People and Places – March 2016

Emerging Artists grant winners announced Six Minnesota artists have been awarded Emerging Artist Grants of $2,000 each by VSA Minnesota. This is […]

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Emerging Artists grant winners announced

Six Minnesota artists have been awarded Emerging Artist Grants of $2,000 each by VSA Minnesota. This is the 20th year for the awards, which are funded by the Jerome Foundation. The awards are meant to recognize excellence by emerging Minnesota artists with disabilities and encourage them to complete new work. Forty people applied for the awards this round.

Winners are Becca Cerra, Shafer, dancing sculpture hybrid; Kristin Dieng, Plymouth, stained glass-on-glass mosaics; Paul M. Ernst, Minneapolis, photography-based art; Angelique Lele, Minneapolis, dance; Samuel Lynn, Brooklyn Center, painting; and Lucas Scheelk, Minneapolis, poetry. All grantees are first-time Jerome grant recipients.

The grants were awarded following a jurying process conducted by individuals with backgrounds in the written, visual and performing arts. Panelists looked at samples of the artists’ work, resumes and artist statements. Artists scoring highest in artistic quality and received awards. Members of the panels included Randy Beard, playwright, music reviewer, Minneapolis; Bryan Boyce, director, Cow Tipping Press, Minneapolis; Gabriell Butler, writer, Coon Rapids; Alyssa Herzog Melby, executive director, Northfield Arts Guild, Northfield; Chiaki O’Brien, weaver, teaching artist, performer in Mu Daiko, Chaska; Scott Pakudaitis, photographer, St. Paul; Jill Vaughn, History Theatre access coordinator, St. Paul; Laura Brooks, Courage Kenny, coordinator of annual Art of Possibilities Show, Golden Valley; Geri Connelly, visual artist, active in Minnesota Irish Artists, St. Paul; Karen McCall, artist, graphic designer and owner of McCall Design, Inc., Minneapolis; Michael-jon Pease, executive director, Park Square Theatre, St. Paul; Mary Welke, visual artist, Burnsville and Patricia Young, retired from 26th Street Artists, Minneapolis. Information about each artist will be posted on the VSA Minnesota website, at



New ProAct board members named

ProAct AwardsArleen Sullivan of Anchor Bank and Brian Knapp of 3M’s Capital Safety Inc. were recently elected to the board of directors of ProAct, Inc., an Eagan-based organization serving people with disabilities with employment related services, training, and life enrichment activities.

“I am delighted that Arleen Sullivan and Brian Knapp will be sharing their good judgment and perspectives with ProAct as we move forward in the future,” said Steven Ditschler, president and chief executive officer of ProAct. “In addition to their professional accomplishments, they are real community leaders, as well.”

The director of community banking for Anchor Bank, Sullivan guides personal, business, and residential mortgage teams at 17 locations in the Twin Cities. Previously, she was a commercial banking market president and lender at Anchor, following earlier service at Stillwater National Bank. A native of Maine, Sullivan is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.

Brian Knapp is the director of U.S. operations for Capital Safety Inc. of Red Wing, which became a part of 3M Company last year. It is the nation’s largest manufacturer of industrial safety equipment. He previously served as plant manager and operations manager for Capital Safety, following prior experience at Andersen Windows. Knapp earned his degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and later received a Master of Science degree in operations management from the same institution.

ProAct is headquartered in Eagan and has additional facilities in Red Wing and Zumbrota in Minnesota and Hudson, Wisc.


Initial grants are announced

The Minnesota Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program has announced two grant recipients for its program that funds innovative treatments for functional improvements for those suffering from spinal cord injuries. The grant recipients are studying epidural spinal cord stimulation for spinal cord injury to improve mobility and function and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and scar ablation for the treatment of chronic spinal cord injury.

The Minnesota Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program is overseen by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2015. The program allocates $500,000 in grants per year, to be administered by a state-appointed council of community  members and professionals under the guidance of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. The grant program is modeled after 12 other state grant programs. Education, health care, and industrial institutions are eligible to receive these grants. Donations can be made to the state grant program to increase the amount of the grants.

“Spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries can happen in an instant and change a person’s life, and that of their family, forever,” said Larry Pogemiller, commissioner of the Office of Higher Education (OHE). “These grants continue the state’s focus on advancing medical research and care.”

“The Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program will help bring innovative and robust research to Minnesota, which will help improve the quality of research and medical technology in Minnesota. This will ultimately bring effective treatments for functional improvements to Minnesotans in need faster,” said Rob Wudlick, chairperson of the advocacy group GUSU2Cure Paralysis.

The epidural stimulation trial will be done in conjunction with Hennepin County Medical Center and the University of Minnesota. The process involves implanting a spinal cord stimulator, such as those used for the treatment of nerve pain, and adjusting the settings to a specific electrical impulse to stimulate the nervous system so individuals can move their previously paralyzed muscles.

The other grant project will be conducted with laboratory rodents, at the University of Minnesota. The cells are neural stem cells made from cells of the donor’s body. These cells have many advantages compared to other stem cells, medically and ethically.

Get Up Stand Up to Cure Paralysis (GUSU) is a Minnesota community-based nonprofit organization that advocates, educates, and supports spinal cord injury research for functional recovery. Members of GUSU worked for several years to seek state funding for research.

The group continues to raise funds privately as well. For more info, visit www.gusu2cure




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