BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Debra Harounian Peltz,
Linda LeRoy Janklow,
Robert A. Pruzan,
Robert W. Downes,
Theodore S. Berger,
Patricia Morris Carey, Ph.D.
Erica Sutton Friedman
Lynne S. Katzmann
Iris Lior Posternack
Louise Hartwell White
The Honorable Laurie Cumbo,
Richard H. Levy,
Founding Executive Director
Shenell Bruce, Programs Coordinator, has a background in visual art, and additionally studied fashion design, marketing, and store design. She holds a BA in Business Administration.
Queena Chen, Teen Programs Manager, graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, studying graphic design. She originally began her journey as a Teen Programs participant, exhibiting her artwork in multiple Student Art Program exhibitions and in Teens Curate Teens, before serving as an AC intern. When she’s not designing and doodling, she is cloud watching in a park. Favorite colors: black, white, and grey—in that order.
Maggie Fishman is the Director of Practitioner Research and Digital Documentation at ArtsConnection. What does that actually mean? Maggie works on designing action research for teachers and artists, which includes professional development, and creation of new teaching models and curriculum. She has been doing this for AC’s Bridges program for 8 years, and is currently working on a Bridges resource library and website to share with a national audience.
Kristina Gonzalez, Program Manager is a professional astrologer, life coach, and Student Art Program alum who was born and raised in the greatest borough of NYC, Brooklyn, NY. While photography was her passion during her high school years, she loved the hustle and bustle of planning special events and working with a team of people. She went on to study at Fashion Institute of Technology majoring in Advertising and Marketing Communications developing her knowledge and skills on how to promote a brand through social media, events, and advertising campaigns. Kristina kicked off her ArtsConnection journey in September 2015 as a Receptionist/Program Coordinator supporting In-School Programs and has since then moved on to program managing for Teen Programs and In-School Programs. It was because of her experience exhibiting her work through Student Art Program in high school, she knew she wanted to give back to an organization that encouraged her to express her artistic voice and wanted to support the same experience for the young people in our NYC Public School system today.
Amanda Guest, Teen Programs Manager for Exhibitions, is a visual artist with 14 years’ experience at ArtsConnection, currently is a member of the Teen Programs team, facilitating teen exhibitions, internships, and collaborative artmaking spaces. Guest came to NYC to study sculpture at the New York Studio School. Her career as an artist spans drawing, sculpture, site-specific installations, and collaborations with Dieu Donne Papermill on artist books and limited editions. Guest was born in London, England, is a graduate of Harvard College, and has one daughter.
Jalise Hackle, Finance Associate, found her calling after her first accounting course in High School and her career sky rocketed ever since! Enjoys traveling and holds a BA in Public Accounting.
Tavia Huggins, Director for Finance, has overseen ArtsConnection’s finance and human resources since 2002. A number cruncher at heart, Tavia enjoys using those skills to help ArtsConnection make sound financial decisions for the future. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College and two lovely daughters.
Bridget Johnson, Teen Programs Manager, is an educator and filmmaker, specializing in stop motion animation and digital tools to explore the limits of documentary. Her education practice is rooted in collective care and community. She believes that her art and education practices go hand-in-hand.
Keith Kaminski, Deputy Director for Strategic Operations, is a queer, NYC-based multimedia artist and nonprofit professional with over twenty years of experience with arts education in NYC public schools. After three years as a NYC DOE art teacher, Keith has led arts education work at various nonprofit organizations for the past seventeen years and also serves on the board of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. Keith holds an MPA with a concentration in nonprofit administration from CUNY Baruch College and a BFA in art education from Syracuse University.
Nicholas Leichter, Program Manager, is a former choreographer, dancer, and artistic director. He arranges, plays piano, keyboards, percussion, and sings with The Celestials and serves on the Board of Directors at Language of Dance.
Daniel Levin, Program Manager, was Education Director for Amas Musical Theatre and Director of the Rosetta LeNoire Teen Musical Theatre Academy, and before that taught 3rd grade at Saint Ann’s School. When not administrating, Daniel writes plays and musicals, most recently turning his show Spandex, about competitive aerobics in the 1980s, into an audio musical podcast.
Erin Loughran, Senior Manager: Professional Development and Evaluation, has a background in visual arts and museum education. She started working at ArtsConnection as a program manager over 15 years ago. She has worked with teachers, artists and multilingual learner students in the DELLTA program and collaborated on the development of the DELLTA website launching in 2022. She currently works on the GIVE program, among others. In her time off, she’s introducing her young daughters to the arts.
Aishwarya Madhav, Program Manager, is a choreographer, performer, and teacher specializing in Indian classical and Bollywood dance styles. She currently lives in Long Island City.
Riham Majeed, Development Manager, is a Palestinian-American fundraising professional and emerging curator based in New York City. She holds a B.A. in Art History and Psychology from Fairfield University. Riham completed a curatorial fellowship at arts incubator NXTHVN, where she and two co-curators coordinated the exhibition Countermythologies. In her free time, Riham enjoys shooting and printing photographs, soaking up the sun in public parks and organizing with an all-woman-of-color-led grassroots political organization.
Fernando Maneca, Associate Director, Marketing & Communications, is an arts advocate, designer, curator, and mentor. For over two decades, he has held leadership positions, consulting, and mentorship roles at numerous esteemed NYC cultural institutions. In his former life as a performing artist, he created all manner of things, including performances for the stage, site-specific work in parks, bars, and empty office buildings, theatrical sets, costumes, soundscapes, music compositions, and video projections. He received an MFA in Dance from NYU/Tisch, a BA in Dance from Rhode Island College, and an AS in Architectural Drafting from Hall Institute of Technology. When he’s not at work, Fernando enjoys all things Marvel, Star Trek, and Star Wars, cooking for his family, and both barebow and compound archery.
Photo Credit: Malcolm-X Betts
Devan Manning, Program Manager, is an actor, director, and theatre educator born and raised in NYC. Devan has been involved with ArtsConnection for a decade. In high school, Devan participated in the Teen Reviewers and Critics (TRaC) Program where he wrote many reviews for Film, Theatre, and Multi-Arts that can still be viewed on our website. Then in 2019, Devan joined ArtsConnection as an Assistant Teaching Artist. Devan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Dean College and a Masters in Educational Theatre from NYU Steinhardt. When Devan is not teaching, you can find him reading, gaming, cooking, working out, and creating episodes for his Podcast Devan’s Read Aloud where he reads various books for young readers. Devan is thrilled to be working with ArtsConnection in this new role and is looking forward to his future here.
Kyla McKoll, Director of Professional Learning, is a multi-disciplinary arts educator who has worked in the field since 2005. She is passionate about creating liberated learning environments, examining access, inclusion, and equity in educational practices. Kyla holds a B.A. in Theater & Performance Studies from Muhlenberg College, and an M.A. in Educational Theater from New York University.
Edward Miller, Senior Manager: Programs, grew up in Minneapolis where he began his career in Theater at the Children’s Theater Company, Fuller Young People’s Theater and Youth Movement Dance Co. He is a graduate of the Acting Program at S.U.N.Y. Purchase and the improv program at The Upright Citizens’ Brigade, is a founding member of Habitual Theater, and continues to act, direct and design.
Erin Orr, Artist Mentor and Curriculum Specialist, is a puppeteer, storyteller, and teaching artist who focuses on how the interdisciplinary nature of puppet theater offers multiple entry points to literacy in early childhood. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she has collaborated on creating and teaching a sequential early childhood puppetry curriculum at PS 130 in Brooklyn for 20 over years.
Alexander Roman, Program Manager, has worked in the youth development field for over 14 years and it has become his life’s work to continue to build connections between arts education and progressive youth development.
Andrew Shillingford, Fiscal/Development Associate, was first introduced to ArtsConnection through CUNY Cultural Corps program. At first, he worked with Amanda Guest as an intern in the student art program with other interns. He later went on to do another CUNY program called Recovery Corps where he came back for the summer as a Finance and Development intern and was later brought on as a part-time employee to continue assisting Finance and Development. He’s currently a college student enrolled at Lehman College in the Bronx with a major in Philosophy and Mathematics with a minor in Japanese.
Briana Thomas, Teen Programs Manager, was born and raised in “The Boogie Down Bronx”. Her experience as an NYC public school student taught her the value of access to arts programming and motivated her to be a bridge to the arts for other students. Before ArtsConnection, she worked with students at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), The Boys’ Club of New York, and Arts East New York. Briana has a B.A. in Art History and Spanish from Williams College.
Gwendolyn Thomas, Director of In-School Programs, is an educator and arts administrator with a musical background in classical flute performance. She received a BA and an MA in flute performance from Mannes College of Music and Eastman School of Music respectively. Her entry into music education began as a teaching artist through various arts organizations. After receiving an initial certification in music education in 2015, her position as middle school band director at Hunterspoint Community Middle School (HPCMS) served as an opportunity to promote musical literacy and the inclusivity of communities of various socioeconomic backgrounds in concert band. Gwen served as a Program manager at ArtsConnection from 2012-2015. She recently expanded her skill set to include work as a behavior technician implementing therapeutic interventions for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Dionne Thornton, Director of Teen Programs and Community Engagement, is a southern-born, NYC matured, internationally-seasoned Black American who chases freedom, happiness, and her weird curiosities. She believes that art and culture are fundamentally important to the continued development of humanity. She is a former Advisory Board member of the Gordon Parks Foundation and has worked for Carnegie Hall, the International Center of Photography, and the Brooklyn Museum.
Luis Velez is the IT/Systems Manager at ArtsConnection. Previously, he was the IT Associate at The Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Luis earned his degree in Information Technology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. In his free time, Luis enjoys watching his favorite hockey team Tampa Bay Lightning and attending live concerts.
Katharine Vergel, Deputy Director for Development, is an experienced development professional who has helped build out and grow development offices for small and mid-sized non-profits over the last 15 years. She has led fundraising for a variety of organizations, including Imagine, A Center for Coping With Loss, and most recently, as the Head of Development, US for the Barça Foundation, the philanthropic arm of iconic football team, FC Barcelona. As the daughter of Colombian immigrants and as a first-generation American, Kathy has always had a personal and professional interest in social justice and human rights. Kathy holds a B.A. in Theater Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s Degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University.
Rachel Watts, Executive Director, is an Afri-Cari-Merican April fool with a love for dance and visual art. As a multidisciplinary arts educator she has focused on creating and advocating for meaningful and equitable programming for young people during her more than 20 years in the arts education and youth development fields. She has held several leadership positions, including as Director of Education at Ballet Hispanico and Director of The MYC Youth Center in San Rafael California, where she created a state-of-the-art facility focused on developing teen leadership skills through the arts and technology. Rachel earned a Bachelor’s from Williams College and a Master’s in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, with a concentration in Museum Studies, from New York University.
Amparo Chigui Santiago
Benjamin Perez Hidalgo
Dance China NY
Donna Maria deCreeft
Eric Mark Olson
Foot & Fiddle Dance Company
Freestyle Repertory Theatre
Isabelle Sigrid Marshall
Jane Cathy Shaw
Joy of Music Studio
Kevin Ray Jr.
Mexico Beyond Mariachi
Norman Edwards Jr.
Sara Jane Munford
Swing Street Ensembles
T. Scott Lilly
The Rod Rodgers Dance Company
The West Village Quartet