By Chris Olsen
As activists took to the streets in protest of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, local artists advocated for change in another powerful way. They painted murals on the walls and boarded-up windows of businesses all over the Twin Cities. It started at the site of George Floyd’s death, and within days hundreds more emerged to support the Black Lives Matter movement, advocate for reform, and help heal the community.
Kim Senn, founder of Senn and Sons creative studio, is an illustrator and designer with a penchant for colorful hand-drawn prints and patterns. She primarily creates art for children’s products, textiles, home décor and paper goods. She first designed a “Be the Change” mural for a plywood-clad business in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. And then she felt driven to do more. “I wanted to use the skills I have to help organizations that are equipped to create change and serve people in need,” Kim said. “I make art, I do design work, I share it with others. So I wanted to do what I do and also raise money for some causes that I care about.”
A friend encouraged her to recreate the mural as a print, so she did. Kim planned to produce 100 prints to start, sell them for $40 each, donate 100 percent of the sales, plus make a $1,000 donation of her own. Her goal was to donate $5,000 in total to local nonprofits serving Minneapolis communities. Kim selected the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and Simpson Housing. NAZ exists to permanently close the achievement gap and end generational poverty in North Minneapolis, a predominantly Black community hit particularly hard by unrest. Simpson Housing is a Minneapolis nonprofit dedicated to housing, supporting and advocating for people experiencing homelessness; Kim also serves on the organization’s board of directors.
Kim quickly exceeded her fundraising goal and ended up raising more than $10,000. She partnered with Minnesota retailers like Foxwell Studio x Shoppe, who sold the print in-store and donated the full amount from each sale to the nonprofit partners. It fueled Kim’s desire to continue using her business to make a difference. “I love the idea of introducing a new design or effort that gives back on a regular basis,” she said.
For Kim, the experience went beyond creating art and raising money to support the community. It was part of a process to educate herself on what it means to be anti-racist, and that includes teaching her young sons what it means too. Her boys joined her at the mural site, and they took the opportunity to talk about why the buildings were boarded, what happened to George Floyd, why people protested, and ways to influence change. “It wasn’t the first time we talked about it,” Kim said. “But I think seeing how close to home it all happened helped them understand the reality of the situation and how the community came together to create art in the space to help heal the neighborhood.”
To learn more about Kim’s business, visit SennAndSons.com.
Photo credit: Senn and Sons
About the Author
Chris Olsen is a broadcast media veteran turned communications consultant, educator and the author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” The founder of Publish Her and Publish Her Story, Chris has helped thousands of women tell their stories and publish their books.
About Publish Her
Publish Her is a female-founded independent publisher dedicated to elevating the words, writing and stories of women. We are passionate about amplifying the voices of women of color, women with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to make publishing an attainable, exciting and collaborative process for all.