Minneapolis Artists Who Inspire Me

The world keeps reminding me actually what little control I have in it. Ultimately, I can’t change people. I only have control over myself. As a teacher, a coach of teachers, a spouse, a parent, a friend, etc. I can desire real transformation in the people I love and in the systems we operate in, but the reality I keep finding myself is this: I can only control my own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions*.

And I “control” them through reflection.

Here’s how that plays out in this blog post: As I continue to get support from readers like you of my writing, I want to make sure I’m collectively honoring other makers and creators that inspire me.

Belief: Society promotes what they want me to like.

Thoughts: Music is technically free now. No more spending babysitting money at Sam Goody in the mall or asking for an iTunes gift card for my iPod. Heck, no more iPods. Art is mass produced, sold at Target**, and can be found in many homes across the city. The books that do get read are Oprah or Reese book club picks, and they’re also at Target. While none of these facts are inherently bad facts, I’m just more aware of it because I have a partner who is an artist.

Feelings: I suppose there are several feelings at play at the same time. I feel critical of mass media not always giving independent artists a chance. I feel proud of the friends I know who take risks to create in a world that doesn’t always reward them. I feel curious and energetic about how more of us ordinary people can support each other instead of corporations. And I feel worried that people will judge this idea and post as they read it right now.

Action: Because I hold a belief that tells me society has already chosen what is popular for me to like right now, I want to do something about it. I want to add an and to that belief statement: Society promotes what they want me to like, and I have control over who gets my financial and emotional support. In that spirit, here are some of the artists creating incredible and beautiful art right here in Minnesota. Free ways to support them include following them on social media platforms (see below), liking their YouTube channels, streaming their music and liking it on Spotify/Apple Music, and sharing their stuff with friends you think would enjoy it. Did you know artists earn $0.006 per play? That means for every 1200 streams, they earn enough for a Chipotle burrito. Financially you can support them by attending one of their shows for a date night or buying a gift for someone here instead of at the store:


Jessica Manning:

Her songwriting along with her voice are both powerful and soft at the same time. Her stage presence commands energy, and she also is one of the most thoughtful people I know. She brought us butternut squash soup after Ari was born, and I asked for the recipe a few days later because it was so good. She texted me back a picture of a notebook page where she wrote out her best guesses of the ingredients and quantities. I love that what she creates is truly hers, and that she shares her love in what she makes. I am lucky to have met her because we share a cousin!

Just Wulf:

We actually lived in the same apartment building back in 2012! I didn’t really know him back then, and truthfully, I don’t really even know him super well now, but I have many of his songs added to playlists. I love his beats and how he seems to churn out song after song after song. He has real talent, and I’m glad he’s sharing it with us.

Kara Laudon:

I’m fairly confident I have all of her latest release Old Lives memorized. She has this ability to sing so beautifully about pain and heartache and self. But her themes are so relevant to me and to many. My favorite song is “Pretty Words”, and one of these days I’ll get around to posting a selfie with her lyrics as the caption.

Meg Kirsch:

She released an EP called Street Cat last year, and we played it quite a bit in our house. The Current gave her quite a bit of love for her song “Hometown”, as they should have because it’s great, and so is the rest. Five songs isn’t enough! I’ll be quite excited to hear more from her. I get Brandi Carlile vibes from her voice.

Maple & Beech:

On repeat. Clever, funky, gentle, collective. I love the collaboration between Tyler and Nicole. Tyler writes songs that get stuck in my head, make me want to dance (“Side-Eye”, “The River’s on Fire”), and ask me to reflect on your well-being (“Broken Blood Vessels”, “OK”).  They’re opening for Ben!

Ben Noble:

I mean, last but not least?? I could honor Ben’s story in its own post. Getting to watch my spouse explore the process of making albums has actually given me so much joy. And I’ve told him many times, even if the two of us are the only ones who ever really appreciate the gift of his songs, it was all worth it. Please come to his Feb. 21 show. You’ll get to experience a large part of both of our hearts. Also, my personal goal is to get at least 200 people there. I want it to feel like a wedding.

Save this playlist to hear their stuff:
Mpls Musicians Bek Loves on Spotify


Visual Artists:

Kelsey Lindh:

Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 2.19.16 PMShe creates so many beautiful projects through her business and Etsy shop Clementine Sunshine. I am obsessed with a lot of her work. I bought this beautiful painting last month. It’s currently in my kids’ room, but one day, I’d like to have a little office just for me so I can keep it for myself. She says support for her is “looking at what I post — knowing my heart behind my art: to bring joy to those who have an encounter with my art.”

Nathan Stromberg:

You guys… Nate is so talented. The amount of hours he dedicates to each piece of art is mind boggling sometimes. Everytime I see one of his collages, I’m reminded of the human hours behind custom pieces. I’ve gotten to see some of his pieces at Glam Doll Donuts when they were on display a while back and in Hudson, WI. He illustrated a beautiful children’s book that we try to give out for baby showers and kids’ birthdays, etc. I really want a print of the two otters to frame in the kids’ room. PS: Nate is the cousin I get to share with Jessica Manning!

Kirstyn Ouverson aka On the Shelf Jewelry:


I’ll always have Kirstyn’s back because she taught as a high school English teacher for the last 7 years. Now, she puts thought and care and joy into handmade earrings named after wonderful women authors who inspire her. She donates 10% of her profits to public school teachers.

Paul Hjellming:

Paul is a talented videographer. He told Ben about an idea he had a couple years ago for Ben’s song “Daughter” and gave our lil family the gem that is video footage of that season of our lives. City Pages even named it one of the top music videos of 2019. Hire him for a video project!

Laura & Kadi Vail:

Laura is a storyteller through film. Look at some of the videos she has created. Her wife, Kadi, is a birth photographer and doula. They document real life families and in doing so highlight the humanity and stardom in us all.

Follow them on Instagram:


@jessica_manning     @justwulf     @karalaudon     @mmegkirsch     @mapleandbeech      @bennoblemusic   

   @clementinesunshinemn    @nathanstrombergart     @ontheshelf_jewelry       @paulhjellming       @laura_vail        @kadivail


A couple of takeaways after writing all of this out:

  • I don’t support any visual artists of color, and I’d like to. Who do you know?
  • While this is a decent list, there are many more. Perhaps, I’ll post another one of these in the future.
  • Thank you to those of you who share your heart with the world through your art. It has meant something to me. Keep taking risks and sharing the beauty you see.



*I borrow this mode of reflecting from Glenn Singleton’s courageous conversations protocol. While I most frequently utilize this tool when processing racial matters, I find it useful in all situations.

**I know it sounds like I’m anti-Target, when that is very much not the case. I’m there multiple times a week. However, I am aware that Target doesn’t really feel the same joy that real human beings feel when I support them. Just saying. 🙂

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