Meet Our Staff
- Michael Bosarge | Vice President of Finance & Operations
Contact Michael for finance, operations, and human resources
Michael is an experienced finance and operations professional. He has exemplified years of successfully helping lead organizations in high-level accounting, budgeting and audit compliance. His keen understanding of accounting procedures and software systems is evident in his work.
Several times throughout his professional career, he assumed additional responsibilities and was promoted internally. His thought leadership is blended with his compassion for the well-being other people, which has also helped him excel in human resource director roles throughout his career. He has also helped lead information technology strategic planning and general operational strategies and compliance.
Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama. While attending college, he was active and held various student leadership positions including President of the Student Programming Board, Financial Director for the Student Programming Board, Student Government Senator for the College of Business and President of the campus chapter of Circle K International, which is a collegiate service organization that is a leadership program of Kiwanis International.
Michael has over ten years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector as a member of the executive management team at South Arts and previously at Technology Association of Georgia. With both organizations, he has served as the executive officer for the finance and operations sectors of the organizations.
- Ellie Dassler | Assistant Director, Traditional Arts
Contact Ellie for In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture
Ellie Dassler is the Assistant Director for Traditional Arts. She helps to facilitate South Arts’ Traditional Arts programs, including the In These Mountains initiative supporting and documenting traditional arts and cultures in Central Appalachia. She is a passionate believer in the role that traditional culture can play in building a more equitable world.
Ellie holds an MA in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University and a BA in Anthropology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Before joining South Arts, she has worked and interned for the Kentucky Folklife Program, the Journal of American Folklore, the North Carolina Arts Council, and Long Island Traditions. She was a 2017-2018 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at the University of Aveiro in Portugal.
- Sara Donnelly | Director, Jazz
firstname.lastname@example.orgSara Donnelly is a veteran arts administrator, connector and advocate with a specialty in jazz for many years. She recently joined the staff of South Arts in Atlanta, GA as its first Director, Jazz, to launch the forthcoming Jazz Road initiative in 2019. She will telework from her Washington, DC base. Donnelly has held more than a few grant making positions in the national jazz and arts funding arenas including the National Endowment for the Arts (Jazz Fellowships, Multi-Music Presenters); National Jazz Service Organization (Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest National Jazz Network); Association of Performing Arts Professionals (Continuing Education/Arts Partners); and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (Jazz Next, French-American Jazz Exchange, Jazz Touring Network).
Contact Sara for Jazz Road
Having served on the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters panel, Donnelly has enjoyed panel work for the National Endowment for the Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Creative Capital, USA Fellows, Jazz Congress, International Association of Jazz Education, and JazzTimes, along with various regional and state arts agencies.
More recently she consulted for the DC Jazz Festival, launching DCJazzPrix, the festival's inaugural competition to award emerging, excellent jazz bands from across the U.S. She has co-produced concerts for Jazz at the Johns Hopkins Club in Baltimore, MD and Transparent Productions in Washington, DC. Donnelly is a founding Board member of CapitalBop, Inc. in Washington, DC.
- Nikki Estes | Director, Presenting & Touring
email@example.comNikki Estes, program director at South Arts, has worked in the Atlanta nonprofit arts community for over 25 years. She joined South Arts in May 2003 and manages the grants program which awards more than $550,000 annually to presenters within a nine-state region. She also manages special initiatives that support the presenting and touring dance field. Her main responsibilities include program design and evaluation, database management, panel coordination, and technical assistance.
Contact Nikki for Presentation grants, Express grants, Professional Development and Artistic Planning grants, Cross-Sector Impact grants, Dance Touring Initiative
Prior to her work at South Arts, Nikki was the Grants Supervisor at the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). While at the OCA, Nikki also assisted with the management of the youth arts program and music festivals. She has worked at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and High Museum of Art – two of Atlanta’s most prominent visual arts organizations, and has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Georgia Council for the Arts, Kentucky Arts Council, Louisiana Division of the Arts, Mississippi Arts Commission, South Carolina Arts Commission, Fulton County Arts Council, and Woodruff Arts Center.
Nikki has served on the Board of Directors for Atlanta Celebrates Photography and the Advisory Board for the Foundation Center-Atlanta. She has a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies for Arts Administration and a Master of Public Administration for Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University.
- Teresa Hollingsworth | Director, Film & Traditional Arts
Contact Teresa for Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, In These Mountains: Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture, Folklorists in the South, Traditional Arts Touring grants
Teresa Hollingsworth is the Program Director for Film and Traditional Arts. She recently launched a three-year project, In These Mountains, Central Appalachian Folk Arts & Culture that includes arts education, fieldwork, fellowships, and master artist/apprenticeship program expansion working in Appalachian Regional Commission counties in Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. She also oversees the Traditional Arts Touring Grant program. Teresa directs the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers working closely with filmmakers and screening partner organizations to present new independent films throughout the South. She is also the Film Editor for the Journal of American Folklore.
Teresa has contributed to numerous media projects, educational publications and scholarly journals, curated museum exhibits, and frequently serves as a project consultant, lecturer, festival stage manager, and grant panelist. Previously, Teresa was a staff member for the following programs: Florida Folklife Program, Maine Folklife Center, and Kentucky Folklife Program. She holds a MA in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, Kentucky). Teresa serves on WKU’s Potter College of Arts & Letters’ Alumni Advisory Council.
- Leland McKeithan | Director, Special Projects & Accessibility Coordinator
Contact Leland for Individual Artist Career Opportunity Grants
Leland McKeithan is the Director of Special Projects and Accessibility Coordinator for South Arts. She serves as project manager for a variety of programmatic and operational activities such as curating the Kennedy Centers’ Arts Across America Livestream Series as well as developing and implementing a centralized database and grants management system. She is the South Arts Accessibility Coordinator and manages various grant programs including the Individual Artist Career Opportunity Grants and Cross-Sector Impact Grants. As a member of the Presenting and Touring team at South Arts, Leland contributes to presenting and touring programming and serves as liaison to presenter networks in the South. Prior to sunsetting the program in 2019, Leland was the Director of Performing Arts Exchange conference.
Leland has a background in philanthropy and project management. She has served as a Grants Administrator for JP Morgan Philanthropic Services, a Program Officer for Southern Partners Fund, and a Grants/Project Management Consultant for many clients including the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Leland grew up in Winston-Salem, NC; studied at Boston University, School of Fine Arts, and Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned her B.A. in political science. She made New York her home for nine years before settling in Atlanta, GA in 2006.
Leland has a performing arts background in musical theater, voice, and dance. She has been the lead vocalist for the community big bands Capitol City Xpress and Broad Street Jazz, and she currently leads her own jazz combo The Standards Project. Leland is also an avid social Latin dancer.
- Ethan Messere | Assistant Director, Presenting & Touring
firstname.lastname@example.orgEthan Messere is the Assistant Director of Presenting & Touring. He administers professional development programming for arts professionals, liaises with presenter networks and other members of the presenting and touring field, and provides assistance for many of South Arts' programs. In this role, he has also been responsible for registration and showcases for the Performing Arts Exchange.
Contact Ethan for Emerging Leaders of Color, Individual Artist Career Opportunity Grants
Ethan holds a Masters of Music in Orchestral Performance from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in music performance from Syracuse University. Prior to his work in arts administration, he worked as a freelance trumpet player in Atlanta and in his home region of Upstate New York. A lifelong fan of all things basketball, Ethan cheers on the Syracuse Orange whenever he can.
- Dmitry Ponomarenko | Accounting & Operations Manager
Contact Dmitry for finance, accounting, accounts payable, and office management
Dmitry Ponomarenko received a B.A. in Economics from Georgia State University and is currently on track to graduate in August of 2020 with B.B.A. in Accounting from Georgia State University. He spent ten years working as a Data Analyst for LifeLink of Georgia, a non-profit organization which specializes in Organ and Tissue transplantation. Dmitry is also in the process of earning his CPA license in the state of Georgia. He has a keen mind for numbers and wants to use his experience and knowledge to help people properly plan their financial future.
In his spare time, Dmitry runs a small wholesale distribution company which helps local tattoo artists get the supplies they need to perform their art. As his company motto says, “Leave the art to the artist and let us handle the rest."
- Ivan Schustak | Director, Communications
Contact Ivan for media relations, web/social media, and South Arts' communications as well as the South Arts Resilience Fund
Ivan Schustak oversees the communications and fundraising activities for South Arts. Prior to joining South Arts, Ivan served as Marketing and Communications Manager with the Pasadena Symphony and POPS and held the inaugural position of Guest Service Manager at Phoenix’s new Musical Instrument Museum. Ivan has also held positions with the Georgia Institute of Technology Office of the Arts, Arizona Opera, and the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts. As a formerly active performer, Ivan specialized in the euphonium and trombone, holding first-chair positions in the Rutgers University Wind Ensemble and the Rutgers University Jazz Ensemble II. Ivan holds a BM in Music Education from Rutgers University, and an MA in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University.
- Suzette M. Surkamer | President & CEO
Suzette "Susie" Surkamer began as the South Arts chief executive in 2012. Previously, she had been the Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission until she retired in 2009. Her past service includes president of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), treasurer of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, member of the Coca-Cola Scholarship National Selection Committee, member of the National Arts Education Partnership Steering Committee, member of the Winthrop University Board of Visitors, member of Clemson University’s President’s Advisory Committee, and on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations. Winthrop University awarded her its Medal of Honor in the Arts (2006), and NASAA recognized her with the Gary Young Award (2008). Susie earned a MEd in dance education from George Washington University and a BA in dance from the University of Maryland.
- Sabrina Wilder | Executive Team Administrative Manager
Contact Sabrina for items related to South Arts' executive leadership and board of directors
Sabrina Wilder began with South Arts in April 2021 as the Executive Team Administrative Manager, bringing experience in executive administration, board of directors’ management, and project management. Sabrina has over 18 years of experience managing people, projects, and processes including recent work in the education sector at Morehouse School of Medicine, The Lovett School, and The University of Alabama System.
Sabrina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism/Public Relations from Georgia State University and a Master of Public Administration from Walden University.
In her spare time, Sabrina enjoys reading, attending college football games (Roll Tide!), and spending time with family and friends.
- Jordan Young | Communications, Film & Media Manager
Contact Jordan for Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers
Jordan Young is an interdisciplinary media artist, educator, and arts advocate based in Atlanta, Georgia. As Communications, Film & Media Manager, Jordan works on media design and strategy in service of South Arts communications and helps coordinate the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. Jordan is the Co-founder and Creative Director of Fort Psych Media & Events and holds an MA in Media Arts from University of South Carolina and a BA in Production Studies in Performing Arts from Clemson University.
- Joy Young | Vice President of Programs
Contact Joy for programmatic strategies and services for constituents
Joy Young, Ph.D. has more than 25 years of experience in the arts as an entrepreneurial performing artist, arts administrator, and academic. Joy’s work as a performing artist included owning a successful music studio and performing as a recitalist, sanctuary soloist, studio and background vocalist. Her 14-year tenure with the South Carolina Arts Commission was highlighted by serving on the executive leadership team as the agency Director of Administration, Human Resources, and Operations. Joy also implemented a variety of programs at the South Carolina Arts Commission to include arts/artist entrepreneurship; nonprofit leadership and organizational development; cultural tourism; statewide conferences and convening; and the AIR Institute. Joy’s contribution to the arts at the national level include service as a grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts, member of the Committee for Individual Artists with Grantmakers in the Arts, and a mentor for the NASAA DEI Mentorship Program.
Most recently, Joy served the Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Her work saw her committed to a team who worked together implementing innovative programs, developing and executing proactive and quantifiable arts and culture initiatives, and broadening relationships with new networks and stakeholders. Joy found tremendous success capitalizing on the power of public-private partnerships as a strategy to significantly increase the Cultural Council’s earned revenue.
Joy enjoys sharing her experiences from the field in the classroom by preparing the next generation of arts administrators in the Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Winthrop University to be adaptive leaders. Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music, Master of Arts in Voice Performance, and the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. Her research interests include arts leadership, program assessment and evaluation, and organization and leadership adaptations amid dynamic environmental paradigms.
Board of Directors
Our Board represents leaders from our nine-state region and beyond. They work across sectors in business, government, and the arts. We're proud to have these thoughtful and accomplished leaders leading and advancing South Arts.
- Neil Barclay, Chair | Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History | Detroit, MI
In January of 2019, Barclay was selected to lead the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History as its president and CEO.
A former attorney, Barclay was most recently executive director and CEO of the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in New Orleans. During his five-year tenure, the institution’s budget increased by more than 40 percent including lead gifts from the nation’s major art philanthropists.
Barclay’s experience also includes seven years of service as associate director of the Performing Arts Center for the University of Texas at Austin and service as founding president and CEO of Pittsburgh, Pa.'s August Wilson Center. Additionally, he was instrumental in capital development planning for Los Angeles' Vision Theater, originally built by Howard Hughes for the city.
Barclay has demonstrated his personal commitment to art and culture as a peer panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, the Gerbode Foundation and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. A leading national presenter of contemporary performing and visual arts, Barclay serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the regional arts organization South Arts.
He is currently a member of the College of Communications and Fine Arts Advisory Board for Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, his undergraduate and law school alma mater.
- Cathy Adams, Vice Chair | Consultant | Fernandina Beach, FL
Cathy Callaway Adams is a self-described arts omnivore, with a particular love for opera, choral singing, theatre, and literature. She serves on the boards of South Arts, the Atlanta Opera, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and the Suzi Bass Awards. She chairs the board of trustees of Mercer University and is on the advisory councils of Growing Leaders and Mercer University Center for Ethics and Leadership. Cathy volunteers as a mentor with Georgia State University's Women Lead program and Pathbuilders, Inc., and moonlights as a pianist, accompanying the Georgia Festival Chorus, a 100-voice auditioned choral group. Cathy's BA in piano performance is from Tift College, and her MBA in Management is from Georgia State University. After three decades in banking, Cathy maintains a consulting practice focused on leadership coaching and nonprofit governance/management. She and her husband live and work and play on Amelia Island, Florida.
- William McKinney, Secretary | Office of NC Governor | Raleigh, NC
William lives in Raleigh, NC and serves as the General Counsel for the Office of the North Carolina Governor. In addition, he has been Special Counsel and General Counsel to the Attorney General for the North Carolina Department of Justice, Associate Attorney at Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. in Greenville, SC and been a Political Officer for the United States Department of State. William is a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC and received his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina.
- Elliot Knight, Treasurer | Alabama State Council on the Arts | Montgomery, AL
Dr. Elliot A. Knight is the Executive Director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. He grew up in Opelika, Alabama and earned three degrees from the University of Alabama including a BA in Visual Communication, an MA in American Studies, and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. Dr. Knight is a Blackburn Fellow, member of the Montgomery Rotary Club, and serves on the board of directors of the Alabama Humanities Foundation, University of Alabama Community Affairs Board of Advisors, and the Alabama Tourism Department Advisory Board. He co-founded and developed the Black Belt 100 Lenses Program, a participatory photography and arts program that worked with high school students in twelve Alabama Black Belt counties from 2007-2012. Knight developed and taught several courses at the University of Alabama in the Department of Art History, the Honors College, and the Department of American Studies. He also served as Director of the Arts Living Learning Community at the University of Alabama. At the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Dr. Knight previously held the positions of Deputy Director as well as Visual Arts Program Manager and Director of the Georgine Clarke Alabama Artists Gallery.
- Ben Rex, Immediate Past Chair | Cyberwoven | Columbia, SC
Ben Rex, of Columbia, SC, has been the CEO of Cyberwoven since its inception in 2001. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina Honors College and serves on the South Carolina Honors College Partnership Board. Ben is actively involved in the community as a member of the South Carolina Philharmonic Board of Directors, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, and the Central Carolina Community Foundation Board of Directors. Ben has a broad interest in how business, economic development, arts, and culture intersect to strengthen South Carolina, and works actively in each of those sectors.
- Alejandro Aguirre | Aguirre Consultants, Inc. | Miami, FL
Alejandro Aguirre is an international business and communications consultant who spent much of his professional career in various positions in one of the first Spanish language newspapers in the United States, Diario Las Américas founded in 1953. Besides his work in journalism, Aguirre has devoted much of his time in various civic activities particularly in the Arts through participation on various boards such as the Southern Arts Federation, Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Council, Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden, Florida Arts Council and Americans for the Arts. He also has held leading positions at the Inter American Press Association, the western hemisphere’s leading press freedom organization, at which he was Chair in 2010. Currently, besides his consulting activity, Aguirre is a member of the board of TerraBank NA in Miami and is frequently consulted by media throughout the hemisphere on political and economic issues.
- Christopher Cathers | Kentucky Arts Council | Frankfort, KY
Chris is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Arts Council. He has been with the arts council for 14 years. He serves as Advancement Chair for South Arts, a regional arts organization and on the nominating committee for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
Formerly, as program branch manager for the arts council, Chris managed community-based initiatives, developed the Kentucky Certified Cultural District program and produced The Kentucky Crafted Market. Additionally, his duties included research, development and implementation of processes, programs and initiatives to promote community building through the arts, integrating and promoting cultural heritage tourism and marketing of the arts.
Prior to the Arts Council, Chris spent three years at Eastern Kentucky University as program manager of the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trails program, a nationally recognized cultural heritage tourism project in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. Under his direction, the program garnered numerous awards including the Kentucky Earth Day Award, Center for Information Technology Enterprise’s Best Practices in the KY120, and the University Economic Development Association’s Award of Excellence in Community Development. He also helped to develop the first-ever Geo-Tourism Map of Appalachia in partnership with the National Geographic Society. Chris holds an MBA in Business Management from Morehead State University. His background includes Internet Marketing, Sales and Retail Management experience.
Chris resides in Lexington with his wife Misty, daughter, Olivia and son, Jasper. His personal interests include photography, reading, film (especially Horror) and outdoor activities.
- Elmore DeMott | Montgomery, AL
Dedicated to encouraging people to connect with art and nature, Elmore DeMott is a speaker, writer, and artist. Through this wide variety of work, Elmore shares the message, “Beauty abounds. Seek it daily.” Elmore earned her BA in Math and Fine Art from Vanderbilt University and began her career in banking. Next, she worked in arts administration before putting her own creative talents to work as an artist. An avid arts supporter, Elmore was the founding president of ClefWorks, an Alabama arts organization, created to promote the education and enjoyment of chamber music through innovative programming. In Alabama, she is on the founding leadership team of the new Photographic Nights of Selma Festival, and serves as the president of the Jasmine Hill Foundation. Elmore is also a board member of the internationally acclaimed JACK Quartet as well as the New York-based Collaborative Arts Ensemble. For collaborating, connecting, and sharing artistic experience, Elmore received the 2019 +Factor Award from the New York-based string quartet, ETHEL. Elmore is an award-winning photographer whose passion for the wonders of Mother Nature inspired her to begin her “Flowers for Mom” series, comprised of daily flower photos, to honor her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey and celebrate nature. Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, recognized her as an Architect of Change for her use of art as a means to open up deep conversations about the challenges of aging and the need to acknowledge the beauty of gifts amidst the hardships of our life journeys. In addition to exhibits and speaking engagements, her Camera Journey continues to lead to unique collaborations whereby her art serves as a backdrop for performances such as one with the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet. This summer at the DAP Dance Festival in Italy, her work was part of the premiere of a ballet by Norwegian dancer and choreographer, Thomas Johansen. Elmore was the artist in residence for the Photography Festival in Pierrevert, France and will continue to travel in her home state of Alabama and beyond for upcoming speaking engagements and exhibits to share her work.
- John T. Edge | Southern Foodways Alliance | Oxford, MS
John T. Edge writes about the American South. In 2017, Penguin published The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, named as book of the year by NPR, Publisher’s Weekly, and a host of others. Now in paperback, Nashville selected the book as a citywide read for 2018. Edge is also the host of the television show TrueSouth, which airs on the SEC Network and on ESPN. Edge is a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and a columnist for the Oxford American. For three years he wrote the monthly “United Taste” column for The New York Times. His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eleven editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. He has won three James Beard Foundation awards. In 2012, he won Beard’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Edge holds an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. He directs the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the American South. Edge has written or edited more than a dozen books, including the foodways volume of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He is series editor of Southern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place, published by the University of Georgia Press. Edge has served as culinary curator for the weekend edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and has been featured on dozens of television shows, from “CBS Sunday Morning” to “Iron Chef.” Edge lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his son, Jess, and his wife, Blair Hobbs, a teacher, writer, and painter.
- Olga Garay-English | OMGArtsplus | Los Angeles, CA
Olga Garay-English, an independent arts consultant, is Senior Advisor for International Affairs to Fundación Teatro a Mil in Santiago, Chile, the producer of the three-week Festival Internacional Santiago a Mil. In 2016, she became Executive Director of the historic Ford Theatres, a 1,200-seat amphitheatre in the Hollywood Hills for three-years before the Los Angeles Philharmonic assumed its management. Olga was Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. During her tenure at the City, DCA and its programs were awarded more than $23 million in funding from private and public entities 2007-2014). As founding Program Director for the Arts of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (1998-2005), she awarded $145 million to U.S.-based and international arts organizations. Ms. Garay-English became a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2012. Awarded a "Bessie", the New York Dance and Performance Awards, for sustained contribution to the field – 2006. Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award, Association of Performing Arts Presenters – 2003. Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, she became a naturalized United States citizen in 1978. She is the widow of Dr. Kerry English, a developmental pediatrician who dedicated his life to serving abused and foster children in South Los Angeles.
- Sonya Halpern | Consultant | Atlanta, GA
Sonya M. Halpern is an entrepreneur with over two decades of marketing, fundraising, and event production experience in for-profit and non-profit environments. With a passion for the arts, politics and education, Ms. Halpern devotes her community engagement and philanthropic efforts to those areas. In 2011 President Obama appointed her to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts, a national board of the nation’s premier cultural center, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC. Three years later when he named her Chairperson of PACA, she became the first Georgian and first African American to serve in this capacity since its inception. She embraced leadership roles for nearly a decade with the National Black Arts Festival, one of the oldest multidisciplinary arts and cultural institutions in this country celebrating the work of people of African descent. As Chair of the Board, she worked tirelessly to usher the organization towards sustainability and a new strategic vision for its future. Sonya is currently an advisory board member of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management/University of Maryland and serves on the Board of Trustees for Public Broadcasting Atlanta, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta and The Children’s School. She is part of the leadership team for the Women’s Leadership Forum of the DNC, and a founder of the Electing Women Alliance Atlanta. Before launching her own consulting practice, Sonya spent over a decade in advertising sales and marketing at several of the country’s leading media companies including ESPN, Inc., The Walt Disney Company and Cox Enterprises. Her experience includes cable television, print and digital media. During her tenure at these organizations, she held positions of responsibility in all aspects of media sales including local and national business development, sales training, strategic planning and analysis, and sales management. Sonya holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford’s International MBA program where she studied in Paris, France and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, two young sons and daughter.
- Glenda E. Hood | Hood Partners | Orlando, FL
The Honorable Glenda E. Hood is President of Hood Partners, a strategic consulting firm focused on civic innovation serving the business, government, and independent sectors. Hood served as Florida Secretary of State from 2003-2005 and Mayor/CEO of the City of Orlando from 1992-2003. Before being elected Orlando’s first woman Mayor, she was a City Council member for 10 years and president of her own public relations business. As Mayor, Hood was a strong advocate of growth management and smart growth principles to build safe, livable neighborhoods, a revitalized downtown, and a strong local economy. As Secretary of State, Hood was responsible for the Department’s Divisions of Administrative Services, Corporations, Cultural Affairs, Elections, Historical Resources, and Library and Information Services; and was instrumental in crafting the State’s Strategic Plan for Economic Development and leading numerous international business initiatives. Hood has served as President of the National League of Cities, the Florida League of Cities, and Chair of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. She is a Trustee of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and active participant and chair of more than 20 ULI Advisory Services and Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership panels; a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration; and long-standing board member and Past Chair of Partners for Livable Communities. Hood serves as a corporate board member of Delta Apparel (NYSE: DLA), Baskerville-Donovan, Inc., and chairs both the SantaFe HealthCare, Inc. and Axiom Bank, NA, boards. She is also a board member of the Orlando Land Trust, Alabama’s Kentuck Art Center and Festival and the Florida Chamber of Commerce where she chairs the Small Business Council. Hood received her BA degree in Spanish from Rollins College after studying in Costa Rica and Spain. She attended the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Executive Program and participated in the Mayor’s Urban Design Institute at the University of Virginia and the Society of International Business Fellows.
- Susannah Johannsen | Louisiana Division of the Arts | Baton Rouge, LA
Susannah Johannsen is the Executive Director for the Louisiana Division of the Arts. She took over this role in April, 2021. She has more than 20 years of experience managing projects and teams in strategic planning, community development, and federal grant management. In her most recent role with Louisiana Main Street, she worked with 49 Certified Local Government communities and 35 Main Street communities across Louisiana to strengthen business development, combat blight and urge revitalization through historic preservation.
Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Johannsen studied Art History at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia and she holds master’s degrees in landscape architecture and business administration from Louisiana State University (LSU). Johannsen serves on several area boards and commissions, including the LSU Museum of Art Advisory Board, Baton Rouge Gallery, Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance, and the Louisiana Folklife Commission.
- Tina Lilly | Georgia Council for the Arts | Atlanta, GA
Tina Lilly is the Executive Director of Georgia Council for the Arts. She has been with GCA for 14 years and previously served as the Grants Program Director. In that role, she managed all aspects of a $2 million grant program, including the distribution of CARES Act funds and the creation of both the Vibrant Communities, Cultural Facilities, Resiliency and Bridge Grant programs. While at GCA, she also served as a member of the Tourism Resource Team with Explore Georgia and advised communities across the state about utilizing the arts for community and economic development.
Prior to coming to Georgia Council for the Arts, Tina served as Executive Director of the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center in Madison, GA; Administrative Director at 7 Stages Theatre in Atlanta; and Managing Director at Live Bait Theatre in Chicago. She also worked as an adjunct professor at The Theatre School in Chicago and a freelance director at various theatres in Chicago, Atlanta and New York.
Tina received a BA in theatre from Birmingham-Southern College and an MFA in directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University (formerly the Goodman School of Drama).
- Wayne Martin | North Carolina Arts Council | Raleigh, NC
Wayne Martin has more than 30 years of experience in arts management and has shaped arts-driven economic development in North Carolina. Before assuming the position of Executive Director, he served as Senior Program Director for Community Arts Development with responsibility for the Grassroots Arts Program, a $2.3 million program that delivers support for arts development to all 100 counties in the state, the Public Art and Community Design program, the Folklife program, and cultural and heritage tourism development. Martin assumed a leadership role in creating the Blue Ridge Music and Cherokee Heritage trails projects as part of the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative, an interstate collaboration that set the stage for the Congressional designation of western North Carolina as the Blue Ridge Heritage Area. In 2004 Martin received the first Preserve America Presidential Award on behalf of the partners who accomplished this work. In addition, Martin helped establish the North Carolina Heritage Award Program, which has honored more than one hundred traditional artists from all regions of the state. He is the founder of the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, an arts presenting organization based in Raleigh, and has himself toured regionally and nationally as a fiddle and guitar player. Recently he has worked to create the SmART Initiative, a creative place-making program that utilizes arts to spur revitalization and economic development in North Carolina’s cities and towns.
- Gretchen McLennon | Ballet Memphis | Memphis, TN
Gretchen Wollert McLennon was named President and CEO of Ballet Memphis in August 2020. Entering executive leadership of a legacy arts non-profit during unprecedented and challenging times has bolstered Gretchen’s unwavering commitment to bold and audacious leadership reinforced by strategic, long-range planning.
In 2017, Gretchen founded DI Studio to leverage her over 15 years in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors. Gretchen helps organizations optimize their capacity and program practices in innovative ways. Using a collaborative and energetic perspective, her practice crafts a robust and collaborative process that delivers assessments and analyses that integrate tangible and measurable approaches to strengthen levers for impact and better articulate a focused narrative for long-term viability. Gretchen worked with clients in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Chicago, and Wisconsin during her three years in private practice on projects ranging from strategic planning to leadership coaching and training.
Prior to launching her consulting practice, Gretchen spent 10 years at the Hyde Family Foundation as a Program Director. Her portfolio of work focused on managing the arts & culture, entrepreneurship, and leadership portfolios of the Foundation by making strategic investments across the foundation’s portfolio averaging over $3m annually. She was named Top 40 Under 40 in 2009 by the Memphis Business Journal and Alumna of the Year in 2017 by St. Mary’s Episcopal School.
Gretchen has served on the board of directors of several local organizations and institutions over the years, including: ArtsMemphis, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Hattiloo Theatre, Ballet Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, MIFA, Slingshot Memphis, Memphis Rock n Soul Museum, Memphis Regional Design Center, and The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. She completed her executive coaching certification at the Teleos Leadership Institute (Philadelphia, PA) in 2018. A native Memphian, Gretchen is a graduate of Northwestern (BA) and Wake Forest (MBA) universities.
- Kara Olidge | Amistad Research Center | New Orleans, LA
Kara Tucina Olidge, PhD is a scholar and arts and educational administrator. She is the former Deputy Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of the New York Public Library based in Harlem. Her scholarly work focuses on the intersection of art, critical cosmopolitanism, and community activism. She graduated from Spelman College in 1992 with a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy with a minor in Art History. Dr. Olidge received a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans in 2000, where she received the Marcus B. Christian Graduate Scholarship. In 2000, Dr. Olidge was one of four emerging arts administrators selected for the National Arts Administration Mentorship Program where Edmund Cardoni, Executive Director of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, mentored her. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) in 2010, where she was awarded the Mark Diamond Research Grant for her doctoral work, Critical Cosmopolitanism and the Intellectual Work of Alain Locke.
- Nina Parikh | Mississippi Film Office | Jackson, MS
Nina Parikh has been with the Mississippi Film Office for 22 years, currently serving as the director. She studied filmmaking at New York University and University of Southern Mississippi, worked in the industry as a producer, and currently teaches as an adjunct professor at Millsaps College. She and the team of “Ballast”, an independent feature film made in Mississippi, were honored with two awards at the Sundance Film Festival 2009. Nina is a co-founder and board member of the Crossroads Film Festival & Society and Mississippi Film Alliance, a non-profit supporting indigenous filmmaking. She also serves on the boards of the Association of Film Commissioners International, Mississippi Book Festival, Creative Mississippi, and is the producer of TEDxJackson.
- David Platts | South Carolina Arts Commission | Columbia, SC
For the past 26 years, David Platts has worked in South Carolina as an educator, principal, and district level administrator. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission, David served as the arts and sciences coordinator for Lancaster County School District, a position he held for 15 years. In addition to his work as an educator, Platts has served the Lancaster County Council of the Arts as a board member and president. He has statewide experience as a member, president, and treasurer of the Palmetto State Arts Education board and as a current member of the South Carolina Arts Alliance board, where he has been active as an arts advocate. On the national level, David served as a member of the Education Advisory Committee for the John F. Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Program. David keeps his own artistic expression fresh by serving as an accompanist and conductor for school and church choral programs.
- Anne B. Pope | Tennessee Arts Commission | Nashville, TN
Anne B. Pope serves as the executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Previously Pope served as the executive director of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, a priority of the Tennessee First to the Top Initiative, designed to promote and expand the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in k-12 public schools across Tennessee. Pope was instrumental in the partnership between the State of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, the largest research and development nonprofit in the world, and, in a public partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, is a managing partner of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network. Prior to her work with the STEM Innovation Network, Pope served as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development partnership between the federal government and the governors of 13 states. She previously served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, and as executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment, and Music Commission. In the private sector, Pope served as president/CEO of Proffitt’s of the Tri-Cities, Inc., formerly a division of Saks, Inc., and prior to that as president/CEO for the Parks-Belk Co., a chain of department stores located in northeast Tennessee. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Pope is admitted to practice law in Tennessee and the District of Columbia. Growing up in Kingsport Tennessee, Pope has a life-long passion for the arts. She enjoys music, film, reading, the outdoors, and spending time with her son.
- Dennis Scholl | Oolite Arts | Miami Beach, FL
Dennis Scholl is the President and CEO of Oolite Arts (f.k.a. ArtCenter/South Florida), a 35-year-old organization dedicated to supporting visual arts in Miami. He is also a collector of contemporary art. He and his wife Debra have one of the largest private collections of Aboriginal Australian art in the US. Over the last 20 years, Scholl created a series of initiatives dedicated to building the contemporary art collections of museums, including the Guggenheim, the Tate Modern and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. He has served on the boards and executive committees of the Aspen Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; the Pérez Art Museum; and the Linda Pace Foundation. He was named three times to the annual WESTAF list of the Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts in the US, and along with his wife, Debra, received the National Service in the Arts Award from the Anderson Ranch Art Center. He is a thirteen-time regional Emmy winner for his work in cultural documentaries. He is the co-founder of Betts & Scholl, and Mother Tongue Shiraz, which produced award-winning wines in Australia and France. From 2009 to 2015, Scholl was the Vice President / Arts of the Knight Foundation. He oversaw the foundation's national arts program, including the Knight Arts Challenge and Random Acts of Culture, with grants to cultural organizations totaling close to $200 million. In 2012, Scholl was named a Harvard University Advanced Leadership Fellow, focusing on the role of culture in community engagement. From 2012 to 2015, Scholl was a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. Previously, Scholl was a practicing attorney and CPA.
- Sandy Shaughnessy | Florida Division of Cultural Affairs | Tallahassee, FL
Sandy Shaughnessy became director of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs in 2005 after serving in the agency as arts administrator for various programs, special events and initiatives since 1997. Prior to the Division of Cultural Affairs, Sandy served as Box Office Manager for Old School Square Cultural Arts Center in Delray Beach, and as Director/Treasurer of Box Office Operations for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa. She has over 25 years of experience working with performing arts venues, artists, producers, Broadway Road Show managers and nonprofit arts administration. Born and raised in New York City, Shaughnessy spent her off school hours working at ABC’s office of World News Tonight and 20/20 as well as at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Shaughnessy has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and the Cinema with a minor in Political Science from New York University. Her graduate course work has been in arts administration and she is trained in international protocol. She enjoys writing, designing and hanging art exhibitions, international collaborations, meeting people and serving the community. In addition to the South Arts board, She has served on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Board, currently serving on the governance committee and on the 2020 awards task force. She has also served as a grant panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and on American’s for the Arts’ Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network and task-specific working group.
- Sarah Story | Mississippi Arts Commission | Jackson, MS
A forward-thinking arts professional and Jackson native, Sarah Story became executive director of Mississippi Arts Commission in November 2020. She leads the state agency in its mission to be a catalyst for the arts and creativity in Mississippi. Story believes the arts are essential because they bring people from diverse lifestyles and backgrounds into conversations about creative expression, allowing contemplation, participation, and discussion. She enjoys leading arts organizations to operate efficiently and inspiring communities to make the greatest impact possible. Having spent much of her career in museum administration, she previously served as the executive director of the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum in Austin, Texas, which exhibits the work of Charles Umlauf, his influences, and other contemporary artists. Prior to her stint at the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden and Museum, Story served as deputy director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art from 2015-2018, and as project coordinator from 2012-2014. Before the Ogden Museum, she worked as curator of education at the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses in Oxford, MS. She received a BFA in painting from the University of Mississippi and a Master’s in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans.