Bao Phi joined McKnight in August 2022 as Arts & Culture program officer. In this role he maintains and develops relationships with grantee partners and intermediary funders, manages significant grant portfolios, and actively collaborates with McKnight programs, investments, and operations teams to advance and strengthen the creativity, power, and leadership of Minnesota’s working artists and culture bearers.
Prior to McKnight, Bao worked as an arts administrator for nearly 23 years at the Loft Literary Center, advancing from receptionist to director of events and awards. He was on the team that helped the Loft earn the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Anti-Racism Award for Equilibrium, a spoken word program. He also managed the McKnight Artist Fellowship program in Creative Writing, and was co-creator and manager of Mirrors and Windows, a fellowship for mentoring American Indian, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, SWANA, Latinx, and mixed-race writers in the art and business of children’s literature.
As an artist, Bao is a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist. His poetry is included in The Best American Poetry 2006 anthology and published widely elsewhere, including in two collections from Coffee House Press and in Poetry magazine, Asian American Literary Review, and The Spoken Word Revolution. His fiction and essays have appeared in Octavia’s Brood: Stories from Social Justice Movements, and A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.
Bao is also known for his children’s books. His A Different Pond received six starred reviews and multiple awards, including the Caldecott Honor, an Ezra Jack Keats Honor, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association award for best picture book, the Minnesota Book Award for picture books, and other recognitions. He was named by Minneapolis Monthly as Best Author 2016, and the Artist of the Year (2017) and Author of the Year (2018) by City Pages. He is currently on the editing team for a forthcoming anthology of Asian American and Pacific Islander poets in the oral and spoken word traditions.
Bao has a bachelor of arts in English from Macalester College. Born in Saigon shortly before the mass exodus of his family and many others to the United States, Bao is a Vietnamese American raised in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis. He currently lives in Minneapolis with his child and their cat.