Red Wing Downtown Main Street receives $81,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant

Contact: Megan Tsui, Executive Director of Red Wing Downtown Main Street – 612/807-0804


Red Wing Downtown Main Street receives $81,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant

RED WING Minn. (November 30, 2022) – Red Wing Downtown Main Street is excited to announce the award of an $81,000 Leadership Boost Grant from the Blandin Foundation. The grant funds will be used to tell a more diverse story of the downtown area. “In the past, our downtown’s story began when the town was settled by white people in 1859. We talk about buildings and storefronts bringing life to the land along the Mississippi River, between the bluffs, prairies, and forest of Southeastern Minnesota. We celebrate white businessmen in the names of our parks and streets. Our economy has been built on European ideas and values. This history of white people building our downtown is compelling, well-documented, and preserved. But this is not the entire story,” said Megan Tsui, Executive Director of Red Wing Downtown Main Street. “This grant will help us tell a broader story, including the indigenous, black, Asian, and other BIPOC communities and individuals.” 

The goal of the grant is to expand on Red Wing’s approach to economic development by celebrating all of the members of our community and their place downtown. “This is a tremendous opportunity to weave our layers together to build new transformational economic structures in downtown Red Wing, not just transactional ones.  We will ask the questions: What might we uncover about how to be a more equitable place of commerce by weaving these layers together to understand our present and inform a more equitable future?  What are the opportunities created by uncovering hidden stories and placing them alongside the whitewashed versions of the history of our downtown?  From this point of view, unearthing and preserving our past while building a shared future is an economic imperative,” said Tsui. 

Leadership Boost Grants were launched by the Blandin Foundation to encourage Minnesotans living in rural and Tribal communities to be visionary and creative as they move their communities forward after two years of snowballing challenges.  

More than 300 Letters of Interest were submitted for funding, far more than anticipated. Based on the type of requests received, Blandin Foundation opened three grant rounds for Community Planning, Capital Projects in small towns under 3,000 people, and Creative Placemaking. To better support the many strong requests, the total amount of funding available increased from $1 million to $5.5 million after Blandin Foundation’s board approved an additional $3 million in June, and a $1.5 million grant was secured from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. 

“The last two years of complex crises have taken a toll on leaders across rural Minnesota,” said Sonja Merrild, director of rural grantmaking at Blandin Foundation. “In times like this, of great challenge and opportunity, the resilience and fortitude of rural people and places shines through. Yet, we recognize the critical need for more resources to move small communities from where they are to where they want to go.”  

“Rural and Tribal places simply don’t get their fair share of funding and resources,” said Merrild. “When we see stats like only 5 percent of philanthropic dollars and 10 percent of federal small business loan funds go to rural, this creates resource roadblocks to future opportunity. While the leaky pipes intended to bring resources into rural communities need a complete overhaul, Leadership Boost Grants are one way we can spark energy and action toward sustainable rural futures.”

Red Wing Downtown Main Street is excited to start this project in January 2023. The outcomes of this 2022/2023 project in Red Wing include the following:

  • Build an Advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (AEDI) Plan for all our work, internally and externally
  • Diversify the coalition of economic stakeholders invited to engage
  • Propose new strategic economic initiatives and programs that include more diverse models
  • Display a temporary physical art/historic installation downtown that tells a compelling story of our past, present, and future

“I am excited to support this project which will expand the network of diverse stakeholders sitting at the economic development table. A diverse set of knowledge and ways of being prosperous exists in our community. There is much to learn from each other. Our shared home holds our shared stories and opportunities for the future,” Nicky Buck – Prairie Island Indian Community enrolled tribal member and Project Consultant.

For more on Blandin Foundation’s Rural Leadership Boost Grants and other grantee projects, visit