Dr. Helen Q. Kivnick

Professor of Social Work; Executive Director, CitySongs
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
St. Paul, Minnesota
United States

Focus Areas

Economic Security
Arts & Humanities
Higher Education
Organizational Development / Management


Dr. Helen Kivnick co-founded CitySongs in 1992 and has served as its Executive Director since then. She was named the Twin Cities Woman of Distinction in May, 1996 for her vision and commitment in developing CitySongs. She received the University of Minnesota 2002 Community Service Award, in recognition of her work with CitySongs, and CitySongs' contribution to the community. She initiated or supervises the design and implementation of every element of CitySongs' program. Under her leadership, CitySongs has received the 2000-2001 Billie Griffin Award (a St. Paul award recognizing an artist or arts organization for their contribution to community vitality), the 1997 Minnesota Black Music Association Community Outreach Award, and annual MN State Youth Service Awards, recognizing the CitySongs Kids for the community service provided by their singing. A clinical psychologist, Helen serves as a Professor of Social Work at the U of MN, specializing in healthy life-cycle development. Helen is also an avocational musician. She performs with the Leigh Morris chorale, writes songs, and, as a record producer, is a voting member of NARAS. She co-produced two albums of South African folk singing, one of which was nominated for the 1987 Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Folk Music category. Her 1990 book Where is the Way: Song and Struggle in South Africa represents the 7-year study of black singing in South Africa that eventually gave rise to CitySongs. She served as a faculty member in the prestigious international Salzburg Seminar, 1999, on racism and media. Dr. Kivnick will be on sabbatical from mid-August 2004 - mid-July, 2005. She will remain in the Twin Cities, analyzing CitySongs' twelve years of data, experience, stories, and lessons learned about programming for vocal performance, healthy youth, and community development around tolerance and cooperation. As part of writing about CitySongs for arts, youth development, and community vitality audiences, she will work with CitySongs Board, staff, Kids, and other stakeholders to develop ideas for CitySongs' own next developmental stages. Her role with staff as a whole will be advisory; she will consult more intensively, as needed, with the Acting Executive Director and with a new, part-time, Development Staff member. During this period, day-to-day administration and supervision of CitySongs program operations will be conducted by Acting Executive Director Sarah Overly Johansen (see below). We will hire a part-time Development Staff person to assume ongoing grant writing responsibilities and help broaden CitySongs' base of financial support.