Rising Leaders

Rising Leaders is a rigorous and highly interactive personal development initiative committed to the advancement of Michigan's arts leaders, a program designed and facilitated by MCACA and Partners in Performance, the nation's preeminent designer and facilitator of leadership development initiatives for the arts and culture sector.

Program Description

Over a six-month period, fifteen participants participate in a series of activities that includes three intensives focusing on self-awareness and self-management; mutual influence; and gaining tools to create communities and a state where everyone can experience and express creativity in their daily lives. Participants commit to three in-person meetings as well as individual reflection work. Participants were chosen through an application process to MCACA.

Program participants from across the state of Michigan gain tools and perspective needed to strengthen their leadership skills and develop relationships with an extraordinary cohort of peers dedicated to advancing the arts and culture field.

2018-19 Rising Leaders Cohort

Elizabeth Adams is a graphic designer who works with local individuals and organizations in tandem with the Leelanau Historical Society to share the history and cultures of Leelanau County. Elizabeth believes communication is key and knows how vital it is to understand an audience to communicate effectively. Education and perspective is of utmost importance. Elizabeth worked at Northern Michigan University’s Housing and Residence Life as a Resident Advisor. Her work as a paraprofessional prepared her for the roles she fills today as a non-profit board member of Friends of the Fine Arts at Suttons Bay Schools and as a staff member at the Leelanau Historical Society. Her most notable work is collaborating, researching, and designing the Explore Historic Leelanau brochure, promoting 15 history based groups within Leelanau County. She has also assisted in the development of 4 public exhibits with the Leelanau Historical Society Museum. Elizabeth holds a certificate from NMU’s Live, Learn, Lead program. She has been trained in archival preservation, archeology, and grant writing practices. Her work has been presented in various exhibits, and competitions. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Graphic Communications and a minor in Marketing from Northern Michigan University.

Shelby Biel’s passion is connection. Engaging with others brings her joy. She loves bringing out the best in people and helping them be the best versions of themselves. Her strengths include making others feel welcome, making ideas accessible, and helping people to feel valued and heard. Shelby has a bachelor’s of Social Work degree from Central Michigan University where she learned about Systems Theory, which strongly influenced the way she sees people – as individuals with many factors that comprise them as a whole. She has several years of customer service experience. She works in her community as the Development & Program Administrator at LowellArts.  Shelby joined the LowellArts team shortly after they moved into a bigger space on Main Street in downtown Lowell. Prior to, and since her hire, the organization has continued to grow and is a community treasure, offering many ways to connect with the arts. She desires to grow with the organization as they bring classes, concerts, exhibitions, and theater performances to West Michigan residents and creative opportunities to artists. Her goal is to use her passion for connection to develop social media and event planning areas and to continue to expand the offerings for her community.

Zack Bissell is an educator, arts administrator, musician, and world traveler originally from rural northwestern Michigan. He graduated summa cum laude from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Arts and Humanities, a minor in Spanish, and a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Zack has over 5 years of experience in youth education programs including community-based programs in the visual and performing arts, youth development, and LGBTQ+ health. He has also taught English in South Korea and managed a gourmet oil and vinegar store. Zack has a passion for inspiring others and improving life outcomes for under-served peoples through increasing their access to quality education and amplifying their voices and perspectives. He is fluent in Spanish, proficient in Portuguese, and understands basic Korean. 

Hillary Brody Anchill joined CultureSource in Spring 2015 as editor for IXITI.com. Originally from Metro Detroit, she lived for nearly a decade in New York City, where she worked as a fine arts specialist in the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Auction Galleries, curating special programs and catalogues interdepartmentally, and conducting original archival research. Upon her return to Detroit in 2014, she worked as the Exhibitions and Collections Manager at the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. She holds a M.A. in Art History from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, and a B.A. in History from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Kristen Calabrese has served as Associate Director of Development for Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University since 2009. Her experience in arts development ranges from individual giving, grant writing, major gift solicitation, planned giving, sponsorship and volunteer management. In her time at Wharton Center, Kristen has been instrumental in the consistent increase in Wharton Center's private support. She has also taken a leadership role in developing new initiatives at Wharton Center including  NextGen@Wharton, MSU Greenline tele funding program, and Sensory-Friendly Performances. These programs have increased the accessibility, awareness and interest in Wharton Center throughout the region. Kristen has also spoken at several Michigan Presenters conferences on topics such as audience development/retention and grant writing.  Kristen come to Michigan in 2007 when she began fund raising for Michigon State University. Prior, Kristen lived in New York City and gained experience in media buying before moving to the non-profit sector to specifically fundraise for an agency for people with disabilities.  Kristen has her bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY and her Masters in Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education from MSU. She served on the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Capital Area Chapter board for 6 years including a one-year term as President, and volunteers as a coach for Dewitt Area Recreation Authority.  Kristen enjoys running, baking, and most importantly spending time with her husband, Shawn, and their three boys Sam, Malcolm and Miles.

Justin Christensen-Cooper – Justin is the Executive Director who leads Northeast Michigan Center for Fine Arts, Inc (Art in the Loft). He sets annual strategic plans and annual budget to help reach those goals. The mission of Art in the Loft is to “increase quality of life through the development of a regional fine arts center and hands-on participation in the arts.” Justin believes the experiences garnered from the Rising Leaders program could greatly benefit his personal career but also aid in attaining the goal of Art in the Loft’s mission statement.  Justin is the lead grant writer for the organization and has been able to solidify funding that creates innovative and compelling opportunities for the community.  Justin has seven years of teaching experience which has given him the ability to develop and instruct programs in his current position.  Justin holds a Bachelors of Arts in Art Education from Michigan State University. 

Troy DeShano is an artist and nonprofit arts professional based out of Traverse City, Michigan. After spending much of his twenties battling cancer, Troy found himself sharing stories of his personal trials through art and design via his blog, Strong Odors. As a result, Troy launched a freelance design and illustration business, has exhibited fine art in galleries around the Midwest, and has also gained international recognition for creating and curating two online art projects: FUTURALBUM and Old & New Project. After several years working as an independent artist and designer, Troy returned to his roots in the nonprofit world. Troy now serves in a multi-faceted role at Michigan Legacy Art Park, where he oversees marketing, volunteers, program development, as well as curating the diverse and eclectic Summer Sounds concert series. He has also been a happy husband and proud parent for the past 19 years.

Alex Flannery, a native of Marquette, MI, currently serves as the newly appointed Operations and Engagement Coordinator for Interlochen Public Radio, a branch of Interlochen Center for the Arts located in Interlochen, MI. His previous arts experience includes vocations in non-profit fundraising data and operations, symphony orchestra management, as a data management consultant, and also as a grant review panelist for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Flannery graduated summa cum laude from Michigan Technological University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sound Design and a minor in Music Composition, an intensive program comprising audio engineering, physics/acoustics, and professional practicum and enterprise experiences. He remains active as a volunteer in his Northern Lower Michigan community as the Treasurer for the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra with involvement in several other arts, human rights, and young professionals organizations. He regularly appears as a classical bassoonist in several Michigan orchestras, including the Traverse Symphony, Benzie Symphony, Marquette Symphony, and Keweenaw Symphony. Flannery strongly advocates and demonstrates the importance of the arts and culture sector in building positive and healthy communities, believing that creative experiences enhance quality of life, encourage economic growth, and promote diversity, understanding, and unity.

Katie Hunter joined WMCAT in 2015. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Kalamazoo College, where she majored in Fine Art and studied and Critical Theory. Much of her undergraduate career was project based, including several accomplished with the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (ACSJL) at Kalamazoo College. She serves on the board of a local nonprofit, Heartside Ministry, and is currently pursuing a Master's of Public Administration at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. Katie’s work at WMCAT includes managing enrollment and onboarding, day-to-day programming, students wrap around services, and post-secondary engagement.

Matt Landry - Winner of the 2015 FIschoff Educator Award, 6 national chamber music prizes, and steering the acclaimed Akropolis Reed Quintet as Executive Director and saxophonist, Matt Landry is a rising arts entrepreneur. In demand as a lecturer on music business and appearing around the country as a touring musician and clinician, Landry also delivers Akropolis’ Together We Sound festival in Detroit each May, the culmination of a yearlong arts residency for Akropolis at 3 Detroit high schools. Landry’s experience includes nonprofit leadership, grant writing, fundraising, short and long-term project execution, and audience development. In the three years since incorporating Akropolis as a nonprofit Landry has grown its budget from 80k to 270k while deepening its artistic leadership in the field of chamber music, including more than 50 world premieres, 3 album releases, including The Space Between Us, which the San Francisco Chronicle calls, “Pure gold,” a self-published sheet music catalog of reed quintet works, a YouTube Web Premiere series with more than 50,000 views, and the Akropolis WORKS entrepreneurship lecture series. Landry received his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from the University of Michigan in Music Education in 2010, where he studied with renowned pedagogue, Donald Sinta.

Nathan Margoni has a MFA in sculpture from SUNY Purchase College and BFA in painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art.  His background in fine art informs his work as Manager of Education at the Krasl Art Center, co-founder of the artist collective Fun Squad, organizer of PechaKucha St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, and board member of the New Territory Arts Association.  His many roles in the arts community in Southwest Michigan are all focused on using art to share stories and bring people together.  He is passionate about creating and sharing art experiences that empower and transform lives.

Meghan Martin joined the Arts Council of Greater Lansing in 2017 as program manager. After earning her B.A. in Journalism from Michigan State University, she worked for the Michigan Press Association and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. In her current position, Meghan is responsible for managing six grant programs; coordinating the annual Creative Placemaking Summit, Creative Exchange and other professional development events; providing technical assistance to members; facilitating creative placemaking workshops; public speaking engagements and leading outreach efforts for the organization. As a member of the leadership team for Lansing 5:01, her role is to promote Greater Lansing as an arts and cultural hub to attract new talent. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Legacy Art Park in Thompsonville, Mich. Meghan has worked in a variety of roles, gaining experience in programming support, graphic design, communications and event planning. She is passionate about developing creative placemaking projects, promoting the advancement of artists and arts and cultural organizations for a thriving, active community for all. Being a life-long artist herself, Meghan was raised to know the love and feel the power of the arts—to move, engage and support each other.

Anne Ruffley is a professional grant writer and development consultant in the non-profit arts sector. As Institutional Giving Officer for ArtOps (a wholly owned LLC of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings) she is primarily responsible for grant seeking for all ArtOps clients within the cohort. She manages funder stewardship, research, writing, and reporting, as well as consulting on large-scale development work related to artistic planning for the seven client organizations. She is also the Program Officer for a re-granting process in “Community heART Highland Park,” an original program of ArtOps. The program was designed and implemented as a catalyst for promoting building community through the arts. Her experience as a grant panel reviewer spans Michigan Youth Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and Michigan State University’s “Head Start” program. In 2015, she was a featured speaker at Michigan Museum Association’s grant writing workshop in Lansing. Entitled “Grants that Sing,” she has since presented the workshop to various arts organizations and independent artists in metro Detroit.  Ruffley has a BA in Music from Denison University and previously worked as Press Intern for the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Amy Spadafore was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan and holds a BS in Arts Management from Western Michigan University. She is a self-taught stage manager and occasionally freelances as a theatrical director and actor in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. For two years she was the Resident Stage Manager and Director of Marketing and Development for the Alliance Theatre Lab in Miami, FL. Since returning to Michigan Amy has worked in multiple facets in and around community theatre, including but not limited to production work, the development of education programs, community outreach events, and artistic collaborations with other arts and culture organizations in the region. Amy is currently the Operations Manager of Pit & Balcony Community Theatre in Saginaw, Michigan, an 87 year old organization dedicated to creating a dynamic community theatre that engages audiences and artists in enriching performing arts experiences.

Tara Welch, Executive Director of Studio 23/The Arts Center joined the organization in late 2012. Tara graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2014 with a double Bachelor of Arts in Art and History. Tara is involved in numerous committees and boards in Bay City. Currently serving on the Downtown Management, Dow Family YMCA and the Rotary Club of Bay City boards. Being an active part in the community is important to her and she is passionate about spreading the love for art throughout the community. Her professional career has been an asset to Studio 23/The Arts Center by increasing programming, community outreach and funding. Tara has implemented public murals under Veteran’s Memorial Bridge and started an art program outside the Studio’s walls. “Art Around the City” features 29 historical maritime themed photos that were all taken in Bay City. Studio 23 partnered with the Bay County Historical Museum to gather photos and place them around their Downtown and Uptown areas. Community partnerships are important to Studio 23, as they continue to make art accessible and available to all.


Contact MCACA Arts Education Program Manager Chad Swan-Badgero at 517-241-6747 or BadgeroC@michigan.org.