Building a Dream

Back in the early 90’s, Art Buddies founder Sue Crolick was an award-winning designer with a love of creativity and a heart for kids who struggle. She dreamed of tapping the special talent and energy of creative people, and sharing it with kids in need.

Sue knew how much creative people wanted to give back, ever since she organized an event to help kids at a local shelter in 1993. Hundreds of creative volunteers from the Minnesota chapter of AIGA (the professional association for graphic design) showed up to work with the kids, and their hearts were in it!

“I sensed a big reservoir of talent and goodwill within our creative community, waiting to be tapped,” Sue says. She had a strong feeling that it was time to leave her design career and pursue her dream.

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"I never knew I was creative before. Now I know I can do anything!"

Maria, age 9

Taking the leap

In 1994, Sue founded the nonprofit Creatives for Causes that later became Art Buddies.

In 1997, Stephanie Vagle, a child educator who loved the arts, joined the team.

Together, Sue and Steph built Art Buddies into a powerful and successful creative mentor program.

Expanding Art Buddies

In 2011, Art Buddies hired Scott Mikesh, a creative business owner, former mentor and member of our Advisory Board, to help expand the Minneapolis-based program. With Scott's help, Art Buddies doubled the number of children we served.

Continuing the vision

In 2013, Sue stepped down, and after a nation-wide search, the Board of Directors selected Mikesh as her successor.

In 2015, thanks to the support of many wonderful volunteers, sponsors and community partners, Art Buddies expanded again to its first school in St. Paul.

In 2016, Art Buddies piloted its first licensed satellite program through a partnership with AIGA Dallas/Forth Worth.

In 2018, Mikesh stepped down, and Art Buddies successfully transitioned leadership again. Sydnee Bickett-Rodriguez was hired as the new full-time Program Director, and Heidi Rich was elected by the Board of Directors as the new President & Executive Director.

With your continued support, Art Buddies will continue to empower hundreds of kids each year through the power of creative mentoring!


"Every session my buddy arrives with a big smile and asks how much more time we have together. He loves being here and doesn't want it to end."

Dan Linstroth, mentor/entrepreneur

“When I met my Art Buddy, I was shy. She helped me come out of my shell. She's fun and helpful. Don’t know what I'd do without her.”

Marah, age 9