People and Places – February 2010

Seven artists with disabilities receive VSA arts grants Seven Minnesota artists have been awarded grants of $1,250 each through the […]

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Seven artists with disabilities receive VSA arts grants

Seven Minnesota artists have been awarded grants of $1,250 each through the VSA arts of Minnesota Career Advancement Grant Program. The 14th annual competitive grant, funded by the Jerome Foundation, recognizes excellence by Minnesota artists with disabilities. Selected from 53 applicants, the grantees are:

Bridget Riversmith – Duluth, visual art – painting and animation

Mark Davison – Minneapolis, visual art – ceramics, sculpture

Naomi Cohn – St. Paul, writing- poetry

Alec Sweazy – Minnetonka, performance – accordion

Loretta Bebeau – Minneapolis, visual art – painting, multimedia

Serik Kulmeshnekov – Duluth, visual art – engraving, drawing

Christine Sikorski – Minneapolis, writing – poetry

The grants were awarded following a jurying process conducted by individuals with extensive backgrounds in the written, visual and performing arts. They looked at samples of the artists’ work, proposed projects, resumes and artist statements. VSA arts of Minnesota and the grant recipients would like to thank the Jerome Foundation for their continued support in making this grant possible.

VSA arts of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization working to make the arts accessible to people with all types of disabilities.


New DSPAM president named 

Direct Support Professionals Association of Minnesota (DSPAM) has elected Lindsay Short as its president this year. “Being a part of DSPAM over the last two years has been an eye-opening, life-changing experience,” Short said. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people on the DSPAM board of directors, and I’ve watched DSPAM turn into an amazing organization, overcoming many milestones and accomplishing many of its goals.”

“Our vision and mission is to advocate for and support direct support professionals in our state by making a professional name for ourselves, fighting for better wages and health insurance, developing direct support leaders, and working with families, self advocates and allies.

DSPAM, which began in 2005, represents direct support providers throughout Minnesota. The organization also focuses on issues including burnout, and respect for workers. The group has done research which has been shared at the national level, and hosts an annual recognition week.

Short’s goals for the year include more DSPAM outreach to self advocates, agencies, legislators, and other communities, “because it is important that we all work together.” She also wants to focus on the organization’s strategic plan and on activity at the 2010 Minnesota Legislature. Short succeeds President Bridget Siljander.


Button In, Makin’ Change: Richard Mathison

Richard Mathison, beloved son, brother, honorary uncle, and dear friend, died on Jan. 4. He was 59 and lived in St. Paul. He was well-known for sporting colorful buttons with advocacy slogans.

For more than two decades he was a leader of St. Paul based Advocating Change Together (ACT), a disability rights advocacy group run by and for people with developmental disabilities., He attended the first-ever national self-advocacy conference in Estes Park, CO in 1990 and presented disability rights workshops at national disability conferences ever since. He traveled Minnesota frequently with ACT to conduct leadership training program f or people with developmental disabilities and their allies.

Over the past two decades Mathison served several terms on the ACT board for several two-year terms and as board president, vice president and treasurer. His work included chairing a coalition of disability rights and advocacy groups to replace numbered grave markers at state institutions with proper headstone and remembering people buried in these cemeteries with dignity and respect.

His many other activities ranged from getting a public apology from the state for wrongful institutionalization to pedestrian street safety. One of his causes was to remove the “R” word from everyday language.

Mathison was also a member of The Arc of Minnesota. He chaired the Employee Advisory Committee at Minnesota Diversified Industries.

He was a graduate of Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities Partners in Policy Making program. He was a frequent visitor at the capitol and was often called upon to give testimony in to legislative committees on issues he cared about. He was a longtime member of Randolph Heights Presbyterian Church in St. Paul. In 2004, he served on a church mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico, helping care for disadvantaged children. Even though he didn’t speak Spanish, he shared the common language of love through his smiles.


A pillar of the foster community Ken Nitsche, Sr.

Ken Nitsche, Sr., 66, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, passed away Jan. 9. The White Bear Township resident was a foster and adoptive parent of several children who have a dual diagnosis of mental health disorders and mental retardation.

Nitsche served on Minnesota Association of Children’s Mental Health Board of Director for several years. He was a longtime volunteer with activities for children with disabilities in the White Bear Lake area, including adapted sports.

He served on the St. Mary’s University Advisory Committee for its special education master’s program in developmental disabilities to ensure that the students understand the issues faced by children who have a dual diagnosis. He helped families write consumer-directed community support plans and budgets for their children on waivers.

The MACMH Web site cites his dedication to helping families avoid out-of-home placement through appropriate services.

He was a well-known foster parent and advocate in Ramsey County. He also served on the Minnesota Disability Law Center’s committee for legal advocacy for persons with developmental disabilities.

Nitsche is survived by Loretta, his wife of 47 years, nine children and several grandchildren and a brother. After his death friends remembered him for his passion and heart for children, as well as his larger-than-life personality and helpful ways. He was described by one friend as a pillar in the Ramsey County foster care community.

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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