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Staff leadership headshots and bios

Laura Zabel
Executive Director

Laura Zabel HeadshotLaura Zabel is the Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts, an economic and community development agency run by and for artists. Springboard provides programs that help artists make a living and a life, and programs that help communities connect to the creative power of artists. Springboard is a nationally recognized leader in artist-led community development, creative placemaking and cross-sector collaboration. Springboard’s work has been featured by The New York Times, PBS, Wall Street Journal, Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Guardian and directly impacts over 20,000 artists each year. Through their free toolkits, training and resources Springboard’s programs have been replicated in over 100 communities across the U.S. and internationally.

In 2020, in response to the global pandemic, Springboard scaled their artist emergency relief fund to support over 2,500 artists in their region and helped over 80 communities nationwide start their own locally-rooted emergency funds. Through their Artists Respond program, Springboard is supporting artists to respond directly to urgent community needs, including racial justice, social isolation, and rural-urban solidarity. In 2021, Springboard launched one of the nation’s first guaranteed income programs focused on artists, inspired by the City of St. Paul and Mayors for Guaranteed Income.

Zabel has been honored with numerous awards, including the YBCA 100, Gard Foundation Award of Excellence, Common Future Local Economy Fellowship and the Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship. Zabel chairs the board of directors of the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers and serves as an advisor to Dakota Resources, The Laundromat Project, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and the University of Kansas Department of Theater and Dance.  


Jun-Li Wang
Associate Director, Programs

Jun-Li Wang HeadshotJun-Li Wang is a connector of people, places and ideas. As Associate Director, Programs, Wang leads strategy and programs at Springboard for the Arts with a focus on partnership development and community building. Based in Saint Paul and Fergus Falls Minnesota, Springboard works locally and nationally at the intersection of arts and economic and community development, helping local artists and communities thrive together. Our mission is to support artists with the tools to make a living and a life, and to build just and equitable communities full of meaning, joy and connection.

Wang has extensive experience in asset-based community development, community organizing, neighborhood leadership, workshop curriculum design and implementation, and training. For the past 10 years, she created and led Springboard’s Community Development program, including Irrigate, a nationally-recognized creative placemaking program designed to train and support local artists to address community challenges. She recently completed her third toolkit for Springboard, the Handbook for Artists Working in Community. In recent years, Wang has served on the Saint Paul Planning Commission, the Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Advisory Committee, and the board of Urban Boatbuilders, a metro non-profit serving at-risk youth. Wang holds a BA from Vassar College and MPS in International Development from Cornell University, and though she has lived in Minnesota longer than any other place, some of her heart remains in Berkeley, her childhood home. When time permits, Wang is a craft artist with guerrilla art aspirations.

Carl Atiya Swanson
Associate Director, Operations & Communications

Carl Atiya Swanson HeadshotCarl Atiya Swanson is Springboard for the Arts' Associate Director, Operations & Communications. He manages projects across Springboard's program areas, leads organizational operations and functions, and launched Creative Exchange (, a national hub for stories and toolkits for artists and organizations to solve local challenges and create new opportunities. Since the launch in 2014, over 18,000 toolkits have been downloaded from Creative Exchange, facilitating artist-led projects, business skills development, and creative placemaking projects. Swanson has presented on arts leadership, creative placemaking, and community engagement for Americans for the Arts, the Delta Regional Authority, IdeaLab, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, and others.

Swanson previously worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and founded Crown & Sparrow, a boutique communications consulting firm specializing in work with artists. He is a theatermaker and writer, with arts & culture writing and poetry published in SPIN,, Crooked Arrow Press, MEAL Magazine, Trouble Child magazine, and the Hennepin History Museum. Swanson has served as the co-chair of the National Independent Venues Association Emergency Relief Fund committee, and on the boards of Catalyst Music, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network - Twin Cities, and Dissonance, advocating for mental health and wellness in creativity. He runs an organizational creative consulting practice, Cast Consulting. Swanson holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two boys.

Michele Anderson
Rural Director, Fergus Falls

Michele Anderson HeadshotMichele Anderson is a composer, creative writer and pianist, and is the Rural Program Director for Springboard for the Arts. Since 2011, she has managed Springboard’s office in Fergus Falls, which has become a hub of thought and action about arts-based rural community development. Michele has her B.A. in Music from Lewis and Clark College, and her M.A. in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College, where she was awarded the inaugural Rory Turner Prize in Cultural Sustainability in 2014 for her creative nonfiction essay titled “Imaginative Fields: A Companion to Action,” about Springboard’s work in using the arts to foster community interaction about the past and future of the former Fergus Falls State Hospital. In 2015, Michele was selected by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for their Catalytic Leader Award. Prior to her work at Springboard, Michele lived in Portland, Oregon for 11 years where she worked at the Oregon Symphony, and a community music school, Ethos Music Center.

Ricardo Beaird
Community Development Director

Ricardo Beaird HeadshotRicardo Beaird is a theater maker, teaching artist, and cheese curd enthusiast originally from Nashville, Tennessee. Their recent work is informed by the unfinished business of ghosts, dis/connection through the internet, and sometimes Beyoncé. In addition to performing with Pangea World Theater, Park Square Theatre, Red Eye Theater and Ten Thousand Things Theater, Beaird is a Core Artist with Full Circle Theatre, advisory council member with the queer-led theater collective Lightning Rod, and an Artist Council member for the 2021 and 2022 Northern Spark Arts Festival. Ricardo brings deep experience in collective visioning, workshop facilitation, and community organizing.Currently at Springboard for the Arts, Ricardo supports and co-facilitates the Creative Community Leadership Institute, a cohort-based learning space for artists, culture bears, community organizers, and other leaders who want to deepen their impact through creative community building.

Amanda Kaler
Development Director

Amanda Kaler Headshot

Amanda Kaler (she/her) brings over 16 years experience in development, fundraising, and arts and culture leadership to Springboard for the Arts. Prior to joining Springboard, she spent nearly nine years at Minnesota Center for Book Arts directing their fundraising initiatives through a variety of development and executive leadership roles, most recently as their Associate Director. She is a 2021 graduate of the Rockwood Leadership Institute.

Amanda holds dual master's degrees in Nonprofit Management and Arts Administration from the University of Oregon, with an emphasis in Community Arts. Her artistic background ranges from book arts, letterpress printing, and writing, to clown, theater, and movement practices. When not at work, she can be found with her husband and young daughter tending their community garden plot and conducting improv puppet theater in their living room.

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