Meet Our Team
Arts Alive! has a strong board of directors, representing various art forms, local institutions, arts philanthropists, and town government. The board are strong advocates for Arts Alive! in the community. Transparency is a key principal of the organization, below are links to our strategic plan, board meeting materials and board documents.
Staff & Volunteers
Board of Directors
Co-Chair Andy Oram, Entrepreneur
Co Chair Eric Owen Russell, The Dublin School
Treasurer Kathy Hodgkins, CPA, HoganCamp
Secretary Camellia Sousa, NH Institute of Art's Sharon Arts Center
Kristin Bixby, Town of Peterborough
Joseph Stacey, Connection
Jessica Gelter is a dedicated nonprofit leader with over ten years of experience in community outreach, team leadership, event management, and program development and evaluation. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Boston University’s theater conservatory program, and a Certificate in Arts Management from the University of Massachusetts. In her spare time she practices her art - as a musician, playwright, actress, and theater director, and was featured recently on the National Endowment for the Arts website. She lives in Brattleboro, Vermont with her husband James and daughter Evelyn.
Matthew Leese is a conductor, baritone, educator and stage director. He engages in various collaborative projects which stimulate our community. He manages the Arts Alive! Twitter and Instagram handles, sharing community news and events with our followers.
I warmly remember my mother taking me to the Art Institute of Chicago in the morning followed by a Chicago Symphony matinee across the avenue at Orchestra Hall. I was hooked on the arts; still am. After flirting with a variety of musical instruments, I settled into lifelong relationships with Bass (Precision and upright), tenor banjo, and singing. I have performed professionally with a variety of groups: everything from rock, to bluegrass; country to contra dance; and church’s to choruses; all of these are thriving in the Monadnock Region. Arts Alive! lets me combine my interests in the arts and community. I have served on community and church boards, and for several years was a volunteer chef at the Community Kitchen. I am currently entering my third term as a member of the Keene City Council. The arts are an important element in growing and sustaining the region’s economic vitality; both in arts events directly, and in attracting tourists who come for arts and cultural events then spend on hospitality and other products. Our community is incredibly generous in its support of arts and culture. We cherish our heritage while creatively building our future. Arts Alive! is a way to be a part of all that good.
Your current job and title: Office Administrator, Grant Writer, Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. I am also fundraising chair for The Keene Chorale and serve on the board of Raylynmor Opera.
Town you live in: Keene
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? I was in outside sales, selling grinding wheels and living in the Midwest, and got a new job covering the New England territory. We could've lived anywhere, but Bill and I fell in love with Keene the first time we drove through, and here we are. It's not far from my parents and friends in central Massachusetts, and that played a role.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I have always valued the arts as part of my life, by attending the Worcester Art Museum where I grew up, or singing in shows and choruses, or playing the piano. My parents always took my sister and me to one of the performances of the annual Worcester Music Festival, and The Nutcracker Suite was a highlight when we attended. To have an organization such as Arts Alive! with the stated mission of advancing the arts in the Monadnock region so as to enhance quality of life is indeed a blessing, and I enjoy being on the board and helping enrich our community through our efforts.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? By participating--I sing with The Keene Chorale, and by partaking of all this area has to offer in the form of cultural experiences. It's even more fun now that I know many people in the area and can support them by attending their performances, shows, and exhibitions.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? I see a community with a tapestry of arts, business, and culture intricately interwoven and seamlessly providing the highest quality of life possible, available to all regardless of socioeconomic standing.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? Never let your boss be blind sided by information you should have told her. She can't help you out of a jam if she doesn't know you're in one.
Fun fact about yourself: My ninth great grandmother on my mother's side, Anna Maria von Ludwig Conrad, was the last person tried for heresy (witchcraft) in Kleinheubach, Bavaria, Germany. The German opera, Der Frerschutz, by von Weber was based on the story of Maria's brother, Georg von Ludwig, and is considered to be the first German romantic opera. And, I can cook lamb 12 different ways.
Give a shout out! Yay! for Dita Englund. She is indefatigable in her efforts to advance arts in the region, and it was at her suggestion I join the board of Arts Alive!
Your job: Financial Management Entrepreneur
Town you live in: Keene
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? I came to Keene for the first time in about 1983 to open a business, “Neighbors, Great Meals and Groceries”. We built our first store at 341 West Street the building which is now the “Suds Bucket” Laundry.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? From the earliest age art was an important part of my life. My family house was full of various kinds of art work, we made things together and separately, and my mother in particular focused on creating beauty in the quotidian practices of the home. So appreciation of beauty and the desire to create beauty as part of my environment is deeply ingrained. While not directly art this encouraged an artistic sensibility and a desire for aesthetic experience of life.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? I enjoy visual and aural art especially and I’m drawn to architecture. So I’m drawn to art wherever I find it be it a show, or simply lingering over the murals in a bank, the great streetscapes of Keene, or a slow walk appreciating the architectural details that abound throughout our neighborhoods. I love concerts of many kinds and in many venues. I enjoy a broad range from classical, to folk, to pop, to modern. I particularly like small venues. I had two friends in my house recently playing their guitars and singing together. My home is about at midpoint for them so I offered it up as a venue and had a really fine evening listening to them. Win-Win!
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? Art adds beauty, texture, detail, and meaningful connection wherever it is practiced and used in life. I want to live in a place that is always striving to live a better life on this level constantly refining and redefining creative expression in all that we do. My vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock region is creating an environment that invites, encourages, and supports broad based experience in and of the arts. Where there are opportunities for anyone who wants to create or experience art to easily get involved.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? There are two that are equal in my mind. 1) Failure is not predictive. Just because something didn’t work out doesn’t mean the next attempt won’t succeed. 2) Time is usually better spent leveraging strengths rather than trying to correct or change weaknesses.
Fun fact about yourself: I’ve ridden a bicycle over the Alps 4 or 5 times.
Give a shout out!: I really like our past co-chair, Eric Weisenberger’s “touch” in handling things. Whether he is putting the “arm” on me to support The Colonial or making a point at a board meeting it always feels like he’s on everybody’s side and it makes it much easier to keep moving forward in a productive way. That we come from the same general part of the hinterland and can easily mock each other’s accents makes it all the more amusing as well.
Your job: Director, Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College
Town you live in: Part time in Keene, family lives in the Boston area
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? Getting hired at Keene State College
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I love the commitment Arts Alive has to advocating for the arts in the greater Monadnock region, and all the events and opportunities we provide for the community to promote the arts and providing professional development for artists. I’m especially proud that Arts Alive was chosen to host NEFA’s Creative Communities Exchange in 2015!
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? I love being able to take off my presenter hat and just enjoy the diversity of the arts in our region, nationally and internationally. I especially love being able to provide opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work at the Redfern, and to bring arts engagement to our community through our programming.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? The region is rich in arts and culture, and my vision is to harness this creativity and expand awareness of all the activities that take place in our various communities. I want the Monadnock Region to grow as a cultural destination,and what better place than our beautiful corner of the world!
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? That art can be made anywhere.
Fun fact about yourself: I play roller derby and I once was an assistant casting director for the soap The Guiding Light, I got to cast a lot of my friends, even my mother!
Give a shout out! Shout out to Jessica Gelter for all of her hard work of making Arts Alive a strong organization, and to the Redfern Staff for providing a wonderful experience for our artists and audiences!
Your job: Hotel/Restaurant/Marketing Consultant
Town you live in: Greenfield, NH
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? Originally bought a home on Zephyr Lake for weekend getaways and fell in love with the people, culture and natural playground that Southern NH has to offer. The proximity to major cities was very important at the beginning, but we have found over time, that life can be highly fulfilling in our rural location!
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? It did not take long for me to realize that the Arts are a huge component of the culture and way of life in the Region. The area stimulates and ultimately engages the artist in all of us. Hence, so many individual artists have settled in the area and find the creative stimulation that drives them. From film makers, to musicians to visual artists, this area allows artists to grow with their craft while supported by the surrounding community. As an artist at heart, I wanted to contribute to the wellbeing of artists while stimulating the economy. I found that opportunity with Arts Alive, whose mission is to be the resource and catalyst of growth for individual artists, art organizations and the conduit of art in business. Here is a place where I can make a difference and found that to be true as a Board Member.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? My enjoyment comes from being an audience member at various performance locations, galleries and theatres. Most of all, I get gratification being a part of the support system for artists that allow for the growth and life well-being for the area. As a Board Member of Arts Alive, Monadnock International Film Festival, Advisory Board Member of Sharon Arts/NHIA, NHPBS and marketing consulting with Peterborough Players, Monadnock Music and The Void keeps my efforts relevant to the needs of the community.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? Arts and Culture are the distinct driver of the lifestyle, tourism and wellness of the Region. For too long, Art has been the quiet generator of the growth of the area. Now with the efforts of many organizations, specifically, Arts Alive, the Arts & Culture are becoming the voice and the unique offering of the Region. The goal is to be known nationally as the destination for the Arts in New England.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? Hard to identify just one! The most important aspect of creating is to listen, absorb and collaborate. Not one person or organization can stand alone, by networking and collaborating, "we can move mountains!”
Fun fact about yourself: Fun is key to maintaining my energy, focus and endurance in our very busy world. No matter what I do, there has to be a continual element of fun, otherwise why do it? So, I try to approach life with a smile, a laugh and an effort not to take everything too seriously. After all, fun is contagious, allows for individuals to connect and promotes friendships which can last a lifetime!
Town you live in: Fitzwilliam
What brought you to Monadnock region? We are back home, really, after living in Maine for more than thirty years. My family has been coming to the Monadnock region seasonally for generations. My husband’s family is located in the Monadnock region and we are both Keene State “kids”.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? The arts have played a significant role in my life and I am excited that there is an organization here that is dedicated to supporting and promoting the arts in this region.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? Music has always been my favorite…both as an audience member and through participation.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock region? To have our regional venues and our arts events be what first comes to mind when people talk about the Monadnock region.
Best advice ever received: Be positive!
Fun fact about yourself: My maternal grandmother was born in China, my mother grew up in China and my daughter is a Mandarin speaker and works using Mandarin daily.
Give a shout out: To Gail and Jessica for welcoming me and to my firm, Hogancamp, PC, for supporting involvement in the community.
Eric Owen Russell
Your job: I do two things: Associate Director of Development at Dublin School; Well-Being Coach at Eric Owen Russell Coaching.Consulting.Mentoring
Town you live in: West Chesterfield, NH
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? I actually moved to "lower valley" back in 1994. First to Brattleboro to head up local mortgage loan origination for Banknorth Mortgage Group. In 1998 moved across the river into West Chesterfield where I've been for 20 years.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I am inspired by the opportunity to raise the profile and importance of arts here. It is an opportunity unlike many other places, and we should make the most of it!
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? In any setting where an artist can bring their craft out into the open.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? To see it become one of the key factors both here and throughout the Lower Valley.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? I don't know I haven't received it yet.
Fun fact about yourself: I love helping people learn new and helpful things.
Give a shout out! Eric Charsky for the amazing volunteer work he does for cancer patients through Imerman Angels
Your Job: Director, Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College
Town you live in: Keene...close enough to the Thorne to ride my bike to work most days.
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? The opportunity to build on the amazing base that my predecessor, my colleagues, and many campus and community supporters have built over these many years.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I cherish the opportunities I have to connect people to and through the arts, and this organization exists to help create those connections.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? There's no one answer to this question: I value quiet moments of contemplation, I crave regular doses of live (occasionally loud) music, I love watching people get inspired by performed and/or static artworks, and I feel extraordinarily lucky when I'm in the presence of committed artists and engaged audiences.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? The Monadnock Region is changing, rapidly, and arts and culture here and elsewhere are changing, too. My vision (I'm sure it's not unique) is of dynamic, diverse, disparate activities that connect various individuals and groups. I want to see artists, presenters, and audiences take chances on unfamiliar material while celebrating the perhaps more familiar (familiar to whom, I must ask) creative legacies we've inherited. Powerful connections -- to varied aspects of the past, to possible futures, and to people from all walks of life -- are possible and indeed critical if our artistic and cultural scenes are to flourish.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? Bring spares.
Fun fact about yourself: My first museum job -- apart from graduate internships at several fine university art museums -- was at The Computer Museum, Boston, where (from 1989 to 1993) I helped organize a collection of computer hardware, software, documentation, and ephemera, and, in time, started a digital art exhibition series that taught me a lot about art, museums, artists, and audiences.
Give a shout out!: One of my go-to people is Kevin Dremel, who, from my first week here in Keene last summer, has been a fixture in my Keene culture-maven map. His DIY approach, his passion, his friendly and clear manner with artists, organizers, and audiences, and his generosity with knowledge, connections, and crackers, have all been valuable professionally and just fantastic personally.
Your job: Director of Sharon Arts Center at New Hampshire Institute of Art.
Town you live in: Milford, New Hampshire
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? My husband Brian, who works in the non-profit sector, started working in Peterborough about a year before I did. I discovered the Sharon Arts Center one day when I came to Peterborough to have lunch with him. About a year later I applied for a job. 10 years later I’m still here and loving it. My husband has moved on to a job outside of the Peterborough area, so we find Milford both a wonderful place to live and a good middle ground for commuting.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? In the effort to advance arts and culture in the region, one of the things that I think Arts Alive does tremendously well is bring people together in shared dialogues. There is a true understanding that it takes the collaboration of many individual artists and arts organizations to advance arts and culture in our region and that is why I am excited to be in involved.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to do some traveling, and so I really enjoy when I can visit a new museum and have a new experience. Two of my recent favorites were the MFA in Montréal and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region? As a member of the community, I want to be able to experience art that you wouldn’t expect to find in the small towns of New Hampshire. I’d like to see the region enhance its reputation as a destination for arts and culture.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? One piece of advice that that works well for many different situations comes from my Dad. For all my life, he has reminded me not to forget to stand up straight. This piece of advice is simple but is universally helpful. It helps me remind myself to focus on what I can control.
Fun fact about yourself: I am a huge baseball fan. Last year I decided I wanted to see a game at all 30 MLB stadiums. 4 down, 26 to go!
Give a shout out!: My shout out goes to Pelagia Vincent. I’d like to recognize her dedication to the many organizations that she volunteers her time to, including Arts Alive and NHIA. I also admire the positive energy and persistence she exhibits when she is working on something that is important to her. Lastly, she is a great person to call a friend and always quick to respond when I need her help or advice.
Your job: I am a retired elementary school educator and principal. I have a small wedding and special event floral design business called Posies by Trim which I have been the principal in for almost 30 years. Gardening and flowers are my passion, this is the medium I choose to practice my creativity.
Town you live in: Hillsborough and Peterborough
What brought you to the Monadnock Region? I came from London UK, to NH to be a camp counselor teaching art at Interlocken Camp here in Windsor NH in 1970. In 1972 I met my husband Steve and moved here in 1974. I have lived both full time and part time in the Region for almost 43 years.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I grew up in a family of artists in London. For several generations my family have been architects, painters, and designers. I have two struggling artists siblings, and one highly successful artist sibling. I understand the important role arts plays in developing strong communities. As a child of two passionate painters, I also understand the importance of supporting artists with the business and marketing part of being an artist
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? As a child I spent weekends and vacations climbing on building sites with my grandfather and visiting exhibits all over London, something I did not enjoy at the time, but as an adult I have come to appreciate the gifts my relatives gave me as we interacted with many of the most famous contemporary artists of our time. Now I like to visit beautifully designed gardens, galleries and experience art in my daily life by creating gardens floral designs and pleasing spaces to live in.
What is your vision for arts and culture in the Monadnock Region: As a member of the Monadnock Branding Task Force I believe arts in the Monadnock Region play a vital role in the development of the region and is one of the reasons so many people choose to live, visit and summer here.
What’s the best advice that you’ve received? I used to give out a lot of advice as a principal! I like the following quote because being a teacher and being an artist are very similar in so many ways. " The teaching mission is complex and difficult, and yet so vital. Teachers can never put up a 'Mission Accomplished' banner, because they are the bridge, not the end point for boys and girls - and the young men and women who come into their lives." John Merrow. Like art, teaching is a process.
Fun fact about yourself: I did an A Level on embroidery at age 18. A Levels are advanced two year coursework and exams in all subjects. I grew up in a robust post war London Brahman community of artists of genres and professionals supporting the arts.
Give a shout out! You can thank someone on the Board, or at your place of work, give props to someone at your organization, or recognize someone at some organization for the good work they do! Have fun with it! Over the last two years I have sat with many on the AA board at Monadnock Branding Task Force meetings and have come to respect Carl, former board member for his pragmatic insight into the region. Jessica brings spirit, energy and excitement about AA to the committees and groups she interacts with.
Your current job/title: Development Director, Historical Society of Cheshire County
Town you live in: Rindge
What brought you to the Monadnock region: I grew up in Nashua, so I ended up “not far from the tree I fell from.” I moved back to New Hampshire about ten years ago, after living in Flagstaff, Arizona for 25 years. Although I sometimes miss the big skies out west, I’m “wicked” happy to be back in the land of maple syrup, macoun apples, and butter and sugar corn.
Why are you passionate about Arts Alive!? I believe that cities and towns are more than their streets and sidewalks and water lines. The arts give us a sense of belonging in our communities. I believe that being involved in Arts Alive! is a way to be the neighbor I want to be in the community I want to call my home.
How do you enjoy experiencing the arts? At the Historical Society of Cheshire County we often have juried art exhibits, and I enjoy the sense of place I get from the artworks. There is a lot of talent in the Monadnock region, and it is a very inclusive community of artists. I also enjoy the sense of place I get from reading a novel by Ernest Hebert; there is so much humanity in his novels and the characters are so home grown. I’m impressed with the quality (and the heart) of local theater such as the Peterborough Players, the Edge Ensemble Theater Company, and Project Shakespeare. And I like having the opportunity to see live music at venues such as the Colonial Theatre in Keene or Peterborough Folk Music. I’m looking forward to the Walldogs Mural Festival in Keene; it should be a rich experience at the intersection of art and history.
What is your vision for arts & culture in the Monadnock region? I can envision how arts and culture make the Monadnock region a better destination for visitors and residents. A vibrant arts and culture scene can help support other aspects of the economy such as a good “foodie” scene.
What's the best advice you've received? When I was elected to the Flagstaff City Council, an outgoing member told me, “Never walk out of a meeting mad, and don’t forget to focus on what you want to get done.” I’ve caught myself violating that advice once in a while, but not too often I hope.
Fun fact about yourself: I’ve read every play Shakespeare wrote (and maybe even a few he didn’t write).
Give a shout out to someone: Marlborough artist Alicia Drakiotes. She invests so much of herself in the local arts scene. She has organized several memorable art exhibits at the Historical Society of Cheshire County, and we are looking forward to the next.