David Kennedy-Logan: Celebrating Minnesota’s working artists

Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, The McKnight Foundation’s arts program supports working artists to create and contribute to vibrant communities.

McKnight Artist Fellows, class of 2014

McKnight Artist Fellows class of 2014.

I had the pleasure to witness the strength and impact of that belief on the lives of working artists firsthand on Tuesday evening last week, when I joined McKnight staff, board, and about a hundred members of Minnesota’s thriving arts community at the foundation offices for a festive and heartfelt celebration of the recipients of the 2014-2015 McKnight Artist Fellowships.

Gathered in the Mill Ruins building in Minneapolis, the evening was graciously hosted by McKnight’s arts program team — chiefly Arleta Little, who leads the fellowships program. Comments were also provided by board member Bob Bruininks, president emeritus of the University of Minnesota.

Bruininks emphasized, “As our economy continues to test resources, budgets, and audiences, please know that we at McKnight recognize your contributions as essential to our state’s economy and high quality of life … Your personal stories are a powerful reminder that it takes more than vision, commitment, and talent to be a working artist. As you’re sharing with us tonight, it takes much, much more.”

Administered by eight nonprofit program partners, the fellowships are awarded annually to Minnesota artists working in 10 different disciplines — ceramic artists, choreographers, composers, dancers, media artists, musicians, playwrights, theater artists, visual artists, and writers. (The program also supports national artists-in-residence in ceramics, playwrighting, and music composition.) Each fellowship consists of $25,000 in unrestricted funding, which can help an artist set aside periods of time for study, reflection, experimentation, and exploration; take advantage of an opportunity; or work on a new project.

The fellows keepsake for this year, created at Faribo Woolen Mills in Faribault, MN.

A keepsake from the event, loomed at Faribault Woolen Mills in Faribault, MN.

This year, 44 artists received a total of $1.1 million in funding through the fellowships program. Including this year’s payout, McKnight has approved more than $21.1 million in funding to over 1,500 individual artists since the program’s inception in 1985.

Before they left, each fellow received a keepsake wool blanket from Faribo Woolen Mills emblazoned with the fellowships logo — a functional reminder to all in attendance that McKnight, as program director Vickie Benson explained, supports their work and understands the practical, day-to-day requirements in the life of a working artist. “We want you to feel warm and loved,” Vickie said at the close of the evening’s program.

If the warmth and energy in the room that night was any indication, these artists are well prepared to help each other, and all Minnesotans, thrive. Come rain, shine, or bone-chilling Minnesota winters.

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DKL_mk0366_cDavid Kennedy-Logan
Communications Officer, McKnight Foundation