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 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 and volunteers locally as a member of Rotary. She serves as a commission member on the Kalamazoo County Public Art Commission, an advisory council member of the KNAC, and a committee member on the Kalamazoo Chapter of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation’s Narrative Change committee.
Kristen is also an accomplished lighting designer and still offers her skills to area theatres and programs as time permits.
Ty Hicks, Marketing Director
Eric Oliphant, Office Coordinator
Eric joined the ACGK as the office coordinator in the summer of 2020. He is responsible for all aspects of office management and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the organization run smoothly.
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.
Some of his most cherished musical accomplishments are performing in New Orleans during the Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2013, arranging music features and being Percussion Caption Head for the Watervliet High School Marching Band, performing as “The Kinks” for Bell’s Eccentric Café’s Halloween Show with the band BYJR, and curating and arranging the long-standing annual “A Night of Stevie Wonder” tribute concert held each May at The Livery Microbrewery.
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.
Deanna Omoniyi, Program Director for Beadventure
Deanna LMSW, CAADC was asked to take leadership of the Beadventure program in 2018. Her daughter was a Youthpreneur, and she wholeheartedly accepted the challenge because she believes in the values of BeadVenture and supports the mission. Using her knowledge and skills as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she created a 6-week curriculum that provides structure and organization for participants to learn the basics of beading and entrepreneurship. Activities, classes, workshops, and studio times have been infused with techniques to promote social and emotional learning and boost the self-esteem and confidence of all participants.
Courtney Pheils, Community Box Office Manager
Courtney joined the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo in August of 2021 as the Community Box Office Manager. She brings with her six years experience working for the ticketing department and box office with the San Francisco Ballet. She has also worked in a box office for a haunted house and managed the box office for a one-woman performance of Edith Piaf in San Francisco.
As an artist Courtney has a background in Studio Fine Arts and Fashion Design. She has pursued creating with painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, poetry, fashion, food, tattooing, and furniture design and often loves to mix several disciplines together into one project. Courtney has shown her sculptural creations in several art shows in Detroit, Michigan and she participated in Hot Couture; a fashion show in Oakland, California meant to raise money for the Crucible’s educational programs in the Industrial Arts. She has also volunteered with the costume department for Tibbits Opera House and currently sells her fashion and costume designs online.
Growing up without any encouragement to pursue the arts has led Courtney to become a huge advocate for the advancement of all artists as well as any arts and cultural programs. If not creating something you can find Courtney enjoying a live show, relaxing on the water, scouring the Halloween sections for home décor, playing board games, or horseback riding.
Nicki Poer, Box Office Associate
Miriam Thomas, Temporary Programs Director
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.
Mindee Waltz, Tessitura Database Administrator
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 asnd 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 Ciungan, Programs Director/Theatre Manager
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.
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.
Laura Latiolais, President
Angelita Aguilar, Vice President
Eric Johnson, Treasurer
Marissa Harrington, Secretary
Robert G. (Bob) Miller
John A. Oliver PhD