Emerging nonprofit ‘Loring Collective’ celebrates queer artistry

The Loring Collective is in the process of becoming a certified, queer-led arts nonprofit.

From left, Loring Collective board members Melissa Riper, Tony Burton and Izzy Voigt pose for a portrait on Friday, Feb. 7. The group aims to empower queer creatives in the Twin Cities by creating platforms for authentic expression and facilitating collaboration.

Andy Kosier

From left, Loring Collective board members Melissa Riper, Tony Burton and Izzy Voigt pose for a portrait on Friday, Feb. 7. The group aims to empower queer creatives in the Twin Cities by creating platforms for authentic expression and facilitating collaboration.

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

In a city brimming with talented queer artists, Loring Collective was created to bring them all together.

An emerging non-profit named after the LGBTQ+ cultural hub Loring Park, the collective is aimed at celebrating queer artists of all mediums.

The idea came to Tony Burton, a senior studying political science, and Melissa Riepe, a senior studying business operations, at the front desk of Keeler Apartments. Since its conception in August, the collective achieved fiscal sponsor status in January and are on their way to being a certified nonprofit. 

“There’s a huge queer creative scene,” Burton said. “We want to help facilitate and celebrate it to make it even better and grow even more.”

Burton and Riepe called on a few friends, Izzy Voigt, a senior studying horticulture, Enzo Mazumdar Stanger, a sophomore studying musical performance, and Brady Bunkelman to help lift it off the ground and spread the word.

“I was interested in the nonprofit because there’s a lot of benefits that come with being one,” Burton said. “If we want to be taken seriously in the eyes of society, we should be a nonprofit.”

There certainly is an abundance of art collectives in the Twin Cities (a simple Google search will tell you as much). However, you would be hard-pressed to find a queer-led collective focused on supporting local queer creatives. 

And so began the process of organization, applications and grant writing. While Burton and Riepe are currently taking classes on nonprofit management, the rest of the collective has never had experience with this type of work before. 

“It’s kind of like, ‘So, what are we allowed to do? And what can’t we do?’” Riepe said. “It’s surprisingly independent and you can do things illegally by accident, so there’s a lot of worry on that end.”

One of their first meetings was spent teaching each other how to fundraise for the collective and develop a business plan to include in their nonprofit and grant applications. 

“There’s been a really positive response,” Riepe said. “Even in our ideation phase way back in August, someone put a shout out on their personal social media and someone from Microsoft was like, ‘Oh, do you want to use our space?’”

Through funding, they’ve started to work on multiple projects. Loring Collective is building databases for collective members to access, curating a soundtrack of local music and hosting open mics.

“We’re obviously trying to create ways that people and artists can communicate,” Bunkelman said. “If they want to do collaborations with each other or they need a bassist [or] a drummer, just having that space open for them to communicate with each other and create new things is our goal.”

Currently, the collective directors are in the process of awarding the first annual Loring Awards. The goal is to recognize local queer creatives for their “artistic excellence.” Public voting begins again on Feb. 14 and the winners will be announced on March 6 on the collective’s Instagram account (@loringcollective).

“We just want to make [everyone involved] feel supported,” Burton said. “We want to encourage them to keep going.”