Meet Our Board and Staff Members
NWMAC Board Members
Scott Valdes, Crookston, Polk County
Scott has a BA in Media Arts & Animation from the Arts Institute in Phoenix, AZ. He works in maintenance for New Flyer of America. He has a wide variety of artistic interests including sculptures, painting, poetry, short stories and screenplays. He occasionally works as a freelance artist in graphic art and photography. He has volunteered in video production work and facilitated small art exhibits in Arizona.
He decided to join the NWMAC Board because he thought it was the best way to get connected with other artists in the region and get inspired. Scott shared, “I believe that’s why art and artists are so important — because they inspire us to create and learn about each other and different cultures and ways of looking at our world and beauty from a different perspective. Men, women, and children alike can appreciate art at all levels and in countless forms. From paintings and sculptures to dance and music and pottery and fashion or photography. To the very things we eat and how we cook them. Art is beautiful and creation is the force that brings art to life and inspires me to seek it out. “Scott further explained, “I’ve been very impressed with the other members of the Council and how dedicated they are to enhancing the Arts in Northwest Minnesota and I only hope I can do my part.”
Briana Ingraham, Red Lake Falls. Red Lake County
Briana is a former federal government employee taking a break from her career to raise three young sons. She serves on Red Lake Falls’ Civic and Commerce and the Economic Development Committee. She is also part of the Zehlians, the Thief River Falls branch of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. She has a strong interest in preserving the arts, history, and culture and believes we can best do this by educating the public through events, concerts, art walks, and performances. Her art form is music. She sings and plays the oboe in the University of Minnesota Crookston Community band. About Minnesota’s arts scene, Briana said, “I have really seen a big difference in the pride Minnesotans have in their arts programs compared to other states. There is a high quality and quantity of artists of all types here. The support for these artists — from the school programs up through the various community sponsored concerts or events, is something that other states would do well to emulate.” The arts are important to Briana personally, because singing and playing an instrument as an elementary student gave her self-confidence, and a way to express herself that she continues to utilize today. “The arts allow us to connect with one another, no matter our background or creed. In today’s day and age, we need to embrace and support that which unites us, and the arts are something we can all benefit from– across gender, age, religion, and race. We can’t afford to do without them.”
Janet Johnson, Malung. Roseau County
Janet is a retired art/English teacher and a current substitute teacher, artist, mentor and a teaching artist. Janet is a painter, book artist and potter, in addition to other artistic mediums. “I have made it my mission to promote art and artists in northern Minnesota…I truly believe in the theory that art is for everyone.”
Chris Lane, Newfolden. Marshall County
Chris works as a Video Production Designer at Digi-Key. He’s a painter, sculptor and a photographer. He also has experience working with digital art and stained glass. Fun fact: Chris attended school for fine arts in Scotland and exhibited art there during college.
Emily Kuzel, Hallock. Kittson County
Emily is a teacher and parent from Hallock. Her interests include her family, reading, the outdoors, and photography. She’s an active volunteer in Hallock serving on the Hallock Community Fund, Hallock Ribfest Committee, the Hallock Parks and Rec Committee and the Kittson County Literacy Council.
Charles Erickson, Roseau. Roseau County
Charles is a former librarian and hails from the Roseau area. His main interest is in theater, but he enjoys all forms of art.
He enjoys seeing arts being produced throughout the different regions and likes to see how much of it is funded by the arts council.
He is rarely seen without a book or his Kindle in hand, or at least, close by.
Kate Mulvey, Red Lake Falls. Red Lake County
Kate has a BA from the University of Minnesota and a MA in Humanities from Hamline University in St. Paul. She is a writer (she’s currently working on her first book proposal), editor (two magazines and two books), and actress (TRFACT this year and many plays in the past). She won international recognition from the Before I Die project for bringing the large public interactive art exhibition to Kosovo for the first time. This began a project in Korea titled English through Art, which used art as a medium to teach English Language Learners new concepts in English. She expanded the program while living in the Balkans to include using publicly available exhibits from the Guggenheim Museum to encourage writing poetry and short creative works of fiction about the back story of works of art. She’s taught these courses in South Korea, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Croatia, and Turkey.
Kate has always had an interest in the arts. She began doing radio commercials at age 10, acting at age 13, and have been writing most of my life. The arts, including books, visual art, music, or theater, have always been a large part of her life. Kate enjoys sharing her love of the arts with her children, as well as, friends, and people in the community.
Therese Masters Jacobson, Marshall County
Therese is a wife, mother, and grandmother, but she’s also a painter, trained as an artist since childhood, and formally studied as an adult both privately and at university. Acrylic, watercolor, or pen and ink are the media forms she favors most often; but found objects work their way into her pieces, too. She reads voraciously, and loves to quilt.
Her art teaching experiences, from Kindergarten through high school, include workshops at the MacCrostie Center, and also with home schoolers; as the visiting artist in public schools; and full-time art instruction at East Grand Forks’Middle and High Schools. Therese’s donated art pieces have been used in fundraising efforts for Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks, and the Chair Affair which donates funds annually to various causes.
Therese joined the Board to help artists and organizations of all genres in northwest Minnesota realize their needs to succeed. “Giving grants scaffolds the creative arts, building confidence in novices, and continuing the work of experienced artists.”
Therese believes that creativity, in all its forms, inspires every field of work. In her words, “Besides being delightfully inspiring, art forms of every kind are useful. Being creative, or listening to, reading, or viewing artistic events builds connections. Synapses in our brains grow when we are creative, or participate in creativity. A beautiful world builds beautiful selves! We are all connected. Being part of the Art Council, connecting to artists throughout the seven counties, is a wonderful privilege.”
Elwyn Ruud, Karlstad. Kittson County
Elwyn Ruud brings artists to the schools in northern Minnesota in her role as the Northwest Minnesota Arts Coordinator for COMPAS. She taught elementary school for 36 years before retiring a few years ago. She has also worked for 25 years as a grant writer for four area school districts to secure funding for artist residencies. In addition, Elwyn paints and draws as a primary grade artist in the Roseau and Red Lake County School Districts. Elwyn “serves on the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council to help bring arts to all areas of our communities. The arts are a gift for all ages and I want to be part of bringing that gift to our students, teachers, artists and communities.”
Jaimie Snowdon, Warroad, Roseau County
Jamie is a Warroad High School Indian Studies Teacher. He attended Bemidji State University. He has over 25 years experience teaching Native American arts and crafts.
Katya Zepeda, Crookston. Polk County
Katya is an arts advocate and parent. She paints and sculpts as a hobby and has experience creating murals. She was exposed to the arts at a very young age and feels it’s important to pass that on to the next generation. Katya is a former United Way of Crookston Executive Director with extensive experience in education and mental health. She is originally from Mexico City, but she’s been a part of the Crookston community for over 20 years. Katya enjoys traveling and visiting museums and art festivals wherever she goes. She’s an active community member serving as on the board for Sunrise Center for Children & Families, Crookston Fire Department Auxiliary Women’s group, and an advocate for human rights with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
Paul Burnett, Thief River Falls, Pennington County
Paul Burnett lives in Thief River Falls and owns Valley Animal Hospital with his wife who is the veterinarian. He is a former conductor of youth, college, and community orchestras; director of choirs, and an assistant for production of professional opera. He’s been a music teacher, an executive director for a youth orchestra, and was a founding member of a brass quintet. Paul holds multiple degrees in music—performance and conducting — from the University of Michigan’s School of Music (now Music, Theater & Dance), as well as directorships in music with interest in low brass, orchestral, band and choral music. Paul was also a doctoral fellow in orchestral conducting at Ball State University in Indiana.
Paul’s non-arts highlights include marketing and research work with large corporate entities and small businesses, as well as adjunct teaching at high schools and a local community college.
He’s been an active volunteer and a strong advocate for the arts. As a former leader in various musical organizations, Paul tends to gravitate toward representing the arts on boards because of his familiarity about how the arts work from the inside—from how state government evaluates and surmises arts and humanities into the lives of its local audiences and citizenry to how arts boards interact.
Paul enjoys visiting museums and attending stage productions, concerts and arts festivals. He believes that “the arts can transform those from where they are to what could be by the simple act of inclusion in the universe of the arts. Of course, sometimes art can be gritty too, but the wondrous worlds that can connect us to ourselves, to each other and to worlds unknown make the pursuit unequivocal.”
Deb Alexander has lived in Ada her whole life. She has worked at the Dekko Community Center since 1996 as a lifeguard and water aerobics, swim, and yoga instructor. Her previous jobs include home daycare provider, Simulcast Horseracing, freelance technical line illustrator for Melroe Bobcat, screen printing, and a school para professional. Deb is an active volunteer with her church and a member of the Ada Garden Club and Ladies Axillary. She has chickens, loves to garden, bike, walk, dance, watch the Minnesota Twins, spend time with her grandchildren, and quilt. Deb would love to write a children’s book and possibly illustrate it, too. Deb is a visual artist. She loves working with her hands creating a mixed media painting, working with paper Mache or creating something from wool or “junk.” Deb believes that the arts tell many different stories. “Whether it is visual, written, musical or a play, everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has their own way of telling it. Art brings up good and bad memories, and emotions that people can relate to. Art is history in many different forms.”
Mara Hanel, Executive Director
Mara (formerly Lunde and Wittman) has been the Executive Director of the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council forever. Yes, that long! She estimates that she knows 1,000+ wonderful artistic people who love to live in Northwest Minnesota, just like herself. She grew up in East Grand Forks and was very active in all the arts, including dance, drawing, trumpet, piano, singing, photography, fine craft, theater, and creative writing. For many years after graduating from college in Duluth, Mara combined Arts Administration with visual art and textiles with some choreography here and there.
Mara is happily married to a man who loves to be active in church with her, travels the world, parent, and works on art together in their spare time. Mosaics, stain glass, gardening and landscape design are current passions for them. “We thoroughly enjoy our blended family of seven plus a dog. Yes, we need that huge SUV that I drive around for our full family, as well as to move art displays. Love our lake time and get-aways for adventure… that often include theatre, a quiet walk through a museum, and observing top notch sports, and strolling outside… spontaneous, relaxed fun, barely any TV.”
The arts and service to others in the arts is part of every single day for Mara. Her art and the artistic expression of others is what makes her life so rich, and full of meaty topics for discussion. “Visual art, performing art, creative writing, they can all handle those hard topics. Art can create an amazing emotional response, transformative. It awes me with its expression of beauty. Enough said? Love my job working with artist and The Arts.”
Kristin Eggerling, Promotions Specialist
Kristin works as a freelance writer and community activist. She is a published author — Breath of Wilderness: The Life of Sigurd Olson. She loves the process of research, interviewing, and telling the story of places and people. She serves on a number of boards, including the local library board and regional and state boards focused on sustainability, conservation, the arts and community development. She loves travel, good food, films, reading and spending time with her family. In addition to writing, she creates mosaics and mixed media art. “Art is so important for our society as a whole, and for each of us as individuals. It has the power to transform our lives and regularly does.”
Trey Everett, Showcase and Training Specialist.
Trey is a Visual Artist. He mostly works with pen and ink, which includes calligrams (images made with words), lectionary art, editorial cartoons, and commissions. He also enjoys indoor and outdoor mural work.
Trey grew up in the Missouri Ozarks and has lived in Crookston since 2006. He has worked in the religious world for much of his life. From 2006 to 2019 he was the Co-Director of the Minnesota Institute of Contemplation and Healing as a retreat leader and healing art instructor. Most recently, he worked in the Crookston school system as a long-term English substitute teacher.
Currently, Trey’s focus is on his spiritual direction practice, healing art workshops, graphic recordings, and his visual art career. He has volunteered and/or worked with the Queen City Art Festival, Crookston Youth Association (The Cove), Hope Coalition suicide prevention group, Crookston Library Board, UMC Art Committee, volunteer Crookston art teacher, and the Crookston High School Play and Musical Art Director.
Trey’s artistic abilities and creativity come naturally. He comes from a long line of talented artists. Nevertheless, he has studied, worked, and honed his skills over time and continues to develop them. He studies accomplished pen and ink artists, as well as world-renowned tattoo workers and muralists for inspiration, to learn techniques, and to help develop his unique style. His reading interests, meditation practices, and spirituality greatly affect his art. Listening to particular artists like Tom Petty, Josh Ritter, and Stevie Nicks, bring out the inspiration and creativity and helps transcribe the deep hidden stirrings of his heart and mind into visual images.
Trey has been called the “Tea Master” over the years. He holds the title jokingly, but he does brew jasmine tea almost daily in his little Chinese Yixing tea pot. He has developed a contemplative tea ceremony practice that he’s used with many groups over the years. The ceremony helps focus on having a welcoming attitude toward whoever and whatever life brings our way as well as being attentive to all our senses, i.e. living in the present moment.
Trey is very excited to work with the Arts Council. “Art is so important to me and now I have the opportunity to assist and get to know artists in our region. The idea of collaborating with other artists and helping them with some of their art dreams is fantastic. Creativity is powerful! It moves us out of our anxious, neurotic minds into the deeper, calming place of our heart. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to promote and delve into creativity with others.”