Saturday, January 17, 2009

Feeding Soul and Body

I am a committed advocate for the arts in the Twin Cities.


Our household supports the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Minnesota Public Radio. We have season tickets to the Guthrie Theater. Much of my early non-profit experience was in the arts, doing projects for organizations like the Playwrights’ Center, Film in the Cities, and Theater Three. I served on the board of directors for Julia Carey’s The Theatre Exchange and Casey Stangl’s Eye of the Storm Theater, as well at Patrick Scully’s Patricks Cabaret. I reviewed funding proposals for both the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.


Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune urging the Twin Cities to mobilize for the arts. In that editorial I quoted Katherine Anne Porter who said, “Art, fleeting and fragile, is the most enduring thing of all. The arts outlive governments and even societies that create them. They are we find again when the ruins are cleared away.”


I am thrilled that the Twin Cities arts scene is far from in ruins. The vibrant art scene here improves the quality of life for all of us. I am proud to live in a community that has invested nearly a half a billion dollars in capital campaigns for arts organizations. It is added value that some of these structures – like the Walker and the Guthrie – are iconic architectural destinations.

I applaud the overwhelming support that all of these capital campaigns for the arts have received in recent years in Minnesota.


These campaigns help to feed the soul. Now it’s time to use some of this community’s resources to feed the body.


Eighteen months ago, Open Arms announced an $8.1 million capital campaign to construct a new building and to expand our programming to ensure that no one who is dealing with a chronic and progressive disease should also go hungry. Our campaign would allow us to build a new home with a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen from which we could annually cook over 500,000 nutritious meals for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson’s, and many other diseases.


An added value of our campaign is a commitment to remain in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis. Open Arms’ new home will be at the intersection of 25th Street and Bloomington Avenue and, while being fiscally responsible, we intend to construct a building that will, in its own way, be an architectural destination in Phillips. Today, we have secured $5.7 million to support our capital campaign – approximately 1% of the investment that the Twin Cities made to capital campaign for arts organizations.


Vibrant communities need a healthy arts scene. They also need healthy citizens. We have the resources to provide both. We have supported the capital campaigns of numerous arts organizations that feed the soul. Now let’s feed the body by supporting Open Arms’ capital campaign.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Renew America with Open Arms

Whatever ones individual political persuasion, the January 20th inauguration of a president marks a new beginning. That new beginning actually starts a day earlier this year with President-elect Barack Obama calling for Americans to join in a National Day of Service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Monday, January 19.


This National Day of Service launches a new effort, Renew America Together, which isn’t about getting Americans to volunteer just one day out of the year. Rather, it is an effort to get Americans to commit to serving the community throughout the year.


At Open Arms, we’re using the National Day of Service as an opportunity to invite volunteers to learn more about us and to begin volunteering with us. We need volunteers to help prepare, package, and deliver meals to people in the Twin Cities who are living with chronic and progressive diseases on MLK Day – but we need those volunteers every other day of the week as well. To see details on Open Arms’ efforts to Renew America Together, visit


To learn more about Renew America Together and other volunteer opportunities on MLK Day, visits

Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Open Letter to the Minnesota State Legislature

Zygi Wilf, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, plans to come to you – our members of the Legislature – to once again request that the state help fund a new Vikings stadium. The Vikings are willing to pony up $318 million – roughly one third of the cost of a new venue. The remaining two thirds of the $954 million project – a staggering $635 million – would, if Mr. Wilf and his partners have their way, come from public sources. The funding would keep the Vikings in Minnesota, result in a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, and would be a boon – the owners say – to the economy by creating 5,500 jobs and $500 million of work for contractors.


Well, good friends at the State Legislature, if you are willing to look at construction projects as a way to boost the economy, I have another one for you to consider.


Open Arms of Minnesota’s Kitchen Campaign: Building the Future of Open Arms is an $8.1 million capital campaign that will allow us to construct a state-of-the-art kitchen to prepare and deliver nutritious meals to over 1,000 people in the greater Twin Cities metropolitan area who are living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other chronic and progressive diseases. To date we have secured $5.4 million (two thirds of our overall budget) in private support for our building.


With the help of dedicated volunteers we have been providing this service, free of charge to our clients, for over 22 years. Seven days a week our kitchen prepares breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Five days a week volunteers deliver those meals throughout the metropolitan area. Nearly every day of the week we receive an additional request for service.


In 2008, we prepared and delivered 259,000 meals. Since 1986, we have prepared and delivered over 1.5 million meals.


Open Arms makes it possible for people who are too ill to go grocery shopping, too weak to prepare meals for themselves and their dependent children, and too poor to purchase nutritious groceries, to lead healthier and more independent lives. Services like ours – although sometimes hard to quantify – ultimately save the state a significant amount of money by reducing hospital stays and nursing home admissions for some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.


Our new building (which incidentally will help revitalize the intersection of 25th and Bloomington Avenue in the heart of the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis) will allow us to make an even greater contribution to the quality of life of thousands of Twin Citians for decades to come – not just on a few Sunday afternoons and an occasional Monday evening every year.


So, state legislators, if you are looking for an investment that will result in a significant return for years to come, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the work of Open Arms and our capital campaign (


Oh, and by the way, if you can’t support our project with public funds we won’t take our ball and go somewhere else. We will still construct our new building and stay in the Twin Cities, striving to achieve our ultimate goal: a community where no one who is ill has to go hungry.