Artist Organizers are artists rooted in community-invested organizations to contribute their creative perspectives to making change and strengthening vibrant communities. AOs provide skills, coordination and creative thinking to engage community, other local artists and stakeholders, and to create new innovative paths for their host organization to achieve its goals. We recommend that AOs design, manage and implement two types of projects: 1) Artist Engagement – those that address specific priorities of the host organization that also engage other local artists, and 2) “Solo” – a project that the AO designs with the host that has a public benefit.
Started as a pilot program in 2013 as part of the larger initiative Irrigate, the first set of host organizations were: Trust for Public Land, Saint Paul Public Schools, Project for Pride in Living, Frogtown Neighborhood Association, The CornerstoneGroup, Partnership4Health, and Otter Tail County Historical Society and the Friends of the Kirkbride. Later host organizations included Friendly Streets, African Economic Development Solutions, Asian Economic Development Association, and Aurora-Saint-Anthony Community Development Corporation. See short article here.
Currently, Springboard does not fund or fundraise for AO positions, however, we have coordinated an AO cohort network in the Twin Cities in order for AOs to share connections, tools and ideas. If you are interested in adding this type of position and person to your organization, feel free to contact us for detailed background information to support your efforts.
Coming soon: artist and host organization tipsheets.
Current Artist Organizers
Past Artist Organizers
Andrew Gaylord, with The Cornerstone Group
Andrew is a playwright and director, songwriter and performer. At TCG his role was to uphold and expand the socially-conscious, community-driver developer’s mission to support thriving communities. Andrew worked with creative residents and artists in Cornerstone communities to create projects that celebrate and enhance the creative fabric of community life. This included hiring and supporting artists-in-residence, programming performance and lecture series, networking with local artists, designing community arts projects, and working with both the Cornerstone development team and client communities to incorporate more artistic and inspiring elements into the community development process.
Robyn Hendrix, with Friendly Streets Initiative
Robyn creates textured watercolor paintings inspired by landscape, nature and biology and recently has branched out into the public sphere, from creating a life-sized sidewalk chalk board game in the street to curation, coordination and production work for community events. As AO for FSI, Robyn created and curated the work of other local artists to animate critical but underutilized, unfriendly streets that connect to transit corridors. Read more here.
Soozin Hirschmugl, with Trust for Public Land
A puppeteer and spectacle maker, Soozin worked with TPL on how to encourage more open and green spaces along the Green Line light rail corridor. By engaging multiple artists in animating underutilized spaces, TPL learned what community values and wants in its public spaces. For Soozin’s solo project, she created the sParkIt http://www.readygoart.com/roster/#/sparkit/, a colorful, celebratory, mobile pop-up park that is used to engage the public through table games, conversations, and fun. Check out her blog: makecommonspacegreat.blogspot.com
Vong Lee , with Frogtown Neighborhood Association
Vong, also known as Knowstalgic, is a poet, spoken work and hip hop artist. As Artist Organizer, Vong addressed how Frogtown, Saint Paul’s most socio-economically and racially diverse neighborhood and hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, could engage artists to animate and create positive narratives around vacant lots and homes that lead to new uses for lots and attracts new homeowners. More information about “Lot Squats” is in this article. Vong’s solo project was to create “Frogtown Beats” with several other local hip-hop producers to make original Hip Hop beats accessible to young aspiring artists, to market local Hip Hop producers, and create local collaborations in order to uplift Saint Paul based Hip Hop music.
Ka Oskar Ly is a Hmong French-American singer/songwriter, fashion art designer, stylist and creative director. As AO for PPL in 2013-14, Ka worked with dozens of local artists to animate a block-length vacant lot prior to construction of a new housing development, to engage and create relationships with the neighborhood. Learn more about this project, Artify, at www.artifynow.wordpress.com and in this article.
At AEDA, Ka led implementation of the organization’s arts, culture and heritage approach into their work in the Little Mekong business district, from curating hundreds of artists and coordinating Minnesota’s first night market to leading the creative design of the Little Mekong Plaza.
Brittany Lynch, with Aurora Saint Anthony Community Development Corporation
A poet, TV/radio personality, actress, entrepreneur, creative consultant and community organizer, Brittany is working with ASANDC to engage black artists in and of the Rondo neighborhood in community building and development. With Springboard, Brittany co-facilitated Roots of Rondo and is now continuing to develop programming to strengthen the economic power of the black artist community.
Kristen Murray, with Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS)
As an artist, Kristen uses materials, spaces and question-asking to explore the physical and social world. Kristen paired willing teachers in the Area Learning Centers (ALC) with artists to collaborate on creating and trying new methods to support personalized learning. Her second focus was to engage ALC alumni with professional artists and together design a tool to motivate and provide strategies for students to complete high school, which became a customized composition notebooks featuring quotes, images, strategies and stories from the alumni that were given to students.
Lula Saleh, with African Economic Development Solutions
Lula is a writer, storyteller and singer-songwriter. At AEDS, Lula organized African artists and events to showcase the richness and diversity of African cultures to highlight Little Africa, an emerging commercial district in Saint Paul. See the AEDS blog and this article for more information.
Molly Van Avery, with The Cornerstone Group
A performance artist, educator and poet, Molly spent two years with TCG, focusing on Lyndale Gardens, a new mixed use housing development in Richfield, a first-ring Minneapolis suburb. Formerly the site of a garden center, Lyndale Gardens will have housing, a co-op and a public plaza for the town. Molly’s work was to build community interest and input in the public space amenities and programming of Lyndale Gardens to reflect the growing diversity of Richfield. See her blog at tcgmn.com/blog/
Heather Zinger, with Partnership4Health
Heather Zinger works with photography, video, text and performance to bring awareness and understanding of issues that are often social or health related. In 2014-15, Zinger was an Artist Organizer with PartnerSHIP 4 Health (PS4H), an organization made up of community and public health partners in Becker, Clay, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties in West Central Minnesota to incorporate art into interaction and storytelling in the region about active living, healthy eating, tobacco cessation. During her time as Artist Organizer, Zinger created several projects, including Screen Free Week, which encouraged residents throughout the region pledge to engage in arts experiences as an alternative to spending time on their computers or watching television. Read more about her work with PartnerSHIP 4 Health in the article "Play with Your Food! (And Other Ways Artists Help With Health)" on Springboard's Creative Exchange.