Presenter Bios

Moderators & Presenters

 

As a connector of people, Tiffany Jackson’s (she|her) passion for the arts was born the day her father took her hand to dance. Today, the beat goes on but to a different drum: She enjoys creating dynamic opportunities for children and older adult learners by helping them to find their spark, their very own rhythm. As the Director of Education at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center, an award-winning, multicultural, multidisciplinary arts institution located in Dallas, TX,. Jackson has expanded the reach of the arts education department to provide creative aging workshops and arts-integrated learning for children. She is a proud member of the National Guild’s planning committee for this creative aging series and an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program. Jackson is a graduate of the University of North Texas where she received her BA in Public Relations.

 

Sylvia Sherman (she|her) has cultivated nearly 30 years of experience with non-profit and philanthropic organizations including the San Francisco Art Commission Cultural Equity Program, Oakland School for the Arts, and La Pena Cultural Center. In her current role at Community Music Center (CMC), she manages a broad range of community music education initiatives, such as CMC’s Young Musicians Program, the San Francisco Unified School District Mariachi Program, and CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program in partnership with the Department of Disability and Aging Services and senior centers throughout the city. Sherman serves as a Board member on the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area, the San Francisco Coalition of Agencies that serve the Elderly, Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and as a member of the National Guild’s planning committee for this creative aging program.

Breakout Facilitators

 

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Eepi Chaad (she|her)is a practicing multidisciplinary artist, advocate, and environmentalist who tells stories using textiles, fibers, metals, places, and people. Chaad was selected as one of the first resident artists for the City of Houston by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs while working with an eco-art coastal margin preservation non-profit in Galveston. After taking a sabbatical for the residency with the city, Chaad took her role as Director of Community Engagement at Art League Houston. Additionally, she currently serves as a facilitator for the Artist INC Houston program, as board vice president of Artists For Artists, as a steering committee member of the Houston Museum Educators Roundtable, and the National Guild’s planning committee for this creative aging series. She also is an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program through her work with Art League Houston. Eepi Chaad believes that art is for every community and creativity resides in every human.

 

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Percussionist Gavin Farrell (he|him) was named Executive Director of Powers Music School in 2017. With an administrative teaching and performing career spanning more than 30 years, Farrell brings a wealth of experience to Powers and Belmont. Along the way he learned from master drummers and jazz luminaries, performed everywhere from dive bars in the rural south to the Kennedy Center’s mainstage, and inspired countless students to think creatively and have fun making music. He is an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program through his work with Powers and serves on the planning  committee for this creative aging series.Prior to joining Powers, Farrell lived in Baltimore where he served as Executive Director of the Peabody Preparatory from 2013-2017 and as Academic Programs Administrator from 2002-2013. He received his BM in Jazz Studies from the University of North Florida and holds an MM in both Percussion and Music Theory Pedagogy from the Peabody Conservatory.

 

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In 2016, Russ Grazier (he|him) was named New Hampshire Arts Advocate of the Year. Together with his wife Katie Grazier, he co-founded Portsmouth Music and Arts Center (PMAC) in response to a call from his city’s 2002 Cultural Plan. Grazier’s passion for music began at a young age when he learned “Dust In The Wind” on guitar. Transitioning to saxophone and music composition, he has studied at The Tanglewood Institute, Boston Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Chicago. In full circle, Grazier has also taught at many prestigious music schools including the New England Conservatory Preparatory School, the Merit School of Music, the University of Chicago, and Roosevelt University. He is an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program through his work with PMAC and serves on the planning  committee for this creative aging series.When not playing music or teaching, he can often be found working on his disc golf putting game with his entire family.

 

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Based in Raleigh, NC, Eliza Kiser (she|her) is an artist and also the Director of Pullen Arts Center, a part of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department whose mission is to create opportunities for visual artists working at all levels to grow their skills and learn together in community. She is an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program through her work with Pullen and serves on the planning  committee for this creative aging series. Prior to her tenure at the City of Raleigh, she was an Account Executive and Project Manager at Point Concepts Design, an exhibit design company specializing in designing and building corporate interiors, tradeshow displays, and museum exhibitions. Kiser is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Design. As an artist, Kiser considers herself to be an illustrator although her works frequently come off the page through collaborative projects in fibers, clay, and installation. Community and creative problem solving are themes that underlie all of Eliza Kiser’s pursuits.

 

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Vita Litvak (she|her) is a Philadelphia-based artist, an arts educator with 20 years experience, and an arts administrator. As the Associate Director of Adult Education at Fleisher Art Memorial, a community school of the visual arts, she oversees the design and implementation of more than 100 classes and workshops and manages 80 teaching artists who engage more than 2,000 adult students each year, all diverse in age and background. Litvak is also leading a new creative aging initiative at Fleisher and designing new programs to serve older adults in South Philadelphia, work that has been funded and shared by the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Litvak received her BA with Departmental High Honors in Fine Arts from Haverford College and her MFA in Photography and Film from Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

Named a 2017 “Influencer in Aging” by PBS Next Avenue, Maura O’Malley (she|her) promotes the field of creative aging at major national conferences in the arts, public library, and senior service sectors. With nearly 40 years’ experience in arts management, including program design and implementation, arts education, development, and community cultural work, she has informed policy and created innovative programming for adults and children with premiere arts and educational organizations including the NYC Department of Education, Studio in a School, and Young Audiences/New York. Currently, O’Malley leads the development of Lifetime Arts’ national programming models, training programs and resources for creative aging stakeholders including teaching artists. Lifetime Arts is a longtime partner of the National Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program. She is a proud member of the National Advisory Board of the Teaching Artists Guild as well as a member of the National Guild’s planning committee for this creative aging program.

Guest Speakers

Shireen McSpadden (she|her) serves as the Executive Director of Disability and Aging Services at the San Francisco Human Services Agency. Her department coordinates services to veterans, older adults, adults with disabilities, and their families to maximize health, safety, and independence so that they can remain active in their community for as long as possible and maintain the highest quality of life. McSpadden has more than 25 years of experience developing policies and services to help ensure San Franciscans thrive as they age. She is a board member of the California Association of Area Agencies on Aging and is an executive board member, representing California, for the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Shireen McSpadden earned her master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco.

 

At the onset of the pandemic, in March 2020, Melissa Bravo (she|her) took on the role as Activities Program Manager at On Lok’s 30th Street Senior Center. On Lok is a nonprofit organization that empowers older adults to age with dignity and independence throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The 30th Street Senior Center is the largest multipurpose senior center in San Francisco and provides a second home, health programs, activities, and case management services to active seniors. Eager to continue providing services and engaging the community, Bravo guided 30th Street in swiftly transitioning activities to virtual formats. With the help of community partners, the center has been able to overcome the digital divide and help combat social isolation. Bravo is passionate about working with underserved and vulnerable communities, and draws from a wealth of expertise in her work, including experience in mental health and kinesiology.

 

Recognized as a “Luminary” by the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco in 2011, and more recently as “Excelencia Latina” by LAM and Mundo Fox, Martha Rodríguez-Salazar (she|her) is a singer, flutist, conductor, and producer who has brought Latin American folk, classical, and contemporary music to the Bay Area for over 20 years. Born in Mexico and classically-trained at Mills College, she has served as faculty at Community Music Center (CMC) since 2000. As a founding choir director of CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program, Rodríguez-Salazar bilingually conducts three choirs in the city’s Mission District with repertoire based in Latin American music. Additionally, she teaches in the San Francisco school district’s mariachi program, delivers private lessons and group classes, and played a lead in CMC’s role within the Community of Voices research study (led by the University of California, San Francisco) on the impact of choir participation for older adults.

 

Christie Jean-Jacques (she|her) began working for Creative Action in 2014 and is currently an Associate Program Director of Community Engagement. In this role, she directs Continuing Creativity, arts-based classes for older adults, as well as Legacy Leaders, a volunteer program to connect older adults with young people. Christie is an alumnus of the Guild’s Catalyzing Creative Aging program. Before her time in Austin, she performed full-time internationally with Disney Live and Disney Cruise Lines, in addition to Universal Studios and SeaWorld in Orlando. Today in addition to her community work with Creative Action, Jean-Jacques is the busy mom of two young children. She loves bringing people of all ages together to learn and explore through the arts!

 

Ben Rustenhaven (he|him) grew up in Marshall, TX, and moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. After graduating, he began working for the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department in the Community Recreation Division. Over the last 12 years, Rustenhaven has led programming for toddlers, youth, teens, adults, and seniors. He currently supervises four recreation centers and leads the annual Bringing Seniors Together event series. Outside of work, Rustenhaven enjoys spending time with his wife and dog as well as playing softball and tending to his many indoor and outdoor plants.

 

Reared in segregated North Carolina, Aljosie Aldrich Harding (she|her) began learning, teaching, and building social justice skills along with organizing in the 1960s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lome, Togo, West Africa. Throughout the nation, Ms. Harding has worked in community organizing on the ground and in empowerment building with women’s circles, organizations, and colleges. Harding has been a servant-leader in Atlanta for both the Institute of the Black World, a think tank and advocacy organization, and the Learning House, an independent Afrocentric freedom school. With her co-worker, partner, and late husband, Vincent Harding, she built intergenerational relationships with social justice and peace organizations across the United States and abroad. Today, Harding serves on the National Council of Elders and works as a spiritual guide, sharing healing justice practices in all of her work and relationships.