Kristen Chesak, Executive Director
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 it’s Executive Director – a position she held for 11 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 of 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 and volunteers locally as the President of the Kalamazoo Rotary Club. She serves as a commission member on the Kalamazoo County Public Art Commission, and an advisory council member of the KNAC.
Kristen is also an accomplished lighting designer and still offers her skills to area theatres and programs as time permits.
Carla Bell, Administrative Assistant
Carla joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in 2023 as the Administrative Assistant and reports to the Executive Director. She is a Kalamazoo native and attends the Haworth College of Business at Western Michigan University. Her background is in healthcare administration and project management. In her free time, she enjoys time with her family, yoga, and cooking. Honored to have been invited to the team, she is looking forward to supporting the vision, mission, and core values of ACGK for our community.
Michelle Fan, Box Office Associate
Michelle is entering her junior year at Portage Central High School in Fall 2023. As a Ballet Arts Ensemble company Dancer, Michelle is dancing for her third year with the ensemble and her second year as a full member. She also has experience choreographing and dancing for CAGK’s Chinese New Year Gala. She has been dancing for as long as she can remember and enjoys it very much.
Jinli Feng, Staff Accountant
Jinli Feng joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in December 2021 as Staff Accountant. In her role, she oversees daily financial records management and reports to the Finance Director. Prior to joining the group, Jinli spent over two years as bookkeeper at the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy and she continues in the capacity of co-program director for Kalamazoo Chinese Academy STARTALK Institute. Jinli received her B.S., with a major in accounting, from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China. Her outside interests include playing the piano and dancing. Her interest in dance led to performances of Chinese folk dance for Chinese New Year at the Chenery Auditorium in 2019 and 2020.
Jacob Miller, Box Office Associate
Jacob joined the Box Office staff in 2022, assisting patrons of the various organization our Community Box Office serves. He now works full-time at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre but occasionally helps out for night-time and weekend performances as he is able.
Eric Oliphant, Operations Manager/Membership Director
Eric joined the Arts Council in August 2020 as Office Coordinator and was promoted to Operations Manager/Membership Director in the fall of 2021. In his new role he continues to support the activities of the Arts Council’s daily operations but will be much more involved in the shape and direction of the membership program and member benefits offered by ACGK.
Prior to joining the ACGK, Eric was the sales coordinator at Western Michigan University’s Miller Auditorium, where he worked alongside an incredible team to bring touring Broadway shows, comedy acts, and performances of all kinds to Kalamazoo. He had a brief cameo as the choir director/accompanist for the “Sister’s Christmas Catechism” performance. Eric also previously served as the auditorium’s office coordinator.
Eric is a percussion educator and has taught privately throughout southwestern Michigan at various high schools since 2008 and as an adjunct faculty member at Southwestern Michigan College since 2016. He has performed professionally as a percussionist, guitarist, and keyboardist in various ensembles including orchestras, pit orchestras, jazz big bands, and original music acts. Some of the notable ensembles include the Andrews University Symphony Orchestra, Lake Effect Jazz Big Band, Ed Bagatini Musical Groups, Elephant Rescue, and the Andrew Fisher Quartet.
Eric is married to his beautiful wife, Lindsey. The couple has two cats together. Eric and Lindsey have lived in the vibrant Kalamazoo area since 2016 and are looking forward to many more. Eric brings a passion for music and the inherent value of art in modern society into his work at the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.
Nicki Poer, Director of Engagement
Nicki joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in April 2023 as Director of Engagement. In this newly created role, she works on development and marketing efforts to promote arts engagement opportunities in the greater Kalamazoo community. She came to the Arts Council from from working in the advancement division at Kalamazoo College where she worked with athletics and special reunion giving.
Kalamazoo has been home since 2008 when she became the Director of Education and Outreach at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre after working in the education department at Hartford Stage. At the Civic, she founded and developed the Academy of Theatre Arts which provides youth and adult students with hands-on educational opportunities in performance and technical theatre. After 10 years at the Civic, Nicki served as the Executive Director of local youth literacy nonprofit, Read and Write Kalamazoo, where she set up operations and discovered her love of telling an organization’s story through grantwriting.
An actor, director, and choreographer, Nicki holds an MFA in acting from the University of Montana and a BA in theatre with a vocal music minor from Millikin University. She has performed in, directed, and choreographed productions locally at the Civic, Farmers Alley Theatre, Loy Norrix High School, and the Kindleberger Festival, among others. For the past three years, she has been filling in as a teaching artist with Education for the Arts when possible, returning to her roots in theatre education as her career began touring the US, Canada, and even Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT). With MCT, Nicki taught and performed with local youth in a new community each week. Through this adventure, she learned how vital the arts are for a community to thrive.
Proud Kalamazoo residents Nicki and her theatre professor husband, Brad, live with their two children, who are discovering their paths in the arts as musical theatre performers and dancers.
Kim Shaw, Programs Director
Prior to joining the ACGK, Kim worked primarily as an educator, illustrator, and working art maker with an emphasis in painting and the practice of expressive art therapy. Most recently, Kim taught at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Education for the Arts. Other educational endeavors include being the Arts Director/Art Educator at Kazoo School, arts faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and teaching at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Throughout the last 20 years Kim has also worked as an independent art maker under the name Kim Shaw Art.
This work includes teaching workshops and private lessons as well as commission work in painting and illustration. Kim is a studio resident of the Jerico maker’s space in the Edison Neighborhood and continues to engage with painting endeavors and collaborate with other art makers whenever possible. A graduate of both Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kim holds degrees in Illustration and Studio Arts with a focus in Art Education and Painting. The focus of Kim’s work is to grow individual and community enrichment through creative process, collaboration, active art-making, and human experience. In all of Kim’s artistic endeavors she strives to stay connected to current world art makers, new ideas, and artistic partnerships. Social justice, equity, and restorative justice are a priority in Kim’s personal education and the programming she cultivates in the community. Kim is married to partner Dell Darnell, and together they have three fierce, fabulous kids.
Kim Chandler-Williams, Box Office Associate
By day, Kim is a health care worker dedicated to her patients, and by night she enjoys acting, stage managing, and working behind the scenes in theatre. Kim joined the Arts Council to support the Community Box Office in 2021, and you can see her smiling face in the Box Office at productions around town.
Craig Vaughan, Finance Director
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.
Jeff Weber, Epic Center Director
Jeff joined the Arts Council in January 2023 as director of the Kalamazoo Cultural Center. Most recently he led Orangetheory Fitness Kalamazoo and Orangetheory Fitness Portage as studio manager. Acting as general manager of two fitness studios, Jeff orchestrated the day to day sales & operations and staff as well as operated OTF’s signature events. Jeff has over 20 years’ experience in event and facility management including facility manager at Wings Event Center and Wings West helping to bring the sport of curling to Kalamazoo, as well as numerous other events, including Elton John in concert and the United States Figure Skating Association Synchronized Skating Sectionals & Nationals. He served as general manager at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for two years where he oversaw all aspects of the multiuse arena as well as an outdoor festival space.
Jeff serves on the National Blueberry Festival board of directors, overseeing corporate fundraising and merchandise sales. Jeff is also is active in the International Venue Managers Association having graduated Venue Management School in 2012 and served on the International Crowd Management committee for three years.
Jeff graduated from West Virginia University and is a proud Mountaineer. He lives in Kalamazoo with his daughter, Adeline and dog, Lucy.
Nicole Weber, Community Box Office Manager
Nicole supports the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo as the Community Box Office Manager. Since joining the Arts Council Staff in 2021, she assisted with the creation and development of the new Community Box Office. She can be seen putting her customer service skills to work, and actively assisting community partners with running ticket sales for many performances and concerts across greater Kalamazoo. As a native of Portage, MI, Nicole grew up with a strong appreciation for the arts in the greater Kalamazoo area. In 2019, she graduated from Ferris State University with an Associate Degree in Digital Media. Music, theatre, storytelling, and art of all mediums continue to be of great importance in her life.
In her free time, Nicole enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, writing and performing songs, exploring the outdoors, and cosplaying at the Grand Rapids Comic Con each fall. Nicole lives in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo with her partner, Josh and their dog, Dixie Doodle.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Arts Council is seeking board members! Email email@example.com with interest to discuss this volunteer opportunity with a current board member.
Angelita Aguilar, President
John Oliver, Vice President
Tim Kilmartin, Treasurer
Nolan Bergstrom, Secretary