More than $2 million in grants helping Minnesotans with disabilities

A talented group of Minnesota artists is getting a meaningful gift.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services awarded $2.6 million dollars in grants to organizations that help people with disabilities.

Over the next two years, the money will help organizations like Interact Center in St. Paul, which is receiving nearly $500,000 in funding through the grant. The center helps people with disabilities create visual and performing arts.

“We just haven’t been able to have them reap the full benefits that they needed to reap from their artwork and this grant is a game changer for us. It’s really a game changer,” said Jeanne Calvit, Founder of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Interact Center plans to use the money in a variety of ways, including paying the artists stipends for their attendance and hiring a professional art gallery director.

“There’s art everything, there’s art in the bathrooms, there’s art in every room, in every office," said Calvit. "There’s just art, art, art. And now, we’re going to be able to archive that and get that out to the public. So it’s a huge boost for us, it’s really a dream come true for our artists."

The center will also create an online market place so artists can sell their work in Minnesota and beyond. They hope to have it up and running early next year. 

Artist Luke Lyons became disabled after doctors found an abscess on his brain. Now, he makes and sells ceramic pieces at Interact.

“The thing about Interact, it’s so much more than giving you a place to go. It built an identity for me that I could feel like I could fulfill,” Lyons said. 

“It’s put me on this new path in my life. It’s given me meaning and purpose, and most importantly, it’s given me identity which I didn’t have before. I was just free falling, feeling pretty terrible about who I was as a person,” Lyons added. “Interact just taught me that no, your only limitations are the ones you put on yourself. So now, I come, and I make art each day. How great is that.”

The Minnesota Legislature first appropriated the funding for these grants in 2015. Other recipients include organizations that provide mentors to young people in internships and help with employment, rent and moving costs for disabled Minnesotans.