ACT's programs would not be possible without the dedication of the teaching artists that lead them. By working with a diverse group of professionally trained artists, our students can experience various art forms.
Want to become a Teaching Artist?
Applying is easy: simply fill out our online application form. Be prepared to include references. After submitting, an ACT staff member will look it over and then get back to you.
Current Teaching Artists:
Kathy Keehn is a retired educator, having taught at all levels from preschool through college. She has degrees in Art, Counseling, and Educational Administration, with 35 years working in public and private schools. Kathy has been a teaching artist with ACT since June 2013.
Alyssa Khalifa is primarily an oil painter who also sculpts in clay. She received her BFA from Aquinas College and will begin her MFA at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts starting fall of 2020. Alyssa has been working with ACT since 2016 and loves to teach ceramics and 2D mixed media classes!
Mary Lamson-Burke has been practicing as a visual artist since 1997. She holds a BFA in ceramics as well as a M.Ed. She has been teaching visual art in public schools since 2016. Prior to that, Mary worked in several non profit organizations in the greater Grand Rapids area.
Steven Leaf makes music on a variety of different instruments including guitar, synthesizer, and drum machine. He has been playing and performing since 2005, while weaving in teaching to share his love for the artform. When you're in Stevens classes, expect to put headphones on, listen to some bleeps, bloops, basses, and snares; and have fun!
Jess Luiz is an actor, designer, and performer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Performance Theatre from Northern Michigan University and has been performing since she was ten. She has been teaching kids and adults in the arts since 2007.
Channing Lee & Quinn Matthews
Quirky 2 piece duo Channing & Quinn often tour the country in a rather unorthodox way. Past tours have consisted of Amtrak Train Tours and most recently a tour of the entire country while pulling and living in an airstream trailer. The two are now based in Grand Rapids, MI after relocating from East Nashville where they spent 9 years. In a live setting, the two do the work of several musicians by playing guitar, ukulele, accordion, drums, glockenspiel, banjo and more.
Victoria Marnich-Reynolds is a self-employed visual arts teacher in 2D and 3D forms. She holds a BFA from Kendall College of Art & Design and has taught children, adults, and seniors since 1998.
Elizabeth Merriman is a film professional, designer, educator, and non-profit administrator. She has 20 years of experience in the creative industries, currently working for Mosaic Film Experience as Manager of Programming and Education. She has been teaching film/digital arts since 2014.
Minnie Morey teaches Polynesian dances from the islands of Hawaii and Tahiti.
Mike Nichols is a writer and improviser in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has been performing improv since 2006 and has been coaching improv since 2015. He has experience in journalism, social media, and office programming, and holds Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Central Michigan University.
John Nowak is a professional musician from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a member of the nationally-touring band Desmond Jones. When not on the road with his band, he spends his time privately teaching drums, piano, guitar, and ukulele. After graduating from MSU, John moved back to Grand Rapids and started working in high school special education, which has led to his music enrichment programming; Mindful Moments in Music.
Taryn Ortega-Furgeson has been an outreach and adaptive dance instructor for the Grand Rapids Ballet School since 2012, and she began collaborating with Artists Creating Together as a teaching artist in 2017. She received her BFA in psychology from Aquinas College, where she was a member of the Aquinas College Dance Team. During her time on the team, she competed at the collegiate level and participated in national competitions.
Nardos Osterhart has been doing standup since 2012. She enjoys being on stage, sharing her observations with people to connect and relate on a personal level.
Sam Parks is a guitarist and musician in the Grand Rapids area with over ten years of experience performing, recording, and teaching. He is currently performing with Brena, West Michigan's premier party band, specializing in weddings, corporate events, and private parties. He also produces commercial music that has been featured on networks including The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
Margaret Paxton has been weaving since 2019 when she took a course in college. She has been volunteering with ACT since 2019, and joined the roster as a teaching artist in 2020.
Emilee Petersmark is a Grand Rapids-based musician, singer-songwriter, & illustrator. As one of the front-women of The Crane Wives, Emilee's been actively touring as a musician for nearly a decade, encouraging others to create honest art in all stages of life. She's been featured on Buzzfeed for creating dark & dreamy illustrations for other MI bands. Encouraging strength through vulnerability, Emilee strives to help others create music & art that is eclectic, genuine, & relatable.
Hannah Pewee received her Bachelor of Arts in writing and studio art from Grand Valley State University in 2019. She specializes in digital art forms, including graphic design, photography, and editing. In her free time, she enjoys reading, playing the ukulele, video games, and journaling.
Cultural preservation is one of Erick Picardo's central goals, and his art speaks to both island culture and diasporic cultures and traditions. While his heritage inspires his work, Picardo has succeeded in telling universal stories. Using color, Picardo entrances viewers, drawing them into a world of music and dance. In all his work, there is a sense of the mystical, how it exists within our daily lives and connects us with the universe.
Krista first connected with ACT in 2016 as a volunteer. She then joined the ACT team in September 2017 as Program Coordinator, and is now a teaching artist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Studio Art from Aquinas College. Since 2016, Krista has run her own business based out of her home studio space. She also illustrates new designs for tea towels, stationary, and much more. Find her and her work at Sable Candle Co. on Wealthy Street or at kristapischnerstudio.com.
Pam has a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois, and a master’s degree in Art/Art Education from Northern Illinois University. She has 15 years of classroom experience teaching studio art classes and using a variety of media and techniques including watercolor, acrylic and oil paints, fiber arts, sculpture and ceramics, digital photography and darkroom photography. Pam combines a media and technique with an art style or specific artist(s) to inspire student work.
Mackenzie just finished her fourth year at Grand Valley State University where she is majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management and minoring in Theatre. She has grown up in the arts community (including dance, theatre, photography, choir, and band) and interned at ACT this past winter semester. She is very excited to continue working with ACT as a Teaching Artist!
Tom Reynolds graduated from the art program at Western Michigan University and has worked with clay for more ten years. Tom enjoys teaching clay projects to all age groups, from early childhood to adult.
Dan Rickabus is a professional drummer, educator, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, sound engineer, and community organizer. Dan is a founding member of the Grand Rapids band the Crane Wives, and a collaborator with many musical acts such as Earthwork Music founder Seth Bernard, Public Access, and more, including his own project where he leads a 10-piece band. As an adjunct professor at Aquinas College, he teaches Studio Recording I & II as well as Songwriting.
Most of Kerry Rolewicz's work begins with a scribble and is brought to life with colored pencils and oil pastels. She has also created various found object sculptures, murals, wood collages, mosaic tile and wooden wall installations. Kerry has a BFA from Creighton University and has been a working artist since 1993.
Sarah is a printmaker, mother, and community activist who specializes in drawing, sewing, blockprints, and silkscreen works. She loves gardening, music-making, and working on art with creative and intuitive people.
Bertram Sluys holds a Bachelor's Degree from Dordt College, and spent 16 years touring with a drama company throughout North America and Europe. He teaches a wide variety of subjects, including music, sometimes using drama exercises or helping the students perform a story, along with songwriting classes and singalongs. He has been involved with ACT since 2012.
Alisha Snyder, MM, MT-BC is a board certified music therapist and attended Calvin University and Western Michigan University. She has been teaching piano for over 20 years and loves to teach students of all ages and abilities. She enjoys leadership roles in a number of teaching and music therapy organizations, in addition to baking, reading mysteries, and spending time with her family.
Audrey, MT-BC, received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Western Michigan University in 2013. The same year, she also completed a 6-month music therapy internship with the Franciscan Life Process Center. She currently works for the Arts In Motion Studio where she has been teaching music and art classes for students with special needs for over four years and has recently begun providing music therapy services. She started teaching music workshops for ACT in 2014.
Elizabeth Stolle is a literacy teacher educator who works to ignite a passion in all people to engage in, enjoy, and use various forms of literacy: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and visualizing. She holds a doctorate in Language & Literacy, and teaches and researches in the College of Education at Grand Valley State University.
Sarah Stump is known for her digital and 3-D art forms. She graduated from Grand Valley State University, studying both Public and Nonprofit Administration and Graphic Design. During her time at GVSU, she also took courses in the studio arts. Sarah interned with Artists Creating Together in 2018 as an Art and Education Programming Intern. She enjoys working with graphite and the digital arts, but also has a heart for music.
According to Dianne Szczensky, nothing is more fun than wearing her chef’s hat with kids. Having been in the food industry since 2002, she has introduced students to the delicious world of recipes, ingredients, and dishes of all kinds through cooking classes held for the City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation department and through the afterschool program Team 21. Dianne has also been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Wyoming Public Schools since 1980.
It wasn't until she moved to West Michigan that Stacie Tamaki began pursuing her love of miniature origami as her career. She competed in 5 consecutive years of ArtPrize, founded West Michigan Origami, a monthly folding club in June 2017, and has worked as an origami book co-author, artist, public speaker, and special events art-entertainer.
Zenobia Taylor-Weiss is a self-taught cook, food preservationist, and entrepreneur. She owns the Grand Rapids-based artisan preserve company Cellar Door Preserves. She enjoys sharing her love of cooking and food with as many people as possible and has taught cooking and canning classes throughout the US since 2014. In her spare time, she enjoys going on long walks and eating an inordinate amount of cheese.
Heather Truong is a hip-hop dance instructor who has performed at various events like the GR Asian Pacific Festival, Music 104.9, and KCON NY (where she made the Top 6 in their dance contest). She is a hip-hop instructor at Moveir Dance Studio and is currently studying graphic design at Kendall College of Art & Design, where she has been able to receive opportunities to expand her knowledge through art. Heather hopes to inspire people through her creativity and ideas.
Beth Usadel has been teaching art in school settings since 2007. She holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in education from Calvin College. She loves to dabble in all visual media, but specializes in polymer clay. She has a handmade polymer clay jewelry brand called The Color Forest.
Christina VanDam is a local entrepreneur who believes in the power of movement to music. She grew up surrounded by those in the color guard arts and is now an adjudicator for the Michigan Color Guard Circuit, the Michigan Competing Bands Association, and Scholastic Marching Band Competitions. Christina also instructs many local high school groups. She believes that music has the power to move you and to speak to your soul.
Judith Vandenbosch has been teaching dance since 1996. She was born in Germany and moved to the United States in 2008. She is a ballet teacher at CARE Ballet and a dance instructor at Civic Theatre. She has experience sewing costumes, prop design, rehearsals, and stage management. In her spare time, she teaches fitness classes.
Kat VanHammen has a Masters Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy and has been teaching art since 1985. She has taught in many different places, for a wide range of ages and abilities, utilizing a many different artforms. In her own work, she primarily draws, paints, sculpts, and makes interactive installations. Kat loves to bring out, witness, and celebrate the creative life in everyone and and to engage the arts to connect us to nature, each other, the expressions of our hearts.
Abbey Van Kooten is a Colorado native and a graduate of Calvin University with a BA in studio art and a minor in business. She became involved in Artists Creating Together as an intern in 2019, and started as a teaching artist in 2021. Abbey enjoys working with different mediums such as acrylic, charcoal, and mixed-media collage. In her art, she explores how texture, color, and personality intertwine.
Daniel Walker is an emerging multidisciplinary artist working out of Grand Rapids. He earned his BFA from the Illinois Institute of Art in downtown Chicago specializing in digital art and animation. With over 20 years of experience as a freelance artist, he’s held showcases in GR, Chicago, Kansas City, and San Francisco. Daniel is a huge advocate for community building, meaningful human connections, and social change.
Piper Adonya is an illustrator, visual storyteller, and designer, who earned a BFA in Digital Media from Kendall College of Art and Design. Piper loves fine art but also enjoys getting her hands dirty with graphite, chalk, and paint. When she's not drawing, she can be found creating linocut print designs for jewelry.
Kelly Allen works in a wide range of media and styles including, but not limited to, hyperrealistic representational painting and drawing in oil, acrylic, gouache, colored pencil, and graphite, abstract painting, collage, and sculpture and fiber art from reclaimed materials.
Olivia graduated with a Bachelor's of Social Work from Grand Valley State University. She loves being active, trying new coffee shops, managing her photography business, and listening or playing music constantly! She is looking forward to building relationships will all the incredible students at ACT, and can't wait to see where life leads her!
Laura Armenta has been a professional dancer and choreographer since 1985, and a holistic practitioner, yogini, and educator since 1992. She focuses on Movement Exploration, Various techniques of Contemporary Dance and Somatic Movement, as well as Yoga Flow, Breathing techniques, World Dance. Laura has a BS in Arts and Humanities with a specialty in contemporary dance and choreography from the INBA in Mexico City, Mexico.
Emilee is an artist and fine arts instructor. She earned her BFA in Painting from Kendall College of Art and Design in 2009, and her MFA from Wayne State University in 2014. While pursuing her MFA, she worked as an art therapist at North Central Health Center in Detroit, as well as a gallery attendant at Wayne State University’s Elaine Jacob Gallery and Art Department Gallery. Emilee has worked as an artist studio assistant for painter, Mel Rosas. Currently, she is teaching visual arts.
Becky Baker is a visual artist with experience in a variety of media, focusing on drawing, mixed media, and educational creative projects. She received her BS in Pre-Art Therapy from Indiana Wesleyan University, and worked as Program Coordinator at Artist Creating Together for six years. In 2017, Becky transitioned into a teaching artist role with ACT. As an artist, instructor, and mother of three, Becky continues to foster creative expression and artistic enjoyment for all ages and abilities.
Sierra Skye Baker is a singer/songwriter who sings and plays guitar. She has taught Music Together® classes since 2017, the year she earned a degree in Commercial Music: Vocal performance from Cornerstone University. She began working with ACT as a teaching artist in 2019. Sierra is now studying to become a board certified music therapist.
Hannah Berry is the owner of Lions & Rabbits, a local event and community space centered around artistic development. Through private parties and events, Berry is able to work on community placemaking projects that continue to push economic artistic growth. When she is not working, she spends her time with her family and loves to cook!
Eirann Betka-Pope is a producer, director, performer, teacher, writer, improviser, artist, and activist in Grand Rapids, MI. They are the founder and president of Funny Girls and former owner of The Fuse Box. Eirann is Theatre Manager of The Comedy Project, where they also produce and perform. They teach classes at both The Comedy Project Training Center, and The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre School for Theatre Arts. Eirann is also the producer of Comedy Outlet Mondays at The Comedy Project.
Jenna Betka-Pope is a middle-school special education teacher, a low sensory night coordinator at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, and an actor and theater instructor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Special Education from Central Michigan University, and is currently working on a Master's Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Jenna has been performing on stage since 2000 and teaching theater since 2011.
Anessa Brosman bio pic
Anessa moved to West Michigan from Southern Indiana with her Corgi, Remus, in 2021. At the University of Evansville, she studied music therapy, graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor of Music. Anessa loves rollerblading, taking her dog swimming, and game nights with friends!
Sarah Beulla is a Grand Valley State University graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Public and Nonprofit Administration, and certified in cultural competence. She became involved with ACT as an intern in 2018-19, and began teaching in 2020. As an artist, Sarah finds comfort and inspiration by utilizing mixed media, acrylic, and watercolor painting. She also expresses herself through creative writing as a gateway to explore the unconscious mind.
Taylor Bultema is a working artist residing in Grand Rapids. She received her BFA in 2013 from the University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design with specializations in printmaking and community outreach. While there, she found her own unique style of printmaking, which involves using transparent inks to manipulate the original image. Taylor loves making her own work, but she enjoys sharing art with others even more.
Mandy Cano Villalobos
Mandy Cano Villalobos is an interdisciplinary artist who works in painting, fiber, performance, and video. She exhibits internationally, and has taught at Calvin University, Kendall College of Art and Design, and Grand Valley State University. She graduated from George Washington University with an MFA in 2006.
Zyra Castillo has a BFA with a concentration in sculpture, working in various mediums from metal to paper sculpture. Her art also incorporates public collaborative installations. She now has included writing to her artistic expression. Zyra is a certified K-12 visual arts teacher, teaches English as a Second Language, and has worked in educational technology, regularly incorporating online resources and instruction.
Darius Colquitt is an award-winning entertainer, educator, writer, director, and entrepreneur. He has premiered in, produced, or directed over 90 productions and features with numerous theatrical and entertainment companies throughout the midwest, and has shared spaces and performed with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, the late Maya Angelous, and Taraji P. Henson. He is the founder of Darius Colquitt & Company, and is the CEO & Producing Artistic Director of #BAMTalent.
The Grand Rapids Community Media Center (CMC), is ‘building community through media' by helping local people tell stories, share their creativity and talents, and learn about each other through platforms of expression that have been historically inaccessible to many of our region’s population. By introducing audiences to new voices and ideas on stage, screen, and over the air, they enhance community engagement and create connections. Their arts and cultural programming builds community.
Maggie DeJong graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a major in Pre-Art Therapy. She loves exploring various mediums of art, but painting and drawing are her greatest areas of enjoyment and inspiration. She had the opportunity of interning with Artists Creating Together during the summer of 2016 and found it to be an enriching experience.
Michael Dollar is a classically-trained vocalist and percussionist and is an award-winning local audio producer and engineer in TV, music, and film. Currently, he teaches Digital Art and Design at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, in addition to operating a college-wide recording studio. He has also written six audio courses for three different colleges throughout the state of Michigan.
Dorothy Dorney has been teaching since 1999. Her art-making revolves around fiber/textiles, photography, and the metal arts. She holds a BS in Art Education, a Bachelors of Fine Arts, and a MFA in Design. Dorothy is a frequent ArtPrize artist.
Josh Dunigan has been a musican and teacher since 2001. He plays music with people of all ages and abilities to explore expression, communication, development, and community. As a member of two award-winning bands, Josh explores the music of the African Diasapora through Afro-Beat and Latin music.
Steven Edelman writes fiction and is a visual artist with a focus on collage and multimedia art. He has been teaching visual art since 2018 and has a Master of Art degrees in both Religious Studies and Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a Specialization in Expressive Arts Therapy. Steven is an Expressive Arts Therapist and owner of Depth Arts and Therapy.
Betsy Edgerton is a lifelong early childhood educator. An avid story teller who works with students through stories that empower, educate, and inspire.
Hannah Elliott is a professional singer and voice teacher from Grand Rapids, MI. Currently, she is an associate teacher at Grand Rapids Voice Collective, where she works with singers of all ages and abilities. Hannah holds a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Music in Voice Performance from Wichita State University, where she worked as a teaching assistant and created their first musical theatre voice class.
Erinn Epp, MA, MT-BC, is a pianist, vocalist, and music therapist with a passion for group music-making. She received degrees in music therapy from Wilfrid Laurier University and New York University, and is currently pursuing her PhD with a research focus on performance and community building. Erinn has worked in a wide variety of educational, healthcare, and community settings, taught at the undergraduate level, and has led the ACTion Choir since 2009.
Nora Faber Overvoorde
Nora Faber Overvoorde is a certified art teacher and professional artist who has been teaching and painting since 1997. She paints on clay board using a multi-layered technique beginning with inks, acrylic mixes, and/or watercolors. When these layers dry, she etches with a tool and removes paint with stencils and rubbing alcohol, then rubs them off to reveal the layers beneath and add color and balance to the piece. Nora loves painting and teaching, and especially loves teaching for ACT!
Michael's talent was recognized at an early age when accepted to Cass Technical High in Detroit, and he later earned a B.F.A. in Fine Art from Wayne State University. He received an award from the U.K. Art Society for his drawing of Albert Einstein as well as the Indira Ghandi Award for Drawing. Michael has also participated in Artprize for over half a decade and has finished in the top 20 four times.
Audrey has been creating her entire life, with most family members having an entire Christmas tree of homemade ornaments to show for it. Her main medium is fiber arts, including crocheting, knitting, sewing and macrame. She has shared that passion with ACT through a fiber arts class and a printmaking class. She believes firmly that everyone is an artist, and that the process is more important than the product, but the product can be great too!
Vincent Frank earned his BA in Music from Saginaw Valley State University in 2020, and has been teaching music since 2017. Concentrating in vocal performance and piano, Vincent also has experience playing guitar and steel drums. He first worked with ACT as a Fund Development intern in 2019. Other interests of Vincent's include music composition and arranging, painting, and reading.
Amy Gascon is the Training Center Director at The Comedy Project theater, which she helped found in March 2019. She is a graduate of the Second City Conservatory in Chicago and Grand Valley State University, where she also works in the Center for Entrepreneurship. Amy has taught for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, teaches and performs weekly for The Comedy Project, and is a member of several comedy troupes in the area.
Christine Gribble has been a professional photographer since 1995. She is an award-winning, international photographer accredited by Special Kids Photography of America for her work with children who have specials needs.
An art educator for more than 20 years, Cynthia Hagedorn has organized and led art programming emphasizing “The Masters” and cultural works. She has facilitated art studios in Holland, Zeeland, and downtown Grand Rapids, leading people ages 2 through 102 through various art mediums, such as chalk, acrylic, watercolor, mixed media and glass. As a working artist, Cynthia works in abstract acrylic art. She attended Northwood university and Indiana University.
Daine Hammerle is a full-time working musician that specializes in drums and hip-hop production. As well as gigging behind the drums, he also DJs many different types of events. Daine has been a teaching artist since 2012.
Annalise Hammerlund is an expressive arts therapist with years of training in visual art and dance. She has a Master's in Expressive Arts Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University, as well as a Bachelor's in Psychology, Art and Dance from Alma College. Annalise has been involved with ACT since her internship in 2013.
Derrick Hollowell was raised surrounded by inspiration through art and sports. Despite medical challenges, he graduated from GVSU with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and pursued art, music, and community building. Today, he operates a community art gallery and continues to reach out to the community, specifically through youth mentoring. He loves to explore mediums and blends his interest in hip-hop music with visual interpretation and hopes to continue influencing young people through that.
Leah Ivory holds a B.A. in music with a concentration in performance from Calvin University. She has been accompanying and directing ensembles since 1992. In 2006, she traveled to West Africa and began studying the djembe tradition from the region. She received formal training through the Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy and became a Certified Djembe Instructor in 2017. She uses djembe to help people of all ages and abilities connect, improve motor skills & communication, and feel happy.
Carol has been a staple in the art community in Grand Rapids for over 40 years. She is a Graduate of Kendall College of Art & Design and Western Michigan University with degrees in Illustration (BFA) and Social Work (MSW). In 2009, Carol received the YWCA Tribute Award in the Arts. or many years, she’s excelled in both arenas receiving recognition for her art and for her many years working with students with physical and cognitive disabilities through Artists Creating Together.
Jaimé earned her BFA in Fine Art Photography at Kendall College of Art & Design in 2010. Her interests are in photography, hand-lettering, illustration, and paper arts. Since graduation, she has taught through Kendall’s Continuing Studies program, after-school art programs, and recently with ACT. Currently, she is a freelance artist who also works with Spectrum Community Living Supports and 6.25 Paper Studio.