Aja Dier aka SALAKASTAR is a multidisciplinary performance artist. She earned her BFA and completed her classical acting training at the acting conservatory at the State University of New York at Purchase College. After living and working in New York City, she moved to her hometown of Detroit and was (re)embraced by Detroit’s arts community. She is exploring experimental work in theatre as an ensemble member of A Host of People, in music as a vocalist and songwriter with Video7, and in writing with iii Sisters, a Detroit-based black feminist writing ensemble.
Akili Jackson is a Consultant, Instructor and Community Activist- He is on the front-line in the movement towards innovative ways of enhancing the quality of education for children in Southeast Michigan. He has over 10 years experience as a Youth Development Worker specializing in programs that inspire positive character development in youth. As an advocate for community based programs, Akili has participated in and coordinated groundbreaking urban projects that served to motivate parents, and inspire youth to become forces for positive change in their communities. Akili has conducted workshops in Community Education using Hip Hop music as a tool for classrooms in Columbus OH, Atlanta GA, and Manhattan NYC. Akili has presented as a frequent guest speaker for the National African American Parent Involvement Day (NAAPID) and a panelist/speaker at Antioch University, University of Pittsburg, and University of Windsor Law School. He has served as a guest lecturer at Washtenaw Community College for African Poetry and Literature and at Eastern Michigan University for “Building Effective Classroom Communities”. Currently Akili serves as a founding member and Chief Development and Learning Officer for Community Records L3C an organization dedicated to building community activism through music.
Amanda is a future attorney hoping to work with juvenile youth and their families. She has been facilitating workshops at Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. She is working with YAA because she truly believes that every troubled soul wants to get better but not everyone has the proper help or outlet to do so.
Benjamin Cohen is a composer, musician and educator. He has traveled the country with various music projects, composed music for film and television and has taught the art of music production and beat-making to people of all ages all over the United States. He a founder of the experimental electronic Jazz collective HEAVY COLOR and the Midwestern Nostalgic Folk Group The Antivillains. His music has been featured on AllMusic.com, Detroit Metro Times, Time Out New York and WNYC.
Emily D. Goodman
Emily is a Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist (BC-DMT) with a Limited License of Professional Counseling (LLPC). She earned her master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling at Columbia College Chicago. She now lives in Detroit, Michigan. Emily is passionate about using dance and movement to help individuals express themselves, as well as engage the greater community to create conversations for social change. She has ample experience working with individuals with an array of abilities, particularly youth in detention centers and youth with autism.
Emily is a passionate farmer, mother, wife, yoga instructor and Farmers Market Coordinator in the Chelsea community. She is dedicated to creating environments where humans get to connect to their food shed, connect to their bodies, and connect with each other. Emily is very committed to helping youth find both internal and external empathy and create change for their own and others lives.
Emily is the Theatre Director at Greenhills School, where she teaches acting and directs productions. While pursuing her MFA in Applied Drama/Theatre for the Young at Eastern Michigan University, Emily was introduced to and became interested in drama and theatre work in prison and detention centers, and she is thrilled to be working with YAA. She is a native Michigander and lives in the area with her family.
Emily, a Michigan native, has a Program in the Environment degree from the University of Michigan. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Environmental Health Sciences through the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Her love and admiration for art came as a surprise during her sophomore year of college when she had to take a humanities course. The course happened to be partnered with Youth Arts Alliance. Having always loved working with children and listening to others, the course seemed perfect and eventually introduced her to the world of trauma-informed art healing. Her experience inspired her to continue working with YAA and a passion to continue this type of work in her future career.
Estar Cohen is a musician and educator specializing in voice, improvisation, and composition. As a bandleader and vocalist, she has toured the United States with her original Jazz ensemble, gaining recognition for her compositions by the ASCAP Foundation, the International Society of Jazz Composers and Arrangers, and the New York Youth Symphony Jazz Series. Cohen’s core values in teaching center on mindful, creative practices that focus on the needs of each artist as an individual. In addition to her work as a musician, she is a comedic improviser, sketch actor, and teacher; the values of both art forms supporting each with a strong foundation for listening, collaboration, and presentness. Her work with young artists has been fostered by Earthwork Music, Young Artists at Work, the Faber Institute of Ann Arbor, and Youth Arts Alliance.
Frannie partners with YAA to coordinate The Shakespeare Workshop. Frannie is the Director of Shakespeare in Prison, a program of Detroit Public Theatre, and has worked with people in the criminal justice system for the past six years. She firmly believes in the potential of theatre to empower all people and is thrilled to work with YAA to offer this programming.
Gail is a full time artist coming from a commercial art form, design, and marketing background. Her current success with mosaic artwork has enabled her to move from the design field to pursue mosaic art full time; she calls herself an artrepreneur. Her community mosaic projects draw in participants to work collaboratively to create large-scale mosaic installations, resulting in the unique sense of ownership and pride that comes from seeing their individual contributions blossom into a finished piece of art. “The final reward to my work is seeing the effects of the mosaic process on participants. The shattered glass is like the broken parts of their lives and yet even with splintered pieces, they can create a new beautiful whole, and a new image of themselves and their lives.”
Gretchen is a visual and sculptural artist with a background in custom framing, photography, costume & set design, painting, beading, fiber arts, and cake decoration. She is involved in the Fool Moon & FestiFool celebrations held each year in Ann Arbor, MI. She is excited to share her knowledge and creative practice with her community & YAA – she believes that real, lasting connections can be made through the creation of art.
Isaac Wingfield teaches photography in the Residential College at the University of Michigan. He completed his undergraduate studies at Appalachian State University and received an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. In addition to traditional college level photography courses his teaching has included building out a darkroom at a Title I elementary school, working at an alternative middle and high school, and teaching a photography-based workshop that brings together college students and incarcerated adults.
Jenna is a performer, educator, choreographer and movement therapist. She has worked and studied in Ireland, England and the United States, obtaining a Movement Science BS from the University of Michigan and Dance Movement Psychotherapy MA from Goldsmiths, University of London, England. Her mission is to empower, inform and inspire individuals and communities through movement and the arts.
Jennifer is a Detroit-based writer where her focus is on creative nonfiction as well as hybrid work that combines both image + text. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Northern Michigan University, and also teaches with InsideOut Literary Arts where she helps to excite and instill elementary school students with a love of words. She understands what a pivotal role writing plays in youth finding their voices, and her teaching focuses on building empathy and a sense of self through the power of the written word.
Jessie Hernandez Klein
Jessie is an interdisciplinary artist and community organizer that draws on her multicultural background to facilitate communication and build meaningful relationships between communities segregated by language, culture, and socioeconomics. With a BA from the University of Michigan in Spanish and Urban Planning, she has organized and directed multiple art-based neighborhood and city-wide events and programs, with a focus on public participation and collective skill sharing. Jessie uses art to transcend the barriers of language and culture, especially between Spanish and English-speaking communities, by creating a comfortable space for individuals to learn and express themselves via the visual medium. With projects that range from sculptural lanterns for street processions and interactive shadow puppet installations, to pop-up theater and neighborhood figure drawing, Jessie focuses on the importance of people from all different backgrounds coming together and communicating through the creative process.
John is a native Pennsylvanian and grew up just outside the Pittsburgh area. A former bench jeweler and diamond setter for 15 years, he left the jewelry industry and pursued his BFA in ceramics starting at Penn State University and then completed his Bachelor’s Degree at Slippery Rock University in 1994. In 2001, John completed his MFA in Ceramics at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In 2003 John accepted a position as Ceramic Studio Coordinator for the University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art & Design. He held this position for 17 years and has recently retired this past year. He is on the board of Ceramic Water Filter Solutions and collaborates with groups from countries in Africa, Nepal, and Central America. These collaborations empower local peoples to develop small ceramic filter making centers in their communities, that will bring clean water and better health to many families from these regions.
Kana is a poet and visual artist with a focus on altered art books and found poetry. She is a founding YAA teaching artist and deeply values her collaborations with youth in creative writing, altered art books, and other expressive arts practices. Kana believes art creates space for emotional healing and self-discovery, and is thrilled to be working with YAA!
Lavinia Hanachiuc (1974) is a Romanian-born ceramic and mixed media artist.
Hanachiuc’s was first introduced to the arts through communist party “pioneer” clubs as a young student, where she fulfilled her participation requirements by submitting graphic designs for propagandistic graphic art competitions. The artist’s youth was typical of the era, primarily defined by the political and cultural forces of Marxist communism – with no access to European television, film or music, and only very limited access to western literature. Hanachiuc also experienced the social and economic constraints of the time, which forced individuals to strictly self-censor their ideas and opinions in public—and to endure extreme shortages of necessary items including food and fuel.
At age 14, the artist was identified for admission to a fine arts high school. She specialized in etching and printmaking and experimented with large scale ceramic sculpture. Her high school years coincided with the fall of Romania’s dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Hanachiuc was among the first generation of young artists to enter the highly competitive Bucharest University of Fine Arts during the post-communist era.
The artist’s focused changed to ceramic arts during her university years, where she was influenced by the study of primitive art from early cultures, medieval motifs, and Russian and Turkish folk lore. These themes continue to be found in her work. For the first time, the new political freedoms allowed for Hanachiuc to participate also in group happenings and installations that highlighted social concerns such as the plight of artists in the country and homelessness.
Hanachiuc has resided in the United States since 2011 and has continued to create fine art ceramics, production pottery, and fine art photography. She has exhibited locally and internationally. The artist recently returned from an extended residency in the Eastern Icelandic Fjords .
Lavinia Hanachiuc currently lives in Ann Arbor ,Michigan
Lucia Calderon Arrieta
Lucia is a migrant artist and educator from Mobile, Alabama. She earned her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. YAA empowers her commitment to teaching art as a means of critical thinking and complex self-expression.
Madelyn Porter is a member of Actor’s Equity Association (AEA), and has worked in professional theatre for over thirty years. She currently performs Storyliving for Detroit Historical Museum, The Henry Ford, and Troy Historical Society. Porter is lead instructor for Michigan Opera Theatre’s Create and Perform, House Manager for Detroit Public Theatre, and tours a series of One-Woman Shows on a regular basis. She believes that “Theatre is a powerful art form to reach one and teach one.”
With a passion for theatre and the transformative effects it can have on people, Patrick is the Director of Education for Water Works Theatre Company’s youth programs. He also works as a co-facilitator for Shakespeare in Prison and is a stage manager and fight choreographer for numerous theatres in southeastern Michigan.
Shazia is a licensed professional counselor and board certified art therapist who graduated with an MA in counseling and art therapy from Wayne State University in 2011. She works with teens and young adults to help them recognize and utilize their strengths to heal and transform, as well as cope with obstacles along the way. She is involved with YAA because she believes so strongly in its mission to use creativity as a tool to alter potential.
Stephanie is visual artist, teacher and community arts curator based in Detroit. With a BA from WSU in Psychology and Art, Stephanie often incorporates art therapy approaches to facilitate positive coping skills and general self-development. She has 9 years of experience working with young people of all ages, in classrooms, after-school programs, hospital settings and in residential care facilities. Stephanie uses art as a tool to help youth explore themselves and understand the world around them. In her personal practice Stephanie is an installation artist and has curated community exhibitions that link art, healing and collective struggle as a way to preserve space to creatively process injustices and reflect the wisdom and resilience of one another.
Susan facilitates YAA workshops in creative writing. These workshops instill a sense of self-empowerment in participants while developing real-life skills such as self-expression and collaboration. Susan provides an opportunity for participants to put their baggage into words.
Yusuf Abdul Lateef
Yusuf Lateef is a visual artist that works collaboratively to create positive and vibrant murals for neighborhoods in the midwest and abroad. He earned his BFA in the field of painting and drawing from the Columbus College of Art and Design. Since then, he has completed over 16 murals including projects for Toledo Public Schools, The Toledo Fair Housing Authority and Bowling Green State University. With his guidance, participants are able to share their thoughts and aspirations while learning about the fundamental elements of painting.