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Introducing our latest blog series: Allies for All

These blog posts shine a spotlight on individuals and organizations in our community that are helping make our world a more welcoming place for everyone. Earlier this year, we hosted a photoshoot to celebrate people who embody the All Are Welcome Here message in their lives and work.

Not only was this experience super fun for everyone involved, it also shed light on what the word “welcome” means, the inspiring things happening in our community, and creative ways that we can continue moving forward together as a society that welcomes everyone. We’re sharing these stories to celebrate our community, inspire others and show the power of a message turned into action.

Today’s Feature: Heidi Rich and Gigi Rich from Art Buddies

Heidi and Gigi Rich
(Photo: Heidi and Gigi Rich proudly wear our All U.S. tees, now on sale for $20 each | By: Shuttersmack Photography + Design)

Each year, Art Buddies empowers hundreds of kids in the Twin Cities area through creative mentoring with volunteers who want to share their special talents and energy with with kids in need. Heidi is Executive Director of Art Buddies. Her daughter, Gigi is an Art Buddies volunteer.

Heidi: “Art Buddies is a joyful and welcoming place for everyone! Every buddy is a valued member of our community, and we work hard to celebrate the individual at every session.”

Art Buddies is an environment of creativity and empowerment.

Heidi: “Every step of Art Buddies is designed to empower and welcome both the students, mentors and the school communities we serve.”

Although the student/mentor collaboration can be simplified to the designing and building of a custom DIY costume, the collaborative program’s true goal is to spark imagination and build confidence in young minds. Mentors guide and support students as they create ambitious projects that help them realize their own creative potential.


(Photo: Art Buddies in their handmade costumes ready for a parade through their school. | By: David Sherman, Art Buddies volunteer)

Over the course of 7-10 weeks, mentors will connect with their students weekly to help them create a costume using a huge collection of art supplies provided by the Art Buddies organization. The project culminates in a celebration featuring a costume parade and professional photoshoot. From beginning to end, the process is all about providing a fun, inspiring experience for all involved.

Heidi: “The young scholars are empowered to lead their project and to lead the groups and discussion. Art Buddies ends every program semester with an evaluation for every participant to share their ideas, for us to learn how we can keep growing and adapting to be our best.”


What does the word “welcome” mean to you?

“You belong.”

- Heidi Rich, Executive Director of Art Buddies


(Photo: Heidi and her Art Buddy | By: Dan Marshall, Art Buddies volunteer)

You can help make our community more welcoming too!

Everyone has a part to play in making the world a more welcoming place for all. How can you embrace this message of kindness and apply it to your everyday life?

Here’s what Heidi recommends: “Start with a conversation. Be mindful of inclusion. There is nothing like getting to know folks from other communities or cultures to break down fear or barriers. We start conversations in our community spaces, parks, and schools. Find every opportunity you can to facilitate connection. Equity and Inclusion in our public programs, schools and parks is a great place to start.”


Nominate an Ally for All

Help us celebrate the incredible individuals and organizations that are turning the All Are Welcome Here message into action in our community. Nominate as many people as you like (even yourself, we won’t tell). Selected Allies for All receive:

  • $100 donation to a cause they love
  • An interview and photoshoot to be featured on the All Are Welcome Here blog and social media
  • Free All Are Welcome Here swag
Nominate an ally

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