In case you missed it, last night was a very fun night for the Village of Pelham Board of Trustees. In addition to swearing in Trustees Kim McGreal, Russell Solomon and Hanan Kamal Eldahry, we appointed members to our newly-established Arts Council. The Village of Pelham Council on the Arts will be critically important for our community as we seek opportunities for dialog and public expression while working to revitalize our downtown.
We’ve spent the last six weeks gathering resumes and applications for these roles, and we were lucky to have 13 people apply for the council - each of them was amazing in their own right. One of the core recommendations we received from the Steering Committee on Policing and Inclusion was that we should not view membership for advisory boards as a purely competitive exercise. Instead, we should prioritize diversity in the broadest sense.
Trustee Carpenter, Trustee Hill-Reis and I met with all those who applied and our goal was to curate a group of people with a wide range of professional and personal backgrounds, different lived experiences, a commitment to volunteerism, and a wide array of necessary skills (arts management, production, art curation, design and architectural acumen). Not one person on this council is like another, and each is impressive. I am absolutely thrilled to see what they will accomplish for our community. Please join me in congratulating Trustees McGreal, Solomon and Eldahry for their service, and extend your thanks to our newly-appointed council members for supporting the vibrancy of our community: Lisa Robb, Ruben Rodriguez, Francile Albright Mullen, Lisa Koonce, Emlyn Taveras, Jessica Solomon and Jeff Watkins.
Here’s some information about each member of the Arts Council:
Lisa Robb (3 year term) has over 35 years of experience in the arts as a nonprofit arts executive. From 2011-2016, she served as the Executive Director for the New York State Council on the Arts. She has also worked with the Newport Festivals Foundation, the Center for Arts Education, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Friends of Photography/Ansel Adams Center, and she’s advised a range of professional arts organizations, including Brooklyn Music School, Museum of Photographic Arts, Urban Arts Partnership, National Guild for Community Arts Education, Education through Music, Doodles Academy, and the New York Studio School. She has also been a longtime supporter of the Pelham Art Center, even serving as Director from 1999-2011. She holds a BFA from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts and has deep ties throughout the arts world. She cares deeply about the arts and the place she lives. She knows that “the work of this committee will help make Pelham a more interesting, vibrant, and dynamic community to live, work, visit and play in.”
Ruben Rodriguez (3 year term) is currently an associate at SLM Architecture with over 15 years of experience as an architect. He moved to Pelham six years ago, but according to Ruben, he became a Pelhamite when he started volunteering. He’s a Pelham Little League Manager and Coach, as well as a Cub Scout Den Leader (and Chief Media Officer) for Pelham Pack 1. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the City College of New York. When Ruben applied, he wrote, “I love Pelham. It’s a small village where everybody contributes the best they have to offer. I realize that creativity will be my contribution to this community. I try to do so at every opportunity I get and a position on this council would be the best chance to be a part of the energy and vision of Pelham.”
Francile Albright Mullen (3 year term) holds an MFA from the University of Washington and spent over a decade as a professional actor, singer, and voice over artist in NYC. In 2011, she co-founded Alberio Films, where she produced short films, web series, countless promotional videos, and the feature film Sun Belt Express, starring Tate Donovan and Rachael Harris. She is currently the Director of Education at the Picture House Regional Film Center, where she manages over 40 film education programs throughout lower Westchester, including grant and donor funded programs that deliver arts education to underserved schools and community groups. She has volunteered her time as a boys rec soccer coach, currently serves on the Pelham Together Advisory Board, and is in her second year as a board member at the Concordia Conservatory of Music in Bronxville. As head of the PTA Cultural Arts committee at Hutchinson Elementary, Francile partnered with the global arts organization Street Art for Mankind to create a large-scale, outdoor mural for the Hutchinson community, a first for Pelham. When she applied, she wrote “I believe deeply in art as a core human need, an economic driver for local economies, and a powerful tool for social justice.”
Lisa Koonce (2 year term) is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Pelham Art Center and has served on many different non-profit boards, including Women’s Education Project, Pelham Preservation and Garden Society, Huguenot Nursery School, and Lincoln Center Theater. She’s an arts advocate and fine arts consultant with over 25 years of experience working with non-profit arts organizations around the area. She’s been deeply involved with the Public Art exhibits that have been managed by the Art Center since 2016 and some of her previous experience includes Development and Special Events Manager at ArtTable, an organization dedicated to advancing the leadership of women in the visual arts, as well as many years spent as a Senior Associate for Discoll Babcock, the oldest continually operating gallery in New York. When she applied, she wrote “In an environment which is increasingly fraught, socially and politically, Public Art is an ever more important facet of our public discourse.”
Emlyn Taveras (2 year term) has been working as a professional Artist and Art Educator for more than 20 years, and currently serves as the Art Teacher for Hutchinson, Prospect and Siwanoy Elementary schools. She has taught art as an Adjunct Professor at the City College of New York University (CUNY), at John Ericsson Middle School in Brooklyn, and in the Bronx at Public School 333 (The Museum School) and Hermann Ridder Intermediate School. She has a deep commitment to bringing art to schools and neighborhoods that would not typically have access to installations or exhibits and has partnered with the Highline in New York City and Sugar Hill Museum of Art & Storytelling, as well helped to establish several Arts Charter schools, including the South Bronx Charter School for International Careers and the Arts. When Emlyn applied, she wrote, “As I reflect on the events of previous weeks, I realize that the role of the artist and the arts community is critical in a new way. The emotions, anxiety and anger that we have all experienced recently is a part of our life and now more than ever, artists have an opportunity to create a dialogue through art. We have the opportunity to create an environment of support, diversity, respect, and creativity while supporting the artists and art. A child said to me recently ‘we should just make art to give out to cheer people up.’. Sometimes, it really is that simple, and the Council is a significant conduit for that type of public experience that is so needed right now.”
Jessica Solomon (2 year term) is currently the owner and manager of Little Bird Cookie Company, but she has a long professional background in the arts. She served as Director of Development for New Dramatists, Director of Marketing for Abingdon Theatre Company, Development Manager for Fault Line Theater, and also held roles at the Theatre Development Fund, Theatre Communications Group, Central City Opera House and Playwrights Horizons in New York City. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts and English from Arcadia University. She brings deep experience in fundraising, grant writing and events planning. When Jessica applied, she wrote, “I can imagine a future where our village would become a cultural hub in lower Westchester, and I would love to be a part of bringing people together through the arts.”
Jeff Watkins (3 year term) is the founder and CEO of Condreal, a global transmedia production and distribution company based in New York City. Over the last ten years, he has produced content for a range of global media partners, including Fox, Universal, One Race Films, AOL and CBS. He has produced projects with Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Nick Cannon, Gina Rodriguez, and Adam Tyler, among others. Projects include feature films, webseries, live streaming events, commercials and documentaries. Jeff is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He brings deep expertise in broadcasting and media production. After supporting the nightly vigils in Wolfs Lane Park, Jeff has been serving on the Steering Committee on Policing and Inclusion for the last five months and was recently appointed to the Picture House’s Executive Board. When Jeff applied for the Arts Council, he wrote “I have a desire to enrich the community through the arts, and communicate messages through artistic expression and mediums with an eye for talent, diversity, and dynamism.”
Thanks again to all those who have committed their time, energy and talents to serving our community.