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Recent Arts Leadership Graduates

Ishraq Ashtarian was born in Quebec, Canada. He started his school years in. Iran where he specialized in mathematics. He attended Tehran University of Art and received a B.A. in Architecture, and gained expertise in information technology. Ishraq has a real interest in the arts, and as an undergraduate student, he performed in Rhinoceros and Breathing. Rhinoceros, a postmodern theatrical work, was performed in one of Tehran’s top venues. He also directed a subsequent production of it. In pursuit of his interests in the arts, Ishraq happily chose to enroll in the M.A. in Arts Leadership program at Queen’s University after his investigation of various university programs in the field. He is an avid museum and theatre attender, especially when travelling. Ishraq hopes to work in a museum or theatre centre in Canada and Iran, and explore the relationship between arts and technology.

Sebastian Buccioni grew up with his time divided between small-town Palgrave, Ontario and Aachen, Germany. He developed a love of the arts at young age. He initially taught himself to play the piano at age 5, and then convinced his parents to send him to piano lessons at age 6. He frequented art galleries and ballet, and insisted on a diet of only Mozart, Beethoven, and Chris de Burgh. Years later, Sebastian went on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) with a Specialization in jazz piano at York University. Following university, Sebastian went on to pursue a musical career, touring and recording under grants from FACTOR and the Canada Council for the Arts. He ultimately focused on the Hammond organ, and performed with such groups as Julian Taylor, Ride the Tiger, and The Matt Morgan Band. A job as barista gave Sebastian the opportunity to enter the world of management and develop a passion for leadership that drives exceptional sales growth and excellence in customer service. Sebastian helped establish Canada’s largest self-operated food service team at the University of Toronto. While at U. of T., Sebastian completed courses to develop his knowledge of leadership and project management. Hungry to learn more and apply his leadership skills to the world of arts, Sebastian is studying arts leadership at Queen’s University.

Lara Bulger was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. Growing up, she was exposed to all the varied types of art Toronto had to offer; it comes as no surprise that she has decided to work in this industry. She began playing piano and violin at age 10 and has continued to take lessons and play in orchestras. Lara attended Western University, majoring in music and minoring in film and English. After graduating, she interned at a small music label and realized that working in the commercial music industry was not the right fit for her. She continued to be involved in the arts and ventured into theatre, film and music in both volunteering and working roles. After attending the Toronto International Film Festival for many years, she began to focus on the film festival niche in Toronto and worked for both TIFF and Hot Docs. Wanting to expand her knowledge of this industry, she is currently enrolled in the M.A. in Arts Leadership program at Queen’s University, and hopes to further explore her interests in the film world.

Samantha Clark hails from Cobourg, Ontario. She attended Trinity College School and went on to receive her B.A. Honours from Queen’s University in Drama in 2016. Her family, who are involved in the local arts community as producers and production team members for local theatre, first exposed Samantha to the arts. Sam received her Grade 8 in voice and Grade 2 theory from the Royal Conservatory of Music. She studied with many voice teachers in Northumberland County including Marie Anderson, Donna Bennett and Michael Warren. Sam has also studied ballet and other forms of dance which let her to choreograph large musicals for VOS Theatre (previously the Victoria Operetta Society), and most recently, Anne of Green Gables and Guys and Dolls. Samantha currently sits on the Board of Trustees for VOS, and is responsible for their marketing portfolio. Sam has worked as the assistant to Brian Finley, the Artistic Director of Westben Festival Arts Theatre in Campbellford, recently renamed the Westben Centre. She performed stage management, lighting design, sound technician, and front of house duties, she advanced performances, and undertook a wide variety of other tasks. Samantha performed the role of Rhonda in Brian Findlay’s new opera, The Pencil Salesman, starring John Fanning. This experience allowed Samantha to work with conductor Daniel Warren and director Michael Mori from Tapestry Opera. Samantha also worked as surtitle operator for La Traviata at Westben this summer. Samantha was mentored by Donna Bennett, the Co-founder and Director of Marketing for Westben. When not involved in the arts, Samantha works for her family’s Planning Consulting Firm where she developed administrative skills including project management, report writing, and editing, as well as skills in understanding municipal and provincial government processes. Sam is looking forward to bolstering her administrative skills as they relate to the arts and culture industry.Heather Dale has been a recording artist and arts entrepreneur for 25 years. She founded her own record label in 1998 to support her artistic work, and continues as its managing director after 20 years of growth. As the owner of a small for-profit arts company, Heather has practical experience as an artistic director, strategic planner, record producer (34 albums, including 20 of her own original Celtic music), audio engineer, performing artist, production designer (film & concerts), marketing director, tour manager (1,400 shows since 2004 in North America, Europe, and Australia), business administrator, fundraiser ($84,000 in donations and grants obtained since 2014), and graphic designer. She hopes to improve her arts company’s efficiency and profitability, with formal training in the ARTL Master’s program. She is also open to seeking employment with other interesting arts organizations, and would like to one day teach Arts Entrepreneurship at a university level.

Candace Elder is a leader and advocate in the arts & culture sector with over fifteen years of professional experience. She is passionate about the arts, bringing creative and visionary thinking to community outreach and program development. Candace has long been committed to nurturing creative expression, and cultivating a vibrant and healthy arts community. Candace has an extensive background in arts and cultural strategic planning, programming and management through her work as Senior Manager of Programs at the National Music Centre, and in her current role as Cultural Programming Manager for the City of St. Albert. Her commitment to artist development began at The Banff Centre where she facilitated and managed residencies, serving a wide-range of international artists. Candace has worked closely with artists across all career-stages and disciplines. She is committed to innovative and holistic approaches, developing and initiating programs in support of the arts. Her values-driven, collaborative leadership style, combined with her knack for building effective partnerships to create and empower strong and resourceful teams. As a certified coach with expertise in program development and leadership, Candace provides unique and highly attuned guidance to individuals and organizations seeking to build meaningful connections with their community.

Michelle Dorey Forestell has been a professional educator of arts and literature for over fifteen years. Having earned a B.A. Honours in literature, minoring in psychology from St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo, and a Master’s of Science in Education from Canisius College in New York State, she has worked with both the Waterloo and Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic School Boards. Continuing her studies in drama and social science, Michelle is a Specialist in English with credentials from the University of Western Ontario and Queen’s University. Having been involved in the performing arts from a very early age as an actor, singer and musician, her favourite part of teaching has always been sharing her love of the arts with her students, and using her artistic skills cross-curricularly to improve student learning. Her love of theatre, music and media is demonstrated through her extra-curricular activities: coaching improv, producing and directing theatre, directing choirs and Glee Club, supervising the student newspaper, film club, and Shakespeare Guild. Her return to Queen’s University full-time is a challenge to her most important role as a Mother of three. However, Michelle knows her hard work will be well worth the Arts Management Diploma and Master’s in Arts Leadership she hopes to pursue in order to broaden her work experience, expand her management skills, and love for the Performing Arts.

Carolina Gallegos has a B.A. in Dramatic Literature and Theatre from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. After graduating, she had an internship at the Cultural Secretariat of Mexico City where she produced and directed several plays to promote the cultural heritage of the museums of Mexico City. After that, she was awarded a scholarship by the National Autonomous University of Mexico to work as an intern in one its university branches in Canada. She directed the theatre company of the institution, and designed and conducted an acting workshop entitled “Everybody on Stage: Acting Skills for Everyday Life.” Her interests including acting, directing, teaching, producing, and applied theatre. She enrolled in the M.A. in Arts Leadership program to learn strategies and to develop her future arts projects. Right now, her goal is to direct a not-for-profit organization related to applied theatre.

Since graduating from a Master’s program in Art History from Carleton University in 2014, Elizabeth Johnston has travelled extensively, or more accurately, compulsively, trying to experience as many new, stimulating and meaningful moments as possible. She has worked at myriad different jobs and positions in this time, everything from waitressing, cleaning apartments, cherry picking, contract writing to most recently working for the Ministry of Transportation, a field entirely different from the arts but one that offered a keen insight into the inner workings of government policy and structure. Born and raised in Toronto, Liz has benefitted from the breadth and ubiquity of arts organizations and institutions on her doorstep. She has seen the role of the art gallery shift and mutate in the past decades, namely the rise in blockbuster exhibitions as a response to, and arguably ramification of, the struggle to remain competitive in this period of vast and seductive entertainment options. She remains uncertain at the best of times of her direction, oscillating wildly between running away to work on a farm, becoming head of a gallery, or pursuing further academia. Through this course, Liz hopes to broaden her scope of understanding and gain greater perspective on how the arts industry operates on both a small and large scale. She believes strongly that interdisciplinary studies and intersectionality are the way to engender a more nuanced and aware present and future. By pushing the limits of her comfort zone, Liz hopes to be an active participant in doing just that.

Laura Langlois spent her early years moving between several small Ontario towns. A shy child with a love of books and storytelling, she turned to theatre, theatrical writing, and amateur film-making at a young age as a way to express herself. In 2008, she graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. Honours in Drama and English. After graduation she moved to Toronto to pursue theatre performance and freelance writing. While initially maintaining her creative work, Laura also took a job in retail sales, which evolved over the next two years into a head office role, nationally recruiting for all corporate and franchise roles. Laura continued acting, non-professionally, and writing for some not-for-profit clients. However, for the next six years her professional focus was in the for-profit corporate world. Her experience included roles in sales management, operations, and client service. During this time, Laura indulged her love for travel, seeking places that offered a strong sense of cultural heritage. Inspired by the way heritage sites told stories of people and place, she began exploring similar sites and events in Toronto and started volunteering at Bata Shoe Museum. Additionally, she refocused on her love of the arts, expanding her regular attendance beyond theatre, into music, dance and film. Around this same time Laura took a role in fundraising and administration for a small not-for-profit charity. It was a pivotal experience. The dedication to a shared purpose and sense of community was invigorating and Laura shifted focus toward a career in the not-for-profit sphere. Her passion led her to the Arts Leadership program at Queen’s where she is hopeful that she may combine her arts and business experience to achieve her goal of finding purposeful and engaging work in an arts and culture organization.

Rebecca Marchand has always had a passion for the arts, which started with a trip backstage at a production of Carousel. Rebecca earned her BFA at the University of Victoria where her studies focused on production management and directing. Since graduating, Rebecca has been working as a free-lance Stage Manager and arts administrator around British Columbia with organizations like The Belfry Theatre, Savage Society, Chemainus Theatre Festival, Pacific Opera Victoria, The Victoria Fringe Festival, Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre and the Arts Club Theatre. Prior to her studies at UVic Rebecca worked in personal financial management with the Bank of Nova Scotia, in Arts Administration with the West Shore Arts Council, as well as teaching English abroad in China for several years. Her blend of skills and experiences within Canada and overseas have given Rebecca a unique perspective. Looking to expand upon her knowledge and learn more about the world of arts leadership, Rebecca enrolled in the Master’s of Arts Leadership program at Queen’s University.

Lauren McDonald is from Vancouver, BC where she works as both a Set Designer/Scenic Painter in the Theatre and Film Industry as well as being the Administrator for the West Vancouver Yacht Club. Her current project with the West Vancouver Yacht Club is building a custom CRM for the current membership as well as prospective members. She wants to take both her past experiences and skills gained from the Queen’s Master in Arts Leadership Program to work in the Arts and Cultural Services Sector. Lauren’s work on recent productions includes Residue and Candiland (Motorcycle Boy Productions), Dark Harvest and Indigo (Greendale Productions), and Darling, A Musical (Springboard Theatre). In 2013, Lauren graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production Management and Design.

Growing up in small town Leamington, Ontario, she participated in local theatre productions in a variety of roles, both on and off the stage. Since moving to Kingston in 2012 to pursue her B.A. Honours in Drama, she has worked on innumerable productions as an actor, set designers, technician, and director within Queen’s Dan School of Drama and Music. Since graduation from Queen’s University in 2017, she has embodied inventiveness, creative vision, and professional rigor in all of her work. Recent positions have included those with the Kingston Kick & Push Festival, Single Thread Theatre Company, Queen’s Musical Theatre, Domino Theatre, and the Canadian Opera Company. Felicia is very interested in arts therapy and hopes to share her enthusiasm for drama by establishing arts therapy programming in women’s correctional facilities.

Samantha Newton was raised in New Westminster and currently lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. She received her Diploma in Studio Art from Capilano University before transferring to Emily Carr University of Art and Design to complete her Bachelor of Fine Art in Visual Art. While finishing her degree, Samantha began an internship at a start-up contemporary commercial art gallery, The Robert Lynds Gallery, and was promoted to Gallery Manager. Within this role, Samantha curated exhibitions and delivered projects such as gallery events, festival submissions, and marketing and publications, while overseeing daily operations and staff. In her tenure at RLG, Samantha also developed and led a professional development class on artist-dealer relations, which grew her passion for providing public programs in art education. Prior to her relocation to Kingston, Samantha worked at Emily Carr University of Art and Design as an Administration Assistant within the Continuing Studies department, and provided interim assistance to the Executive Director at the Burnaby Arts Council. While continuing her studio practice, Samantha currently serves as the representative for The Gallery at Queen’s Park as the Gallery Coordinator for the Arts Council of New Westminster, where she coordinates and curates gallery exhibitions, and develops barrier-free public programming. Samantha is pursuing the Master of Arts Leadership at Queen’s University to learn the executive level skills required to lead arts organizations to expand memberships and increase development to provide diverse artistic experiences for people of all gender, race, age and ability.

Leslie O’Sullivan could not be more excited to be establishing her career in the arts. A life-long advocate of the performing arts, Leslie spent her childhood performing in musicals and small town theatre productions until she began her University education in 2010. Leslie has earned her B.A. (Honours) in English Literature at Trent University, her Graduate Certificate in Marketing Communications at St. Lawrence College, and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Arts Leadership at Queen’s University. For the past three years, Leslie has worked as the Office Administrator for the Kingston Symphony Association. Her time spent with the symphony opened her eyes to the rewards that come with a career in Arts Management and she is driven to become an innovative arts leader in her community. Leslie is interested in arts development, cultural policy and marketing. She would love to explore these passions working for a major arts centre or arts council in the future.

Maddy Palmer recently completed her undergraduate degree in Drama at Queen’s University in 2018. Prior to that, she earned her Advanced Diploma in Music Theatre Performance from St. Lawrence College and moved to Toronto to pursue a full-time acting career. After working with companies such as The Charlottetown Festival, St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival, and the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Maddy learned that while her passions lie in theatre and dance, they just were not in performance. She hopes to learn many things in her Masters in Arts Leadership courses, especially fundraising, as she hopes those skills will help kickstart her career at a Canadian dance or theatre company.

Sarah Phillips is a theatre professional with 20+ years of experience working across Canada as a freelance director, dramaturg, playwright and producer. Most recently, she served as Artistic Director and Producer for Festival Players of Prince Edward County (2007 – 2016). She ran away to theatre school at 16 (Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto), received her undergrad degree from the University of Guelph (Hons. BA with a specialization in Drama), and graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in Directing. She spent her formative years working with Soulpepper Theatre, da da kamera, Stratford Festival, Tarragon Theatre, and Theatre Columbus. She has taught at Queen’s University, Ryerson University, University of Waterloo and the National Theatre School. Sarah currently resides in Prince Edward County.

Laura Scaffidi was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, where she began her studies in music as a child. During this time, she performed in venues ranging from the Canadian War Museum, the Senate of Canada, and the National Arts Centre. Before heading off to commence her undergraduate studies in classical voice, she suffered a vocal injury that subsequently led her to begin an enthusiastic career in arts administration. A graduate of Queen’s University with a BA (Honours) in French Language and Literature and a certificate in Media Studies, she has also attended conferences at Berklee College of Music (Boston) and is pursuing her ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Theory. Laura is excited to be continuing her studies at Queen’s with a Master’s in Arts Leadership, where she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of organizational development in the arts, combining her affinity for business with her love of music.

Ben Sterlin is currently an Arts Administration Graduate Diploma student, looking to become a candidate for the Masters in Arts Leadership at Queen’s University. Previously, he graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Stage and Screen Studies with a Certificate in Business from the Smith School of Business. In high school, Ben was very involved in leadership for a Jewish youth group and thoroughly enjoyed his roles and responsibilities in these various leadership positions. Throughout his undergraduate career, Ben had the opportunity to be a part of many theatrical productions in both acting and directing roles. Now, he is seeking to combine his passion for the arts and affinity for leadership into a career that will positively impact local and national arts and culture in Canada, and beyond.

Classical pianist Anneli Loepp Thiessen brings a passion for community arts education to her Graduate Diploma in Arts Management studies at Queen’s University this summer. She holds her ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Piano Performance and her Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Canadian Mennonite University. She has been a Music for Young Children teacher and teaches privately at the Community School of Music and the Arts in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Anneli is the director for Ontario Mennonite Music Camp, and has worked as the operetta director for the Southern Ontario Suzuki Institute. As a performer, she has won competitions at both the regional and provincial level, such as the Verna Mae Janzen Competition in 2017. She was the soloist for the Mennonite Community Orchestra in 2015. Anneli is looking forward to beginning her Master of Music in Piano Performance at the University of Ottawa in fall, 2018.

Sissi Zhao is an international student who is originally from Beijing, China. She recently graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. in Film and Media. During the past four years, she has collaborated with many people to make a number of short experimental films. She also has a passion for musicals and operas. With the Queen’s M.A. in Arts Leadership program, she is effectively building upon her artist knowledge with business-oriented courses. After graduating from Queen’s Arts Leadership graduate program, she wants to expand her knowledge in different fields.