Larissa Headshot

Larissa Leshovsky


Hi everyone! Thanks for taking the time to read my first blog post as an intern for Upstream Arts! I am very excited to be a part of this amazing organization. First, a little about me and how I came to be where I am…

I was born in Bismarck, North Dakota (no, it’s really nice!) and then moved to New Ulm, Minnesota with my immediate family. I come from a large family of 8 (12 if you include the indoor cats named); I am the oldest of 6 children. I currently live in Minneapolis and have been living here for almost 3 years now as I am attending the University of Minnesota, majoring in psychology and art. After completing my undergrad I plan on entering the work force to gain experience for graduate school; right now I am looking at art therapy programs. It doesn’t feel real that I will be graduating this December. Can I just stay in college forever?

Since I can remember I had a pencil in hand, drawing whatever currently drew my eye. Most of my childhood artworks were of dinosaurs, animals, and nature. Today the focus of my art has changed very little; I consider myself a landscape painter primarily using the mediums oil and watercolor. Most of my work was created because I perceive it as beautiful; however, I have found myself becoming uninspired by my simply beautiful landscape paintings and I yearn for more meaning in my work. The search for inspiration has begun, which led me to HECUA. HECUA stands for Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs and it facilitates multiple off-campus study programs throughout the year. The program in which I am enrolled is called Art for Social Change: Intersections of Art, Identity, and Advocacy; which investigates the intersection of art and social justice issues. I’m only into the fourth week of the program and already I have learned so much more than I could have possibly learned in a classroom. Major topics we have started to cover include the role of artists and their effects on the community, the origins of racial inequality, and gentrification and the role of place-making.

When a student enrolls in the Art for Social Change program, they are also matched with an neighborhood arts organization or local business. When I contacted the HECUA program and expressed my interests in enrolling, they gave me a list of the community partners that offer an internship position with HECUA. Upstream Arts was on the list of possible internship sites and I instantly was attracted to Upstream’s emphasis of access to art for all people. I currently work at ACR Homes as a program counselor. We provide home care for individuals with disabilities and I have grown to absolutely love my position as a program counselor. You could say that Upstream Arts was a major contributor in my decision to take a semester to study off-campus with HECUA. Being able to immerse myself into the Powderhorn Park community through HECUA and work with Upstream Arts to serve this very special population has proven to be very meaningful in my life.

Already I am becoming more inspired to use my artistic talents to benefit the community instead of only myself. I am very much looking forward to what this semester will bring. Currently we HECUA students are working on a community project centered around the idea of “Choice” led by renowned local artist and our mentor Eric Avery, who also is an Upstream Arts teaching artist. As part of the curriculum we have been given funding to create art installations that will live in the Pillsbury House + Theater. The installations will serve as an artistic self-reflection of the meaning of “choice” in our community – where we feel we do or do not have choice in our lives – and will hopefully inspire others to initiate that self-reflection of in their own lives.

At Upstream Arts I am learning the ropes of what it takes to run an arts nonprofit with amazing staff that instantly made me feel at home. I will be assisting in the facilitation of Upstream Arts’ two events held this spring – VocalPoint’s fundraiser and Upstream’s 10 Year Anniversary event. I will have the opportunity to help create a video in which community members will be interviewed about their relationship with Upstream Arts. Another opportunity I am very excited about is going on-site with the teaching artists. Not only will I be helping in the office assisting with administrative work, I will be able to go on site and experience what Upstream Arts is all about! Stay tuned to hear updates on where this semester-long journey with Upstream Arts and HECUA will take me.

Larissa Leshovsky
Spring 2016 Intern
Upstream Arts