Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Announces Artists’ Futures Cohort
We are excited to announce the ten artists that were selected for the new Artists’ Futures Cohort! Artists’ Futures is a professional development, skill building and networking cohort for artists working in any artistic discipline at any stage in their career. Selected artists receive a financial award of $35,000 along with additional resources to support their ability to take creative risks and build technical skills that could contribute to a sustainable and successful career in the arts.
This incredible opportunity was made possible by the Seeding Cultural Treasures program funded through a partnership between the McKnight Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Through this partnership, MRAC developed Artists’ Futures with the guiding principles to: center artists of color, to radically reimagine grantmaking in the arts, and to co-create with the community that the program is intended to serve.
Artists’ Futures provides resources directly to artists and culture bearers of African, Afro-Latinx, Afro-Caribbean, Latinx, Chicanx, Asian/Pacific Islander, and SWANA (South West Asian and North African) descent residing in the 7-county metropolitan area, and artists who are Native American/American Indian/Native Alaskan residing in Minnesota and the 11 Tribal nations that share the same geography.
This program was developed for and by a diverse group of artists and cultural leaders from the communities this program intends to serve. A group of 11 advisors along with MRAC staff engaged with nearly 100 artists across backgrounds, experiences and cultures in several intimate focus groups and one-on-one meetings. The program was designed according to what was learned from these artists about their needs, challenges, and how to think differently about providing support. Stay tuned for a more detailed story about what we learned from the artists and what makes Artists’ Futures such an innovative program.
We received a record 554 applications with only 10 spots available. Meet the inaugural 10 members of the Artists’ Futures Cohort!
Adrienne M. Benjamin
Adrienne M. Benjamin (she/her) is an Anishinaabe (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) multi-faceted artist, equity advocate, and cultural educator. She utilizes her own vast life experiences as a modern day Anishinaabekwe to create meaningful, current, socially relevant, and culturally significant work that intersects with her Anishinaabe values, history, and life ways.
Adrienne is best known for her jingle dress making and seamstress abilities. She has shown her dresses in gallery and museum exhibits but they can be most meaningfully seen in community, at pow wows, and other Anishinaabe cultural events.
Adrienne is passionate about and vibrantly champions social justice and equity initiatives in the arts, business, and education systems in her local community of Mille Lacs, statewide in Minnesota, and beyond.
Alicia De La Cruz
Alicia De La Cruz (she/her) is a two-spirit artist and culture bearer from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, currently living in Minneapolis.
She is a beadworker, jingle dress maker and dancer, and nail polish crafter. Alicia runs two businesses, one creating nail polish and the other selling her beaded creations. Since learning traditional beadwork from her aunt at the age of seven, Alicia has been using her generational and historical knowledge to create beaded works with a contemporary twist. Her designs, informed by her ancestors, take form in wearables, such as earrings and hats, as well as 2D works.
She is currently a Bell Museum fellow, studying native flora, with the intention to connect Ojibwe culture to Minnesotans through a culminating exhibition.
Carolyne Naomi (she/her) has been based in Minnesota for the past 8 years, performing her unique blend of afrobeats music, with influences from soul and R&B, reggae, and gospel.
After completing a Masters Degree in Media and Communication in Nigeria, Carolyne chose to relocate to Minnesota to pursue additional education in guitar and voice performance at McNally Smith College of Music. Despite the untimely closure of that institution, Carolyne has continued to compose and perform music that reflects her experience as a first-generation immigrant.
With a story to tell that resonates with the current generation, she weaves her life experience into her songs as she reflects her surroundings with both her struggles and success. Carolyne has performed extensively throughout communities in Minnesota including the Cedar Cultural Center, Wild Nights at the Zoo, Bayfront Reggae and World Music Festival, Icehouse Minneapolis, Dakota Jazz Club, and opened for Nigerian sensations Burna Boy and Wizkid at the Skyway Theater. Additionally, Carolyne has been featured on TPT and Kare 11. Carolyne Naomi released her debut EP, “Miss Naomi” in November 2022 with a sold-out release concert at Icehouse MPLS.
Dawn Quigley, Ph.D. (she/her) is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, ND. She is a children’s book writer, centering on contemporary Native American characters and themes. She is also a faculty professor at a Midwest University Education Department. She taught English and reading for 18+ years in the K-12 schools along with being an Indian Education program co-director.
Quigley has published several novels, including her debut coming-of-age Young Adult novel, Apple in the Middle (NDSU Press), “Joey Reads the Sky” in Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids, the chapter book series Jo Jo Makoons: The Used to Be Best Friend (book #1); Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants (#2), Red Bird Danced (forthcoming novel-in-verse), and Native American Heroes (Scholastic Books). Dawn has over 30 published articles, essays and poems.
She lives in Minnesota with her family.
Kameron Peak Kameron Peak (She/Her), is a Duluth, Minnesota native. She is a holistic healer, crafter, soap and candle maker, and motivational rapper.
In 2020, Kameron founded Rose From the Rough, a business specializing in homemade soaps, candles and holistic healing products. The name Rose from the Rough is personal to Kameron as it symbolizes the challenges she has overcome and how many of us can relate to healing, learning and evolving in spite of adversities. In 2022, Rose from the Rough was selected to be part of Duluth’s business pop-up collaborative and has since been featured in many local events in Duluth and around the Twin Cities.
In addition to creating products, Kameron is working on her solo music project called “The Rising”, under the artist name IAMKAM.
Liz Digitale Anderson
Liz Digitale Anderson (she/they) is a community song leader, song writer, theatre artist, and activist. She’s chasing breakthroughs that release self, community, and culture to be more and more free, and uses communal singing, theatre, and art as vehicles organizing towards liberation.
She is the founder of the Sunday Morning Heretic Sing, an ongoing song circle for queer and ex-religious folx to show up and sing with their whole selves. Liz co-leads song circles for joy, grief, courage, and BIPOC + Mixed Race somatic healing with Conie Borchardt as GOOD TROUBLE.
Currently she is writing new songs to sing together that support systemic change, ending white supremacy, and movements for abolition.
Lupe Castillo @1heartspeakslupe (She/Her) is XicanaIndia from the Southern lands. Lupe is a Poet, Spoken Word Artist, Culture Bearer and creator of HeartSpeaks: Voices of Cultura Healing & Writing Circles. HeartSpeaks provides activated radical collaborations in writing, poetry, and spoken word artistry.
Lupe began journaling at a very young age and through this practice she found her voice. Lupe has provided workshops at El Colegio charter school, BF50 Indigenous Health Cultural Arts Events & Workshops, Duluth UMN, Twin Cities UMN, Open Streets Mpls, C.L.U.E.S, Día de los Muertos, Mexico City, Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival, and Mexica New Year, just to name a few.
Lupe is also a co-founding member of Palabristas, a Spoken Word Latine Collective. Lupe is deepening her work as an Artist by partnering with other BIPOC & Latine Artist Collectives.
Nancy Thor (she/her), is an emerging singer, songwriter and dancer, born and raised in Minnesota. Her stage name is NewSONG or “Nkauj Tshiab” in Hmong. She is best known for her Kpop dance covers, though she also performs traditional Chinese, Hmong, and Thai dance as well.
As a songwriter, Thor wrote two debut songs for Minnesota Hmong-American Girl Groups, Cua Tshiab and INDIGO. Thor released her first official music video “We Are Young” (WAY), in November 2022.
Thor has performed locally and abroad, traveling to Wisconsin, South Korea and China to showcase her talent.
Neika Williams (she/her) is an inspirational make-up artist, product designer, content creator, beauty educator, and culture bearer. Her work is driven by her mission to empower others, and promote health and positivity.
Through her company, Speak Volume by Neikasbeauty, Williams holds mindful affirmation space designed to build confidence of participants in her masterclass and within the broader community.
Her aesthetic is inspired and informed by nature and architecture. Her work has been showcased across magazines and editorial spreads for the past 5 years.
Sung-Hee Min (she/her) is a public artist based in Roseville Minnesota.
Born and raised in South Korea, Min moved to California in her twenties and studied sculpture and installation at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After graduating in 2000, she maintained a metal studio in the Bay view arts district of San Francisco and showed her work in the galleries of San Francisco Bay Area as well as other regions in the nation and in Seoul, Korea.
Since settling in Minnesota in 2016, Min has been focused on reaching wider audiences with her public art. Her works has been shown in city art centers, park trails, sculpture walks and other public art exhibition programs throughout the Midwest.