Minnehaha Academy Blog

Nathan Stromberg's '96 Art Celebrates History of Upper School

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jan 23, 2020


Upper School Art Instructor Nathan Stromberg '96 recently revealed his original piece that remembers and celebrates the history of Minnehaha Academy and the century-old building we lost in the explosion. Roughly 425 hours (almost half a year of after-school work) went into this project that was hung in the school this January.


Stromberg, who himself graduated from MA and began teaching here in 2002, chose to exclusively use archival materials in this collage, and if you look closely you'll see the images of many MA alumni and faculty from over the years.

Many images of faculty members are intentionally placed near the rooms in the school they would have taught.

Below we are including close ups of each panel, but we encourage you to consider stopping by and checking out the work for yourself, as you'll be able to even more details up close.

Beneath each panel we've included explanations from Mr. Stromberg relating to his work.

(TIP: To watch a special student-produced video interview with Mr. Stromberg please check out this link: http://www.redhawksonline.com/2020/01/21/strombergs-masterpiece/.)


"In my collage work, I tend to work fairly intuitively and I’m always on the lookout for humorous images and bits of pop culture to hide in there, but I knew this work had to be different. Everything about it had to be thought out meticulously because it would be heavily scrutinized and looked at for a very long time. The solution was to exclusively use archival school material. Thankfully, we have a lot of it, and our archivist was fine with me destroying/re-using old yearbooks/pamphlets/promotional materials as far back as the beginning of our school, 1913, so long as I left at least 5-6 good copies."


"Much of that material was black and white, so I dyed many of the fragments with acrylic ink for the bottom layers and used the full color images for the top. Tens of thousands of fragments, 5 months and approximately 425 hours of work later, here’s the result."


The entire history of the school is here in word and image—pictures of students and faculty members who spent decades here—memories that are shared by so many people."

2020-Stromberg-Old-School-Art-6 "I sincerely hope it is a point of connection for our school and particularly our alumni, and I hope it brings people joy for a good long while."


"For all those who’ve lost a point of physical connection or the place where you made your high school or career memories, this is especially for you."


All quotes from the artist, Nathan Stromberg.

We are so grateful to both Mr. Stromberg and the donors who made this work possible.


To see a special student-produced video interview with Mr. Stromberg please check out this link:




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Topics: Upper School, Alumni Stories, Fine Arts, Faculty Stories

Student-Led Book Fair Marketing

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 10, 2019

A special thanks to the parents , teachers, and former parents whose artistic skills made this year's trip to Oz all the more special!

In order to connect the classroom more tightly to real-world scenarios, the Middle School called on eighth graders to take a lead role in marketing this year’s book fair.

Through the project, the students learned to examine and evaluate marketing materials, think through diverse audiences, pitch a concept, receive critique, and make adjustments based on feedback.

Product Conception

Taking the cue from methods used in current marketing practices, library assistant Susan Besser and art instructor Steve Taminga introduced the needs of the customer (the Lower and Middle School Library) to the marketing team (eighth grade art students).

They explained that the library was partnering with Scholastic to be the publisher’s “brick and mortar” store for the week October 7th, and they needed help advertising the event through promotional posters.

The instructors and students discussed the differences between their two primary audiences (Lower and Middle School students) and examined sample marketing materials, thinking through things that have and haven’t worked well in the past.

Taking Critique


From here the students were sent off to prepare pencil sketches of their proposals, which were then presented to Ms. Besser and Mr. Taminga for critique before making further revisions.

Once they had an approved design concept, students worked on their final project which they presented to the class as a whole, opening up the floor for “cool” and “warm” comments.

“We had students from the audience share what worked or what they thought could use improvement,” says Ms. Besser, explaining that being able to give gentle but constructive feedback (as well as being able to receive that feedback) is an important element of the unit.

Finally, faculty displayed the promotional posters along the main hall of the school as a way to draw students’ attention to the upcoming event.

One Step Further


In addition to posters created in the fine arts room, students who were part of Ms. Wildes’ 8th Grade Technology class designed promotional advertisements on Canva using the skills they’ve been learning this semester. Ms. Besser spoke to the students, presenting them with a similar challenge that she presented to the arts students, and then Ms. Wildes set them free to begin designing.

This opportunity to use their newly developing marketing skills in a real-life situation deepened students’ understanding of their craft as well as nudged them into new layers of receiving critique and finding ways to improve their work based on constructive feedback.

Topics: Middle School, Academics, Fine Arts, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

Sophomore Runs Theatre Camp

Posted by Amy Barnard on Aug 7, 2019


Fifteen-year-old Zac Anderson pulled off quite a feat this summer when he decided to produce and direct a theatre camp for twenty-six 4th-9th graders. 

“When I was younger I had participated in other summer theatre camps and that's kind of what sparked my interest into the theatre world,” shares Anderson. 

He wanted to stretch his skills a bit as well as give other students the type of experience that fueled his own love for theatre, and did so by founding “Curtain Up Theatre Camp.”

From the Ground Up

What is unique about this experience is that Anderson didn’t just “help” put on the camp...he planned it from the ground up. “I wanted to manage the financials, learn how to apply for licensing rights, put it all together,” he says. 

He then invited five other MA students with theatre experience to join him:

  • Technical Director - Timo Diep
  • Costumes/Hair/Makeup - McKenzie Thompson
  • Management Intern - Leah Wasson
  • Backstage Help - Elsie Craig
  • Backstage Help - Shelby Thompson

Anderson himself held the role of Director/Choreographer. Together the team made Anderson’s dream a reality, along with the help of his piano teacher, Julie Lund. Lund helped with the music side of the camp, and it’s notable to mention that she has referred to herself as the camp’s “token adult.”


Elsie Craig preparing a performer's makeup.

The Foundations that Made it Possible

How did it even occur to this soon-to-be-junior that he might just have what it takes to pull something like this off?

After a 5th grade guest appearance in the Upper School’s production of Seussical the Musical, Anderson dove into theatre both at MA and in the local community, including a camp that was similar to the one he founded this summer. 

Although he’s been involved in performance on many levels at MA, Anderson discovered his love for directing when he and classmate Jo Brown co-directed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for the Student Showcase this year.


Zac performing in this year's Madrigal Revue. The Madrigal Singers is just one of the many performing outlets Zac has connected with at MA.

“I had this idea of doing a summer camp in the back of my mind for a while now and I wanted to actually do it,” he says.

While much of this summer’s production was the result of hard work and solid collaboration, Anderson shares that his teachers at MA helped build the foundation he needed to step out into this venture:

“Minnehaha's theatre department is blessed to have some of the most amazing people there are; Mr. Freeman is so talented and just has such a gift, Ms. Lutgen [is] probably the best choir director I know. She actually was willing to come in and sub one day since our music director couldn't be there one day, and she just brought so much to the table, even her warm-ups are just on a whole other level!” 

Anderson also mentioned the inspiration of Ms. Hallberg’s work with the orchestra, Mr. Stromberg’s sets, and Shannon Elliott’s technical direction.

“All of these amazing people have taught me so much in ways that I can't describe, when you see something of such high caliber in a high school setting, it just makes you feel so proud. And so I wanted to keep this camp to that high standard, I didn't want to leave out anything.”

Challenges and Rewards

That’s not to say the process was without challenges. Anderson says that while in the past casting hasn’t been difficult for him, this time he found it to be the harder part of the experience.

“It was tricky because I didn't know any of the kids beforehand, and so it made it twice as hard to make sure I [found] a good fit for everyone.” He also came head to head with the exhaustion of managing the many day-to-day details of running a camp, which he hadn’t fully anticipated.

In spite of feeling pretty wiped out by the end of the experience, Anderson shares that it was worth it.


“The most rewarding part of this process was the bond that I formed with these kids...being able to give kids the opportunity to experience and participate in theatre is so fulfilling...It was also rewarding to see the final product, the show, at the end. All of their hard work, learning lines, rehearsing choreography, it really paid off, and it was a wonderful show. I am so proud of each and every one of these kids.”


Topics: Upper School, Fine Arts

Minnehaha Singers Perform At Carnegie Hall

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 10, 2019
by Karen Lutgen, Upper School Choir Director
During CFE week, 11 members of the Minnehaha Academy Singers travelled to New York City to participate in the National Festival Chorus with choirs from other schools across the country. We prepared the music ahead of the trip then rehearsed for a total of 10 hours with the other choirs, culminating in a concert at Carnegie Hall on Monday, March 18. 
It was an unforgettable musical experience creating beautiful sounds and connections with new singers, developing musical skill, and performing in an iconic space. 
Students' Journal Excerpts
Students journaled about the experience, and had this to say about this once-in-a-lifetime experience:
"I'll never forget the experience. It meant more to me than I can ever say. Singing on that stage with all those people who love to sing, in such a peaceful state of mind was amazing. Tears were shed due to how truly happy I was and I will never forget."  -Allison, junior
"The whole time I just kept thinking that it wasn't real and that I was in a separate state of being. The feeling of the lights on you and just knowing how crazy big it was makes you feel small and reminds you that hundreds to thousands to tens-of-thousands have sung on that stage. There is a legacy that is inexplicable and now I am a part of it. I am very excited, honored, and grateful for the experience." -Evelyn, junior
"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I got to experience with many of my friends which I think is so special." - Kate, junior
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Learn how your child can shine at Minnehaha Academy - request Admission information today.

Topics: Upper School, Fine Arts

Academics, Athletics, and the Arts: Junior Andrew Gives His Perspective

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 27, 2019

2019-Andrew-Karpenko-Minnehaha-Academy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-6 copyWhat is it like to be an academic, an athlete, and an artist at Minnehaha? We talked to one Minnehaha student about what it is like to pursue a variety of interests at MA.

AP Courses, Fine Arts, and Championship-Level Athletics

Junior Andrew certainly has a full schedule. He currently takes four Advanced Placement courses - Latin, English, biology, and calculus II. You'll also find him playing oboe with the symphony orchestra and playing the trombone in pep and jazz band. He's also a championship swimmer. This season he broke the all-time Class A state record in both the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breastroke.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 3.36.16 PM

(Photo by Annika from 2018 State Swim Tournament.)

Andrew has attended Minnehaha Academy since second grade, and says it's the community and the teachers that have made a difference for him.

"One thing that has been constant at Minnehaha is the community. Despite anything the community goes through, we go through it together. We support each other. If anyone is in need of anything, people are there to help. It's a really close knit group."

Balance and Supportive Teachers

So how can a student succeed in academics, the arts, and athletics? Andrew says that for him sometimes there are a few late nights, but it mostly takes time management.

"As long as you put in the work, everything else is going to fall into place," said Andrew. "Teachers are willing to work with you. If I have a swim meet one day and I can’t get an assignment done on time, teachers will let me turn it in the next day. Teachers are very accommodating."


Feeling at Home with Minnehaha Students

When asked what advice he'd give others who were thinking of transferring to Minnehaha, he talked about how welcoming the other students are - and how they collaborate, rather than compete.

"If you’re worried about a small school - don’t be," said Andrew. "While the school can be a little small, the ability to know everyone in your grade by name and personality is much more of a blessing than a curse. You may feel that you'll stick out more in a small school, but everyone is going to have your back and there’s no reason to worry about being left out or left alone because everyone will support you and make you feel at home."

"The students here work together a lot. You can always ask someone for help with homework or studying. The environment is supportive, really safe, and I personally haven’t experienced anything with bullying or fighting or drama between students."

A Faith-Focused School, Without Being Pushy

At Minnehaha, Andrew appreciates the faith-driven learning. "It is comforting that the teachers will help you with your faith journey, and whatever step that may be [for each student]. You can go to a math teacher, you don’t have to just go to a bible teacher with questions."

"One thing that I have liked is that not every student here is a strong Christian or even would regard themselves as a Christian at all. The school, while faith focused, isn't pushy about anything. I've found teachers to be extremely respectful about different viewpoints, whether that is about religion or politics."

"Being in an environment that is both a welcoming Christian environment and is also open to a variety of different viewpoints is a great space to be in."

Senior Year at the Re-Imagined Upper School

Andrew's class is the only class that spent their freshman year at the Upper School before the explosion, had two years of school at the Mendota Campus, and then will be returning to the re-imagined Upper School for their senior year. 

"I’m excited about the new campus. It looks amazing just from a physical standpoint. It will be nice to get some breathing room and be able to find quiet places during a free period or flex, small meeting spaces where you can hang out with friends. It is going to be a fun learning environment and conducive to collaborative and stimulating learning."

"I know for my class especially, the senior class, we will be the only class to be in all three campuses, so that sense of coming home is going to be really strong. It will be fun to pick the new senior hang out spots. My classmates are going to have a fun time coming back, even though some spaces will look a lot different."

Topics: Upper School, Athletics, Fine Arts, Cultivating Potential, Exceptional Academics

Lower School Students' Art Featured at Capitol

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 21, 2019

Untitled design (40)

Multiple Minnehaha Academy Lower School students were featured in the Art Educators of Minnesota Youth Art Month Student Exhibition at the Minnesota State Capitol this year. The four selected for the juried exhibit were first grader Nathan, second grader Railyn, third grader Linnea, and fifth grader Greta. Each student was submitted by Lower School Art Teacher, Sheryl Cullen.

Railyn took 3rd Place in the Elementary School category for her submission “Embossed Fall Leaves,” and was awarded a sketchbook set from Triarco Arts & Crafts.

The Council for Art Education administers Youth Art Month each year during March, coordinating with participating states to celebrate visual arts for grades K-12. The program “emphasizes the value of art education for all children, encourages support for quality school art programs, and promotes art material safety.”


Art teachers are allowed to submit two to four students for jury selection in the exhibit. Minnehaha Academy congratulates each of the students chosen by Ms. Cullen for their artistic achievement.

Topics: Lower School, Fine Arts

Fine Arts Middle School Chapel

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Nov 27, 2018

Topics: Middle School, Fine Arts

Writer/Singer Edie Brickell Surprises Students During Their Bright Star Matinee.

Posted by Amy Barnard on Oct 30, 2018

2018 - Fall Bright Star with Edie Brickell-1

Not many teenaged theatre students have the opportunity to connect with the creative mind behind the musical they’ve spent months preparing. This past weekend, however, the Minnehaha Academy Players had just that experience.

Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and playwright Edie Brickell flew into Minneapolis this weekend for a performance at First Avenue downtown. This just so happened to be the same weekend that the MA Players put on four showings of Bright Star, a musical that Brickell created in partnership with Steve Martin. (Yes, that Steve Martin.)

On a lark, theatre teacher Nicholas Freeman contacted Brickell’s management team and let them know about the MA production. Who knows? He thought, Maybe she could stop by!

From Innocence to Maturity

Freeman’s moxie paid off on Saturday when Brickell showed up five minutes before the matinee and stayed for the whole show.
After the show, Brickell stayed on and interacted with the team and audience about the show and made time for photos and autographs.

“Edie remarked that seeing the students—from a place of innocence—play roles that moved into maturity and deep grief changed the story entirely,” shared parent Katie Craig. “On Broadway, it is the other way around. Adults must find a return to innocence first before they can move forward.”

This last-minute guest appearance isn’t exactly Brickell’s normal pre-show-MO. In case you already forgot, just a few hours after her visit to MA Brickell was on stage at First Ave. She told Mr. Freeman that she’s usually a bit of hermit before a performance and stays cozy in her hotel room, but something made her decide to pop in and see the students.

“The kids were touched—and shocked—that [Brickell] took the time to hear their version of this beautiful story,” Freeman says.

2018 - Fall Edie Brickell with Staff

Can't Wait to Tell Steve...

Brickell’s parting words to Mr. Freeman left all of those involved encouraged and grateful:

“It was truly a beautiful and touching performance by all,” she said. "I was very impressed by your entire production. The care and work were evident...Please let those kids know they touched my heartAnd please tell your colleagues and collaborators on the show they really did a wonderful job. I can’t wait to tell Steve and our creative team.”

Thank you, Edie Brickell, for giving our students the gift of your time.

Topics: Upper School, Fine Arts

Student Theatre Team Brings Home the Honors

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jun 11, 2018


Hennepin County Theatre Trust Recognition

Minnehaha students performed the play “Working” at the University of Minnesota’s Rarig Center this past April. They were awarded for their work by the Hennepin County Theatre Trust’s Spotlight Education Program, which honors and supports Minnesota high school musical theatre students and programs through learning, performing, and creative experiences for students.

Honors included:

Team Awards

Overall Production
Student Orchestra
Technical Crew 
Overall Technical Team 
Light & Sound Board Operators 

Honorable Mention
Achievement in Musical Theatre 
Overall Performance 
Vocal Performance by an Ensemble 
Acting Performance by an Ensemble 

Individual Awards

Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role
Seth Retzlaff ● Grace Anderson

Honorable Mention for Performance in a Leading Role
Greta Hallberg ● Noah Bauer

Outstanding Technical Leadership
Evalin Olson (Stage Manager)

Evaluator Shout-Outs
Danyelle Robinson ● Hannah Pope ● Lily Kline ● Ray Tippin ● Jordon Bates


Way to go! We're so proud of your hard work and pursuit of excellence!

Topics: Awards, Upper School, Fine Arts

Minnehaha Students Sing National Anthem at Twins Baseball Game! [Video & Photos]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on May 24, 2018

After weeks of preparation, Minnehaha Academy Lower School students sang the National Anthem to open a Minnesota Twins game! It was an exciting day full of anticipation, and the performance was beautiful. 

Students were greeted by stadium employees who said they were so excited that Minnehaha students were back to perform. While they waited to go out on the field T.C. Bear came for a visit and high fives. 

After performing, students stayed to watch the game with their friends and family. 

Minnehaha students did an exceptional job representing Minnehaha and performed wonderfully!

Thanks to everyone who posted photos from the day and tagged them on social media with #MyMinnehaha. Check out some of the photos below!

Topics: Lower School, Fine Arts

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