A Donor Advised Fund

A Family Connection

Tony Frentz always wanted to find a way to honor his late mother Emy’s memory.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Emy moved to Minnesota at a young age to attend college, where she would study art. She loved art in all forms, though her most used medium was acrylic paint. As she started a family and had children, she taught art classes to both children and adults in her spare time, always encouraging others to find their artistic side.

“Besides her family and her friends, her passion was art,” Frentz said.

Sadly, Emy’s time in the Mankato community was cut short when she passed away at age 43. Frentz was only a freshman in college, but he knew that someday he would carry her torch forward however he could.

In 2006, he found his inspiration while on an inter-city leadership visit to Fort Collins, Colorado. He visited a dedicated space for artists in their community, formed through a partnership between private and public entities. A real estate developer himself, the project spoke to him. Frentz quickly turned to Shannon Robinson, Executive Director of Twin Rivers Council for the Arts, at the time and agreed: “We need this in Mankato.”

A year later, Frentz purchased a former church building in downtown Mankato that would become his metaphorical canvas. In collaboration with Twin Rivers, he created the Emy Frentz Arts Guild, a home for artist studios and nonprofit offices in his mother’s memory.

The building was widely used by artists, nonprofits and visitors alike, with some tenants calling it their artistic home since its opening.

But in recent years, it became increasingly apparent to Frentz that the current “business” model for the building was not sustainable for the long term. As a private owner—as opposed to a nonprofit organization—there were hurdles and financial realities that simply were not going to work for the long-term vision of the building.

It was time for a new owner, but not a new mission.

“My first thought was, ‘Who should own this?’” Frentz said. He wanted the building to go to a nonprofit organization that would continue to honor his mother’s legacy in the community. “It needs to be put in the right hands.”

It did not take long for him to decide that the right organization to take this on was the Mankato Area Foundation (MAF).

“Because I served on the MAF board for eight years, I got to know the organization really well,” Frentz said. “I believe in it and trust it. And I really believed in [MAF President & CEO Nancy Zallek]—she can really do things.”

This was not Frentz’s first time donating a building to MAF. In 2019, he and Rob Else gifted the now Shared Spaces Philanthropy Center building so the nonprofit center could expand. Happy with the results of that donation, he was confident in his decision for this one, too.

“I knew they’d do a good thing with the expansion of Shared Spaces, and I felt the same way with the arts building,” Frentz said. “If anybody can do this right, it’s MAF.”

With the transition of ownership, Frentz and the Foundation agreed that it was a good time to reassess how they could best serve the community in Mankato. Together, they looked to answer the question: “What is the current need?”

Ultimately, the need was for a building similar to what MAF had created in the past—Shared Spaces – A Center for Nonprofit Collaboration—an affordable place for events, offices and professional resources.

“Overwhelmingly, we were told that a location with affordable and professional office, convening and event space was on the top of the sector’s needs,” said Nancy Zallek, President and CEO of MAF.

Of course, they made it happen and the name would include the inspiration for this artistic mission: Shared Spaces at Emy Frentz.

Renovations are underway to reimagine the space, which is not a foreign concept for Frentz.

“I love building new things, making buildings better, fixing things up. That’s how I express my creativity.”

Once renovations are complete, the building will have the capacity for approximately 15 offices in addition to a high-quality, multipurpose space available to all nonprofits within the community.

“MAF makes it a great experience to donate buildings,” Frentz said. “Not only do they make it a painless process, they make it an enjoyable one.”

After 15 years under Frentz’s ownership, he is excited for the next phase of the building with his mother’s namesake.

“I knew something great could be created in the building,” Frentz said. “It’s a relief that MAF owns it—it’s in good hands. It’s going to be there for a long time. To make another Shared Spaces—a beautiful resource for local nonprofits, I know my mom would be really proud.”