Director of Grants, Blandin Foundation (Grand Rapids, Minnesota)
Sessions: Creative People Power in the Northwoods (Friday 9 – 10:30am)
Arts & Culture Development Led by City Government? Yes, it’s Possible. (Saturday 9 – 10:15am)
Sonja leads Blandin Foundation’s work to fund Minnesota organizations, which seek to grow healthy and vibrant rural communities, and its Education Grants scholarship program, available to graduates of Itasca area high schools.
Sonja considers herself a rural advocate and grew up in a small town of 2,000 people in rural Denmark. After completing her education, she moved to Wyoming – in addition to advancing her business and entrepreneurial ventures — engaged in nonprofit leadership, foundation leadership, and volunteer and consulting opportunities to advance the lives of rural residents.
Sonja grew up in a home full of love of the arts, and has dabbled in music, writing and visual arts, but ultimately followed in her mother’s footsteps as an arts appreciator and advocate for community-based arts opportunities. She has been part of the Grand Rapids Arts and Culture Commission since 2014 and is currently serving as Chair.
Merrild earned a Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies degree from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. She also earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Business Administration and Leadership Studies from the Niels Brock School of International Business in Copenhagen, Denmark and Bellevue University in Omaha, Nebraska.