Kulture Klub Collaborative: Helping homeless youth create


Kulture Klub Collaborative (KKC) is an organization for youth ages 16 -21 experiencing homelessness. Jeff Hnilicka, KKC’s current director, said that most youth organizations work with young people from a deficiency model — in other words, asking, “How can we fix you?” KKC works with youth from an asset model, which asks, “How can we help you become your best self?”

One young person in KKC is getting trained and paid to be a studio engineer. He creates beats and mix tapes and is learning to work with artists in the studio in a professional manner. He is also writing and producing his own music. Hnilicka says he is mindful that KKC is creating a place for this young man to thrive but he also realizes that he is a black man in Minneapolis, which means it is hard for him to navigate through systems that made him homeless in the first place.

Hnilicka said KKC assists young people with the exploration of identity and finding what stability means to them. He went on to say homelessness is a cultural phenomenon so KKC gives young people the space to talk about the things going on in the world and how to change them.

Hnilicka said he sees KKC continuing to be an organization that is driven by youth. Youth are always at the table in every process, including grant development, program evaluation, and the selection of the artists who come to work with the youth.

The writer is one of the artists working with the youth to create a book in honor of KKC’s 21 years.

Currently, KKC is working with two dancers, Kenna Cottman and Deja Stowers. The dancers prepare a meal together with youth. While the meal is cooking, they dance the menu. For example if they are preparing Caribbean cuisine they learn a Caribbean dance.

Hnicklia described his work as having an activist spirit with an artistic framework. He also described his work as being social justice minded, as he thinks about privilege, and works to undo the systems that perpetuate homelessness. KKC create spaces for youth and artists to connect and grow on an individual level to help transform communities.

KKC is a non-profit arts organization that was formed in 1992 by Dorit Cypis a photographer and sculptor who lived above Youthlink. After serving six years as director, Cypis stepped down from her role. Mike Hoyt, a practicing professional artist, became the director and worked at KKC for 11 years. In 2010, Jeff Hnilicka moved from New York to Minneapolis to serve as director for KKC.

KKC has been housed in Youthlink’s building near downtown Minneapolis since its inception in 1992. YouthLink is a 40 year old youth opportunity center that offers a variety of services, such as health care for homeless youth, diagnostic services, family planning, immunizations, mental health, prenatal care, social services, education and treatment for STDs. YouthLink is also a drop-in center where young people can take a shower, do laundry, and get a hot meal.

The work of KKC has always been centered on the youth who come to the drop in space. KKC engages youth in the arts in a variety of ways such as open mics, art outings, workshops, developing the youth they serve as artists, and artist in residence programs.

According to its website:

“Many young people KKC works with are transitioning out of the foster care system or come from a volatile home situation. …. Kulture Klub is a bridge for young people experiencing homelessness to move from isolation to expression, towards finding a voice of participation in their communities.”

There are many young people who have aged out of KKC who continue to visit and give back to the community. No other arts organization in Minnesota works with homeless youth in this self-sustaining way. KKC provide youth with access to ongoing arts programming, internship opportunities, and training to become a part of the youth advisory board or learn how a board of directors operates.

According to its website, over the past 21 years, KKC has worked with over 6,500 homeless youth, and attended over 1000 arts events at over 100 local arts and cultural venues in the Twin Cities. One of KKC’s goals is making sure young people feel successful.

To see more videos from Kulture Klub Collaborative, click here. For a slide show of some of their projects, click here.

(Video by Kulture Klub Collaborative)

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Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.