Storycatchers prepares young people to make thoughtful life choices through the process of writing, producing and performing original musical theatre inspired by personal stories. Through the creation of a statewide artistic platform that engages the public with the stories of incarcerated and re-entering youth, Storycatchers Theatre inspires the community to embrace and receive these children and young adults. For over 33 years, Storycatchers Theatre has served court-involved youth. Storycatchers has developed trauma-informed wrap-around programs from probation through detention, incarceration, and reentry. In November of 2013, Storycatchers received a “National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award” in recognition of its work with detained and incarcerated youth. Ira Glass, a long time supporter, has featured Storycatchers on “This American Life.” Storycatchers Theatre is proud to partner with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Steppenwolf Theatre.
Bruce McKaig has been a visual artist for over thirty years, living in North and South America, Europe, Siberia, and India. Starting with photography, his art now also explores sculpture, audio/visual projections, and performance pieces. He has been awarded private and public grants from the city of Paris and Washington DC, and has participated in over forty-five solo and two hundred group exhibitions since 1980. His photographs are in museum collections in the USA, France, and Guatemala. Bruce has also worked in art education since 1987. In addition to teaching in accredited academic universities, he has taught in museums and community centers, working with the general public, senior citizens, autistic teenagers, and incarcerated psychiatric patients. He has over ten years experience in teaching the arts to children ages 5 through 12, and has offered classes in French and Spanish as well as in English. He regularly lectures and writes on photography, and has curated group and solo exhibitions of other artists’ work since 1988. Bruce was a 2016 Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies, working on funding policies and practices in the arts as part of their New Economy Maryland (NEM) program. He received the 2016 Crusade for Art Engagement Grant to build a barter network between artists and tradespeople in Baltimore. Since 2000, he has devoted his time to community based public art projects and advocating for ethical funding policies in the arts and humanities. He currently teaches in the Art & Art History Department at Georgetown University, writes for the Baltimore blog What Weekly, and lives at Artists’ Housing Inc. in East Baltimore.
Chelsea Weathers is an art historian and writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her art writing has been published in Artforum, ArtLies, Criticism, Hyperallergic, THE Magazine, and elsewhere. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she holds a PhD in art history from the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2013, she has been a co-director and editor of Pastelegram (pastelegram.org), where she collaborates with contemporary artists and writers. Before moving to Santa Fe, Chelsea worked as an archivist at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, TX. Recently, her writing has focused on issues of visual art and place, including subjects such as sustainability in the US Sun Belt and debates around Confederate monuments in the American South. For SFAI, Chelsea will focus on a memoir of her experiences with her mother, a refugee from Vietnam.
Cyndie Bellen-Berthézène’s diverse artistic gifts and academic accomplishments – in modern dance, opera, languages, the visual arts and as a published children’s book author and creative director – support and energize the innovative arts-based pedagogy of Time In. After studies with some of the world’s leading dance teachers, Cyndie became director of Windham College’s dance department at just 18. She danced professionally in New York and Paris, and then turned to opera, studying with Alberta Masiello, Rita Patane, Adele Addison, Eugene Kohn, among others. Combining opera theory with doctoral work as a Fellow in Slavics at Penn and Columbia. Cyndie received awards and fellowships in both disciplines. She was an Opera Fellow at Aspen, taught Russian at the University of Pennsylvania, studied extensively in the former Soviet Union, writing and presenting musico-literary scholarship at conferences in the US and the USSR. In the field of early childhood education, Cyndie is a proven innovator. She developed a unique, interdisciplinary pedagogy suited to the multi-modal learning style of very young children. Cyndie’s extraordinary programs – Opera ‘N Art, Arty Readers: An Operatic/Literary Journey through Manga and CosiTV – are an engaging marriage of high and low art forms for children from Pre_K-Grade 5. For her groundbreaking work in arts and education, Cyndie was the recipient of the very prestigious 2007 Maxine Greene Award. Huffington Post’s 2015 Woman of the Year in Art, Cyndie is the creator of studio-art based classroom materials for over two dozen operas, ballets and symphonic works. She was the Creative Director/author for Scholastic’s Kidsketch. Through her unflagging commitment to equality, opportunity and access for at-risk public school children, Cyndie has changed the lives and learning of over 2000 of New York City’s youngest and most at-risk public school children from Harlem and the South Bronx and brought a decade of meaningful work to up-and-coming artists in New York.
Eileen Shaughnessy and Catherine Newth
Eileen and Cathy met at a life changing Work that Reconnects Intensive retreat in Guelph, Ontario, in May 2016. Discovering a shared deep care for the natural world, resistance to oppression in all its forms, and passion for living social justice through a community oriented approach to music making, they quickly formed a productive working relationship. Since that day, they have facilitated, recorded, and toured together, bringing a message of resilience and hope to audiences across Canada. They draw upon expertise in individual and collective healing from trauma, engaging, inspiring and mobilizing humans through music, and oppression aware facilitation to create a collaboration that is multifaceted and unique.
Heidi Boisvert is a new media artist, creative technologist, experience designer, researcher and writer. She founded and serves as the CEO and Creative Director of the futurePerfect lab, a boutique creative agency that works with nonprofits to develop imaginative applications of integrated media and emerging technology. Heidi was formerly the Media Director at Breakthrough where she designed, developed and promoted a range of viral, new media and pop culture campaigns that helped raise awareness and instigate policy change on pressing social issues. She created the first 3D social change game, ICED I Can End Deportation, to shift the frame around unfair U.S. immigration policies. Heidi also designed America 2049, an alternative reality game on Facebook about pluralism, which was nominated for Games for Change and Katerva awards. Most recently, she co-founded, XTH, an open-source bio-creative technology start up, and was named a Harvestworks Creativity + Technology = Enterprise Fellow as well as a Media Impact Fellow at both the Harmony Institute and the Norman Lear Center at USC. She received her PhD in Electronic Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is currently an Assistant Professor of Emerging Media Technologies at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and a research affiliate at the MIT OpenDoc Lab.
Jody Wood makes work that is time-based and performative, utilizing video, installation, performance, and community organization to engage with socially informed content. Her work has been honored with grant support from New York Council for the Humanities, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, Brooklyn Arts Council, and residencies with Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. In 2014 she was a Socially Engaged Art Fellow with A Blade of Grass. Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in publications such as The Atlantic, Hyperallergic, MSNBC, and TRT World (Turkish Radio and Television).
Michelle Angela Ortiz
Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Through painting, printmaking, and community arts practices, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face. Her work tells stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery to claim and transform spaces into a visual affirmation that reveals the strength and spirit of the community. For eighteen years, Ortiz continues to be an active educator in using the arts as a tool for communication to bridge communities. As a highly skilled muralist, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led community building and art for social change public art projects both independently in Costa Rica and Ecuador and through the United States Embassy as a Cultural Envoy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, and Honduras. In 2016, she completed the first U.S. State funded public art project since the re-opening of the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. Ortiz was awarded the Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Year in Review Award which honors outstanding public arts projects in the nation. She is a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist National Fellow, a fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts, and recipient of the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award and Art & Change Grants.
Sandra Paola López Ramírez
Sandra Paola López Ramírez (BFA EdM) is a dancemaker, improviser and performance activist. Her work is characterized by the investigation of complex issues such as relationship, gender, race, identity, awareness, kinesthetic listening and perception, and it has taken her through the US, Colombia, Brazil, Cyprus, France, Canada and Mexico. Since moving to the United States from her native Colombia in 2004, she has studied under renowned artist such as Kirstie Simson, Ruth Zaporah, Cynthia Oliver and Jennifer Monson and has developed her art practice to integrate her creative process and her cultural organizing efforts. Driven by her commitment to social justice, Sandra Paola co-founded and now directs in2improv – an organization empowering diverse populations through performance and improvisation in the US/Mexico border. She has taught widely in both formal and informal education settings and is currently dance faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso and a candidate in the MFA program in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College.
Sarah Shotland is the author of the novel Junkette, and a playwright whose work has been performed widely nationally and internationally. She is the Co-Founder and Program Coordinator of Words Without Walls, which brings creative writing classes to jails, prisons, and rehabilitation centers in Pittsburgh, PA. She also teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University. She’s currently at work on a collection of essays exploring her work with Words Without Walls.
Scott Davis has been living, working, and organizing in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties since 2007. In his professional career, his focus during this time has been project management rehabilitating Indian housing at the Eight Northern Pueblos. Working for a Native Woman owned construction firm, and the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority, Scott has come to love the people and history of his new home in Northern New Mexico. During these years, he has been educated through close relationships at Tewa Women United in Española. This work has brought him face to face with what it means to be a settler colonial in the Tewa World. Coupled with a new position as a Resource Trainer for A CALL TO MEN, Scott has found purpose in exploring the nature of white male privilege, and how it can be leveraged toward creating Justice. As a writer and facilitator, Scott continues to push himself and others into the uncomfortable conversations so critical to realizing social change. As a self identified immigrant to Tewa Country, he continues to learn and grow as a newcomer to this place.
Soulaf Abas (Soully) was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. In 2008 she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts from Indiana State University. Then, she returned to Syria and taught art at the Arab European University. She also spent some time translating books and articles.In 2010, she returned to ISU to get her Masters in Fine Arts. She went back to visit her family in Damascus-Syria in the summer of 2012, a year after the revolution began. To her great surprise, she found that what used to be her playground had been reduced to a pile of rubble, with bloodstains everywhere. The visit completely changed her perspective and her sense of what home means. Upon her return from Syria, she started creating images in painting and printmaking that depicted what she experienced. For the first time, her subject and her process were working together in such harmony that she finally began to understand how far painting can be pushed in terms of process and concept, and how healing it can be. Casualties become trivial numbers during times of war, and neighborhoods become insignificant remains. Soulaf’s work about “Syria” honors those who have lost everything to war, but still smile in spite of that loss. It is dedicated to those who still give, though everything was taken away from them, and to those who love, no matter what.
Stephanie Dinkins is an artist interested in creating platforms for ongoing dialog about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging and our future histories. She is particularly driven to work with communities of color to develop deep-rooted AI literacy and co-create more culturally inclusive equitable artificial intelligence. Dinkins’ holds an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also an alumna of the International Center of Photography and the Independent Studies Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her artwork is exhibited internationally and presented at venues of varying stature – by design. These spaces include Herning Kunstmuseum, Denmark; Spellman College Museum of Fine Art; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; Wave Hill, Studio Museum in Harlem; The Long Island Museum, NY; Spedition Bremen; and the corner of Putnam and Malcolm X Blvd, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Past residencies include the NEW INC, Blue Mountain Center; The Laundromat Project, Art/Omi and Center for Contemporary Art, Czech Republic. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets. She is 2016/17 Artist-in-Residence at NEW INC, project catalyst for Team Haptics, Cyborg Futures 2017 and the recipient of a 2017/18 A Blade of Grass Fellowship. Professor Dinkins teaches digital and interactive media at Stony Brook University.