Monday, May 3, 2010

press releaseContact:

Washington, DC — May 3, 2010 — Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts, is pleased to announce five new Professional Development Fellows for 2010-2011. These fellowships for emerging arts leaders of color from the Great Lakes region are supported by Chicago’s Joyce Foundation. The Fellows will receive scholarships to attend three Americans for the Arts events in the coming year: the Half Century Summit in Baltimore, MD (June 25-27, 2010), the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in San Jose, CA (November 12-15, 2010), and Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC (April 4-5, 2011).

The 2010-2011 Fellows are:

  • Dionne Custer - Wexner Center for the Arts/ Columbus, OH
  • Jessica Guzman - VSA Arts of Michigan / Detroit, MI
  • Regin Igloria - Ragdale Foundation / Lake Forest, IL
  • Gabriela Jirasek - Chicago Humanities Festival / Chicago, IL
  • Mark Rodriguez - Changing Worlds / Chicago, IL

The Professional Development Fellows and Emerging Leader programs at Americans for the Arts work to identify and cultivate the next generation of arts leaders in America. Through special meetings and networking opportunities across the country, the program encourages new arts leaders to participate fully in the field. Emerging arts leaders bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, and vibrant energy to careers that build their foundation on creativity. Americans for the Arts is committed to enhancing leadership capacity for these young arts workers and dedicated to see that the support for the arts continues for generations to come.

Joyce Foundation scholarship awardees are given $3,000 each to support attendance at the three Americans for the Arts events.

“We are proud to contribute to the advancement of these bright and talented arts leaders,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Dedicated and ambitious leaders such as these five individuals are essential to the success and growth of arts and culture in this country.”

“The scholarships provide meaningful, professional development opportunities for arts leaders of color,” stated Michelle Boone, Culture Program Officer at the Joyce Foundation. “We are pleased to support these experiences and help to develop the next generation of leadership in the arts in the Great Lakes region.”

Brief bios of the scholarship awardees follow:

2010/2011 Americans for the Arts Professional Development Fellows for Emerging Leaders of Color from the Great Lakes Region
Supported by The Joyce Foundation

Dionne Custer
Educator for School Programs
Wexner Center for the Arts
Columbus, OH

Dionne Custer is an arts educator serving K-12 students and teachers at The Wexner Center for the Arts, where she pioneered several innovative K-12 school programs including two high school programs: Pages, a multi-visit writing-based arts program and WorldView: Cultural Intersections in Contemporary Art. She holds a Bachelors degree in English from The Ohio State University, and is currently completing a Masters degree with a dual concentration in Arts Education and Creative Writing at Antioch University, McGregor. For 12 years, she has served in Central Ohio communities as an artist, educator, and advocate, focused on arts integration in K-12 education, creative writing, the teaching artist as a practice, performance art, and developing arts-integrated programs that build interdisciplinary experiences for youths and teens. In 2006, she received a Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Nonprofit from the Academy of Leadership and Governance at the Jefferson Center for the Arts. Community-based partnerships and projects in the arts and education are commitments she integrates in her work. She serves on committees and works in partnership with several local organizations including Ohio Arts Council, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Thurber House, and TransitArts.

Jessica Guzman
Deputy Director
VSA Arts of Michigan
Detroit, MI

Jessica Guzmán is the Deputy Director of VSA Michigan, a member of the extensive network of VSA, the international organization on art and disability. VSA Michigan strives to create an inclusive society where people with disabilities participate in, learn through, excel in, and enjoy the arts. As Deputy Director, Jessica assists in the development of programs, financial management, marketing, and fundraising for the twelve districts located throughout the state. She is currently working to create a comprehensive statewide strategic marketing plan that will then parlay into a formalized fundraising initiative. Prior to her position at VSA Michigan, Jessica was the Artist Services Coordinator for GWU Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. While there, she earned her graduate degree in Arts Management from American University and completed her final Master’s thesis on the positive affect of learning in the arts on cognitive brain development. While at American University, Jessica established her passion for arts education and integrated learning. In addition to her professional and educational experiences, Jessica has regularly volunteered her time in the community to assist with youth arts education programs, including a youth summer program at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI and youth program workshops at American University’s Katzen Arts Center in Washington, DC.

Regin Igloria
Director of Artists-In-Residence
Ragdale Foundation
Lake Forest, IL

Regin Igloria maintains a visual arts studio practice which revolves around teaching and serving as an arts administrator. He teaches studio courses regularly at Marwen, a nonprofit youth arts organization, and has taught for the children’s program at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Other teaching experiences include Rhode Island School of Design, Terra Museum of American Art, Kenosha Institute of Art, and various workshops throughout the Chicagoland area. Currently he serves as the Director of Artists-In-Residence at The Ragdale Foundation, an artist residency program for visual artists, writers and composers in Lake Forest, IL. He received his MFA in Painting from Rhode Island School of Design and is represented by Zg Gallery in Chicago, IL.

Gabriela Jirasek
Marketing and New Media Associate
Chicago Humanities Festivial
Chicago, IL

Gabriela Jirasek, Marketing and New Media Associate at the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF), promotes the annual fall humanities festival, spring children’s festival (Stages, Sights & Sounds), and year-round programming for Chicago-area teachers. Gabriela serves as art director of, an online humanities journal. She manages the Festival’s social media networks and moderates Pluck, the Festival’s website community. Gabriela has worked with the CHF Community Outreach Liaison and is a member of the Audience Development and Diversity Committee. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University majoring in International Relations and Spanish, with a minor in communications and media studies. She also studied at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain. At Tufts University, she was a founding member of Bare Bodkin Theatre Company, a group dedicated to producing original student-written works and alternative theater in non-traditional venues. Gabriela is also a member of the national Emerging Leader Council of Americans for the Arts, the country’s leading arts advocacy organization. She serves as chair of the council’s Technology Committee.

Mark Rodriguez
Executive Director
Changing Worlds
Chicago, IL

As the first Executive Director, Mark Rodriguez was instrumental in leading Changing Worlds’ development from a small project at one school to a multi-faceted city-wide resource serving over 10,000 Chicago area residents. Prior to joining Changing Worlds, Rodriguez served as the Associate Director of for New Leaders for New Schools. In this role, Rodriguez was instrumental in developing a local and national presence for the start-up organization through strategic partnerships and multi-faceted community relations and marketing strategies. Rodriguez has worked for over a decade to strengthen Chicago’s nonprofits and communities in various roles such as program director, community organizer, education director, community relations manager and consultant through organizations such as National-Louis University, University of Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.

In 2007, Rodriguez was selected as one of Chicago’s “35 under 35” from the Community Renewal Society. Rodriguez also serves as a member of the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative and a grant reviewer for the Department of Cultural Affairs, CityArts division.  Rodriguez holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Roosevelt University and advanced certifications in Philanthropy Management from Loyola University and Nonprofit Management from Roosevelt University.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Visit us online at

Based in Chicago, the Joyce Foundation supports efforts to protect the Great Lakes, to reduce poverty and violence in the region, and to ensure its residents good schools, decent jobs, a strong democracy, and a diverse and thriving culture. Learn more at

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