By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Through this series, we highlight the extraordinary people who serve as First Peoples Fund’s board of directors. They are the culture bearers and leaders from national nonprofits within and beyond Indian Country who graciously guide First Peoples Fund and strengthen the Collective Spirit®.
Meet Kelley Lindquist
Kelley Lindquist has served as president of Artspace Projects since 1987. Under his leadership, Artspace has grown from a staff of one and an annual budget of $60,000 into the nation’s leading nonprofit developer of space for artists with a staff of 70, a budget of $12 million, and stewardship of properties comprising more than two million square feet of residential, studio, office, rehearsal, and performance space. To date, Artspace has completed 35 major projects including more than 1,500 affordable live/work residences for artists and their families.
While he remains actively involved in Artspace’s day-to-day operation, he increasingly focuses his energy on the broader task of restoring national confidence in America’s creative communities and on helping artists reclaim their rightful place in the national discussion about the role of the arts in American society.
Kelley’s long connection with First Peoples Fund President Lori Pourier has resulted in a fruitful partnership between their organizations. Together with another key partner, Lakota Funds, Artspace and First Peoples Fund developed the wholly unique Rolling Rez Arts mobile unit, which launched last year and brings art and entrepreneurial workshops and banking services across the expansive Pine Ridge Reservation. The partners are also teaming up to develop Oglala Lakota Art Space, the first-ever studio, gallery and gathering space for artists on Pine Ridge.
1. Who taught you the values you hold closest? What role did that person play in your life and what lessons did you learn from them?
My grandmother was my greatest life coach/teacher. She had a very hard life, but she always found a way to get through the challenges while bringing up four young children during the Great Depression as a single mother. Perseverance and kindness were interwoven into everything she taught all of us.
2. What professional accomplishment do you believe says the most about who you are and what’s important to you?
The completion of the $43 million Cowles Center for Dance was a profound statement about how hundreds of people working together over 10 years can achieve a terrific goal. The Cowles Center for Dance remains a beautiful venue for dance and other performing arts in downtown Minneapolis. It never would have happened without everyone’s support! (Through our partnership with Artspace, First Peoples Fund held the Community Spirit Awards at the Cowles Center in 2012 and 2014.)
3. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Adventurous, mountain hiking, celebrates life.
4. What are some of your favorite books?
One of my all-time favorites is Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. It was a game changer for me. I grew up at the edge of Native American culture. My dad had many Northern Ojibwa friends, and I got to know them and went wild rice gathering with them. I also camped many times in the Badlands of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as a kid. So I was fascinated to learn more about Native culture through Louise’s book, and that was such a brilliant, harsh introduction filled with love. It was a powerful punch of energy and beauty.
Another favorite is Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. It’s so crazy and beautiful. A deep, rich look at another culture.
5. If you had chosen a different career path, what would it have been?
I definitely would have been a park ranger in Glacier National Park and then whatever grew out of that, maybe running a nonprofit environmental organization that works to save ranges of wildlife habitat in the Northern Rockies. Mountain lions, grizzlies, bears, wolves, those are the animals that are in my blood. Wolves are my favorite. I have actually dreamt that I’m a wolf several times. I’m a wolf protecting someone who is in danger, and once that’s done, I can transform back into a human.
6. How long have you served on First Peoples Fund’s board of directors and why did you get involved with this organization?
I’ve been on the board for about five years. I met Lori Pourier years ago, and I was very taken with her brilliant and spiritual approach to resolving challenges and supporting the creative visions of Native Americans.
7. How do Artspace and First Peoples Fund work together on a community level?
I love the partnership and deep community relationship that we have with each other and the opportunity for me and my colleagues at Artspace to meet people from the American Indian culture and specifically the Oglala Lakota culture, and to grow and change through that. I’m hoping that our relationship is always a positive one, working for a common goal. Artspace plays a gentle, listening role learning to create delightfully unusual projects together, such as Rolling Rez Arts and Oglala Lakota Art Space on Pine Ridge, with the use and design of the space envisioned by the Oglala community. Every aspect of working with First Peoples Fund has been a rich and transformative experience. It helps our souls open up more to what the earth is, to stop, listen, think and see in a way that we were not trained as kids of European descent here in Minnesota. I’ve spent so much of my life in the wilderness, but this is a change.
8. How does your role on First Peoples Fund’s board create impact at the national level?
I feel like I’m still learning about the different cultures that First Peoples Fund serves and their different approaches to life. It’s beautiful for me to be in gentle and thoughtful contact with all of these different Nations. I do feel like I can give good advice about space issues, but I always have to learn first what the community believes about space. Also, I do know a lot of different national donors, and I bring those connections.
9. What do you wish other people knew about First Peoples Fund?
We are excited to be continually spreading the news that support of the limitless creativity of the Native Communities can lead to job creation and overall economic development.