In late 1999, our host site, Calvary Lutheran Church, received an estate gift from Richard Pendleton, a life-long, elderly member who had a distinguished career as a local jazz musician. Because of his passion for the arts, an extensive community needs assessment to determine the necessity of a multicultural community school of the arts was completed, and the result was an overwhelming level of support. The answer to that call was Urban Arts Academy.
Urban Arts started with about 60 neighborhood students. Today we are a vibrant organization that serves over 70 students yearly in the preschool, about 150 students in our After-School programs during the school year and over 200 youth in our Summer Arts camps.
Mission, Vision, Purpose
Urban Arts is an inviting and inclusive community striving for social, economic and racial equity through arts and learning.
Urban Arts brings together youth and families from diverse cultures and backgrounds to develop the gifts of self-expression and community through creative experiences in the arts.
Urban Arts develops vibrant young artists in our neighborhoods through art-infused education.
Our Board of Directors
Judi Linder – Board Chair
Terry Pressley – Treasurer
Terrie Thompson – Secretary
Deb Paulsrud – President
Hans Lee – Pastor Calvary Lutheran Church
Sandra Richardson – Vice-Chair
Tamar Ghidalia – Executive Director
Urban Arts Best Practices
Urban Arts structures sessions based on Responsive Classroom research, which shows a correlation between strong social skills and higher test scores. In line with the Responsive Classroom model, Urban Arts emphasizes: learning through interaction; teaching social skills such as cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy and self-control; and getting to know the students and their families on a personal level.
Urban Arts utilizes a Positive Youth Development framework to focus on the assets of at-risk youth. The Art-Infused education offered at Urban Arts specifically helps youth with unique learning styles to excel, while recognizing and building on their artistic strengths that may not always be celebrated in traditional classroom settings. By cultivating strong relationships between students, parents, schools and Urban Arts staff members, we create a network of support for students. This network – along with increased self-esteem, social skills, and positive decision making skills – serves as a strong protective factor to help prevent engagement in negative behaviors.
In line with out-of-school-time program research compiled by the Harvard Family Research Project, Urban Arts provides high-quality, year-round programming led by caring and competent staff who work closely with students’ families and schools.
Urban Arts promotes continuous quality improvement through the use of the Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA), which is a research validated instrument designed to evaluate the effectiveness of youth programs and identify staff training needs.
Tamar Ghidalia – Executive Director
Tamar Ghidalia was born in Tunisia, grew up in Paris, moved to Israel in 1976 and came to the U.S in 1989. Tamar is an educator and a professional musician (percussionist and singer). She is the founder of Kolot, a local Israeli-music quintet. She has been very active with Racial Justice and immigrant rights’ work in the community and received the Paul Wellstone Call to Action Award in 2005 for her work with the Racial Justice Leadership Team at JewishCommunity Action. “I am truly honored to be part of an organization which serves ALL children! I look forward to continue to offer our neighborhood youth and their families diverse programs that reflect excellence in the arts and education!”
Sveta Henin – Accountant
My name is Sveta Henin. I come from Belarus where I worked as an accountant for a state insurance company. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling, and reading. I am currently working at the Urban Arts Academy as a bookkeeper. I love my job very much. In my opinion, art is an adventure that children take to express their inner world: thoughts, feelings, ideas, little secrets, and joys without using words. Pablo Picasso said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once one grows up.” The experience that kids gain at Urban Arts Academy is priceless.They apply their skills in multiple ways. Art helps them interact with the world and see it from a different angle, which is through their heart!
Leah Robertson – Office Manager
As a child, art was always one of my favorite classes. Working at Urban Arts is a wonderful way for me to help pass on the love of art to others. I believe that everyone can find a way to access and explore creativity and that having the opportunity to do that early in life is extremely important. It’s so fun to see how the kids get inspired. I love being part of the team at Urban Arts that helps give so many children the tools they need to develop their creative lives.
Alyssa Allen – Program Assistant
Hi! I'm Alyssa. I work as a teaching aide here at Urban Arts Academy. I assist in the preschool classrooms and also work with the after school program. I am currently attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College and I am majoring in Early Childhood Education. I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with the children and staff here at Urban Arts Academy. I love seeing the kids learn about art and find new ways to express themselves through art. It is truly inspiring to see the creativity that the children at Urban Arts Academy have.
Beckett Love – Preschool Director
Beckett Love was born in San Diego, raised in Seattle, and settled in Minneapolis in 2013. He received his BA in Fine Arts with a minor in Theatre Arts from Dordt College, IA in 2010. Since settling in the Twin Cities, he has become very active in the visual and performing arts community and can often be found acting or directing a production with 20% Theatre Company. Alongside their passion for the arts, Beckett is very involved in social justice organizations and activities with specific interest in advocacy for LGBTQ rights. He is so thrilled to work with children and pass his love of art and social justice on to these young minds and future artists. After working as a teacher at a Montessori school, a Head Start Program, and here at Urban Arts, Beckett is excited to now be serving the community as Preschool Director. He enjoys urban farming, hiking, being a part of and viewing theatre productions, and cooking with his wife in their home in St. Paul.
Julia Nellessen – Early Childhood Teaching Artist
Julia moved to Minneapolis from Chicago after graduating with a degree in International Studies from Taylor University. She has previously taught in several afterschool programs, including her most recent internship in Mukono, Uganda. She is thrilled to be teaching at Urban Arts Academy! She loves to share her passion for the arts with her students and to learn from other artists in her community. She is a potter and avid maker who enjoys spending much of her time outdoors, biking, climbing and exploring new places around the city.
La Kong - Early Childhood Teaching Artist
Hi, my name is La Kong. I graduated year 2012 at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a Bachelor Degree in Family Social Science. I love working with people and making a difference in their lives. As of now, I am just focusing on being a preschool teacher assistant at the Urban Arts Academy. I am so blessed to be working with a great organization. What I love most about my work are the children. They bring joy to my life and I would love to continue working with children.
Mandie Brasington - Early Childhood Teaching Artist
I received my BFA in comic art from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design before going on to work as a freelance arts educator, cartoonist and graphic designer. While my background in freelance, client-based work has afforded me a well-rounded skill set, including first-rate conflict resolution and problem solving abilities, I also have a solid educational foundation and a passion for teaching. I have been working with students of all ages for over 10 years and love my time in any classroom. I have a passion for the visual arts and have facilitated many workshops for children, young adults and people of all ages.
Vatina McLaurin - Early Childhood Teaching Artist
Vatina is a preschool teacher at Urban Arts. Her interests in art and social justice work drew her to the organization, and she has been at Urban Arts in various roles since fall 2015. Art has been an inspiring and empowering force in Vatina’s life since she was as a young child, and she loves seeing the preschoolers learn to express themselves through art. Vatina is a visual artist and works in painting, drawing, dyeing fabric, and printmaking. She grew up outside Chicago and graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL in 2014 with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies. She enjoys cooking, reading, camping, and biking.
Hilary Greenstein - Early Childhood Teaching Artist
Hello my name is Hilary! I am a fine artist based in South Minneapolis. I graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA in Drawing and Painting. Since graduation, I have maintained a painting practice from my artist studio in the California Building in Northeast Minneapolis. I am an active member of the local arts community, working to bolster emerging artists through my work on the California Building Marketing Committee and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Alumni Board. I have a passion for arts education, and I have taught at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Minnetonka Center for the Arts, as well as private art lessons for school-age children. At Urban Arts, I am elated to combine my passion for art and working with children in such a wonderful organization committed to arts, community, and social justice. I am so happy to be joining Urban Arts full time in the preschool. I'm grateful for the opportunity to nurture the creativity of preschoolers in order to foster a lifelong excitement for the enriching power of art. When I am not making art, in my spare time I practice yoga, do improv, cook, rescue injured squirrels and birds, and work tirelessly to keep my cat, Charlemagne, out of trouble.
Lydiah Durene – OST (Out of School Time) Director
Hi! I’m Lydiah! I graduated from North Central University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. My Job here combines two of my greatest passions in life – working with kids and creating art. I believe that art is essential, because it helps to cultivate creativity and is a great way to express oneself. Some of my favorite forms of art include abstract drawings, calligraphy, pottery, and music. I also love traveling the world, trying new foods, and spending time outside. My hope is to guide students to explore and discover form(s) of art that they most enjoy, and to continue to grow and express themselves though art for years to come!
Anna Walters – Teaching Artist
I am an Ohio native who moved to Minneapolis to attend North Central University. I’m finishing up my youth development degree while working here at UAA! I would describe myself as a painter who dabbles in all sorts of things. I often find myself in creative phases where I’m really obsessed with things like welding, stamp making, photography, weaving, furniture building etc. However, painting is my first love! In November 2016, I started a business called “The Mint Bee.” For all artwork I sell, I donate a percentage to local shelters that help rescue people from human trafficking. Other notable accomplishments in my artwork are: Finalist in Ohio Governors show 13’, creating album artwork for multiple bands, Cover on local MPLS publication, worked to create custom pieces for organizations in Columbus, OH. I’m really excited to be teaching after-school because I believe art is important for the development of young people! My art teachers played a huge role in cultivating self confidence and a sense of self pride by allowing me to dream and create. I dream that my classroom will be a place for students to be proud of themselves, to dream, create, and self confidence in their work!
Sagirah Shahid – Teaching Artist
Sagirah Shahid is a Black Muslim poet, performance artist, and an educator. Sagirah’s poetry and fiction has been published widely and has received considerable recognition, including: A Loft Mentor Series award in poetry, a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant and a Minnesota Center for Book Arts Mentor Series award. She was also one of four poets selected by the city of Minneapolis to have her poems transformed by sculptor Blessing Hancock into a series of giant stainless-steel lanterns featured along downtown Minneapolis’ iconic Nicollet Mall.
A former Urban Arts Academy intern, Sagirah has nearly 10 years of experience working with youth, including teaching creative writing courses for over five years with Upward Bound Vison Quest (a program designed to meet the academic and motivational needs of high school students who are from low-income families and/or are potentially the first generation of their family to receive a bachelor's degree).
In addition to teaching, Sagirah has utilized her creativity as a tool to bridge connections between Twin Cities’ communities. Her work often aims to center the voices and concerns of POCI communities through art and action.
When this St. Olaf College alumna isn’t writing, reading or working to build up the diverse communities she loves to love on, she’s probably trying to plant seeds of appreciation for poetry in young minds and hearts.
Andrea Barcenas – Grant Writer
My name is Andrea Barcenas, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to write grants to help support the incredible work of Urban Arts Academy. After graduating from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in English and Religion, I began my nonprofit career working with a start-up organization in South Minneapolis. I later earned an M.A. in Nonprofit Management from Hamline University and have been assisting nonprofits with grant writing, program development, and evaluation since 2004. When not working, my top priority and greatest joy is spending time with my husband, Roberto, and three kids – Lila, Maya, and Alex. I also enjoy playing the piano, cooking, baking, gardening, yoga, and being outdoors.
Daliya Jokondo – Middle-school Teaching Artist
Daliya Jokondo is a Minneapolis based South Sudanese Visual Artist whose practice is a collection of paintings, sculptures, installation and audio/video work. Visual inspiration in their work is derived from motivational stock music, horror films, speculative fiction, and instructional videos. Furthermore, their work is rooted in visual storytelling, unreliable personal narratives, and collected from passed down oral history. Theirs is a focused preoccupation with generational trauma, specifically that of the refugee and the survivor. Therefore, fragmented memories and flashbacks provide most of the imagery, while fear and paranoia structures the language. Propositions of healing through art making are also vital to their practice.
Daliya received a BFA (2011) from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and MFA (2018) from Virginia Commonwealth.