Executive Director 651-292-3213
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.


Michele Anderson
Rural Program Director, Fergus Falls 218-531-1594
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.

John Bell
Business Manager, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-0163
Programs: Incubator
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

Sam Buffington
Community Organizer, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-2084
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.

Dominic Facio
Rural Program Coordinator, Fergus Falls 218-998-4037
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.

nikki_headshot2Nikki Hunt
Program Director – Health, Lowertown St. Paul 651-379-0871
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 Emergency Relief Fund. She is a certified Navigator for MNsure, and 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.

keesecker_headshotNoah Keesecker
Program Director – Artist Development, Lowertown St. Paul 651-292-3206
Programs: Professional Development, MnLA
Background: Music (composition, multimedia) and Administration (leadership). Noah Keesecker is a composer and multimedia artist. He has been a McKnight Fellow and a recipient of awards from the Jerome Foundation. He has been a Knight Foundation Fellow for Emerging Leaders, an Americans for the Arts Emerging Arts Leader liaison, and serves on the  Board of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts.  He holds a Master of Music in Composition from the University of Minnesota.

troy_king_photoTroy King
Artist Career Consultant, Lowertown St. Paul
Professional Development
Background: Music (hip-hop emcee, songwriting, poetry, spoken word, artist development) and Administration (social justice, activism, customer service, clerical, leadership). Troy King is a recipient of the McKnight Fellowship for performing musicians and has worked with Springboard for the Arts as both a grant recipient and project coordinator. Attended NC State University before moving to Minnesota in 2011 and has released a mixtape as well as two full-length albums.

dennis_headshotDennis Madamba
Artist Health and Resources Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-6289
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.

Zaraawar_HeadshotZaraawar Mistry
Artist Resources Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-2282
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.

Amanda Oliver
Legal Programs Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-2098
Minnesota Lawyers for the Arts
Background: Film, Law, & Psychology. Amanda holds a J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law. While studying for her B.S. in Communication Arts (Film, TV, and Radio) and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she wrote in the Arts section for the Badger Herald. She is currently the lead singer in a bluegrass band and is a part-owner in a small film production company.

Jes Reyes
Artist Career Consultant, Lowertown St. Paul
Professional Development
Background: Film (production, presentation), Visual Art (photography, mixed media), and Exhibition Design. Jes Reyes is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and arts administrator. She has exhibited with Feminist Video Quarterly, Made Here, and the Walker Art Center and is the founder of the Altered Esthetics Film Festival. She coordinates programming for Avivo ArtWorks (formerly Spectrum ArtWorks), a multifaceted, community-focused art studio for artists living with mental illness. She has a BA in Women’s Studies and Film/Electronic Arts from California State University, Long Beach and a Master of Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Naomi RaMona Schliesman
Artist Development Director, Fergus Falls 218-531-1654
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.

Andy_HeadshotAndy Sturdevant
Artist Resources Director, Lowertown St. Paul 651-294-0907
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.

Adia_HeadshotAdia Morris Swanger
Operations Coordinator, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-1488
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 651-292-3205
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 with Savage Umbrella, has worked as a freelance writer, and serves on the board of 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.

Caroline Taiwo
Economic Opportunity Program Director, Lowertown St. Paul 651-302-7024
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 651-292-4381
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.

David_Unowsky_HeadshotDavid Unowsky
Artist Career Consultant, Lowertown St. Paul
Professional Development
Background: For 34 years, David Unowsky owned and ran Hungry Mind (later known as Ruminator), one of America’s great bookstores which also fostered a literary magazine and a publishing company. He later helped create successful event series at Magers and Quinn and SubText bookstores. A published writer, he is a recipient both the Kay Sexton award and the Pat Bell Award. Currently David is working in the food and beverage world and is a sales and marketing consultant and mail boy for the Saint Paul Almanac.

Nancy Valentine
Communications Assistant, Lowertown St. Paul 651-304-1014
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.

Jun-Li_Headshot2Jun-Li Wang
Community Development Program Director, Lowertown St. Paul 651-789-2084
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.