» The Creative Community Leadership Institute
Meet the 2017 Creative Community Leadership Institute Cohort!

Abraham Algadi is an innovative, strategic thinker who understands the dynamics of service provision in a regulated free market. I was born in Jordan and grew up in Lebanon, completed my higher education in Jordan and the United States. My background gave me unique abilities to see things perhaps more objectively and gave me a clearer understanding of the similarities we share as humans. I have a B.A from the University of Jordan in Classic Archaeology (Amman Jordan), and Master in Urban Planning from Texas State University – (San Marcos Texas), LBJ’s school. Which may explain why everything in the Texas hill country was named after LBJ, including the local rock station. Currently I serve as Executive Director for community and economic development with Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation, where I implemented programs to address some of the unique challenges in Nobles County. We also organize the annual Worthington Bio Science Conference to highlight the region’s strength as home to multinational and homegrown companies employing hundreds in animal health sector and value added agriculture.

Chelsea Alger is the Resource Development Officer of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, with areas of focus include planning and community development; grant writing; and the Partnership Art effort. Prior to joining SWMHP she spent over a decade in public sector community planning. Alger is currently working on her certification as a Housing Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council.

Mayuli Bales was born and grow in Oaxaca, Mexico on 1964, immigrate to USA in 1991. Graduate from Universidad Autonoma de Mexico with an undergraduate  on Elementary Education. She has numerous certificates in Hispanic pastoral ministries, Building intercultural communities of faith. She is the Director of the Multicultural Ministries with the Diocese of St Cloud, Worked for Catholic Charities directing a Parents Program in St Cloud, MN, she was the coordinator of the Hispanic Ministries at Saint Boniface, parish in the Diocese of St Cloud, and worked at a Non profit Organization like Executive Director, Casa Guadalupe Multicultiral Communities. Mayuli bring expertise building bridges between cultures.

Karla Beck is the Principal at St. James Middle/High School.  Her passion for Educational Leadership has been seen through her work at Northside Elementary in St. James as a School Improvement Principal and National Turnaround Arts Principal.  In her current position, she is working to revitalize the culture and climate of students and staff and bringing a new vision to engaging instructional work.Karla is married to Wes.  They raised their three sons on his family's Century Farm.  When not at school or working as her church's organist/pianist and choir director, Karla digs in her perennial flower beds and vegetable garden, reads historical fiction and leadership books, and enjoys beautiful Minnesota summer evenings on the pontoon.

Brenda Byron has been an Arts Administrator for 27 years and has served as the Executive Director of the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council since 1993. She administers grant programs and services to artists, arts organizations, community groups and schools in the 9-county area of south central Minnesota.  She is responsible for technical assistance, public information, arts advocacy, planning and financial management of the council.  Brenda has a B.S. degree in Business Administration and M.A. in Counseling. She has been a Board member of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, St. Paul for over 18 years. Brenda’s hometown is Waseca where she participated in choir and band (playing the drums) in High School.  She grew up dancing to waltz’s and polkas and her Grandpa played the fiddle and piano.  Brenda is married to Jim who farms and raises crops and Black Angus cattle and they have three children.  She enjoys singing, photography, spending time with family and attending lots of arts events in the area.

Arnold Carlson is an artist whose approach to is rooted in place, from his earliest childhood experiences in Africa and the United States.  Having lived in many places and having taught studio arts at Interlochen Center for the Arts (MI), Northwestern College (IA), University of Memphis and Memphis College of Art, he has experienced many creative cultures.   His persistent desire to challenge the way creativity is framed has led Arnold to a focus on the richness of experiential art within community and a renewed awareness of our material  environment.   His current creative efforts revolve around the practice of walking with strangers in public space, mining the simple performed task of walking for shared creative direction.  

Lauren K Carlson is a poet and spiritual director who lives in rural Dawson, Minnesota with her husband and three sons. She recently produced a web series for Pioneer Digital Studios entitled "Poems From the Field," which uses poetry to explore with richness and depth, the creative and spiritual lives of rural Minnesotans. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming from Blue Heron Review, Heron Tree, Windhover Review, Hermeneutic Chaos's Milkteeth Anthology and Fiolet & Wing, an anthology of fabulist poetry.

Bradley Chapulis is the Director of Community/Economic Development for the City of Worthington.  An employee with the City for the past 18 years, his responsibilities include planning/zoning administration, rental housing enforcement, economic development, floodplain management, and supervision of the City’s Building Official.  Brad is recognized by the National Development Council as a Certified Economic Development Professional and is a co-founder of the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.  He currently holds various leadership positions within several state, regional and local organizations (i.e., Minnesota Chapter – American Planning Association, Worthington Area Foundation, and Southwest Regional Development Commission). Brad is originally from Chicago, Illinois and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Community and Regional Development from Iowa State University.  Prior to working for Worthington, he worked for the Cities of Mason City, Iowa and West Des Moines, Iowa.  Brad is married and has two daughters (ages 10 & 12).  Brad’s interests include basketball, football, swimming, and golf.

Kristi Link Fernholz works as a senior planner at the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Commission where she coordinates a number of different programs in her region such as public art projects in Montevideo, the Meander Art Crawl, the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway (history projects), and Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs). Originally from Milan, Kristi received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She lives on a small farm near Appleton with her husband Brad and two children. She has been showing her photography as a featured artist on the Meander Art Crawl since 2004.  Most of her photos are of native prairie plants taken near her home, tucked away in the tall grass prairie along the ridges of the Minnesota River Valley.

Lisa Graphenteen works to oversee the program areas of SWMHP including Homeownership, Resource Development, Asset Management, Construction and Real Estate Development.  Our mission is focused around creating thriving communities that comes from not only affordable housing but also access to essential community facilities, vibrant downtowns, access to quality education, etc.  We continue to recognize that our impact can go well beyond the housing structure to impact multiple facets of a community.  This Artplace effort along with our other planning work will continue to broaden that reach.  As I have moved from a community coordinator/developer role to administration, a personal interest of mine is instilling leadership skills in our team related to community planning work.

Gail Holinka Is an Artist and Arts Educator.  She has been an active Arts Advocate for over 20 years.  She wears many hats that show her dedication not only to Arts Education but the benefits of the Arts in her community as a whole. Gail has served on the Worthington Public Arts Commission as Chair since it formed 2012. This commission was established from a grant she received from Forecast Public Arts.  This was the beginning of many great things for Worthington, in regards to the growth in Public Art education and project development. Gails mission is to do her part to make the world a better place! She not only educates her students about the importance of public art, she encourages them be actively involved in the process and projects created in Worthington. Students are involved by designing future project requests, or actual hands on work- creating with artist on our local projects. Through creating and sharing art together, they see how it connects to others and the world around them.  We all deserve to have a voice and for that voice to be heard.   

Agnes “Bobby” Alsgaard Lien has a Master’s degree in Painting, Art History and Adult Education. She is a retired college art instructor and is a practicing artist. She has traveled extensively exploring, interpreting and learning her craft. She has exhibited her paintings throughout the United States. One of her greatest honors is a Prairie Star Award, which is a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in the arts.

Ms. Alsgaard Lien was one of thirty educators from the United States, invited to participate in a Round Table discussion, about Children at Risk in Oxford, England.  She is an advocate for art education and realizes that art is a universal language that all humans share and embrace. She has conducted Art Workshops for children for over forty years. Ms Alsgaard Lien has received Career Artist Grants, a Legacy Grant and several grants for working with children through the Southwest Mn Arts Council.

Her love of children keeps her actively involved in education and she is known in area schools for her secret art project bag,that she carries with her, whenever she is substituting.

Khou Lor, a young mother and leader within the Hmong community has always been passionate about positive community development. As the current Organizational Manager at Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership Khou truly believes in creating a positive community for all to live in. Her previous experience in administrative and clerical work has allowed her to gain knowledge in providing organizational staff support to SWMHP. As a third year student at Southwest Minnesota State University Khou hopes to graduate with a BA in Business Management with a focus in Human Relations. She finds inspiration in helping those in need and hopes that someday she will be able to be a resource to the community that she lives in.


Greta Murray has served as the Executive Director of the SW MN Arts Council since May 1998.  She served as their Administrative Assistant from June 1984 to May 1998. Murray began her career in nonprofit work as a bookkeeper/accountant at United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Francisco from 1974 through 1979. Murray plays the penny whistle, recorder and alto saxophone, along with some flute and piano and was a founding member of the Minneota Area Community Jazz Band.  Murray is a member of the Southwest Minnesota Weavers Guild and has been a basket maker since she was a child. She studied painting and pottery in college at Southwest Minnesota State University. Murray is a member of SWxSW, a Tourism and Resilient Communities Working Group the U of M Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.

Mónica M. Segura-Schwartz has worked as a program manager for Catholic Charities of the St. Cloud Dioceses since 2007. In her position she advocates for immigrants in this community with an emphasis in education. Monica is a native from Colombia, South America. She grew up in a household of only women, living with her mom and three aunts. She came to the USA on 2001 to Study English at St. Cloud State University where she later pursued a masters in Social Responsibility. Later, Mónica married Troy Schwartz from St. Cloud and made this city her home. During her time living in this community Monica has been part of several boards and committees such GREAT theatre and MN Latinos Affairs Council. Through these she works towards the betterment of the community and the enhancement of opportunities for people of color and immigrants. She believes in the strength of diversity and believes we all will be better when we all have access to the same opportunities. Monica deeply believes in community, art, culture and environment and would like to see all these themes enhanced in St. Cloud.

Brendan Stermer is a new media producer from Montevideo, Minnesota. Much of his work uses online media to encourage offline conversation and reflection around a variety of rural issues. Most recently, he created an audio documentary for On Being with Krista Tippett on hip hop lyrics as sacred mantras. During the summer of 2016, he created the Pioneer Digital Studios web series, "Manhood in Rural America," an exploration of how local men are experiencing the rapid transformation of gender roles in rural society. The series, made with an iPhone and an old laptop, was featured on Upworthy and Minnesota Public Radio. Full portfolio available at www.brendanstermer.com

Lucy Tokheim: Lucy is an independent studio artist/designer.  Her paintings and drawings have been exhibited widely. With her husband Gene Tokheim founder of Tokheim Stoneware in 1973 she also collaborates on ceramic work drawing on their common interest in Scandinavian folk art.  Their studio collaborations are featured in the permanent collection of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and in regional and international exhibitions, most prominently in the New York Museum of Folk Art’s 1995 “Migration of a Tradition”.  

As a resident of rural Minnesota for over 40 years, Lucy has contributed to many local education projects, most notably organizing and directing the Marshall Summer Talents Academy.  Her community work is marked by her diligent integration of great teachers and artists in consequential roles for rural communities.

Sara Kathryn Udvig is a mother, process-of-being enthusiast, and an emerging public artist and accomplished muralist. Udvig works at the intersection of art and livability, encouraging viewers to break routine by getting active & trying something unfamiliar.She studied art formally at St. Catherine's University and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design but appreciates mentor artists, family, friends, neighbors, and the opportunity imbedded in the process of art & life as continuing education and source for inspiration.

With her work Udvig aims to support and strengthen communities, offering viewers or project participants the opportunity for self-realization and social benefit; she works to remind individuals that they are an essential part of a great whole.

Julio Zelaya is a recent graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College, where he studied political science and trained in Theater of the Oppressed.   His background in Boal and physical theater sparked him to continue working on stage, devising works with fellow artist in Minneapolis.  In the past, Julio has worked with the Minnesota Department of Education and taught within the Minneapolis School District. Most recently, he spent a year teaching in the festive city of Barranquilla, Colombia. Currently, Julio is the Coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project . When not defending fundamental rights given by the constitution, Julio can be found in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes, swing dancing, or planning a bicycling excursion.