The Riki Arts Foundation

The mission of the Riki Arts Foundation is to provide meaningful opportunities to explore artistic growth for those facing economic and physical challenges through one-on-one tutoring, classes and workshops. Scholarships and small grants available.

“Art has always given me wings”


Raised in Austria in an era where women’s choices were limited and expectations few, Riki Kölbl knew early that she wanted to fly. As a teen she discovered poetry and drawing, finding inspiration in part from the beauty of the nature around her. After secondary school Riki hoped to study art, but since college was considered an unnecessary luxury for a girl, she worked. And she waited. Two years on as a ground hostess for Austrian Airlines, the opportunity to grow her wings came in the literal form of a free airline ticket. She flew to New York, traveled the country on a Greyhound bus, and landed in North Carolina, where she found mentors, a creative community, and the start of an educational journey that would eventually culminate in multiple degrees. Throughout these years, Riki approached every obstacle she encountered as a challenge, and each challenge as an opportunity, building her wings and taking flight, over and over again.

Riki and husband Eric Nelson have called Northfield, MN home for more than five decades, raising their son, Benno, and becoming prominent members of Northfield’s own richly creative community. Riki’s art and poetry career has flourished, and she’s been a mentor and a teacher herself, helping many others build their own wings. Creating the Riki Arts Foundation allows her to expand this mentorship by funding meaningful creative and artistic opportunities for others in the Northfield area. The obstacles that women and girls continue to face today are both rugged and numerous, as they are for people who struggle with financial insecurity and physical mobility. The Riki Arts Foundation, with compassion at its core, focuses on these particular communities, and builds on the deeply earned understanding that no one can learn to fly without help, and that everyone deserves the chance to soar.