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Venise Harris-AbellCindy Castro DiRusso, Liz Hicks (vice chair), Adam Lee, Niko McElroy (treasurer), Marissa McCabe (secretary)
Regina ReesKaren Schubert (chair), Katie Urs and David Wheeler

Eric Alleman, Tony Armeni, Betsy Barrickman, Dirk van der Duim, Lori Factor, Pat Foltz, Elizabeth Ford, Connie Kolarik, Adam Lee, Robyn Maas, Matthew Mazuroski, Melissa Miller (Capital Campaign Manager), Tony Nicholas,  Bill Perkins, Regina Rees, Kristina Rule, Heather Seno, Emelia Sherin, Michael Staaf, Jimmy Sutman and Abby Wendle (secretary)  

Bill Mullane, Dragana Crnjak




Venise Harris-Abell is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. Her work focuses on narratives taken from life experiences regarding racism, family, and community issues. A 14-year Navy Veteran, she received a BFA in Photography and MFA in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts at YSU. Her work has been exhibited in various museums and magazines including The Butler Institute of Art, Box 13 Artspace in Houston Texas, SPE 8th Annual International Combined Caucus Magazine and Timothy A. Cassey, Youngstown-Warren African American History Magazine. Two works were displayed on the WRTA City Buses as part of the Power of the Arts.

Tony Armeni is an artist, educator, and musician who has worked in the arts for over 40 years. He is a sculptor whose work consists mainly of welded steel.

Cindy Casto DiRusso has worked on popular series such as The Jimmy Kimmel Show and The Voice. Some of her most prolific work includes casting Gordon Ramsay's, Kitchen Nightmares as well as other hit reality TV shows on Fox, NAT GEO, and other major networks. Her first feature film, Worst. Christmas. Ever., was distributed during the worldwide pandemic. As for her current projects, a feature thriller, The Housekeeper, starring Denise Richards and Richard Gunn, will be released in the Fall 2023.

As an English Professor at Westminster College,  Elizabeth Ford got to teach and write about great literature. As a watercolor artist, and as co-chair of several local art groups, she can see the wonderful work our Valley produces.

Adam Lee is the Program Director for Youngstown CityScape, the downtown community development organization. At CityScape, Adam works to plan community events and projects such as the Holiday Parade, First Fridays, community art, and the annual Streetscape Planting Day with business associations, community stakeholders, and residents. Other efforts include cycling infrastructure and advocacy as well as tree and native species plantings. He recently joined the Thrive Mahoning Valley and Friends of the Mahoning River boards and is an active member of the Loop Advisory Council. His artistic work focuses primarily on the culinary arts with a farm to table, wild foraged, and plating focus. In the past, he put on pop-up dinners with a collaboration called The Sprouted Table. Other artistic passions include interior design and coloring.

Robyn Maas is an artist, curator, designer and museum professional. Annually, she organizes community art events at the Ward Bakery in the Mahoning Commons. She exhibits her work in the Youngstown area and is represented by the Source Gallery in Lisbon, Ohio. 

Niko McElroy is a multifaceted professional with a background in arts, education, and finance. Earning a BFA in Painting and Printmaking from Youngstown State University in 2015, he then taught K-8 art at Southside Academy for SMARTS. Niko then pursued an MA in Contemporary Fine Art at the University of Salford in Manchester, England in 2016. Returning to Youngstown, he worked with non-profits like Youth Intensive Services and United Way's Success After 6 program. In 2021, Niko transitioned to an accounting role at ABC Business Services, utilizing his keen eye for detail and analytical mindset. He aims to become a certified public accountant by sitting for the Ohio CPA exam in 2024, combining his creative sensibilities with financial expertise.

Melissa Miller is a farmer and food grower in Kinsman, Ohio, and is a passionate advocate for things grown and made by hand in our local community. She enjoys engaging with her creativity when designing her home and outdoor space and feels fortunate to be able to include the work of many local makers in the artwork, pottery, and wearable art items she utilizes every day. 

A working artist for 20+ years, Tony Nicholas is former director of the non-profit Artists of the Rust Belt and adjunct faculty at YSU. He holds a BFA from YSU and an MFA from The Rochester Institute of Technology.

Regina Rees has been an educator for nearly 40 years. She holds a Bachelor of Education, Masters in Literacy, and a doctorate in Curricular & Instructional Studies. Her experience includes teaching grades 4-12 and serving as an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Youngstown State University. She has been involved with several professional and community organizations including the Poland Historical Society, Mahoning County Historical Society, and Altrusa of Youngstown. Regina has participated in community theater throughout the Youngstown area. She has appeared on stage and behind the scenes at the Youngstown Playhouse, Oakland Center for the Arts, Salem Community Theater, and Hopewell Theatre, where she is currently president of the Board of Trustees.

Kristina Rule is a regionally recognized local artist who began with classes at the YMCA and then became employed by the YMCA ArtReach Program to provide art classes to the community. She has also been involved with Random Acts of Artists and the Canfield Fair Fine Arts.

Karen Schubert is a writer, educator and founding director of Lit Youngstown, a literary arts nonprofit. She holds an MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, an MA and BA in English from YSU. She has published six books of poetry and has taught and presented in numerous academic and community settings. A former Coordinator for Power of the Arts, Karen believes the arts are worth working for.

Katelyn Urs earned a B.A. in English with a minor in creative writing from Youngstown State University. During her undergraduate career, she served as a flash fiction editor for Jenny, a writing consultant at the Writing Center, and a writing intern at the Jewish Community Center. In the spring of 2022, she interned at the literary arts organization Lit Youngstown and was hired on as a development coordinator. Katelyn is currently pursuing an M.A. in English with a certificate in public and professional writing and teaching freshman composition courses at YSU. She also volunteers at YSU’s English Festival as a workshop leader and is a member of the Student Nonprofit Leadership Organization.

David Wheeler is an artist and curator and arts advocate living and working primarily in the Mahoning Valley. Working for the Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County, serving as the manager and curator of Art on Park in Downtown Warren. He co-founded Artists in Recovery 330 (AIR 330) in 2018, currently serving on the board of directors with Honeycomb Arts and Wellness. Since 2018, he has organized and promoted creative programming in the region and in Columbus, Ohio since 2000-2001. Both visual arts and performing arts events, as well as educational programming, workshops, and art markets.

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