The Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans (TOYM) program is Minnesota’s only statewide recognition program for young leaders who have made major contributions to our state through volunteer service, community involvement, singular expertise, innovative thought or entrepreneurship.
TOYM honorees reflect the vast diversity of young people making a difference in the community through business, nonprofit and community organizations, education and government service.
MinnPost and MinnPost’s YPN are proud to be a 2011 TOYM partner, sharing the stories of each of this year’s exceptional honorees.
An arts advocate with a background in studio art and art education, Leafblad served as community programs manager at the Walker Art Center until 2007, when she became MCAD’s director of student activities, forging new partnerships and programs with students, artists, colleagues and communities.
During her time as director of student activities, Leafblad developed a professional, student-run exhibition space on MCAD’s campus. Since 2009, Gallery 148 has provided students with the opportunity to curate shows, exhibit work, host events and workshops, gain professional experience and build their résumés.
In 2010, Leafblad spearheaded an arts-service study abroad partnership in Guatemala. MCAD students traveled to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala to work with kids at the Miguel Angel Asturias Academy — painting murals, filming video and creating other art projects while building community, touring local historic Mayan sites and learning about Guatemalan history and culture.
That same year, Leafblad was selected to participate in the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows Program, a notable nine-month leadership and professional development experience that equips participants with core leadership competencies to inspire, organize and work effectively with others to advance the public good.
Leafblad embodies much of what makes Minnesota unique, innovative, and progressive: she works to connect people through art, community engagement and civic participation. She is known by many as the “social glue” that brings people together to make things happen.
Her social entrepreneurship is evidenced by her work to help launch FEAST MPLS — a recurring public dinner designed to use community-driven financial support to democratically fund new and emerging artmakers — and OverExposure Media, a nonprofit that creates photography projects that engage the community through artists grants, community partnerships and exhibitions.
Commensurate with her goal of advancing the work of emerging Minnesota artists, Leafblad serves on the board at The Soap Factory, a nonprofit dedicated to the production, presentation and promotion of emerging practice across the visual arts.
Like the other leaders at The Soap Factory, Leafblad is committed to artistic experimentation and risk-taking, to giving audiences a real and immediate experience of the arts and to encouraging a wider understanding of and appreciation for artists and their work.
Leafblad believes that powerful, innovative solutions for moving the state of Minnesota forward will only arise from passionate diverse interaction, discussion and exchange.
To learn more about Leafblad and her vision for the future of Minnesota, watch her TOYM video:
Learn more about the TOYM program and the upcoming 2011 TOYM/OYF Awards Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 3, at Eventbrite.
Tickets are going fast, so get yours now! Help honor our state’s remarkable emerging leaders!
Stay tuned during the next two weeks as we feature profiles of each of the 2011 TOYM honorees. Up next: Nekima Levy-Pounds, founder of the Community Justice Project, an award-winning civil rights legal clinic in Minneapolis.