The emphasis on the arts! I love the diversity of thought and expression of self that these students exhibit, and I don’t doubt that this learning environment is the primary cause

Our History

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
Cynthia Sarver
Felecia Boone
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.

Financial Information

Our Staff

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. In 2014, she received the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA) Outstanding Achievement Award for her many years of dedication and leadership in the field of youth programming. “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!


MollieRae Miller – Office Manager

I have been living and experiencing art in Minneapolis since 2012. With early influences of a childhood in the rural North Woods of Minnesota I was raised with nearly all features of life being infused with art. After completing my Fine Arts Degree I became interested in how to apply a business aspect in making art more accessible to others as it was to myself.  To me art is a substance that inspires new ways of thinking in a learning environment as well as an outlet for self-awareness. As office manager at Urban Arts Academy I have the joy of combining all of my passions in art, education, community networking and communications. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the team. Besides my role at Urban Arts I currently practice acrylic painting and sculpture in my home studio.


Zdenka Fenikova- Preschool Director

Zdenka Fenikova is a professional who is very passionate about community, art, early childhood education, and the unique potential of every child. She offers extensive professional experience in child care and the nonprofit sector, and with children and families of diverse backgrounds in collaboration with a variety of other organizations and agencies.

She has a broad career path in early childhood education, administration, coordination and staff management from her previous work as a Childcare Provider, Foreign Language Teacher, Food Logistics Coordinator, Hospitality & Food Service Coordinator, Grant & Scholarship Program work at Think Small, and as a board member for a community child care center. In these roles, she has been responsible for organization, meeting the child care and educational needs of families, logistics for events and facility operations, maintenance of budgets, program development, volunteer and employee management, communications, and collaborating with board, team members, and other constituents. From her experience working directly with mission-driven professionals, she will help to foster and develop partnerships to support Urban Arts Academy.

Zdenka appreciates art programs that support development of fine motor skills and that foster creativity and children’s learning through play. 

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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.

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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!


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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.


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.

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Lydia Negussie – Middle-school Teaching Artist

Lydia Negussie is passionate about creating spaces for young artists to explore their identity and develop their artistic voice. As a Middle School Teaching artist with Urban Arts Academy, Lydia is thrilled about being able to help guide that process!

 As a Minneapolis based artist from Ethiopia- Lydia Negussie is first and foremost a storyteller. She grew up devouring stories about characters that felt as real as herself. However, as she grew older, she noticed that she had a hard time seeing herself in the stories she’d read. She realized that this lack of representation made her feel alone in the universe, and it needed to be changed. Thus, she began to create through painting on canvas, photography, film, modeling, and writing. The avenues in which Lydia tells her stories are diverse, but the substance remains the same. Lydia’s work explores the depths of what it means to grow up in America as a quirky, immigrant, third culture kid.


Roman Feldhahn - Early Childhood Teaching Artist

Roman Feldhahn is a Teaching Artist and MCAD alumni with a passion for creative learning. They specialize in drawing, painting, and performance art, and love to work with oil paints to create portraits of personified objects and stylized landscape paintings. Roman chose to work at Urban Arts Academy because they believe art is essential to self expression and sparks a passion for learning. Their daily inspiration comes from the ingenuity of the youth they work with, and their artistic practice is inspired by queer and transgender artists that have made a lasting impact in their communities, such as Claude Cahun and Cassils. In their free time, Roman loves to roller skate, paint, play arcade games, and hang out with their cat Greta.

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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!


Hannah Farrell- Early Childhood Teaching Artist

Hannah Farrell is a Minneapolis based painter and a recent graduate of Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She maintains a studio practice in south Minneapolis where she paints thick, expressionistic oil paintings (mostly of her cat, Sir.) If she is not painting and she is not teaching, she is at home with her cat and training her new puppy, Fido. While earning her degree, Hannah worked as a tutor and student activities coordinator, igniting her passion for education and motivating students to be involved in their education. Within her practice, she works to make her ideas relatable and accessible to her community.  She is loyal and invested in everything she does and is happy to call Urban arts her new family!


ShaVunda Brown- Early Childhood Teaching Artist

ShaVunda Brown is a Minneapolis based, internationally award-winning spoken word artist, an actress, organizer, and spirit-guided writer. She has recently been seen in Art Is ... BLACK LIGHT!, a MN Original Series featured on PBS-TPT; the world premiere of Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story, and the world premiere of Akeelah and the Bee at Children’s Theater in Minneapolis and Arena Stage in D.C. ShaVunda is the recipient of a 2019 Performance Arts Award from Washington County. She is a 2017/18 inaugural cohort member of the Bush Foundation’s Change Network and an alumnus of the Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program at the University of Minnesota. “Inspiring youth is a major pillar in my life’s work; it has never been a ‘job’ to me because I know it’s a part of my purpose. I pride myself on being able to engage and activate the joy and creativity of students with a captivating curriculum and teaching them how to self-sustain the voices they develop even after our time together ends.”


Kristen Linde- Early Childhood Teaching Artist

Hello! My name is Kristen Linde and I’m pleased to join the Urban Arts Academy as a PreK Lead Teacher! Throughout my 33 years in teaching, I have incorporated art into my lessons whenever possible. I have a masters degree in Special Education – Learning Disabilities and a BA in Elementary Education, with an Art minor. My teaching includes rural suburban and urban experiences in both Special Education and regular classroom.

 On a personal note, I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 30 years and have two talented adult children who live in Minneapolis. My interests include creating art in collage, wood and metal assemblages, and clay tiles. I have sold my art at local holiday festivals in south Minneapolis. Other interests are rock collecting, camping, crossword puzzles and thrift shopping. I believe that art is  essential for the well-being of the soul, and healthy development.

Fantastic atmosphere and great thought- provoking art projects. Thanks for welcoming both kids and their adults.