For the first time in 25 years, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts has named a new leader: Sarah Fossen, the marketing director known for revamping Rosedale Center.
Fossen will become executive director of the nonprofit organization — which makes the case for arts funding at the State Capitol and beyond — on Aug. 1.
"She brings such a broad scope of experience and relationships that are going to be invaluable as we maneuver the post-COVID world," said Mary Ann Aufderheide, MCA's board co-chair. "I'm especially thrilled with her savvy in the social-media space and her background in building potentially unusual but very strategic partnerships."
As Rosedale's director of marketing and experience, Fossen nabbed national attention and young shoppers with quirky, inclusive events, including an Easter egg hunt for artworks and, during the pandemic, parking-lot shows with finalists from "RuPaul's Drag Race."
"She made what was a very traditional retail space into a very inviting space for a broader range of community and cultures," Aufderheide said.
Fossen succeeds Sheila Smith, who announced her retirement in December after leading the nonprofit since 1996. Smith championed the Legacy Amendment, transforming how Minnesota funds the arts. She turned Arts Advocacy Day into a major lobbying event attracting more than 1,000 attendees. She also helped launch "Creative Minnesota," a series of reports tallying the arts' economic impact.
The 2019 report pegged the annual economic impact of arts in the state at $2.2 billion.
Last year, Twin Cities Business named Fossen one of 100 "people to know in 2021," calling her "a new-fashioned marketing director who recognizes that relying on national retailers is not the way to draw crowds today."
"I'm here to make waves," Fossen told the Star Tribune in 2019.
By phone, Fossen called her new role "a dream."
"It's so rare that we find positions that marry all the parts of our experiences and our interests," she said. Before joining Rosedale in 2019, Fossen started her own communications firm, did marketing work for the city of St. Paul and led government and community relations at Augsburg University.
She grew up in Glenwood, Minn., where her mother taught art and hosted art history tours of Europe.
"The arts are just a part of who I am," she said.
Fossen brought a diverse set of artistic work into Rosedale via murals, photographs and exhibits. Art elevated the experience of going to the mall, she said, and brought the arts to more people, breaking down perceived barriers.
For MCA, she plans to engage more people around the advocacy organization's work protecting state funding for the arts.
The board is looking for her to "diversify our audience," she said, "getting younger people, getting people of different backgrounds, getting people in every corner of the state."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 • @ByJenna