Kristen Chesak, Executive Director
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Kristen joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in June 2016. Prior to this appointment, Kristen had a 22-year career at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre – serving in the positions of Intern, Carpenter, Lighting Designer, Production Manager, and most recently as its Executive Director – a position she held for the past 10 years. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Kristen has also had the pleasure of working for the Group Theatre, The Alice B., and the Annex Theatre. A graduate of both Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, Kristen holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts and Communication and an M.F.A. in Performing Arts Administration.
Kristen has been a strong advocate of the arts in her previous roles, and was presented with the Robert A. McKenna Award by the Community Theatre Association of Michigan in recognition for her contributions to community theatre at the local, state and national levels. She has also served as a committee member for the American Association of Community Theatre, volunteers locally as a member of Rotary, and as a board member of Queer Theatre of Kalamazoo.
In addition to advocacy, Kristen has a proven track-record in fundraising and program development and is eager to be able to expand her role in the community as a connector between art, artists, and the community.
Steve Curl, Curator
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Steve joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in January 2014 as an art handler for Art Hop, a job he formerly held with the Arts Council “many years ago.”
Steve is a popular Michigan artist known for his use of discarded metals, like aluminum, to create robots and other fun free-standing sculptures like Japathar, a popular attraction at the Kalamazoo Art Fair. Steve is proud to say he is the only “second generation” artist in the KIA Art Fair.
Sara Dillon, Integrated Membership & Media Specialist
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Sara joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in August 2018. With over 20 years of professional experience, Sara’s passion for communication has remained consistent throughout her career. Prior to joining the Arts Council, Sara was the sole proprietor of Ten23Communication, LLC, where she maintained a portfolio of corporate and financial clients throughout Michigan and across the United States. Additionally, Sara was an adjunct communication faculty member at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC); she served as the Marketing and Communications Manager for the InterNational Electrical Testing Association (NETA); and as the Marketing Director for the Western Michigan University Alumni Association. Sara also enjoyed her time at several advertising/marketing agencies in Kalamazoo including Biggs|Gilmore, UMLEX, and Copper Advertising.
Sara has a strong background as a community volunteer serving on several boards and committees, including the Mattawan Public Education Foundation (MPEF), YES for Mattawan, Girls on the Run, the Integrated Marketing Committee at WMU, InterCom, YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, and the Bridges to Digital Excellence Program in Benton Harbor. She is actively involved as a volunteer for Junior Achievemenrt and has volunteered for the the Greater Kalamazoo United Way, and the Girl Scouts of Kalamazoo.
Artistically, Sara spent many years as a dancer and she loves creating and collecting pottery. An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Sara has worked professionally as a voice talent for globally-recognized brands such as the Kellogg Company and Nielsen, as well as the Detroit Public Schools.
Sara has lived in Michigan since 1996 and considers Kalamazoo “home.” A two-time graduate of Western Michigan University, Sara holds a B.A. in Broadcasting and an M.A. in Organizational Communication.
Jay' Shawn Howell, Marketing Intern
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Jay' Shawn joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in September of 2019. A graduate of Kalamazoo Central and Kalamazoo native, Jay' Shawn is a senior at Western Michigan University studying marketing through the Haworth College of Business. He plans to graduate in summer of 2020 and move to Chicago to start his professional career.
Jay' Shawn has a great deal of experience in the world of marketing having interned with Kalamazoo's Convection with Conviction as well as the Farmer's Market. He has also worked in the insurance and financial industries.
Jay' Shawn is looking forward to his internship with the Arts Council and to meeting and interacting with its artistic members as well as those involved and interested in the arts in greater Kalamazoo.
Charlie Tomlinson, Program Coordinator
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Charlie joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in 2014. A graduate of The University of Michigan with a B.M. and M.M. in String Bass Performance, Charlie spent his early career performing with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, among others. After moving to New York City, Charlie founded (and served as Artistic and Executive Director for) Positive Music, an organization dedicated to presenting quality chamber music concerts, providing performance and listening opportunities for musicians and audiences affected by HIV/Aids, and exploring the relationship between performing/listening to music and health and healing. He developed a broad freelance career playing music from the early Baroque to working with many living composers, performing in venues from the Knitting Factory to Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall including performing for 10 years as the principal bass of the New York Chamber Ensemble and with a particular highlight of being a guest artist with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in their “What Makes a New York City Composer” series. He also worked as Production Manager at BergerBrown Communications, a financial public relations firm.
Charlie returned to Kalamazoo in 2008 and quickly became involved with local arts organizations. He has served on the Boards of Directors of the Crescendo Academy of Music and Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers, and continues to serve on the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Society board. Most recently Charlie worked for the Arts Council in 2011 as a Special Events Coordinator for Make Music Kalamazoo, was the Production Coordinator at Fontana Chamber Arts, and the transportation coordinator for the 2016 Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.
Charlie is a graduate of the Kalamazoo Leadership Academy and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Grand Rapids. In addition to his present role as Program Coordinator for the Arts Council, Charlie serves as Instructor of String Bass at Kalamazoo College.
Craig Vaughan, Finance Director
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Craig joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in May, 2017. A Grand Rapids native, Craig relocated to Kalamazoo after meeting his wife in 2011. He’s spent the bulk of his business career in office management for small professional firms with overall responsibility for financial reporting, human resources, technology, and facilities management. In addition, during his consulting career he performed audit preparation service for the Community Media Center in Grand Rapids.
Craig’s art experience is heavily geared toward the world of music. He started programming at WYCE, 88.1 FM in Grand Rapids in 2005, which continues to afford him a platform to imprint his musical proclivities on an unsuspecting radio audience. Craig also serves as the Finance Manager for Discover Kalamazoo, on a part-time basis.
Craig received his B.S. in Accounting from Grand Valley State University.
Mindee Waltz, Tessitura Systems Specialist
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Mindee Waltz joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in January 2019 as the Tessitura Systems Specialist, continuing in a role she originated for the Kalamazoo Arts and Cultural Consortium in 2015. Although her Bachelor's degree is in Communication, her earlier career spanned the legal, pharmaceutical, and technology industries.
Mindee grew up in Dublin, Ohio but has felt at home in Kalamazoo since moving here with her family in 2012. She enjoys theater and music and finds it gratifying to play a part in supporting the local arts community.
Bianca Washington, Program Director
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Bianca joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in October of 2019. She has been teaching at the collegiate level for seven years and has been an educator of young people for more than ten years. She has taught theater both at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University and is also a theater teaching artist at Education for the Arts where she taught drama to K-12.
Bianca studied abroad in London, South Africa, and Toronto, performing and engaging in master classes and research. She is one of the founding members of her theater company FACE OFF, which focuses on producing and supporting artists of color and their stories in Kalamazoo and other local communities.
As a trained actress, Bianca has performed and traveled with her uncle's company, “Washington Productions,” for more than ten years. Bianca comes from broad family of artists to theater performers, skilled orators, and visual artists, and she believes her father is an art curator at heart.
Along with her teaching and training, Bianca has had the pleasure of working with Health Promotion and Education at Western Michigan University where she served as coordinator of Theatre for Community Health that seeks to inform students of the importance of health resources on campus.
Bianca received her B.A. from Western Michigan University and her M.F.A. at The Pennsylvania State University. She lives in Kalamazoo and is honored to be a team member of the Arts Council and excited with her new role. She is looking forward to continuing to contribute to Kalamazoo and surrounding communities.
Alyssa Weiskopf, Office Coordinator
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Alyssa joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in August 2018 as the Office Coordinator. Originally from Mississippi, Alyssa moved to Mobile, Alabama to attend the University of South Alabama where she earned her B.M. in music business.
Alyssa is a clarinetist and her art experience is geared towards classical music. She started her career at a local music retail store in Mobile and then moved on to work in the box office for the Mobile Symphony Orchestra.
Alyssa relocated to Kalamazoo with her fiancé, who is studying trombone performance at Western Michigan University. She is excited to explore Michigan and to be involved in Kalamazoo’s arts community.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Dr. Scott R. Irelan, President
Western Michigan University, Associate Dean of Fine Arts
Laura Latiolais, Vice President
Retired, Hospice Care of SW Michigan
Kurt Sherwood, Secretary
Miller Canfield, Attorney
Tim Kilmartin, Treasurer
Southern Michigan Bank and Trust, Kalamazoo Regional President
Kalamazoo Promise, Director of Credential Completion
Community Volunteer; Actor
John F. Donaldson, CPA
Five Star Real Estate; Actor
Vice President, Treasure Management Officer at PNC
Director of Finance and Personnel at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Robert G. (Bob) Miller
Western Michigan University, Associate Vice President Community Outreach