The Madison Art and Innovation Center, also known as The Madison Mercantile, has received $60,000 from the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and $15,000 from the national Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to enhance its community-building space at 601 First Street.
Kris Shelstad launched the Madison Mercantile to build a home for art, innovation, creativity and community for the people of Madison and the surrounding region.
“Madison is home. This community nurtured me when I was young and accepted me back when I needed solace. The people I love live here. I want to give back to the community and to the people that fill my heart and lift my soul,” Kris said.
Kris has focused on growing her social enterprise as a member of the Southwest Initiative Foundation-supported Initiators Fellowship. This two-year program quips early stage social entrepreneurs with the support they need to transform their ideas into scalable, sustainable ventures that serve and enrich Greater Minnesota.
Money from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation — part of its Quality of Life Grants Program — will help fund building updates to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.
And the Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant will help with building improvements including adding long- and short-term work space and technology support for independent entrepreneurs, remote workers and artists. The funding will also support the creation of accessible space for mental health and wellness activities and education.
“This grant funding will bring new opportunities, invigorating ideas and new people to our town and region,” Kris said.
The Blandin Foundation launched its Leadership Boost Grants to encourage Minnesotans living in rural and tribal communities to be visionary and creative as they move their communities forward after two years of snowballing challenges.
“The last two years of complex crises have taken a toll on leaders across rural Minnesota,” said Sonja Merrild, director of rural grantmaking at Blandin Foundation. “In times like this, of great challenge and opportunity, the resilience and fortitude of rural people and places shines through. Yet, we recognize the critical need for more resources to move small communities from where they are to where they want to go.”
More than 300 inquiries were made for the Leadership Boost Grants program—far more than anticipated. Based on the type of requests received, Blandin Foundation opened three grant rounds for community planning, capital projects in towns with fewer than 3,000 people, and creative placemaking. To better support the many strong requests, the Blandin Foundation board of directors increased available funding from $1 million to $5.5 million. The total includes an additional $1.5 million grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.
About the Initiators Fellowship
Kris is one of two social entrepreneurs selected from southwest Minnesota for the 2022-2023 Initiators Fellowship. Our other regional fellow in the cohort is Khalif Ahmed Bashir of Willmar.
The Initiators Fellowship is a program of the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation to help aspiring social entrepreneurs fast-track their ideas, grow their social and professional networks and further develop their business and community leadership skills. Partners include Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative.
Granite Partners, a mission-driven private investment and holding company based in St. Cloud, worked in concert with the Initiative Foundation to develop the Initiators Fellowship program and provides critical funding. The Bush Foundation and Sourcewell have also made a financial commitment to support the fellows on their business-building journey.