Connecting people through the power of history and culture

Leslie Schumacher (1955-) Leslie Schumacher has positively influenced the St. Cloud arts community as Executive Director of the Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB). Her skills as a tough negotiator and perceptive artist have turned CMAB “into a public service organization for the arts.” Richard and Jeanne Anderson’s child, Leslie, was born in New Hope on October 4, 1955. The couple kept a firm hand on their sensitive daughter who worked to overcome her shyness and release the “big person with ideas inside.” Art was a refuge, and her obvious talent was nurtured by supportive teachers. Lacking parental support for an art education, Schumacher left home at the age 17 to shape her future. She took business classes, waited tables, married and had two children, and enjoyed moderate financial success with her art. Schumacher helped operate a family transport business for ten years and opened her art studio in1988. Schumacher entered politics the next year. During her eight years in the Legislature (1995-2002), Schumacher became known as a strong arts advocate. Her people and problem solving skills continued to be appreciated. She was named Director of the CMAB in 2003. The McKnight Foundation recommitted its funding after Schumacher demonstrated CMAB’s organizational credibility and the renewed support of grant recipients, including the Paramount Arts District, St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra, GREAT Theatre, Chamber of Music Society, St. Cloud State University, local schools, and individual artists. A resilient individual, Schumacher transformed grievances into opportunities. Online grant applications were posted; service workshops were initiated; relationships were strengthened with the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Regional Arts Council Forum (of which Schumacher was President), and the St. Cloud Arts Commission. “I believe that St. Cloud is CMAB’s hub and economic engine…” said Schumacher, who recognized the city’s positive impact on the organization.

Arlene Mittelstadt Helgeson (1930-2005) Arlene Helgeson forged new territory in the St. Cloud arts community for four decades. In the 1960s, she was instrumental in starting the St. Cloud Community Arts Council, which spawned art projects and later became Visual Arts Minnesota. And in 2002, she received the first Paramount Arts District Lifetime Achievement Award. A sculpture of Helgeson stands in the theater’s lobby. “It’s hard to find (local) art initiatives of the last couple of decades that don’t lead you back to Arlene Helgeson,” Paramount Arts District interim director Tony Goddard said. Helgeson and her husband, Don, had been supportive of the Paramount, the United Arts of Central Minnesota fund-raising organization and eight art groups funded by United Arts. She also helped start the St. Cloud YMCA. She served on the board of directors of the College of St. Benedict and the Minnesota Orchestra. A new dance studio at Benedicta Art Center at St. Ben’s will bear her name.