The Saint Paul Foundation, Mardag Foundation and F.R. Bigelow Foundation Announce $7.7 Million in Grants to Invest in the People and Places that Build Community

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Saint Paul Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Mardag Foundation recently awarded more than $7.7 million to nonprofits in Minnesota. The Foundations view grant-making through the lens of who informs, forms and benefits from the projects and programs they fund. Generating solutions to community issues is most effective when those who stand to benefit from the Foundation’s grants have a hand in shaping the programs funded.

In keeping with that lens, some of the 232 grants made include investments in the people and places that make up Saint Paul’s Rondo Neighborhood. The Rondo Neighborhood was once Saint Paul's largest African American neighborhood, comprising a vibrant, productive, largely self-sustaining community. In the 1960s Rondo was divided to make way for I-94, displacing thousands of residents. Today, the Foundations remain committed to reviving this historic and diverse area of the East Metro.

“The divide created with the development of I-94 was a loss for the Rondo community. It is imperative that philanthropy, in partnership with the community, help bridge that divide. When we listen to and invest in the people and organizations that call Rondo home, we come one step closer to realizing our vision of a community where all people can thrive,” said Ann Mulholland, vice president of Community Impact at The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations.

Of the 88 grants made by The Saint Paul Foundation, $75,000 was awarded to ReConnectRondo. ReConnectRondo is a new organization responsible for leading and managing the Rondo Land Bridge project. This project will create a link across I-94 in the form of a 15-acre land bridge which will be developed for residential, business and park use. This project will coincide with scheduled work on I-94 in 2019 and 2020.

Among F. R. Bigelow Foundation’s 96 grants was a $50,000 grant to Walker West Music Academy, an organization with a mission to create a music learning community rooted in the African American cultural experience. The grant will fund a capital campaign to add a public art installation to their music center on Selby Avenue. The installation “Music Lives Here” will be created by Twin Cities-based artist, educator and community activist, Ta-coumba Aiken, and will create a new exterior façade using enameled steel panels.

One of the 48 grants awarded by Mardag Foundation will give $9,000 to Selby Ave JazzFest, an organization that provides arts access to an underserved community around Selby Avenue. The organization operates an annual, one-day festival every September on the corner of Selby and Milton in Saint Paul. Selby Ave JazzFest attained its 501(c)3 status in 2016, and funds from this grant will be used to transition the previously volunteer-run organization into a fully functioning nonprofit.

All three Foundations made grants totaling just over $200,000 to Rondo Community Land Trust to support the development and construction of commercial space in a new, affordable senior housing development in the Rondo Neighborhood. The commercial space will help retain, stabilize and promote small businesses owned by people of color.

“We understand the responsibility that comes with our role as funders. Listening and giving voice to organizations and individuals who have lived expertise in the Foundation’s interest areas is the best way we can be of service to our community,” said Mulholland.

To see a full list of grantees for The Saint Paul Foundation, click here.

To see a full list of grantees for F. R. Bigelow Foundation, click here.

To see a full list of grantees for Mardag Foundation, click here.



About The Saint Paul Foundation

Since 1940, thousands of generous individuals committed to the Saint Paul area have made charitable gifts to The Saint Paul Foundation. Today, the Foundation is the state’s largest community foundation. Guided by the legacy of its earliest donors, the Foundation today helps donors achieve their charitable giving goals and have long-lasting impact in the community. Learn more at

About F. R. Bigelow Foundation

The F. R. Bigelow Foundation is committed to making the Saint Paul community a better place to live, learn and grow. Frederic Russell Bigelow, fourth president of the Saint Paul Fire and Marine Company (now Travelers), created the Foundation through a trust in 1946. Today, his commitment to strengthening the Saint Paul area lives on through the Foundation. Learn more at

About Mardag Foundation

Established in 1969, the Mardag Foundation is the legacy of Agnes Ober. The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations that enhance quality of life, inspire learning, revitalize communities and build capacity for the arts across the state of Minnesota. Agnes’ passion lives on through the work of her descendants who serve on the Foundation’s board. Learn more at