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Gizhiigin Arts
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Gizhiigin Arts
Folk and Traditional Arts grantee
Karen Organization of Minnesota
Folk and Traditional Arts grantee
Mathew Janczewski
Artist Initiative grantee

Gizhiigin means “grow fast” in Anishinaabemowin. Gizhiigin Arts was founded to support the growth of White Earth artists in all areas of their career. Gizhiigin provides artists with space and resources for entrepreneurial development aimed at furthering their art careers and economic empowerment. Gizhiigin received a 2016 Folk and Traditional Arts grant to support a traditional arts mentorship program, in which twelve elder artists/culture bearers were paired with twelve young mentees with an interest in learning endangered Ojibwe art forms including black ash basketry, quilling, quilting, and regalia making.






The mission of the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM) is to enhance the quality of life for all refugees from Burma in Minnesota. KOM offers a variety of services to help refugees succeed in their new home and promotes cultural understanding and preservation. KOM has integrated traditional arts and music into program activities including youth development and mental health services. KOM received a 2016 Folk and Traditional Arts grant to form the Karen Weaving Circle, a circle of female master weavers wanting a way to weave again in Minnesota. The weavers meet weekly to weave in community. They have expanded to also teach weaving classes to Karen youth in the public schools, and showcase their work at arts events in St. Paul and the surrounding area.




Mathew Janczewski is the founder and artistic director of ARENA DANCES, founded in 1995. He received a BFA in dance from the University of Minnesota, and has been choreographing for over twenty years, creating dances for his own company, repertory companies, and local and national institutions. He seeks to balance his need for personal discovery and growth with a responsibility to create work that is relevant and induces dialogue. Recognition for his choreography includes an emerging choreographic residency at Bates Dance Festival in 2001, 2005 Sage Award for Outstanding Performance, 2008 Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch,” and a 2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant.





Gwen Westerman
Artist Initiative grantee
Mike Hoyt
Artist Initiative grantee
Carla Rodriguez
Artist Initiative grantee

A poet and fiber artist, Gwen Westerman lives in southern Minnesota, as did her Dakota ancestors.  Her roots are deep in the tallgrass prairie landscape, and reveal themselves in her art and writing through the languages and traditions of her family.  An enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, she is Professor in English and Humanities at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  Her award-winning quilts have been exhibited across the country and are in permanent collections at the Minnesota Historical Society, Red Cloud Heritage Center, University Art Galleries at the University of South Dakota, and the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota.



Mike Hoyt has been producing, managing, and directing arts-based community development projects and youth development programs while making art in his community for nearly twenty years. Although his formal training is in painting and drawing, over the past decade his work has evolved to take the form of interactive sculptural installations and situations in which public participation is a key component.







Carla Rodriguez is a first-generation American of Venezuelan descent. She received her BFA degree in photography from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Her work deals largely with the idea of catharsis as a means of change and therapy. She is very interested in exploring the nature of the photograph by using the film negative as the photograph instead of making prints, believing the aura of the photograph changes when it is known that it is a singular and unique object.






Sam Miltich
Artist Initiative grantee
Lesley Nneka Arimah
Artist Initiative grantee

Sam Miltich is a jazz guitarist and band leader living in northern Minnesota. He has toured nationally and internationally with his band, the Clearwater Hot Club, and is a frequent collaborator with some of Minnesota's best known jazz musicians. He is a two-time recipient of the Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, most recently for his 2014 recording project, "Sam Miltich and Friends: Live at the VFW."









Lesley Nneka Arimah is a writer living in Saint Louis Park. Her writing tackles the plight of unconventional characters in conventional Nigerian society and she is particularly interested in the boundary between realism and magical realism. Her work has received a Commonwealth Writers award as well as awards and grants from the Jerome Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Givens Foundation, and The Loft Literary Center.







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