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Image: Reif Center is among recent Itasca area grantees

Blandin Foundation awards $3.4 million in grants, continues with broadband

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn.  – During their spring meeting March 20 and 21, Blandin Foundation trustees approved 93 grants in support of local leaders working to expand opportunity in rural Minnesota communities across the state.  Recognizing the impacts of increased rural Minnesota access and use of high-speed Internet (broadband), trustees also extended the Foundation’s Blandin Community Broadband Program.

“With our sights set always on strengthening rural Minnesota communities, we see great possibility in the blend of economic vitality, active inclusion and educational achievement,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, Blandin Foundation president and CEO.   “Choices made by our trustees at this meeting are excellent reflections of this blend.”

Blandin Foundation trustees awarded a $1.5 million grant in support of the Grand Rapids-based Reif Arts Council’s renovation and expansion of the Reif Performing Arts Center.  Founded in 1981, the Reif Center stimulates arts in northern Minnesota and offers programs such as its formal dance program and a range of live arts events.  In 2013, the Reif Center served 200 dance students, 7,000 children in school-day programming, and 21,230 patrons who purchased tickets for any of 48 performances.  It serves as a regional economic driver, as well providing a venue for all people to access high-quality, live arts programming. 

A grant to Owatonna-based Centro Campesino of $100,000 also supports blended work in economic vitality, inclusion and education.  Centro Campesino focuses its work on empowering rural migrant workers and immigrant Latino families and youth in southeastern Minnesota through education, advocacy and community organizing.  The Blandin Foundation grant specifically supports students and parents in learning about college access and available resources, as well as increasing immigrants’ knowledge about their human and legal rights around immigration, particularly as it relates to workers’ rights and protections. 

Looking ahead, trustees explored the future of Blandin Foundation’s work in rural broadband.  The Foundation initiated this work in 2003, and has seen very significant impact from the Blandin Community Broadband Program’s blend of technical support, financial grants and convening across rural Minnesota.  Trustees elected to continue the program, allocating a total of $1.5 million in grants during 2015 and 2016.

“We see every day what local leaders can do to address very significant and complex challenges,” said Annette.  “When it comes to broadband, our role is on the people side of the equation, working with community leaders as they plan for their community’s access to—and use of—high-speed Internet so critical to work and life today.  Broadband clearly has become the indispensable infrastructure of our time, and rural communities must be part of that picture.”

Located in Grand Rapids, Minn., Blandin Foundation is one of only a handful of foundations in the U.S. focused exclusively on rural communities and the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota.  The Foundation seeks and supports vibrant rural Minnesota communities.  Full details related to the organization’s grants and other programs are online at, with sections of the site dedicated to community leadership, broadband and other programs.



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