Announcing Forecast’s 2021 Early- and Mid-Career Grant Recipients

grid of 15 artist grantee portraits

Top row left to right: Claudia Valentino; Thomasina Topbear; Geno Okok; Shanai Matteson; Holly (Miskitoos) Henning. Middle row: Alyssa Baguss; Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay; Wil Natzel; Taylan De Johnette; Khadijah M. Bottom row: Miré Regulus; Lacey Prpić Hedtke; Molly Van Avery; Erin Paradis; Meena Mangalvedhekar.

Introducing our next round of talented grant recipients

As a new year dawns, Forecast is acutely aware that public artists are navigating unprecedented circumstances. Leaning into their strength as innovators, artists have been called to pivot, adapt projects and design creative solutions for their communities, all in the face of multiple cultural crises and dissipating resources. 

“The most beautiful thing about working in the arts is that I am always surrounded by people whose actual job it is to imagine the unimaginable. As an artist, the act of creation is a constant and evolving reimagining and it is that radical imagining that I believe we need now more than ever. We are proud to continue our decades long commitment to directly funding public artists and we appreciate the continued support and flexibility from McKnight and Jerome Foundations for making this commitment with us here in Minnesota. We can’t wait to see what this new round of grantees show us about the future of public art!” said executive director Theresa Sweetland.

Over the last year, Forecast leaned into our new mission to activate, inspire and advocate for justice, health and human dignity, which feels more now relevant than we ever imagined. Looking ahead—as we envision a future where all people feel a sense of belonging, realize their potential and live healthy lives by embracing drivers of equitable change—we believe culture and creativity are crucial drivers that will help us create the kind of communities that we want to live in.

We are incredibly proud of the talented group of artists selected to receive Forecast grant funding in 2021. Fifteen artists are recipients of Forecast’s 2021 early- and mid-career grants. A total of $86,000 will support thirteen independent projects, leadership and professional development, risk-taking, multidisciplinary approaches, and collaborative problem solving in the field of public art.

As we move forward together, this incredible group of grant recipients are planning projects to uphold their communities. These artists are grounded in the moment, respectful of the past, and imagining creative solutions for the future—from developing free classes for BIPOC artists, to researching creative community health resources, to learning the stories of Somali women elders, to amplifying the erasure of racial covenants and supporting reparations, to uplifting indigenous street art and culture, and so much more. It is with great pleasure that we congratulate each grant recipient. We are thrilled for our grantees, and cannot wait to see what they accomplish over the coming year.

This year’s recipients are:

Mid-Career Project Grantees ($10,000 each)
Claudia Valentino
Geno Okok
Holly (Miskitoos) Henning  // City Mischief Murals
Shanai Matteson
Thomasina Topbear

Early-Career Project Grantees ($8,000 each)
Erin Paradis
Lacey Prpić Hedtke, with Molly Van Avery and Miré Regulus

Mid-Career Professional Development Grantees ($5,000 each)
Alyssa Baguss
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay

Early-Career Research + Development Grantees ($2,500 each)
Meena Mangalvedhekar
Taylan De Johnette

Wil Natzel
Khadijah M

It is our value that our applicants, panelists, and grantees reflect the racial, cultural, gender, artistic, physical ability, and geographic diversity of Minnesota and the 11 Native nations that share the same geography, and the stories and perspectives of the artists and communities we serve.

“Forecast’s 2021 grantees demonstrate that public art and artists are an essential component in imagining our collective future and shared spaces. We know that artists have faced incredible challenges over the past year and we have made significant efforts to ensure that we manage and reduce barriers to access for these grants,” says Jen Krava, Forecast’s Director of Programming + New Initiatives. “We are inspired by the visionary applications we received from all across Minnesota and the Native Nations that share the same geography, and are so excited to follow this year’s grantees as they creatively build their practices and the world around us.”

2021 Mid-Career Project Grantees

Supports the creation of a new, publicly accessible, temporary or permanent artwork anywhere in the state of Minnesota by a Minnesota-based mid-career public artist (made possible by funding from McKnight Foundation)

Claudia Valentino
Each One Teach One at La Alborada (New Dawn)
Claudia Valentino, a muralist since 2011, will create a large mural on prominent Latinx business, La Alborada, on Lake Street. Through the mural process she will teach 3 emerging BIPOC artists the technique of Polytab, a highly technical preparation and installation process, in order to democratize knowledge and grow the Twin Cities muralist community. She will create her own Polytab teaching methodology which will support her further development as a community engaged artist.
Valentino was a selected artist for the 2019 Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival.

Geno Okok
A Beautiful world
Geno Okok will paint a large public mural entitled A Beautiful World on a massive wall between Crest View Elementary school and Kensington apartments in Brooklyn Park, MN. The mural will tell a visual story of the community and its residents and contain positive images like musical instruments, inspiring quotes and visuals of kids of all backgrounds playing together. Okok selected this location because it is close to the elementary school [the artist] attended. 

Holly (Miskitoos) Henning  // City Mischief Murals
Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung (Good New Home in Ojibwe)
City Mischief Mural members will partner with the non-profit Ain Dah Yung Center to paint three murals with formerly homeless Native youth residing in Mino Oski Ain Dah Yung Center’s Permanent Supportive Housing Project, located in Frogtown Saint Paul.

Shanai Matteson
Overburden / Overlook : Mineview (Final Title TBD)
Shanai Matteson will create a traveling “overlook” or “mineview” centering diverse stories of women, work, and water from within Iron Range communities.

Thomasina Topbear
Reclaimed Spaces
Topbear will curate Reclaimed Spaces, a gallery exhibition and community event showcasing Indigenous graffiti and street artists. Reclaimed Spaces will take place at Indigenous Roots Cultural Center in the area known as Imniza Ska by the Dakota people. This event will reflect the unique perspective of what it means to reclaim land, sovereignty, Indigenous culture, and what the future looks like to Indigenous artists within the modern graffiti subculture.


2021 Early-Career Project Grantees

Supports the creation of a temporary or permanent public artwork anywhere in the state of Minnesota by an early-career Minnesota-based artist (made possible by funding from Jerome Foundation)

Erin Paradis
Silverwood Park Sculpture Production
Paradis will create a large ceramic sculpture to be installed at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, MN. The piece will be large enough for viewers to engage with directly, walking in between and through the two arches that will be constructed. This will be Paradis’ largest solely ceramic sculpture to date and she is thrilled to be installing it on the beautiful island at Silverwood Park.

Lacey Prpić Hedtke, with Molly Van Avery and Miré Regulus
Free the Deeds
Free the Deeds is a collaboration between Molly Van Avery, Miré Regulus and Lacey Prpić Hedtke. Free the Deeds is a multi-faceted project involving (1) the creation vibrant lawn signs and an original print for Minneapolis homeowners who have erased their home’s racial covenant to display, and, (2) a page on the City of Lakes Community Land Trust’s website that features stories and portraits of elders who have been personally impacted by redlining. The project will also create a path for people to practice reparations by financially investing in Minneapolis’s first African American Community Land Trust.
Prpić Hedtke was previously a Forecast 2018 Early-Career Research and Development Grantee.
Van Avery was previously a Forecast Messages of Hope Mini-Grant recipient.


2021 Mid-Career Professional Development Grantees

Supports Minnesota-based mid-career artists seeking to expand or advance their careers in the field of public art, through a project idea or participation in career-enhancing activities (made possible by funding from McKnight Foundation)

Alyssa Baguss
Exploring New Ways of Funding Experimental Public Art
Baguss is passionate about inspiring artists to pursue new ideas and finding them ways to financially support their experimental public art projects. With the Mid-Career Professional Development Grant, she plans to advance this calling through developing her entrepreneurial mindset, exploring alternative philanthropic business models and applying her findings to two experimental public art projects in 2021. This path of inquiry will support Baguss in preparing her application for the Bush Fellowship in 2021.
Baguss was previously a Forecast 2020 Mid-Career Project Grantee.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay
Research and Development for Motherland Orphans Project
Playwright and public practice artist Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay will develop the Motherland Orphans Project. She’ll engage Southeast Asian Americans who identify as “motherland orphans,” work with a dramaturg to develop a new full-length play, and work under the mentorship of an established curator to develop an accompanying exhibit. Vongsay will also participate in the Annual Convention And Public Art & Civic Design Conference.
Vongsay was previously a Forecast 2018 Early-Career Project Grantee.


2021 Early-Career Research + Development Grantees

Supports early-career artists in public art-related research and development or with the planning phase of freely accessible public art installation or activity in Minnesota (made possible by funding from Jerome Foundation)

Meena Mangalvedhekar
Join the Circle
With Join the Circle, Mangalvedhekar seeks to create a proof of concept for a network of circular benches in the Minneapolis Phillips neighborhood as a community mental health resource for sharing and practicing interdependency. Mangalvedhekar’s research will identify ideal locations in the neighborhood to install benches, wood prototypes, and tests, develop the behavioral language and vocabulary necessary to introduce the objects, create a project plan, and budget to pursue permanent installations in near future.
Mangalvedhekar is a former member of the Board of Directors for Forecast Public Art.

Taylan De Johnette
Mural Making Classes for Emerging Local BIPOC Artists
De Johnette will develop classes on new mural making techniques for local, emerging BIPOC artists. One much-needed skill and technique is the parachute cloth method. Funds will be allocated toward stipends for professional instructors, program organizers and class materials so that artists will attend classes free of charge. These series of tutorials will aid in the completion of three different community murals in Northeast Minneapolis using parachute cloth method projected for July 2021. 

Wil Natzel
Architectural Space Exploration Devices + 360 VR Exhibition
Natzel will develop a 360 degree VR exhibition of their architectural space exploration devices and fund the purchase of specialized​ pixel control LED lights and control systems.

Khadijah M
Studying the Stories of Elder Somali Women
Khadijah M will interview several elder Somali women in the Twin Cities about their lives in Somalia. In the nomadic tradition of Somalia, women play a significant role in the family and society. In addition to the caretakers, as builders of the home the families live in, women are the literal architects of society. They first build the round structure using tree branches and they cover the foundation with woven mats. This weaving style comes from the technique that women in Somalia use to weave mats to cover their homes. Using no loom or frame, nomadic women create intricate mats out of grasses, acacia tree fiber, and palm, then carry these mats across vast territories as they move with their herds. Though the homes look similar, no two are exactly the same; each one is personal to that family.

Khadijah M will study and examine each elder through stories, manipulatives, models and practice. In addition, they will also study carving techniques from the Women’s woodshop. Both of these elements will eventually allow the artist to present a project highlighting the stories and the different styles of home making.


An independent panel selected the 2021 grantees 


grid of five jurors' portraits

From left to right: Za’Nia Coleman; Peng Wu; Derek “F0cus” Smith “Yá’át’ééh; Lara Mimosa Montes; AkiEM Scott.


Mid Career Grants were juried by Peng Wu, Za’Nia Coleman, and Derek “F0cus” Smith. Early Career Grants were juried by Lara Mimosa Montes, AkiEM Scott, and Derek “F0cus” Smith.

Forecast follows a rigorous policy on the disclosure and management of conflicts of interest to ensure the integrity of the grant program. 

Mid Career | Peng Wu is an interdisciplinary artist and designer dedicated to creating socially engaged art in public space. His work combines the power of design thinking with contemporary art strategies to address various urgent social issues including immigration, health disparity, queer rights etc.

Mid Career | Za’Nia Coleman is an interdisciplinary artist and Co-Organizer of the Tangible collective. The root of her work is sustaining traditional and historical practices around joy, cultural expression, and community building.

Mid Career, Early Career | Derek “F0cus” Smith “Yá’át’ééh. From his father’s family Smith is Dine’(Navajo). From his mother’s, Hunkpapa(Standing Rock) Lakota. Growing up in graffiti culture in metropolitan areas, a passion was ignited in Smith’s soul to create in the public arena. Coming to South Dakota he found his roots and strength in Lakota Culture. Since the early 2000’s Smith has been involved in the culturing of Rapid City’s Art Alley, as one its originating members. He has also been actively combining graffiti and Lakota culture to create classes, local and international murals, and programs that center on identity through culture, instilling confidence through knowledge of self, growth through personal discovery, as well as developing community building skills.

Early Career | Lara Mimosa Montes is the author of THRESHOLES (Coffee House Press, 2020). She holds a PhD in English from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her writing has appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Fence, and elsewhere. In 2018, Lara was awarded a McKnight Fellowship in Poetry. She is a senior editor of Triple Canopy. She has been awarded residencies from Shandaken: Storm King, Marble House Project, and Headlands Center for the Arts. She divides her time between Minneapolis and New York.   (credit photo to: Venn Daniel)

Early Career | Akiem Scott is an educator, DJ, teaching artist, composer, producer, and theater sound designer. He has released several critically acclaimed albums, and has toured internationally, notably with Rhymesayers and MF Doom. Instead of speaking loudly, he adds extra bass to his work.


These grants are made possible by generous funding from the McKnight Foundation and the Jerome Foundation.

Read more about the grantees and Forecast’s support for artists.