Circle Up!

Meet our Thread Leaders!


marit-photoDr. Marit Dewhurst, Creating Equity, is the Director of Art Education and Assistant Professor in art and museum education at City College of New York (CCNY) where she also directs City Art Lab, a free afterschool art program for teens.  She completed her doctorate in education from Harvard University with an emphasis on youth arts and social justice education.  She has worked as an educator and program coordinator in multiple settings both nationally and abroad including community centers, museums, juvenile detention centers, and international development projects.  Prior to joining the faculty at CCNY,  she founded and coordinated, In the Making, The Museum of Modern Art’s free studio arts program for teens.  Publications include chapters in several books on art in social justice education and articles in Equity & Excellence in Education, The Journal of Art Education, and The Harvard Educational Review.  In addition, she has co-curated an exhibition on traditional art and HIV/AIDS education in South Africa and a youth photography exhibition highlighting her work within cross-cultural education in northern Ghana.  Her research and teaching interests include social justice education, community-based art, youth empowerment, and the role of the arts in community development both locally and abroad.  She is currently the principal investigator and coordinator of the Museum Teen Summit, a youth-led research and advocacy program for museum teen programs in New York City. Her book, Social Justice Art: A framework for activist art pedagogy was recently published by Harvard Education Press.

jeff_headshot Jeff Hopkins, Deepening Practice, is a storyteller, educator, and children’s book illustrator.  He holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters in Education from Harvard University. Jeff has performed his “Pictures Come to Life” drawing/storytelling shows at arts institutions all over the country including The Barnes Foundation, The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), The Delaware Art Museum, Museum of Arts and Design (NY), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art , and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.  For the past 17 years, Jeff has been a teaching artist for arts organizations including the Guggenheim Museum, American Ballet Theatre, The Jewish Museum, ArtsConnection the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum. He has also taught at New York University and Tufts University, and currently teaches Art Education at The City College of New York. Jeff has created illustrations for nearly two-dozen early reader books for children.  His illustrated hardcover book The Only One Club (by Jane Naliboff, Flashlight Press) was named a Society of School Librarians International Honor Book. Jeff lives and works in New York, NY and can be found online at


Nicole headshot Nicole Agois Hurel, Engaging All Learners,  is Director of COOL Schools at VSA Massachusetts, a program that builds school capacity to support inclusive learning through the arts. Nicole has managed and evaluated COOL partnerships, mentored the COOL teaching artist cohort, developed professional development on inclusive arts learning and supported VSA MA’s development efforts for the past 10 years. She co-authored Engaging Culturally-Diverse Learners Through Comics and Improvisation, in The Contours of Inclusion: Inclusive Arts Teaching and Learning, a case study that highlights ways in which arts-integrated instruction supports the implementation of Universal Design for Learning. This year she was appointed to the Leadership Council for Boston Creates, the cultural planning project for the city of Boston, and has served as National Institute Faculty for VSA. Nicole holds a Master of Education in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the Boston Conservatory.


Kristen-Paglia-300x300 Dr. Kristen Paglia, Sharing Stories, is the Chief Executive Office at P.S. ARTS, an organization in Southern California dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing arts education to underserved public schools and communities. In addition to overseeing the quality, content, and evaluation of P.S. ARTS’ education programs, Dr. Paglia has led the organization through two strategic planning processes and works to keep educational equity and excellence for all children at the center of everything we do at P.S. ARTS. Dr. Paglia is an active member of the state and national discourse around public education reform and has a seat at the table in numerous policy, advocacy, and planning groups, including the Los Angeles County Arts Commission Arts for All Community Arts Team in multiple school districts and the California Alliance for Arts Education Policy Council. In 2012, Dr. Paglia was invited to participate in the NEA Education Leadership Institute Extended Committee for California to contribute feedback to issues around arts curriculum, assessment, and education reform; she was also appointed to a special joint task force by California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to help create “A Blueprint for Creative Schools” published in 2015. Dr. Paglia holds Masters’ Degrees in World Arts and Cultures from UCLA and Arts Education from Harvard University. She also earned a Doctorate from Harvard in cognitive developmental psychology and has extensive experience developing arts programs and designing curriculum in urban public and independent schools.


Tillges Angie Tillges, Strengthening Communities, is a Chicago based public space artist and educator working with schools, universities, cultural, social and public institutions, on the intersecting topics of education, public art, community creative development, social development, and project based learning. She holds a Masters in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, Arts in Education program. Angie currently serves as Senior Program Specialist for the Chicago Park District’s Department of Culture Arts and Nature where she oversees cultural partnerships and special projects. She served as Associate Artistic Director and lead Community Educator to Redmoon, a Chicago public art and spectacle organization from 2007-2013.


Aysha headshot Aysha Upchurch, Engaging All Learners, is a dancer, choreographer, and educator whose work centers on social justice, community engagement, and artistry development. Prior to relocating to Boston, she was based out of Washington, DC for over ten years, where she founded and directed the dance ensemble, Life, Rhythm, Move Project.  Blending her dance training and professional backgrounds in youth advocacy and conflict resolution, she used Hip Hop dance to entertain and educate audiences while empowering youth.  Aysha has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the White House and was selected as a US State Department Cultural Envoy in Dance in Bolivia and Honduras from 2007-2011.  In 2007, she won the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage Local Dance Commissioning Project and created Am I On?, an award-wining evening-length work about the space between youth and adult voices. Aysha has been on faculty at George Mason University and holds an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University.  She recently received her Ed.M from Harvard University and is now the Associate Director of COOL Schools at VSA Massachusetts where she works at the intersection of arts integration, special education, and professional development.


Meet our Presenters!

Mia Branco is the Access Program Coordinator for the Department of Access & Inclusion at Imagination Stage, where she has been designing and implementing inclusive Drama, Music, Visual Art, and Dance curriculums for students of all abilities for the past 5 years. Mia has also developed and implemented curriculums for students with autism and other learning needs through residencies at the Ivymount School, the Lourie Center, and the Kennedy Krieger School, as well as with The ArtAbility Program. Through Imagination Stage’s contract with VSA and The Kennedy Center, she has co-led trainings about inclusion best practices within arts programming at venues including Roundabout Theatre (NYC) and Wheelock Family Theatre (Boston, MA).  In addition to working at Imagination Stage, Mia works as an actor in the DC Area.

Kristen Engfors is an arts administrator with a background in visual arts and museum education. She holds a Masters Degree in Education from Lehman College and a Masters Degree in Visual Arts Administration from New York University. Before joining DreamYard as a Program Coordinator, she worked as a New York City public school teacher and remains ever committed to improving the quality of public education and to building relationships between schools and arts institutions. Twitter: @dream_yard

Rebecca Boyd Faubion (AiE 2006) is the owner of Artful Everyday (  In addition to day to day oversight of Artful Everyday programs in Laguna Beach and Austin, she develops curriculum, writes articles and speaks publicly on issues related to arts, culture and education.  She has also served as a consultant, researcher, teacher and administrator for arts education programs at the district and county level.  

Rajeeyah Finnie-Myers is an arts and culture professional dedicated to reviving socially engaged organizations and individuals to run at top form. She holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration and has been working in the arts-in-education field for 10 years.  In addition to her role of Associate Director of Professional Development at DreamYard Project, Rajeeyah manages a leadership fellowship for artists, arts organizations and arts managers at The Field in New York City. Twitter: @dream_yard

Emily Funkhouser (AiE 2007) lives in San Jose, California. Her work explores interdisciplinary relationships between the fields of arts, science, and education. She has recently begun to examine the potential of artistic practice to expand creativity and support innovation. She is inspired by the strong Maker culture of the Bay Area and the beautiful imaginations of the children she encounters each day through her work as a Curriculum Specialist at The Google Children’s Centers. Contact info: IG: funkhouserdesign

Marjorie Gere (AiE 2007) lives and works in Somerville, MA. As a violinist, she is dedicated to chamber music and is happiest working in mixed ensembles (with pianists, wind players, and vocalists), participating in the creation of new musical works, and weaving chamber music into other media (evident in her work as puppeteer and librettist). Outside of the chamber, Marji welcomes children into the wild world of music; writes and draws; studies Spanish; advocates for democracy, inclusion, and free play in arts education settings; and leads workshops in “active listening” (most recently at the Newport String Project in Rhode Island and the Habla Institute in Mérida, Mexico). Marji graduated from HGSE’s Arts-in-Education Program in 2007. Contact: Web:  

Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario (AiE 2013) brings over a decade of experience of working for social justice on the ground and around the world: she worked on a documentary film on labor rights in Mexico; volunteered for women’s rights nonprofits in Guatemala and Senegal; and documenting minority rights abuses in India. In her adopted home of New York City, Marissa has founded Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), an organization that engages young people around human rights through the arts. As a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Marissa has a master’s degree in arts education. She has also received a master’s degree in public administration from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from the University of Southern California. Lastly, Marissa is an aficionado of hip-hop, German cinema, piñata-making, and most recently, association football.

Katie Higgins-White (AiE 2011) is an artist and art educator living and working in the Boston area. She graduated from the Arts in Education program in 2011, after which she took up the position of atelierista at the Peabody Terrace Children’s Center here in Cambridge. In addition to creating her own art, Katie continues to work at PTCC, collaborating with children and teachers alike to think about materials and their many possibilities. Email: Instagram: @didderbugdesigns School Blog:

Eve Kagan (AiE 2008) is a professional actress (AEA/SAG/AFTRA), published writer, and international teaching artist. Eve has taught courses in theatre locally at Brandeis University, Gordon College, and The Boston Conservatory, as well as run education programs through New Rep, Stoneham, Wheelock Family, and Huntington theatres. Following graduation, Eve spent two years revitalizing the Theatre Arts program at the International School of Uganda, directing The Laramie Project during the height of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Eve currently lives in Virginia where she teaches courses in Theatre and Social Justice at the University of Mary Washington.

Anna Keefe (AiE 2008) is a Ph.D. candidate in Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia. Previously, Anna has worked as a community arts educator and policy analyst. Most recently she worked for Right To Play with the Promoting Life-Skills in Aboriginal Youth program (PLAY). She holds a B.Phil. in Leadership Studies from the University of New Brunswick and a M.Ed. in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Alyssa Liles-Amponsah (AiE 2012) is a visual artist and educator. She is an alum and former Teaching Fellow of the Arts in Education program at HGSE. Alyssa holds a BFA in Painting and Printmaking and an MA in African American and African Diaspora Studies. Sheggai Tamerat-Terry is a 10 year, veteran high school English educator at the John D. O’Bryant, an exam school in the Boston Public School system. She holds a B.A in English and a MA in leadership and administration. Alyssa and Sheggai are both former resident tutors, specializing in Education at Lowell House at Harvard.

Indi McCasey (AiE 2014) believes in the power of the arts as a catalyst for social change. Over the past 20 years, Indi has taken on a variety of roles including: experiential educator, teaching artist, non-profit program administrator, event producer, and education consultant. Indi is the Managing Director and co-founder of Topsy-Turvy Queer Circus, an annual multi-disciplinary circus performance featured in the National Queer Arts Festival that has received funding from California Arts Council, Horizons Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Additionally, they work as the Onsite Programs Director at Destiny Arts Center and facilitate professional development trainings for educators with the Alameda County Office of Education’s Integrated Learning Specialist Program and Harvard’s Project Zero Classroom. Indi holds an Ed.M in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and was a Project Zero Artist in Residence.

Taylor Morris (AiE 2014) and The Sound Accord (Eli Bender, Melissa Brun, Rachel Capon, Jacob Davida, & Rose Rodgers): Guided by a mission to explore making music through camaraderie, The Sound Accord brings together six friends with varied musical backgrounds, distinct sensibilities, and a shared love for collaboration. This chamber-folk string sextet draws upon its eclectic strengths and skills to create innovative arrangements of melodies both old and new. With significant educational experience among themselves, they often work with educators and students to dream about the wide possibilities of making music with friends.

Andrea Sachdeva (AiE 2007) is Director of Education for Le Laboratoire Cambridge, a cultural center focused on cross-disciplinary idea development and public engagement. Andrea has led Le Lab’s educational programs since 2007, including the development and scaling of its signature ArtScience Prize program to sites around the world. She is also Senior Project Manager for Creating Communities of Innovation, a Project Zero initiative around teacher professional development to support innovation in schools. Andrea works in a variety of teaching, research, and creative projects, which can be seen at,, Twitter: @makethinklearn