About Us

Our Mission: To strengthen communities through shared creativity.

We know how to inspire creative impulses. Marry the best skills to the hardest challenges. We like “the road not taken.” We’ve walked it. We seek truth and integrity in our work. In our clients, we see the best of all—passion and an imagination that can reach past any boundary.

Carlo M. Cuesta, Founder and Managing Partner

In the early 1990s, Carlo Cuesta began his career as a theatrical stage director and arts administrator founding the Playwrights’ Project and serving as producer and general manager of Shakespeare In The Park in Dallas/Fort Worth Texas. In 1996, he was appointed executive director of the Playwrights’ Center, a national arts service organization based in Minneapolis/Saint Paul Minnesota. There he help grow the organization’s investment in artist fellowships and successfully led its capital campaign renovating an old Victorian church into a theater center for playwrights. In 2002, Carlo founded Creation In Common with Dana Gillespie (a playwright) and Padraic Lillis (a stage director) with the mission of strengthening communities through shared creativity. Today, he serves as the firm’s managing partner overseeing all consulting engagements.  Over the last 20 years, Creation In Common has delivered strategic solutions that have helped people across all sectors of the nonprofit field more effectively lead and create together. During this time, he became an instructor at the University of Minnesota teaching in its graduate art and cultural leadership program. In addition, Carlo conducts keynotes and workshops for a variety of groups around the country including Association of Fundraising Professionals, Minnesota Council for Nonprofits, and Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence and his articles on nonprofit branding have been featured in the Nonprofit Quarterly. He holds a MBA from the University of St. Thomas and a BFA from Emerson College. Though he is a New Yorker at heart– where he grew up; he is proud to be a Minnesotan– where he today lives with his wife Dana and daughter Isabella.

Contact Carlo at


or call 651-647-4443

Dana Gillespie, Founder and Director of New Business Development

A veteran fundraiser, Dana brings over 30 years’ experience consulting with nonprofit organizations and leading fundraising and communications teams. As a founding partner of Creation In Common, Dana has helped agencies assess their capabilities, elevate board governance, and deepen employee engagement through engagements with McKnight Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Care Providers of Minnesota, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, Opportunity Partners, Phillips Family Foundation, Sidney Health Center, National Council on Family Relations, Pillsbury United Communities, KERA/Art &Seek, and Walker Art Center. As a fundraiser for a variety of organizations ranging from the Dallas Theater Center, Young Audiences, The Alzheimer’s Association and Pillsbury United Communities, Dana has forged connections between the needs of an organization with the need to deepen donor understanding about the impact of giving all the while conveying a compelling narrative. Most recently for the Fairview Foundation, Dana developed philanthropic collaborations between hospitals and the communities they serve in order to improve health and organizational outcomes. Dana’s strengths in analysis and observation are enhanced by a love of storytelling. She is a produced playwright and as such, Dana sees the value of all the players and how individuals can work together toward a common goal. In her spare time, Dana loves to run the occasional 5K.

Contact Dana at


or call 612-310-1325

Lindsey Burdick, Senior Associate – Project Manager

Before joining Creation In Common, Lindsey served as a science educator and curriculum writer for Brooklyn Park public schools. Well-practiced in cross-functional team and stakeholder collaboration, Lindsey excels at problem solving to find creative solutions and productivity-driven learning outcomes. A communications specialist, Lindsey trained in non-violent communication, non-verbal, and conflict resolution techniques. She is a fierce social justice & racial equity activist – advocating and working toward systemic change.

Contact Lindsey at


or call 651-647-4443

Laura Venhaus, Project Associate

Laura brings 20 plus years of project management experience, a master’s in library science, and a passion for community building to the Creation in Common team. She has experience in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds having worked for organizations such as Starbucks Coffee, The Dallas Theater Center, The University of North Texas, Southwest Research Institute, and The Botanical Research Institute of Texas. During her tenure with BRIT, she worked on the design and implementation of “The Pollinator Pathway” which connects BRIT to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden along a meandering trail rich with native plants that provide an attractive environment for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and humans. She worked with the Native Plant Society of North Texas and the Texas Master Naturalists on this project. In addition, she worked with numerous citizen science organizations to incorporate their work into BRIT’s public education offerings. Laura is a skilled relationship builder and strategic thinker who specializes in planning, implementing, and evaluating innovative programs and projects that exceed organizational goals. She has conducted research for a variety of Creation In Common projects including Schubert Club, CCRI, and Help Me Connect.

Contact Laura at


or call 651-647-4443

Kallie Akinola, Project Associate

Kallie brings nearly a decade of public sector experience to the team, having previously worked in higher education and municipal government. Born and raised an Arkansan, Kallie developed a commitment to public service during her college years at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English, Kallie worked and studied at the University of Arkansas, where she attained a Master of Public Administration (MPA). Kallie is a passionate public servant who enjoys using her communication, organization, and problem-solving skills to facilitate meaningful projects. She is most proud to have worked on the City of Garland, Texas’s 2019 Bond Program, where she assisted in the redesign of the Downtown Square and developed processes and procedures for the newly minted property acquisition program. When she is away from the office, Kallie enjoys spending time outdoors with her family.

Contact Kallie at


or call 651-647-4443