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The Art Academy of St. Paul Emergency Fund

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The Art Academy

The Art Academy in Saint Paul has given thousands of students of all ages the chance to develop a love of drawing and painting. Read ZACK’S STORY to learn how you can help this unique institution and amazing community survive the COVID shutdown.

How we calculated our goal:

Our school is small, and in order to meet social distancing requirements, we must cut enrollment by around 75%. Honestly, when we realized this, we considered closing the school. But staff and students alike asked us to do what we can to stay open.

We set our fundraising goal based on our enrollment constraints, our ongoing expenses, and our obligation to our dedicated instructors. 

We are still working long hours to keep The Art Academy alive and keep the students and staff engaged. We are very thankful to all of you who visit this site and consider helping us out.

Please consider sharing  this post with others.

100% of the proceeds of this fundraiser are going to staff salaries and business expenses.  Thank you!

A special thank you to Robyn Ehrlich for making these videos.


The Art Academy is a Twin Cities small business that has been providing high quality art education to children, teens, and adults for over 27 years. My Dad, James Robinson, founded the school in an effort to provide a style of art education he felt was disappearing in modern programs.

During his childhood my Dad showed a huge interest in art but was unable to find quality education. He spent much of his life looking for good teachers and had difficulty locating a place where he could learn traditional drawing and painting techniques. Eventually, he decided to provide the education that he struggled to acquire. Combining his passion for art and his great ability to connect with young students, he opened The Art Academy in 1993. 

The principles of art taught at his school are rooted in a deep understanding of the history of art and art education. My Dad, his partner Sarah Howard, and all of the teachers at The Art Academy continually emphasize that art is a skill and not a talent, that practice makes perfect, and that anyone, regardless of their background and experience, can do exceptional work.

My Dad and Sarah and their dog Paavo. Paavo is always in class making kids happy.

In order to promote the best possible learning environment for each and every student, The Art Academy focuses on small groups and one-on-one instruction, teaches a wide variety of mediums, and has a diverse structure of lesson plans. This allows everyone to become confident artists in their own areas of interest and accomplish their own creative goals.

Unfortunately, this style of instruction is not possible due to the conditions caused by COVID-19. Classes cannot run and the school has no income. Bills are piling up, and relief for small businesses at this time is limited both locally and nation-wide. Dad and Sarah are trying their best to keep the school alive for future students by making huge sacrifices to continue to support their fantastic teachers. They are living off savings and using those savings to keep their twenty-five teachers employed. They need help to make it through this challenging time. 100% of the proceeds of this fundraiser will go to staff salaries, rent, utilities, scholarships, and other recurring business expenses.

The loss of community and education provided by The Art Academy would be substantial if the school was forced to shut down. Students and teachers all around the Twin Cities area would lose a valuable place of learning, friendship, and support. In this time of great need and turmoil we hope you can help. Any financial support would be deeply appreciated.

To learn more about the school and its amazing students and their work, please read on.

This collection of paintings from kids between the ages of 14 to 18 highlights the great achievements of Art Academy students. Maggie won a Grand Prize for her second oil painting at the Minnesota State Fair; she painted it when she was 18. Allison won a State Fair Ribbon, too. She was working on her fantasy watercolor landscape when she was 17. Danielle’s bird was completed when she was 15, and that won a Ribbon at the Fair. Finally, there’s Robin’s Maidens on Arabian Horses. Guess what? Robin painted it when she was 17, and it also won a Ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair!

State Fair Grand Prize Winner!, Maggie, Age 18, Oil on canvas

State Fair Winner!, Allison, Age 17, Ink and watercolor

State Fair Winner!, Danielle, Age 15, Watercolor

State Fair Winner!, Robin, Age 17, Ink and watercolor

Dad and Sarah have built a caring community in the Twin Cities. Thousands of students have been able to learn, build long-lasting friendships, have fun, and develop a love for the arts. 

Another mission of the school is to provide young people with an enjoyable job; almost all of the teachers at The Art Academy are former students who care greatly for the school, the students, and all things art.

The Art Academy has turned into my Dad and Sarah’s extended family, and it’s my extended family, too. All of the teachers are dear friends. They grew up at The Art Academy and share their love of drawing and painting with those around them.

Andrew began taking art classes at The Art Academy when he was 7. He has taught at the school for 8 years.

Tasha was a student, too, and taught at The Art Academy for 7 years.

Andrew began taking classes when he was 8. He's in his 30s now. He's taught at the school for over 16 years.

Sophia started taking classes when she was a little girl. She taught at The Art Academy into her early 30s until she moved to Wisconsin. Now she's married with two little girls of her own. Dad and Sarah remain her dear friends.

I am lucky to speak from experience when I write about this. At a young age I took lessons at the school and was a teacher there for over 5 years. At The Art Academy I saw students progress beyond what they thought they were capable of doing, which is the greatest joy of teaching. There is no better reward for a teacher than having a student complete a project that they thought was impossible, and this happens all the time at the school. It is also a great gift to see parents so thrilled with how much their kids have grown as artists.

That’s me, working on a painting when I was 7. 

This is my brother, Nate, starting an oil painting when he was little, too. (Nate also ended up teaching at The Art Academy.)

These were some of our first paintings. When these photos were taken, Nate and I were studying the work of the famous American illustrator, N. C. Wyeth.

State Fair Grand Prize Winner!, Zack Robinson, Age 7, Robin Hood, Oil Painting after N. C. Wyeth

State Fair Blue Ribbon Winner!, Nathaniel Robinson, Age 7, King Arthur, Oil Painting after N. C. Wyeth

Look at these gems from The Art Academy’s 9-13 Program. Kevin won a Minnesota State Fair award for his amazing watercolor and gouache painting of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Ellen’s Owl was completed in pen & ink and watercolor; Sherrill’s Parrot and Rosemary’s Rafiki and Simba are unbelievable achievements for 13-year-olds.

State Fair Winner!, Keven, Age 12, Watercolor, gouache and colored pencil

Ellen, Age 13, Ink and watercolor

Sherrill, Age 13, Ink and watercolor

Rosemary, Age 13, Ink, watercolor, gouache and colored pencil

Support for local businesses during this time means the world to the business owners and the communities built around them. All donated funds will be used to keep the school afloat until classes can support the school once more. 

We thank you for your consideration and hope to keep the arts alive through this difficult time.

Here are some great pictures completed in The Art Academy’s 5-8 classes. Jacob was 7 when he painted his Skateboarding Pig, Allie painted her Smiling Elephants when she was 8, Malcolm recorded a Space Shuttle Mission when he was 7, and Annika painted a Happy Teddy Bear when she was 6.

Jacob, Age 7, Acrylic Painting 

Allie, Age 8, Acrylic Painting 

State Fair Winner!, Malcolm, Age 7, Acrylic Painting 

Annika, Age 6, Acrylic Painting 

For more information about the school and our mission, please visit The Art Academy website



  • Anonymous
    • $50 
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    • 5 mos
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  • Pamela VanderWiel
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Organizer and beneficiary

Zack Robinson
St. Paul, MN
Jim Robinson

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