UA Executive Director Julie Guidry and Jess Finney at the finish line of last year's triathlon

UA Executive Director Julie Guidry and Jess Finney at the finish line of last year’s triathlon


We’re honored to announce that Upstream Arts Teaching Artist Jess Finney has decided to participate in her second YWCA of Minneapolis Women’s Triathlon this year, raising funds for Upstream Arts in the process. She is dedicating her efforts to the memory of her beloved Memaw, Mary Jackson, who passed away earlier this year.

On her fundraising page, Jess writes:

My Memaw, Mary Maude Johnston Jackson, loved hearing me talk about my work with Upstream Arts. She loved my enthusiasm and was proud of me. When she heard I was doing a triathlon as a fundraiser last summer, she immediately gave a donation to Swim. Bike. Run. Try. “Honey, I just don’t know how you do all that!” she said to me when I told her about how it went last August. She was proud, and I was proud.

On January 27 of this year, Memaw passed away, just 10 days after her diagnosis of terminal cancer. I was fortunate enough to visit her during those 10 days, to be able to say goodbye in person. We laughed together, told stories, and I shared a couple of videos from Upstream Arts classes with her. A skilled artist herself (having played piano and sung her whole life), she watched and smiled as my colleague and two pre-schoolers on the Autism spectrum passed a drum back and forth. They were having a conversation without words. Memaw went home to hospice care as I returned to Minneapolis, and when last we spoke on the phone her voice was barely audible through the oxygen mask. I told her about my day, likely mentioning teaching, and then we sat in silence for a moment. We had our own conversation without words.

Perseverance is one of the skills we develop in Upstream Arts classes. Take a risk, do your best, and keep trying. Last year I took a risk with my first triathlon, and it was no easy feat but I did my best. This year, I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep trying. “Honey, I just don’t know how you do all that!” I imagine Memaw saying, and I’m proud to do this year’s triathlon to honor her memory. I will Swim. Bike. Run. Try. Again. for Memaw and for Upstream Arts.



Jess with her Memaw, December 2012


Click here to read more and learn how you can support Jess in her journey over the next few months. You can also follow updates from her training process at We’re so proud of the hard work, generous support, and inspiring spirit that Jess brings to Upstream Arts on a daily basis, let alone through extraordinary efforts like this one. Thank you, Jess!