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Carolyn Holbrook


St. Paul Companies (now St. Paul Travelers) believed everyday leaders—ordinary people with an extraordinary drive to make a positive difference in their communities—are all around us. It didn’t lacquer and mount that concept on a wall, but instead invested in it. In 1987, St. Paul Companies launched Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods (LIN)—a unique program that provided funding to everyday leaders to pursue opportunities that augmented their skills and ideas. Over the course of 16 years, more than 180 local activists and artists would receive a combined $4.5 million.

Now, a decade after the last grant was provided, this revolutionary program has come to life once more in an inspiring book Ordinary People, Extraordinary Journeys: How St. Paul Companies Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods Program Changed Lives and Communities, by writer, educator and life-long arts advocate Carolyn Holbrook.

Following nearly five years of interviews and research, Carolyn’s new book highlights 20 inspirational figures from the LIN program and explores how their innovative ideas—and the unprecedented financial support behind them—made an indelible mark on communities in the Twin Cities and beyond. Several of the people in the book will join us that night.

Carolyn Holbrook holds a passionate belief that the arts should be accessible to everyone, not just the privileged few. This passion led to over twenty-five years of leadership in the field of literary arts administration. She created the Whittier Writers’ Workshop, was program director at the Loft Literary Center and founded SASE: The Write Place—where she served as artistic/executive director.
SASE’s programs served writers at all levels of development with mentorships, grants for emerging writers and spoken word artists, writer readings in community gathering places, and a poetry library with over 5,000 holdings. The group also conducted writing programs in partnership with colleges and universities; public, private and charter schools—including a school for deaf children; social service agencies; and penal institutions. In 2006, she spearheaded a merger between SASE and Intermedia Arts.

Carolyn’s awards include the Minnesota Book Awards Kay Sexton Award, 2010; Black Poetic Fusion Community Service Award, 2002; and a YWCA Leader Lunch Award, 1984. In 2000, she was named one of 100 Rising Stars by Minneapolis/St. Paul magazine. She was a finalist for the Audre Lorde Legacy Award, Union Institute & University, 1997. In 2004, The Twin Cities Women’s Choir composed and premiered a choral piece based on her memoir-in-progress.


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