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’m trying to do what I can with 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 plan 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.
In just two weeks, Kim exceeded her fundraising goal, and she has raised more than $10,000 to date. She’s continuing to produce prints to keep up with orders and plans to do so as long as there’s demand. She’s also partnering with Minnesota retailers like Foxwell Studio x Shoppe, who’ve agreed to sell the print in-store and donate the full amount from each sale to the nonprofit partners. It has fueled Kim’s desire to use her business to continue making 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 has gone beyond creating art and raising money to support the community. She says it’s all 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 had 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 had come together to create art in the space to help heal the neighborhood.”
To purchase a “Be the Change” print to benefit NAZ and Simpson Housing in Minneapolis, click here.
To learn more about Kim’s business, visit SennAndSons.com.
PC: Senn and Sons
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support womxn-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.