Free Arts Minnesota is a non-profit organization that provides youth in challenging circumstances a safe place for expression and self discovery. We bring caring adult volunteers into our partner sites to work alongside youth while engaging in art projects. Providing a safe, supportive, and consistent experience goes a long way to helping our youth build trusting and positive relationships.

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We serve as a valuable adjunct program to our partner sites such as shelters, treatment facilities, and child development centers. We intentionally customize our arts programming to fit their overall goals. This focused approach allows us to further support our partners’ work and provide youth with much needed access to the arts and caring adults. There is no cost for youth to participate in Free Arts programming. We rely on volunteers, donors and supporters to reach nearly 2,000 youth at 25+ partner sites each year.


An Art Therapist founded the first Free Arts for Abused Children in Los Angeles over 30 years ago. She was motivated by the belief that art and positive adult relationships are not a luxury for children dealing with physical and sexual abuse, but a necessity.

In 1997, Free Arts Minnesota began serving children in residential treatment center, domestic abuse shelters, and therapeutic pre-schools. We began as a project of the Junior League of Minneapolis. Soon thereafter, we received our first major funding from Lifetouch. They are still supporting us today!

In 2001, Free Arts Minnesota became a separate nonprofit with Michelle Silverman as the first executive director. Our aim was to help at-risk kids have a more positive and productive future. Our art programs for homeless and abused youth began to impact even more youth in the Twin Cities.

In 2010, Dan Thomas was hired as executive director. He started the “Twice the Healing Campaign” which brought about the expansion of Free Arts Weekly Mentorship program to many more social service agencies and gave 4,000 young people each year more access to art.

In 2012, the Free Arts board changed our name from Free Arts for Abused Children of Minnesota to Free Arts Minnesota. This was in recognition of a revised mission to “inspire hope and build self-esteem for youth who have experienced poverty, homelessness, abuse and mental illness, using the healing powers of artistic expression and caring adult mentors.”

“I left Northside every week feeling blessed to have spent time with those kids. Their joy at seeing me and doing art with me gave me more happiness than I could ever give them and put many other things in my life in perspective.”

– Free Arts Minnesota Volunteer – See 2015 Annual Report

Team with a ton of heart

We are a group of passionate professionals dedicated to bringing caring mentors and healing art experiences to underserved youth in our community.

Sara Sternberger - ED

Sara Sternberger

Executive Director

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Chelsea Unold

Program Manager

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Jon Bellefuille - Development Coordinator

Jon Bellefuille

Development Coordinator

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Annmarie Gillispie - Outreach Coordinator

Annemarie Gillispie

Outreach Coordinator

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Leah Moore - Program Coordinator

Leah Moore

Program Coordinator

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Thank you to the officers and members of our board of directors. These are the people who help give children in the Twin Cities access to safe and trusting relationships with caring adults.

Carol Smith

Board President Business Owner

Keith Kozerski

Board Vice President Catholic Charities

Director of Children and Family Services

Marcia Lockman

Board Treasurer CBRE, Inc.

Executive Vice President

Paul Braun

Board Secretary Wells Fargo (Retired)

Erin Conway

Senior Manager, Commmunications

Marci Winga Fábrega

Associate General Counsel, Mergers and Acquisitions/Strategic Initiatives

Rhonda Hansford

Dorris Real Estate Group

Mary Ann Heine

Minnesota Bank & Trust
SVP Private Banking

Yolande Herrin

Minneapolis Public Schools
Social Worker

Lisa O. Walker

American Mortgage & Equity Consultants, Inc
Branch Manager


With limited resources to face an enormous challenge of helping children and families who have been affected by abuse, we are immensely grateful for the many organizations who help support our mission.


United Health Foundation

Wells Fargo

Carlson Family Foundation

Western National

US Bank

RBC Wealth Management


“I’ve witnessed first hand as a mentor, the power of change and perspective this organization can introduce to the lives of children.”

– Erinn Farrell, Mentor, Donor navigateRead Mentor Story