Romona Riscoe Benson, Philadelphia, PA
Romona Riscoe Benson is Director of Corporate Relations at PECO. She oversees a $6 million contributions budget and leads PECO’s sponsorships, community partnerships, employee engagement, and event and sports facility management programs. Previously she was the President and CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia. She served for five years as the Executive Director of the PCVB’s Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress where she produced the PECO Jazz Festival. Benson has also held the position of Senior Director of Visitor services and Community Relations with the New Jersey State Aquarium. Benson is a well-known jazz vocalist and has been performing in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for over 30 years.
Susie Farr, Silver Spring, MD
Susie Farr was the Executive Director of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1999 until 2013 where she was responsible for the stewardship of the Center as a place for learning, exploration and growth through the performing arts. Farr was the Executive Director of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters from 1986 until 1999. Prior to her tenure at Arts Presenters, she served for six years as Director of Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley. She also held arts management positions at Stanford University. Farr has served on numerous review panels for private foundations, state arts agencies, and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as serving as a member of the Maryland State Arts Council.
J. Mack Wathen, Hockessin, DE
J. Mack Wathen recently retired as Vice President, Support Services at Pepco Holdings where he served in executive leadership roles for 18 years. He is currently the Chairman of the Delaware State Arts Council. Mr. Wathen is also a member of the Planning and Budget Committee of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Mr. Wathen has served in a volunteer capacity with other organizations in the arts community and beyond including the Arts Consortium of Delaware, the Delaware College of Art and Design, the Center for the Creative Arts (past Board Member), and the Food Bank of Delaware (current Board Member).
Margaret G. Vanderhye, McLean, VA
Margaret G. Vanderhye served as Executive Director of the Virginia Commission on the Arts through June, 2018. She is a former member of the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly representing the 34th District. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Capital Planning Commission where she chaired the Commission’s Joint Memorials Task Force. Governor Mark Warner appointed her to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in 2002, and she was reappointed to the Authority by Governor Tim Kaine. She is former Vice Chair of the Board of McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), and twice served as Co-Chair of the MPA ArtFest. She currently serves on the Board of the Armed Services Arts Partnership.
Vernon Araujo, St. Thomas, USVI
Vernon Araujo received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication, concentrating in Fine Arts and Marketing, from Boston College. Besides Mid Atlantic Arts, Vernon serves as a Board Member for the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts and Junior Achievement USVI. Music and the arts have always been a part of his life. Mr. Araujo is passionate about community service and support to local performers, producers, and artists as they develop their careers. Araujo is currently the Director of Philanthropy & Community Relations for Alpine Securities in the US Virgin islands.
Barbara Bershon, Leonardtown, MD
Barbara Bershon served on the Maryland State Arts Council from 2008 to 2019, and was Chair from 2012 to 2014. Bershon has served on the Mid Atlantic Arts Board since 2013. Bershon is currently the President of the St. Mary’s County (Maryland) Arts Council. Bershon is the Emeritus Executive Director of the Chesapeake Orchestra in Southern Maryland. For many years Bershon was Director of Arts Outreach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she was the Managing Director of the River Concert Series at the College. Bershon earned her Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of Maryland and has been an Adjunct Professor in Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and American University in Washington, DC. Her publications include: “Tales of teenage survival: Former teens recount their adolescence and lived to tell about it,” Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse (2007) and “Cooperative problem solving: A link to inner speech,” in N. Miller & R. Lazarowitz (Eds.) “Interaction in cooperative groups: The theoretical anatomy of group learning,” New York: Cambridge University Press (1992).
Kim Chan, Maplewood, NJ
Kim Chan is the Deputy Director at the Brooklyn music incubator National Sawdust. She has worked extensively in New York City and Washington, D.C. in multiple art forms including poetry, music, theater, dance, arts education, and literature at PEN America, Harlem School of the Arts, and Paul Taylor Dance Foundation. She served on the New York Dance and Performance Awards Bessies Committee for six years and was a dance and performance curator and producer for 18 years at Washington Performing Arts in D.C. She is a board member for Ping Chong + Company and Pick-Up Performance Co(s).
Theresa Colvin, Laurel, MD
Theresa Colvin is the Executive Director of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Colvin comes to MAAF from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) where she was the Executive Director for 16 years. Under her leadership, the Maryland State Arts Council greatly expanded its flagship programs as well as spearheaded several new initiatives. These include a statewide Arts & Entertainment District program, the Maryland Public Art program, the Maryland Traditions program and the Maryland Presenters Network and Touring Artist program. Prior to her tenure at MSAC, Colvin was the Deputy Director and Acting Executive Director of the Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City, MD. Colvin has served on numerous boards and panels, including those of the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Colvin holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from LaSalle University and a Masters in arts administration from Drexel University.
Anita Gonzalez, Washington, DC
Anita Gonzalez (Ph.D.) is a professor of performing arts and African American studies at Georgetown University and a co-Founder of their Racial Justice Institute. She was recently Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and a Professor of Theatre at the University of Michigan where she promoted interdisciplinary and intercultural performance initiatives. Her edited and authored books are Performance, Dance and Political Economy (Bloomsbury), Black Performance Theory (Duke), Afro-Mexico: Dancing Between Myth and Reality (U-Texas Press), and Jarocho’s Soul (Rowan Littlefield). Her essays about multicultural and international performance appear in Black Acting Methods, The Community Performance Reader and the Oxford Handbook of Dance and Theatre among others. Gonzalez has completed three Senior Scholar Fulbright grants and been a resident artist at Rockefeller’s Bellagio Center in Italy. Gonzalez extends the reach of her scholarship through public engagement. She created a massive open online course “Storytelling for Social Change” that has reached over 40,000 learners to date. A new open access course, “Black Performance as Social Protest” is available on the FutureLearn digital platform. Gonzalez also directs, devises and writes theatrical works. Her innovative stagings of historical and cross-cultural experiences have appeared on PBS national television and at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, The Working Theatre, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, New York Live Arts, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, and other national and international venues. Gonzalez is a member of the National Theatre Conference, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, League of Professional Women in Theatre, the Players Club NYC, and the Dramatists Guild.
Juanita Hardy, Washington, DC
Juanita Hardy has a passion for making business and cultural connections that foster healthy, thriving, and culturally rich places to live, work, learn, and enjoy. Hardy has over 45 years of business experience, including 31 years with IBM, and over 35 years in the arts as a nonprofit leader, trustee, collector, and patron of the arts. Hardy founded Tiger Management Consulting Group, a coaching and business consulting services firm, after retiring from IBM in 2005. Hardy is a consultant on creative placemaking for the real estate industry and was Senior Visiting Fellow for Creative Placemaking for Urban Land Institute between 2016 and 2018. Hardy has been an executive coach for Right Management since 2006. She is the former Executive Director of CulturalDC. Hardy co-founded Millennium Arts Salon, an art education initiative, in 2000. Hardy serves as a board member of the Mosaic Theatre Company; previously, she served on the national board of ArtTable (2016-2019); she joined the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation board in 2019. As an avid collector of fine art, Hardy with her husband has acquired many works on paper, canvas, sculptures, as well as African art.
Asa Jackson, Newport News, VA
Asa Jackson Asa Jackson is a visual artist, curator, and director from Hampton Roads, Va. As a youth, he attended Hampton Roads Academy where he developed his love for painting and art making. After graduating from HRA in 2007, Jackson went on to study sociology at Boston University. In 2010, Jackson moved to New York to pursue a career in the arts. He got his start in New York City being featured in several group exhibits, eventually landing a contract and solo show at Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich, CT. Jackson relocated back to Virginia in 2012. In 2014, he opened 670 Gallery, in Hampton, VA, where he worked as Director/Curator until spring of 2017. In 2015, he and colleagues founded the Contemporary Arts Network, an art advisory and special projects unit that heads municipal and private projects throughout the region. The Contemporary Arts Network opened its headquarters in Newport News, VA in August of 2020. In 2019 Jackson was recognized as one of Hampton Roads’ “Top 40 Under 40” by Inside Business. In 2018 Jackson was appointed to be a state commissioner with the Virginia Commission for the Arts. He was named Secretary of the VCA in 2019, Vice Chair in 2020, and Chair in 2021. Jackson currently serves on the board of The Newport News Public Arts Foundation.
James Lemons, Lake Placid, NY
James Lemons is the Executive Director of the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA). Under his guidance, the LPCA has undergone a revitalization of presenting programs, arts education activities, and visual arts programs. In 2016, Lemons oversaw the creation of Gallery 46, a visual arts gallery and information center in Lake Placid. Representing sixty-five artists, Gallery 46 sells art with most proceeds being distributed to artists through commissions. Lemons is Chairman of the Board of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. Lemons has served as a panelist/moderator for the Association of Presenting Arts Professionals, Autopistes Circus Network, PEA Southwest, and the Adirondack Nonprofit Network. He has served as a grant reviewer for the New York State Council of the Arts, CNY Arts, and the Essex County Arts Alliance. Prior to his tenure at LPCA, Lemons served as the General Manager of Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota and as the Associate Artistic Director and Communications Manager for WaterTower Theatre in Addison.
Mara Manus, New York, NY
Mara Manus is the Executive Director of the New York State Council on the Arts. Manus has also served as executive director of the Public Theater in New York City as well as a program officer at the Ford Foundation. Previous roles include Director of Playwrights of New York, Executive Director of The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Founding Director of the Arthur Miller Foundation and Southampton Arts Center. Manus was the founder of the management consulting firm, Manus + Co, where she oversaw the launch of cultural organizations and provided non-profits with leadership and organizational development support. Manus holds a B.A. from Stanford University.
Kevin O'Brien, Morristown, NJ
Kevin O’Brien Kevin O’Brien is the Head Theatrical and Concert Rigger at MetLife Stadium and the IZOD Center in the Meadowlands, NJ. He also freelances as a theatrical technical director and in 2002, was elected President of Theatrical Stagehands Local 632 IATSE. O’Brien has served on the board of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts since 2008 and is a Commissioner on the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, serving as the Arts Council Ex-Officio to the Commission. He has been honored with the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce 2014 Man of the Year award, two State Legislature Resolutions for service, and the New Jersey AFL-CIO as Labor Leader of the Year award. O’Brien is a voting member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Hal Real, Rockland, DE
Hal Real Hal Real is the Founder and President of World Cafe Live, an independent live music, restaurant, music education and community events venue located in Philadelphia, PA. In 2008, Hal assembled a team of artists and educators to launch LiveConnections, a nonprofit organization dedicated to music education that has reached more than 50,000 participants, mostly from Philadelphia schools. In 2020, the two organizations became one unified nonprofit under the World Cafe Live name. Hal is a co-founder of NIVA (the National Independent Venue Association), serving as its corporate secretary and on the board. He is also a co-founder of NIVF (the National Independent Venue Foundation), serving as its President and on the board. Hal is the Honorary Board of People’s Light (Malvern, PA) and also serves on the board of Freire (Charter Schools) Foundation. In the past, he chaired the Boards of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Main Line Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the People’s Light and Fringe Arts boards, as well as the Chairman’s Council of the Philadelphia Zoo. Hal is a graduate of Kenyon College and Temple University School of Law.
Lenwood Sloan, Lancaster, PA
Lenwood Sloan is well known across the U.S. as a catalytic agent, animator, and facilitator of cultural and heritage programs. For the past forty years, Mr. Sloan has provided inspiration, leadership, and technical assistance both in the public and private sectors. Most recently, Sloan received the 2017 Martin Luther King Exemplars award for public service. In 2016, he received the Pennsylvania Tourism Industry’s “Innovation Award.” Sloan is an annual presenter for Pennsylvania’s Rural and Urban Leadership Exchange, a frequent lecturer for NYU’s Gaelic Center, and a journalist for Showcase Now Magazine. He has held high-level positions in the arts at the San Francisco Arts Commission, the California Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Pennsylvania’s Cultural and Heritage Tourism Program, among others. Sloan represented Pennsylvania in the coordination and collaboration of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s thirteen-state geo-tourism travel experiences. Mr. Sloan is acclaimed for his legacy of creative works. For over four decades, American audiences have enjoyed the many artistic film and television productions that he has created.
Marilyn Santarelli, Dallas, PA
Marilyn Santarelli retired as Executive Director of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Prior to her tenure at the Kirby Center, she served as Executive Director of Institutional Advancement at Misericordia University, in Dallas, PA. Santarelli served a ten year term on the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and currently serves or has served on the boards of All One Foundation and Charities, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, River Parks Committee, Diamond City Partnership in Wilkes-Barre, and Blue Cross of NEPA Hospital Services. She is a past recipient of the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal “Outstanding Women in Business” award and the NEIU 19, Community Arts Leader of the Year 2013.
Guha Shankar, Baltimore, MD
Guha Shankar, Ph.D., is a Folklife Specialist for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Dr. Shankar provides professional services and supervision for the Center’s national and international research and collections development and management activities. He serves as Director of the Congressionally-mandated Civil Rights History Project; serving as Director of Ancestral Voices. Prior to his tenure at the American Folklife Center, Shankar was a Media Production Specialist at the Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution. He also provided independent production coordination and consultation services for design and production of media projects and public events. Dr. Shankar is an Adjunct Professor in the Masters Program in Cultural Sustainability at Goucher College; he teaches the “Cultural Policy” course and serves as a mentor to students in the graduate curriculum. Shankar maintains numerous professional affiliations and continues his scholarship in regular publications, media productions, and presentations and lectures.
John Strickland, Charleston, WV
John Strickland is president and major shareholder of Maynard C. Smith Construction Company, Inc., a Charleston, West Virginia, based commercial general contracting firm that specializes in new construction, renovation, and restoration of hospitals, office buildings and schools, as well as construction management. In addition to serving as a board member on state and local construction associations, John is a former board member of the Sunrise Museum, which became The Clay Center for Arts and Sciences of West Virginia. He currently serves as a board member for board member of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), Edgewood Summit, and West Virginia Commission on the Arts. John is a graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
Donna Walker-Kuhne, Brooklyn, NY
Donna Walker-Kuhne is an award winning thought leader, writer and strategist for community engagement, audience development, and social justice. She is President of Walker International Communications Group, a 30 year old boutique marketing and audience development consulting agency. She provides consulting services to numerous arts organizations throughout the world and has generated over $22m in earned income. She is also Senior Advisor, DIversity, Equity Inclusion at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Currently her portfolio includes social justice initiatives and Equity Diversity Inclusion workshops. She is a veteran of over 22 Broadway productions and her nonprofit clients include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York State Council on the Arts, and Seattle Theatre Group. She is co-founder of Impact Broadway a multicultural project that engaged over 900 students as audience members for Broadway with the goal to empower this community to be economic drivers of new audiences for the Broadway Theater district. She is a lecturer and key note presenter for international arts conferences in Moscow, Russia; Blomfontein, South Africa; and Australian Arts Conferences. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University. She is the recipient of 50 awards including the 2019 League of Professional Theatre Women Rachel Crothers Leadership Award. Her first book, “Invitation to the Party: Building Bridges to Arts, Culture and Community”, was published in 2005 and she just completed her second book, “Champions for the Arts: Lessons and Successful Strategies for Engaging Diverse Audiences.” She has a weekly blog, Arts and Culture Connections, that explores cultural efforts to expand diverse audiences.