When it comes to creativity, Program and Events Coordinator Sam Bruno at Great River Arts (GRA) in Little Falls approaches any project fearlessly.
“I always tell people to dream bigger,” she said.
It is something she often sees manifested in children, ages 4-7, when she teaches GRA’s “Petite Picasso” art classes. It is never about whether they can or can’t accomplish something.
“They have this unbridled fascination and they are fearless. They just do it,” she said.
Bruno’s own passion for creative inspiration stems from her early childhood years. Since she grew up in Foley — a small town with no art center, Bruno said she considers herself lucky to come from an artistic family.
Her Grandpa Donato Bruno also worked as an art professor at St. Johnson’s University in Collegeville, at College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph and St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud.
Bruno started working at GRA in June 2013. She had recently graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with bachelor degrees in studio art and art history.
With her, she also brought her heart to see a small town thrive.
“I like to make sure rural art is displayed and recognized. It’s a way to keep small towns hip,” she said.
Bruno said there is one thing that is for certain — there is never a dull moment at GRA. With only three employees and a few volunteers, the non-profit organization served more than 13,000 patrons last year.
Her latest project was GRA’s third annual “Fashion Trashion Show,” which was a part of its go green 2017 community installation. Much of the backdrop to the runway was created by 1,122 unique tiles that Bruno hung on the walls.
“The installation involved students from across the county. It’s really fun to get the kids involved and to get them to think about all the garbage that is used,” she said.
Even though she takes on many various projects, Bruno considers herself mainly as a sculptor, a printer and a bookbinder. One day a week, she works in her Aunt Mary Bruno’s printing press shop, “Bruno’s Press.”
“We make greeting cards there,” she said.
Bruno said one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is seeing the children that take classes grow each year.
“I’ve had some of these kids since I started. I’ve also gotten to teach younger siblings and gotten to know the families. They are good people that are encouraging their kids,” she said.
Executive Director Jill Moore said she considers the organization lucky to have someone like Bruno on board.
“Sam handles our grueling schedule and near impossible expectations with a level head, smile, sense of humor, an open mind and amazing work ethic,” Moore said.
Bruno was chosen as “Employee of the Month” by the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce for the month of May. It’s a very exciting honor to her, as well as a humbling experience.
“I am so grateful for this fantastic recognition. Thank you to my amazingly supportive family for putting up with my crazy schedule and to my boss, Jill Moore, who is a huge inspiration and motivator to continue to push limits,” Bruno said.
As Employee of the Month, Bruno will receive gift certificates from Fresh Hair Professionals, Friends of Pine Grove Zoo, GoldSmith Jewelers, Lin Furniture, Minnesota Fishing Museum Hall of Fame and Education Center, Pizza Ranch, ServiceMaster, Spectrum Marketing Services, Subway and West Side Bar.
She will also receive flowers from Falls Floral, a cookbook from CHI St. Gabriel’s Health Hospice Program and will have a professional photo taken by Silker Studio.