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Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt
Executive Director

Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt began her work in this community ten years ago as the executive director of Children’s Media Project. Since then, she rebranded the organization to Spark Media Project and implemented a number of impactful programs, including a service program for area libraries, an apprentice production house for community businesses, and an International Youth Film Festival. In January 2017, Nicole became executive director of both Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project, and has worked with her team to create an even stronger, more focused arts education organization that deepens the quality of impact on local youth and advances a shared mission. Although she has roots in the Hudson Valley, Nicole’s humanities work began after gaining her degree in Professional and Technical Communication from Rochester Institute of Technology. In 1997, Nicole was a project manager for Long Island Progressive Coalition, where she organized campaigns for affordable housing, increased health care access, and campaign finance reform. In those years, she also co-founded a nonprofit organization (Phoenix Action Network) that published creative and community-oriented publications including national magazines such as The Movement, X-Press magazine; and Kids’ Beat magazine—a Hudson Valley magazine written by and for kids. By 2004, Nicole moved full-time to the Hudson Valley again and served the local community as the Director of Communication and Individual Donor Relations at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, until moving her focus to youth in Poughkeepsie. Nicole has presented at numerous conferences, including Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (Mount St. Mary’s College, 2014), and was the Keynote Speaker for the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library & Information Studies (2015). She serves as a National Advisory Council Member for Advancement of Media Smart Libraries (November 2014-present) and on the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum Advisory Board. Nicole is a recipient of an Athena Award (2017); Dutchess Chamber Headliner Award for “Outside the Box Innovator” (2015); Forty Under 40 award for young “movers and shakers” (2012); Vassar Brothers Medical Center Spirit Award (2011); Richard K. Wager Workplace Inclusiveness Award (2010); and Dutchess County Executive’s Arts Awards, Arts Organization (2008). She has dedicated her career to strengthening our community through the arts.

Todd Poteet is the founding Director of The Art Institute and owner of the graphic design firm Pen & Ink Creative. He holds a BFA in Illustration and a Master’s in Art Education from Pratt Institute, has a specialty in drawing, served as a master apprentice in printmaking, and has taught at Pratt Institute’s Saturday School and LaGuardia High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. He is the recipient of prestigious awards including: the Dutchess County Executive Arts Award for Art Education, The Friend of the Arts Award, The 40 under 40 Shaker Award, The Scholastics Arts & Writing Awards Gold Medal Award for Art Education, and the Congressional Medal for the Arts. His students have won national merit awards in the arts including numerous Awards from Scholastic, ICreate Competition of the Bruce Museum and the Young Arts Competition. In addition to guiding his students to merit-based college scholarships totaling millions, he has helped his students to have work in full-length feature films (Remember Me), art museums, gallery exhibitions, and national print campaigns.

Mary Ellen Iatropoulos, MA, MPS, is the Director of Experience at The Art Effect. She oversees design, implementation, and evaluation of arts and media-based curricula across programs, alongside teaching her own classes in filmmaking, multi-media creation, and art as activism. In her life outside The Art Effect, she is an author and independent scholar whose critical writing has been taught in undergraduate classrooms around the world. She specializes in the intersections of ethics and aesthetics in popular culture narratives, and is a three-time winner of the Mr. Pointy award for Best Work in Whedon Studies. Her recent publications include the book Joss Whedon and Race: Critical Essays (available now from McFarland Publishers) and “The World As It Could Be: Interrogating Joss Whedon’s Political PSAs” in Transmediating the Whedonverses (eds. Juliette Kitchens and Julie Hawk, forthcoming in 2017 from Palgrave McMillan).

Kyle Bahl is a Hudson Valley-born filmmaker and a graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has been working professionally in the film industry for a decade on a wide range of media productions including short films, documentaries, music videos, reality television and feature length films. His clients have included Google, Reebok, Gym Class Heroes, Industrial Films Inc., NBTV, Vegas PBS, United Way, among others. Kyle is directly responsible for overseeing Forge Media, The Art Effect’s Youth Apprenticeship Production House. As the Director of Forge, he helps youth producers to build their portfolios, further develop their filmmaking skills, increase their quality of product and expand their professional relationships, while overseeing all facets of production from concept to delivery. Kyle has also written and directed several short films. In 2016, he was selected for Studio4’s Masterclass with James Franco where he co-directed a feature length horror film executive produced by Franco and Rabbit Bandini Productions. In 2015, he wrote a ten-minute play that was performed at the Kimball Studio and The Annoyance Theatre in New York City. He recently directed a virtual reality/360° about society’s reaction to assault victims entitled ‘The Concept of the Witch.’ In 2018, he’ll complete the two-year acting program at the William Esper Studio. Kyle also has vast experience in improvisational theater, training and performing in New York City at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, The Magnet Theatre, and The Annoyance Theatre.

Anna Langdall has over twelve years of experience supporting creativity and social change locally and around the world, from teaching photography and literacy in Senegal to leading fundraising campaigns to support meditation for inner-city youth in New York City. Before joining The Art Effect in 2017, Anna led strategic partnerships and fundraising initiatives in museums, government institutions, and nonprofits with the core tenets of education, creativity, and social justice, including the David Lynch Foundation, The Contemporary Austin, Creative Action Institute, and the British Council. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and art history from Vassar College and a Master’s of Public Administration degree in nonprofit management from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. Equally happy wandering through an art museum or hiking mountain trails, Anna tries to maintain her creativity (and sanity!) through yoga, photography, baked goods, and weekend adventures in New York City and the Hudson Valley with her husband, baby boy, and energetic pup.

Michelle Donner, “Misha”, has been a caterer, print production / traffic manager, account executive, freelance graphic designer, and more in her diverse career path, working with clients at El Al Airlines, Marriott hotels, American Express, and small businesses and non-profits across the country. Misha’s years of hands-on experience in small business, traditional and social marketing, office and  vendor management, event planning, communications, and general operations have led her to The Art Effect. Misha credits her high school photography teacher and mentor (shout out to A.C.) with infusing her art education with career direction: she interned at a NYC ad agency while a senior through what has become a national senior internship program (WISE). A life-long New Yorker (one year in Jersey doesn’t count, does it?), Misha is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton. After college, she worked with her parents in Mom’s catering business for about a decade: day in and day out, 6 days a week, year in and year out. When she first offered to help, Mom said “only because I need you, and we’ll give it three weeks.” Years later, Misha leapt at the opportunity to join a small ad agency, and Mom signed on as a temp for a while when they were short staffed. The team was together again! Misha met her husband, Terry Gipson, in Manhattan in 1995, and worked with him in their own design firm for several years. They’ve made their home in northern Dutchess County with cats Lloyd and Floyd. Misha’s an avid reader and New York Times puzzle fanatic. And, if you’re up for a game of online Scrabble (after work hours!), just reach out.

Sarah Weikel is an accidental fundraiser, finding her way into the profession through program development and marketing. Prior to joining The Art Effect in 2016, Sarah worked for several Hudson Valley nonprofits, including Historic Huguenot Street and Cerebral Palsy of Ulster County, in various roles including: program development, marketing and communications, website development, donor database management, grant writing, campaign management, and event planning. Sarah is a graduate of the Leadership Dutchess class of 2017 and received the “Community Advocate Award” by her class. In 2017, she was also named one of Dutchess County’s “40 Under 40”.  Sarah currently serves on the board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter as the Education Committee Chair, and in 2016, was named “Rising Star Fundraiser” at National Philanthropy Day. Sarah also serves on the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit Committee, is Secretary for the Inspire CP Foundation Board, acts as Marketing Co-Chair of the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region’s “Young Leaders United”, and volunteers as a grant reviewer and crowdfunding consultant for various nonprofit organizations including the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region and Baby Steps Baby Pantry. A Newburgh native, Sarah graduated summa cum laude from SUNY New Paltz with both her BA and a MA in English Literature (with a specialization in Rhetoric) and continues to teach at Sullivan County Community College. When she isn’t trying to change the world, Sarah enjoys watching horror movies and old TV shows, reading about epidemic disease and collecting stuffed microbes, building her enviable shoe closet, and snuggling with her four-month old son, Jonah.

Michelle Petrucci is a New York contemporary Ceramicist, Photographer, and Certified Art Educator. She teaches all over the Hudson Valley and has worked with many students of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences. She has worked for Mill Street Loft for many years, teaching enrichment programs, classes at Dutchess Arts Camp, Directed Project ABLE, and is currently the Program Manager at The Art Effect for the Empire After School Arts Programs. She has taught in public schools, private institutions and residences, community centers, and museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is an active member of the National Art Education Association, New York State Art Teachers Association, a Presenter, and a strong advocate for the arts. She studied at University of New York at New Paltz and was a former president of the NAEA Student Chapter. Michelle is enthusiastic about art-making and sharing the experience with others. She is confident this year will be a joyful experience for all those that participate in her programs and is excited to be working with our new and talented Empire staff!

Sarah Timberlake Taylor has been teaching videography, animation and experimental film for over three years. She graduated from Bard College where she majored in Film Production. After college, Sarah worked for TMI Project, a Hudson Valley non-profit organization offering transformative memoir workshops culminating in performances, while also working behind the scenes on several one-woman theatrical shows. Sarah continues to work on her series Travel Loops, which are short looping films focused on the cyclical nature of recollections created by departures from our everyday life and routines. She loves to collaborate with other artists and enjoys lending a hand with any stage of production. Sarah often works with documentarian Kevin Schreck, assistant editing on his award-winning film Persistence of Vision and his upcoming TANGENT REALMS: The worlds of C.M. Kösemen.

Paul Thompson is not only the director of the Spark Studios program at The Art Effect, but he is also an instructor in the program. He has actively worked in the film industry since graduating from The College of Saint Rose with a B.A. in broadcast media and film. Paul has produced web commercials, creative shorts, and short documentaries for Hudson Valley businesses and organizations, including the Westchester Library System. Paul also has experience as an employment specialist Ability Beyond  where he was responsible for providing individuals with disabilities the necessary skills to obtain and maintain employment. Paul has used his degree, as well as his experience in human services and video production, to help create a growing, creative and expressive environment through Spark. During Paul’s spare time, he enjoys going to food and film festivals, respectively.

David Wong is a Hudson Valley local and a big time art lover. He received his associates in Commercial Art from Dutchess Community College and received his Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Purchase in Arts Management. As an undergrad, he caught the film making bug and decided to make a short. For his Senior thesis, he explored the relationship between film and fine art. He never dreamed about the opportunity to explore that question in his work. David has worked at both Dia:Beacon and Storm King Art center, two flagship art institutions of the Hudson Valley. In 2014 David curated the Dia Staff art show. Before being employed by The Art Effect, David interned for Spark Media Project, as well as music video and feature film directors. He continues to make short films and paintings, and he has a cat named Bam Bam.

Angela Beltrani grew up in Hyde Park and went on to have a varied and adventurous life. She started by studying music at Barnard College in NYC, and went on to obtain a MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts in Theater Management. She has worked on and off Broadway for such noted establishments as Manhattan Theatre Club, the Public Theater, and Harold Prince, whom she assisted with the productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Musical and a revival of Showboat. But then her interests veered off into a completely different direction. Angela fell in love with birds. This led her to such exotic places as Alaska to work with Bald Eagles, and Hawaii to study the Maui Parrotbill, one of the rarest bird species in the world. In between, she completed a second masters program at Antioch University New England in Conservation Biology. Now she is back to her first love – the arts. (But she still goes birding.)