Community Planning & Economic Development

Minneapolis Arts Commission
105 5th Avenue South, Room 200
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Minneapolis Arts Commission Membership

The seventeen member Commission consists of five artists, five arts administrators and seven laypersons with consideration given to geographic distribution, experience in the arts, and connections with the community, ethnic diversity and representation from a range of artistic disciplines. Commission members may be appointed for no more than three consecutive three-year terms. Current Commissioners include:






David Smith

David Smith was raised with an artist and teacher for a father, so his creativity and love of art was nurtured from a young age. He enjoys learning about, and trying his hand at, all kinds of things, exploring 3D printing, digital art, print making, glass blowing and neon bending. He is employed as a Mechanical Design Engineer with Sleep Number. A lifelong Minneapolis resident, David is a homeowner in Northeast Minneapolis near the Arts District. In his free time he enjoys working on his house, brewing beer, tending a large vegetable garden, and landscaping his yard with native plants and wildflowers.



Lisa Middag

Lisa Middag is an urban planner who collaborates with communities to support sustainable, vibrant, and walkable public spaces through creative placemaking and community development. Lisa works for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District as Director of Nicollet Activation, where she is responsible for developing, directing and implementing an activation framework along the city’s historic pedestrian/transit mall, assuring an inclusive range of cultural experiences for daily users and visitors. She previously worked for Hennepin County Community Works, connecting the Midtown Greenway bicycle trail to nearby cultural and commercial destinations through wayfinding and placemaking. She serves on the board for Springboard for the Arts, is a member of PPS’ placemaking leadership council, serves on the Minneapolis arts commission, and is an Intermedia Arts Creative Community Leadership Institute fellow. She has an M.P.A. in urban and regional planning from the Humphrey School and spent 10 years as the publications director and studio manager at the Walker Art Center.



Mandi Bedbury

Mandi Bedbury has been performing as a Dancer and Actor in New York City and Minneapolis for two decades. She started her career teaching dance at North High School in Minneapolis before moving to New York to Dance and Act for the next 14 years. While in New York City she was a backup dancer for Nancy Sinatra in Little Stevie’s Underground Music Festival, could be seen in 1966 (A night at the Whiskey-GoGo), Treasure Island (Manhattan Children’s Theater), and danced with the Notes in Motion Dance Company. In 2006 she transitioned into acting- credits include; Law and Order SVU, Across the Universe, Blood Son, Love Taxi as well as numerous web sketches and commercial work.

Mandi has been an improv artist for the past decade performing sketch and improv in Minneapolis and New York City. She’s had the great pleasure of performing with such artists as Holly Mandel, Radhika Vaz, and Kristin Wig. She is currently performing with the troupe Crumplestiltskin and will be in Strike This! in February 2019 at Strike Theater.

When Mandi isn’t performing improv, she is a Project Manager (PMP) for Zurich Insurance and facilitates Improv as a professional development tool to corporations across the country.


  Hannah Gary
Hannah Gary is the Communications and Program Coordinator for the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Hannah moved to Minneapolis to pursue graduate degrees in public health and urban planning. Her work focused on the role that the arts and artists play in equitable community development. After finishing graduate school, Hannah interned with Public Art St. Paul and Forecast Public Art on several projects at the intersection of urban planning and the arts. She plans to continue working at this intersection of art, planning, and equitable community development. 5

Ahava Silkey-Jones

Ahava Silkey-Jones is an accomplished non-profit and education leader. She has a passion for building community through education and the arts locally and globally. She has worked to develop and implement high-quality programming, global education initiatives, and innovative models for arts education in Chicago, Boston, Newark, and Minneapolis.
Ahava is the Executive Director of the DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science, a K-8 Blue Ribbon charter school, serving 865+ students and 135+ faculty and staff. Prior to DaVinci Academy Ahava served as the Principal of Minnesota’s statewide residential arts high school serving students in grades 11 and 12 throughout the state with a passion for music, dance, theater, literary, media or visual arts. Prior to Perpich, Ahava worked as a school administrator in the Newark Public Schools and as the Director of Fine Arts for the University of Chicago Charter School. She earned her M.A. in Educational Leadership from Roosevelt University, her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from Harvard University, and her superintendent license from the University of Minnesota.

Ahava currently serves as a Commissioner with the Minneapolis Arts Commission; as board chair for the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy (PTDYA), 501.c.3.; and as an elected member of the National Arts in Education Advisory Council with Americans for the Arts.

Ahava was a 2019 fellow with the New Leaders Council Twin Cities Chapter and a 2013 recipient of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute’s Employee of the Year recognition for her extraordinary service, exemplary practice, and stellar results. Ahava is fiercely committed to working on system-level equity and policy initiatives, building school and community partnerships, and improving access to quality arts education for all students.



Janay Henry

Born and raised in Minneapolis, MN Janay Dionne Henry, has developed many skills across a variety of mediums in the arts industry. Working as an actor, improviser, wardrobe stylist, and production assistant, she has learned that Art is all encompassing and a lifelong passion. Henry began her journey at Minnesota State University, Mankato studying Mass Media and Studio Art. Her creative talent connected her to designer and stylist Darnell Steele and the KS Styling Team, various community theater companies, on camera spots, and dance showcases including Cowles Center's Adult Zenon Dance program, TPT Television, Huge Theater, Blackout Improv, and more. As a recent TOSCARS Award recipient for the Urban Spectrum Theater Company's 2017 production of Warm Dark Dusk, Henry will begin her term as an Arts Commissioner to enhance the level of public arts' access, equity, and recognition for artists in the City of Minneapolis.



Commarrah Bashar

Commarrah Jewelia Bashar (they/them) is a New York University Tisch School of the Arts Drama, actrix, and multidisciplinary artist with over twenty years of performance experience. Last summer, they premiered Ance$tor Money a pop up, experimental improvisation score exploring black queerness at the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Stonewall @ 50 celebration, curated by Minneapolis City Council Vice President, Andrea Jenkins. They played Roberta in the staged reading of Ike Holter’s “Hit the Wall” produced by Mixed Precipitation. They also originated the role of Kleo in “Queen B” a new, sci-if queer musical, which they will be touring with in summer 2020. On camera, they will be playing Kris, a principle role in season 5 of the award winning, Minnesota made web series, Theater People. They are an out trans non-binary, queer, black, Muslim and proud to serve their communities. They worked as a creative consultant for the all trans/non-binary cast and crew of Boys of The Year Presents: Peter Pan and Wendy and volunteer for the Trans Equity Council. For more information and booking, visit



Melinda Ludwiczak   

Melinda Ludwiczak is a project manager for MELSA, an alliance of metro area public libraries, where she is responsible for programs and projects supported through the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. She works with staff at 100 public libraries to plan, implement and evaluate literary programs, performances, visual arts, cultural activities and history programs. A Minneapolis resident for nearly 40 years, Melinda loves her Kingfield Neighborhood, especially the Kingfield Farmers Market she helped establish. She combines her information skills and love of gardening as a Hennepin County Master Gardener volunteer. After a long Minnesota winter, Melinda makes an annual visit to Santa Fe every spring to absorb the sun, museums, arts, culture and breathtaking scenery.


  Dr. Lawrence Benson Dr. Lawrence D. Benson, PhD, MFA, is a Philosophical Practitioner/Coach specializing in Somaesthetics with emphasis on movement and creativity. He has twenty-seven years of experience in Health and Wellness including as a Certified Instructor in many class formats, Group Exercise Program Coordinator, and Group Exercise Trainer and Presenter. Dr. Benson is also a Movement Expressionist/Dancer/Choreographer who cannot remember a time in his life when he was not dancing. He learned to dance at Zenon Dance Company and School in Minneapolis, where he studied modern, hip hop, tap, and African dance. Likewise, he cannot remember a time when he was not singing: to the radio, in church, in every level of school choir and opera/musical theater, in voice lessons, and to his original songs. He got his vocal roots from his Grandmom Louise, and he studied Voice at DePauw University and at TCVA (Twin Cities Vocal Arts) in Minneapolis. He is the artist/producer known as ‘speyeskool’ and ‘TheFlyyProfessa’, and has music available on various streaming platforms including iTunes Music and Spotify.

Dr. Benson holds a BA in History from DePauw University and a MFA in Writing with concentrations in fiction and poetry from Hamline University. He also holds a PhD with a major in Humanities and Culture from Union Institute and University, an interdisciplinary doctorate with a minor concentration in Ethical and Creative Leadership. He is a mentor in the MPWW (Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop). His books are available on the internet. Dr. Benson is an Adjunct Member of the APPA (American Philosophical Practitioners Association)

  Crystal Brinkman
Crystal Brinkman is a multidisciplinary artist living in the Midtown Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. Originally from San Diego, she moved to Duluth in high school and has been rooted in MN ever since. Crystal is the executive director of Kulture Klub Collaborative, a nonprofit arts organization engaging art and artistic practice to provide enriching multidisciplinary opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness and artists to grow individually and to transform community. As an experienced youth worker, she is committed to creating change and opportunity for young people. As a long time performing artist and musician, Crystal knows that art heals and can bring people together in meaningful ways.
  Robyne Robinson Robyne Robinson is the Principal Consultant for fiveXfive Public Art – a firm that brands strong business identity with the community through the arts. The former Director of Arts @ MSP, Robyne developed arts and culture programming at MSP International Airport, generating more than $5 million dollars for the Minnesota arts community through commissions, exhibitions and programming at the nation’s 16th largest airport. Her work at MSP has received praise from transportation writers and national media, including The New York Times. Robyne is well-known as an Emmy-winning news broadcaster in the Twin Cities – and as the first African American prime time anchor in Minnesota. It was during that time she also produced and hosted the first nightly arts and entertainment segment in a major newscast – The Buzz – which resulted in international press, and one of the first interviews and lengthy relationships with Prince. Robyne is the creative mind behind ROX Jewelry Designs, sold throughout the US Greece and London. Her work is on display at the Lewis Museum of African American Art in Baltimore, fine art galleries in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and has been featured in both US and UK magazines. Robyne’s received numerous honors, including being selected as a 2010 candidate for Lt. Governor; a Hubert Humphrey fellow at the University of Minnesota, and the critically-praised curator and owner of flatland gallery (2000-2003). She rounds out her list of awards with her recent induction into Minnesota’s Broadcasting Hall of Fame – again another milestone as the first African American honoree.
  Joan Vorderbruggen Joan Vorderbruggen is the Director of Public Art and Placemaking for Hennepin Theatre Trust. Her role includes creating opportunities for local and international artists to activate Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. In 2013, Joan developed and implemented Made Here, a project which pairs Minnesota-based artists work with vacant commercial storefronts. Made Here is the largest storefront initiative of its kind in the nation, now in its ninth iteration having featured work by nearly 400 artists in more than 300 vacant storefronts across 15 city blocks. In the fall of 2015, Joan worked with internationally renowned Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra and his team to create a five-story mural of Bob Dylan. She has since led the creation of four additional large scale murals including a mosaic art vertical garden. In spring of 2016, she pursued and was awarded a “Heart of the Community” grant from Southwest Airlines to work with Project for Public Spaces creating the 5 to 10 on Hennepin initiative. Joan is a founding member of the Placemaking Leadership Council, serves on the Board of Directors for Forecast Public Art, Minneapolis Mad Dads, and Salvation Army Harbor Light. In 2017 she completed the year long Ethical Redevelopment Salon program led by Place Lab and the University of Chicago and was named a National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellow.

Ellina Kevorkian

Ellina Kevorkian an artist, curator, administrator with almost two decades of experience leading innovative programs in artist support. Kevorkian builds partnerships and connections throughout the United States to support the arts while strengthening artists and cultural organizations for a diverse and adaptable future. She supports work that not only challenges expectations of method and content between disciplines, but also fights for integrity in the arts, for the artist’s intention, for the inclusion of under-recognized voices, and advocates for artist sustainability. Her challenge, as it is for others, is to stay curious and then to do the work of becoming informed. Kevorkian has been a guest of universities, conferences, and convenings, participating in nation-wide discourse and nominating and panel reviews for significant institutions such as The National Endowment for the Arts, The Heinz Foundation, The Pew Center for Cultural Heritage, Creative Capital Foundation, United States Artists, the Harpo Foundation, The Alliance for Artist Communities, as well as College Art Association (CAA). Kevorkian earned a BA from the University of Oregon, an MFA from Claremont Graduate University, and an MA from Wesleyan University. She was named as a Portland Emerging Arts Leader which is affiliated with the Emerging Leaders Network, a program of Americans for the Arts. She serves as a Mayoral Appointed Arts Commissioner for the City of Minneapolis.

  Lana Aylesworth

Lana Aylesworth is an arts enthusiast who visited Minneapolis 15 years ago 'to see a few plays for a few days' and never left. She has spent ten years working in external relations for non-profit theater focusing on ticket accessibility and creating welcoming spaces.

She holds BAs from Western Michigan University in Theater Performance and Playwriting and has contributed locally as an actor, playwright, and reader of new work. With the aim to increase arts awareness and involvement on a neighborhood level, she believes transformation through the arts is best achieved by creating accessibility for all.

Happiness is taking a nature walk around south Minneapolis or exploring a museum with her partner and two kids. She also likes talking to strangers so come say hello if you see her at a show. 


Calvin Keasling

Calvin Keasling is an active Twin Cities Musician and the lead Arts Administrator for Minneapolis Public Schools. He is an advocate for arts education, arts integration, and increased arts experiences for preK - 12 grade students, and believes strongly that the creative process transforms lives for the better. As an arts administrator he has organized and planned citywide performances and art exhibits. As a commissioner Calvin is looking to increase music and other art venues for South Mpls residents. Calvin loves how Mpls artists come together in collaboration, and he is excited to see more dancers, actors, musicians, and visual artists come together in collaborative presentations and performances.


  George Slade George Slade lives in south Minneapolis and has been involved in the visual arts for over forty years as a curator, writer, consultant, and grants administrator. He is currently the director of TC Photo, a non-profit in the Seward neighborhood dedicated to providing meaningful programs that connect photographic artists and Twin Cities audiences. He has an undergraduate degree in American Studies from Yale University and a graduate degree in Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University. 11

For more information contact Tina Beech, 612-673-3242.




Last updated Jan 24, 2020



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