Paying it Forward | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Paying it Forward

June 29, 2022
People painting a mural
Meet the alumni lifting up emerging artists and designers. 
Plant and planter

Maura Doyle ’11

Stranger & Co

Stranger & Co. is a shop owned and operated by Maura Doyle ’11 in Edina, Minnesota. With an ethos of inclusion, accessibility, and visibility, the shop features primarily makers who come from historically marginalized backgrounds, with a vast majority from woman-, BIPOC-, immigrant-, and LGBTQIAowned companies. The “pipe dream” of a store came to fruition in 2020, following Doyle’s stints in galleries and retail. “I’m making my own community, while also giving a platform for artists and designers by bringing new names to the Twin Cities,” she says.

Having explored a variety of mediums at MCAD—including performance, installation, video, sculpture, photography, and painting— Doyle has curated a shop that is similarly eclectic. One might find terra cotta fruit bowls, Moroccan rugs, jewelry, intricately handwoven baskets, art books, or a mezcalinspired perfume. Recent additions include homewares by Homa Studios, created from locally excavated New Jersey clay, and Estelle Colored Glass, a brand of hand-blown, colored-glass cake stands and stemware in a mix of jewel tones and soft pastels.

Doyle tapped Brendan Barrett ’19 to create the graphic identity and custom furniture throughout the space.

“MCAD helped me in that I was exposed to a lot of different ways of thinking and modes of making. I was given the freedom to know what I like and don’t like.”

Bright abstract painting in front of a brick wall

Kristina Johnson ’17

Waiting Room

Kristina Johnson ’17 helms Waiting Room, an exhibition space that champions and supports local artists, and runs it from her basement in Minneapolis.

Instead of a traditional, waiting-to-bediscovered gallery, Waiting Room is intended to be an active, responsive, and transitional space for artists to show their work, grow audiences, and build community.

Johnson features artists from primarily the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. “One of the objectives of Waiting Room is to bridge the gap between institutions and what happens when you graduate from art school,” says Johnson. “I’m working directly with people–reaching out to students going to MCAD, the U of M, Macalester–and working with them to address the space in a unique way.”

The pandemic forced Waiting Room to go on temporary hiatus, but it also allowed Johnson to focus on some personal projects, like curating a show of her own mixed media work at the George Latimer Central Library. This spring, Johnson is piloting a studio residency program, and will open an exhibition in early June featuring a collaboration between Sam Dirck ’17 and Calvin Hafermann ’20. It will consist of painting, sculpture, prints, and a site-specific installation thematically playing with subtle nuances of the space and camouflage.

“MCAD taught me how to trust my own voice and how to communicate with all types of people. And to put artists first.”

Portrait of Christopheraaron Deanes

Christopher Aaron Deanes ’96

ROHO Collective

Christopher Aaron Deanes ’96 runs Roho Collective, a Twin Cities nonprofit that helps artists of color tap into creative outlets and guides them through practical issues.

Currently the organization connects 47 creatives—including both established and emerging musicians, DJs, dancers, photographers, and visual artists—from across the country. Support comes in the form of creative workshops, opportunities for collaboration, and spaces to exhibit and sell work, as well as practical guidance on everything from marketing to grant writing to taxes. Under Deanes’s leadership with his wife Cara, who serves as executive director, the two have increased funding from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand dollars.

In 2021, in response to the death of George Floyd, Deanes called members together to figure out a way to process the event. The collective were the first artists on the site before it became part of a large-scale protest. They created the first community mural within 24 hours of the murder. This creative act led to other art-healing events all over the metro area.

A visual artist himself, who engages with students and families on culture and climate in the Fridley school district, Deanes doesn’t know how he balances it all. The throughline in all his work is engagement.

“The ‘why’ and the ‘what’ I’m making are what MCAD gave me. The critiques that made me dive into the work are what constantly push me to ask how it all translates.”