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, 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.
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.
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.
Charlie Tomlinson, Event Coordinator
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, 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. In 2018 he joined the board of CARES (Community AIDS Resource and Education Services) and currently serves as president. 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 Events Coordinator for the Arts Council, Charlie serves as Instructor of String Bass at Kalamazoo College.
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.
The Arts Council is seeking board members! Email firstname.lastname@example.org 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