MEREDITH BURNS | Executive Artistic Director
Meredith Burns began her career as an actor working off-broadway and regionally. She is a founding member of Glass Bandits Theater Company, a nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, and from 2010-2014 served as the company's Managing Director. From 2014-2017, Meredith built and directed a comprehensive arts and literacy-based after school program at New Voices Middle School in Brooklyn serving upwards of 200 children daily. In 2017, Meredith took the helm of Art House Productions and in 2019 she received the NJCU Leadership Award for her contributions to the Arts. In 2020, Meredith was instrumental in passing the Jersey City Arts Fund, New Jersey's first municipal trust fund dedicated to the arts. In 2022, she was awarded with a Women of Action award by the City Council of Jersey City. She currently serves as a trustee on the board of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance. She graduated with her BFA in Acting from SUNY Purchase and is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA.
ANNA GUNDERSEN | Associate Executive Director
Anna Gundersen is excited to join Art House Productions as the Associate Executive Director. Anna holds a B.A. in Theatre with a minor in Business from Penn State and an M.A. in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities from NYU. Anna's professional background is in theatre, arts education, and the nonprofit sector. Anna is passionate about arts programming that fosters a sense of community for audiences and artists alike. Anna looks forward to meeting you at Art House Productions' next event!
SUNJAY VENKATRAMAN | Associate Producer & Director of JC Fridays
Sunjay Venkatraman is an arts administrator in the performing and visual arts. His career began at New Jersey Repertory Company where he served as the Director of Marketing. Sunjay’s passion for the arts started early. In high school he was appointed as the student representative to the Board of Education, and successfully campaigned for increased funding for the school’s arts programs. He attended the University of Connecticut where he received a degree in Political Science. While pursuing his degree, Sunjay worked with the Student Union Board of Governors, an organization that provided comedy shows, concerts, and lectures to UConn undergraduates. He was awarded the NJ Governor’s Award in Art Education in 2015 for his work in the National Speech and Debate Association.
ANDREA MCKENNA | Gallery Director
Andrea McKenna is a visual artist, designer and curator. A native of Fort Lee, Andrea moved to Jersey City in 1999, bringing her own brand of art and style. From 2012 to 2013, she co-created and managed the bi-annual pop-up boutique event “Once Upon a Market”. From 2014 to 2017, she co-founded, managed and curated The Raven Gallery and Boutique located on Newark Avenue in downtown Jersey City. The Raven produced over 30 Art shows in which she curated, and exhibited over a hundred artists from all over New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Andrea is also a decorative artist and owns Videre Decorative Arts, a business specializing in painted finishes for walls and furniture. In 2019, Andrea appeared on the TV Show "Flea Market Flip" and was the winner of that episode's challenge. Andrea started volunteering for Art House in 2010 and became a recurring set designer before becoming the gallery’s director in the Spring of 2018. She is also the design lead for Art House’s Snow Ball Gala. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Andrea has been exhibiting her own work around New York and New Jersey for the last 25 years. www.andreamckenna.com @videredecorativearts
CHRISTY E. O'CONNOR | Gallery Assistant
Christy E. O’Connor is an interdisciplinary artist and independent contemporary art curator in New Jersey. O’Connor previously served as Exhibitions Curator at BSB Gallery in Trenton, NJ from 2018-2020. During her time there, she curated and co-curated a total of nine exhibitions both in the main gallery space and the G2 gallery space. In 2019 she co-founded The Fiber Arts Festival in Mill Hill Park in Trenton, NJ. In 2017, she founded Art Hustle. Art Hustle’s mission is to develop engaging art exhibitions throughout New Jersey and to provide opportunities for artists to work with various art spaces they might not otherwise exhibit with. O’Connor holds a B.A. in Visual Arts from Ramapo College of New Jersey and an M.S.E.D in Special Education from Monmouth University. O’Connor has also collaborated with Artworks Trenton, Atlantic Highlands Arts Council, Chashama Matawan, Hamilton Street Gallery, Monmouth Museum, and ProArts Jersey City.
JACQUELINE ARIAS | Director of JAX
Jacqueline Arias is an artist, filmmaker and educator. She founded the Jersey Art Exchange to build a network of artists and educators who would come together to exchange creative knowledge, ideas and support the local youth through arts education. Before that, Jacqueline launched the Best Buy Teen Tech Center for the Boys & Girls Club in Hudson County. She ran their after school program utilizing principals promoting informal project-based learning in media, arts & technology. Jacqueline has been using technology as a learning tool for creative self-expression, particularly as it relates to youth as the founder of MyMEDIA. In addition, Jacqueline has been curating art & music exhibitions for over 10 years. Jacqueline directed and produced a feature-length documentary film, entitled Imaginary Mothers. This film addresses issues about women’s rights, unfair class structures and widespread corruption in international adoption. Imaginary Mothers was screened at the 2017 Golden Door International Film Festival. Jacqueline studied photography at Parsons School of Design.
RICH KIAMCO | Co-Producer of Jersey City Comedy Festival
ALEX TOBEY | INKubator Resident Director
Alex Tobey is a Brooklyn-based stage director obsessed with music, magic, and mystery. He has directed or developed plays at The Tank, The Brick, HERE, Fourth Street Theatre, The Wild Project, JACK, Patch Works, Abrons Arts Center, The Drama League, Access Theater, and NYSAF’s Powerhouse Theater. As an associate or assistant director, Alex has worked with Saheem Ali, Lee Sunday Evans, Dustin Wills, Jonathan Silverstein, and Shira Milikowsky, among others. He is the former co-director of bubble:PGH, a traveling inflatable performance space in Pittsburgh, that hosted plays, concerts, virtual reality demonstrations, and immersive experiences. He is also a Full Access Resident Artist at Access Theater, an Associate Artist with Third Space, a member of DirectorsLabChicago, and a former Drama League Artist in Residence. Alex was raised in North Carolina, loves Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Bojangles cajun filet biscuits, and holds a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
MICHELE LEWIS-BELLAMY | President
Michele Lewis-Bellamy is a Technical Engineer at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP. She has over 20 years’ experience working with top 10 law firms throughout Manhattan. Michele was a mentor at the Bronx location of Per Scholas, a United States nonprofit that provides tuition-free technology training to unemployed or underemployed adults for careers as IT professionals. She is also a patron of the arts, growing up with a father who is an artist and her uncle Fred R. Powell who was chairman of Audelco, established to generate more recognition and awareness of African American theater and dance companies. Her commitment to Art House Productions is to increase awareness throughout Jersey City. Michele wants her tenure on the Art House Productions Board to build on her associations with playwrights, artists and businesses in the Jersey City area.
MICHAEL GRIFFITHS | Chair
Throughout his career, Michael has worked on several innovative projects and initiatives in the industry. As the Marketing and Audience Development Director at Dixon Place, he has been instrumental in developing and producing new plays, event planning, fundraising and coordinating professional training opportunities for artists and theatre-makers.
In addition to his work at Dixon Place, Michael is an active member of the NJ theatre community. He is known for his dedication to supporting and nurturing up-and-coming talent, as well as his commitment to promoting sustainable business practices in the industry. After a brief stint as the Marketing Director of Art House Productions, Mike joined the board of trustees where he currently serves as the chair.
ERICA RESNICK | Secretary
MARK KAHN | Treasurer
Mark Kahn founded Downtown Yogurt® of Jersey City in 2014 and has since grown his franchise with locations in New York City and Pennsylvania. He is also a community development professional and financial analyst with VDS Development, focused on affordable housing and retail planning in Hudson, Essex and Bergen Counties. Mark has over 25 years of experience in financial services, focused on debt capital markets and structured finance at JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Deloitte. He currently serves on the Boards of the Cameron Kravitt Foundation and Temple Beth-El of Jersey City and has served as Treasurer of the Board of Governors of Smoke Rise, a community of 950 homes on 2500 acres in Northern New Jersey. Mark has a BA in Economics from Lafayette College and an MS from the School of Management at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Irene is a top real estate broker, people-connector, huge art lover, local business owner, and community organizer. For over 20 years, she's been an award-winning agent who's recognized as a knowledgeable and valuable local guide, trusted advisor, and dedicated resource to her community. She serves as treasurer for the Village Neighborhood Association as well as a mayor-appointed board member position on the Jersey City Board of Assessment. Irene is a native of the Republic of Georgia and holds a degree in International Business and Economics. She has resided in New Jersey for over 25 years and lives with her fiancé and three dogs in the Harsimus Cove neighborhood. Irene enjoys a lifelong love of skiing and international travel that has taken her to more than 50 countries around the world.
Margo Chaly, Esq. serves as Chief of Staff at the NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), where the mission is to support and promote accessibility to and affordability of post-secondary education in New Jersey. HESAA administers $500M in grants - financial aid that need not be paid back - to students attending colleges and universities in NJ. Before joining HESAA Margo served as Manager of Litigation & Operations at a law firm in New York City specializing in Nursing Home & Long-Term Care Facility Defense and Risk & Crisis Management. Prior to that, Margo worked for more than a decade at multinational insurance companies, most recently on the technology optimization team as the Communications Coordinator and a liaison between executive stakeholders and developers during system migration initiatives. As a founding member of a not-for-profit organization AMIGAS, Inc, which supports professional and personal development of women through community service and networking opportunities, Margo is committed to advancing charitable programming that empowers young girls pursuing their academic goals. Margo is a long-time advocate and supporter of Jersey City community-based organizations, including WomenRising, the Anti-violence Coalition of Hudson County, and the West Indian Caribbean American Carnival Association.
Bree Falato spent nearly two decades in the corporate sector and non-profit sector where she specialized in communications, community impact, and strategic programming and partnerships. In 2021, Bree joined Haute Advisory as a partner and Chief Strategy Officer. Through Haute, Bree brings her combined expertise in strategic planning and a genuine passion for helping people succeed to ensure her clients’ meet their short- and long-term goals. Bree lives In Hudson County, NJ with her husband, three kids, and their turtle.
Annie Kessler has been an active leader and participant in Jersey City’s arts and
civic worlds since moving here in 1982 from Venice, California, with her husband Charles, and she’s been involved with Art House Productions since its formation. As a musical theater lyricist, she’s had songs performed and recorded by Audra McDonald, Rebecca Luker, and others. She is a founding member and board vice president of Jersey City’s North River Sing Community Chorus. She also sings with The Prom Dates, a Jersey City-based a cappella group, of which she is co-founder and musical arranger. With a B.A. in English Literature and an M.Ed. from UCLA, she has taught people from elementary school through college, including writing and ESL. She was Executive Director of the Jersey City Public Library Literacy Program. On the civic front, she is founder and past president of the Harsimus Cove Association and past president of the Downtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. She spearheaded the volunteer group responsible for shaping the redevelopment of the Grove Street PATH Plaza and Grove Pointe, a 5-year endeavor. She has also assisted Charles in the arts entities he founded and co-founded: The Jersey City Artists’ Studio Tour (now re-named), Pro Arts, the Cathedral Arts Festival, and the Powerhouse Arts District.
Shantel spent the last 4 years as an Expat in Brussels, Belgium. During this time, she focused on being a Human, Mom, Wife, World traveler and Lover of all things Arts and Culture. She is a patron of the Arts, enjoys museum and gallery hopping and is committed to sharing her strengths to enhance the mission of Art House Productions.
Shantel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Lawrence University and a Masters in Public Administration from UNC Charlotte.
Frank Licari is a Telly and Addy award-winning actor, writer, producer/director, and 2x Emmy-Nominated host whose credits span 30 years of work in Theater, Film, and TV including recurring and guest starring roles on network and cable television, feature films and off-Broadway theater. A former Blue Man with the Blue Man Group, he is the host of On The Town in the Palm Beaches with Frank Licari (since 2016) on PBS.
He's also an award-winning Producer/Director whose work can be seen on Netflix and Peacock Network.
Frank founded and managed Atlantic Arts Academy, now Performing Arts Academy, in Jupiter Florida for 15 years.
Originally from Guelph, Ontario Canada and a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
Ashley also serves as co-chair on the New York Women’s Bar Association, Matrimonial and Family Law Committee and on the New York City Bar’s Children and the Law Legislative Sub-Committee. Ashley is also a member of various New York City Family Court committees regarding teenage foster youth as well as promoting equal justice and gender fairness in the court system. Ashley is a native New Jerseyan and Hoboken resident for over fifteen years where she currently resides with her husband, dog, and two cats in Hoboken. Ashley enjoys international travel, Broadway shows, and supporting the local arts and theater community.
Sophie Penkrat is a Creative Director, Content Developer, and Brand Strategist. She has worked with a variety of enterprises—from boutique to Fortune 500 companies—on marketing strategy, brand development and image growth, content development, and event production. Clients have ranged from the Mayor’s Office of Jersey City, where she produced and managed all aspects of the Jersey City Art & Studio Tour (JCAST) from 2017 to 2019; to BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and TD Ameritrade, where she strategized and developed full-scale 360-degree omni-channel campaigns. Other clients include New York Life, Tishman Speyer, American Express, Time Warner Cable, Pfizer, Seventeen magazine & Penguin publishing (copy editing), Zan Casting, Nina Day Casting (for Sephora, Facebook, et al), and VOGUE Italia & VOGUE UK (photoshoot production), and more. Sophie received her BA from Rutgers University and her BS from Ramapo College of New Jersey.
ERIN LEIGH PIERSON
Erin Pierson serves as the Director of Strategic Growth at Cause Strategy Partners, a social enterprise that operates BoardLead, a nonprofit board placement, training and support program for corporate leaders. She works directly with BoardLead's corporate, foundation, and nonprofit partners, helping to scale the program and coach new board members and their organizations on best practice governance strategies. Erin previously worked in arts events production and nonprofit development. While studying for her MPA, she worked on several projects and events for the JC Office of Cultural Affairs, helping to launch programming at the City's Apple Tree House. Earlier, Erin worked in grants management, fundraising, and membership at SculptureCenter. Erin holds an MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at NYU and earned her BA in Art and Art History from Colgate University. Born and raised in New Jersey, she has called Jersey City home for five years and is here to stay. You can find her, her fiance Dave, and their dog, Ziggy Stardust, chilling at Prato on Saturday mornings.
GERARD D. PIZZILLO
Gerard D. Pizzillo is a partner at Genova Burns focusing on all aspects of Commercial Real Estate throughout New York and New Jersey. He handles Corporate Law & Business Transactions, Commercial Real Estate & Redevelopment and Land Use & Approvals. He has represented numerous real estate and corporate entities in all aspects of transactional real estate, development and commercial legal issues.
Mr. Pizzillo has experience in real estate development and redevelopment law as well as tax abatement, zoning and land use. He has drafted and reviewed documents in all areas of commercial and residential real estate transactions, including leasing and financing.
Mr. Pizzillo represents public housing authorities in Section 8 and Housing and Urban Development requirements as well as associated issues in education, business organization and civil and corporate law.
Mr. Pizzillo has successfully litigated complex matters in state and federal courts.
He has been attending Art House events and fundraisers since the early 2000’s and is thrilled to be serving on the Art House Board of Trustees.
A firm believer in a community pulling itself up by its bootstraps, Lewis Spears has devoted his life and career to manifesting this philosophy. Lewis was born and raised in the Booker T. Washington Projects in Jersey City. He was educated in the JCPS and then went on to receive his B.A. from Rutgers University. After college, he returned to Jersey City and for nearly a decade, he has taught across grade levels, focusing primarily on developing the special education population and providing access to up-to-date curriculum with little to no assistance. Lewis continued his formal education at New Jersey City University, receiving a Masters of Arts in Urban Education to enhance his teaching pedagogy. It was at this juncture, that he realized that leadership was the solution to organizational change. In his pursuit to become an educational leader and increase his influence, Lewis attained an Educational Masters in School Leadership from Harvard University. Lewis is the Founder of Kismet of Kings, Inc. Currently, Lewis worked as the Hudson County Youth Services Commission Administrator where he was committed to improving programming for youths on a daily basis. Lewis is grounded in his faith and is an active member of his church community. He is happily married to Dr. Myriam Spears and a proud dad to AJ and Beau.
Lawrence Bluestone is Counsel in Genova Burns' Jersey City, NJ office and a member of the Appellate, Complex Commercial Litigation, Intellectual Property, Employment Law & Litigation, and Procurement Law, Government Contracts & Bid Protest Litigation Practice Groups. Mr. Bluestone focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation and appellate law matters on behalf of public and private sector clients, primarily focusing on management of multi-million dollar companies and business disputes. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, J.D., 2008. Tufts University, B.A., 2005.
Mike Lord was a member of the Art House Board of Trustees from 2017 to 2019, and served as Secretary of the Board for his final year as a Trustee. He became involved in Art House in 2012, through the INKubator program, reading and performing in readings of works in progress for writers in the program. Presently, Mike works as a grants administrator at New York University, and is happy to lend his skills and talents in that area to Art House in furtherance of the organization's mission. He performed in an improv Murdery Mystery club while an undergrad at Boston College, plays bass and guitar, and also hosts a podcast about the music of the band Genesis and the associated solo careers, called Tabletop Genesis.
Jim Peskin is a director, arts administrator and educator. Most recently he has been serving on an interim basis as the Associate Managing Director at Luna Stage. In a total departure from his work in the Theater, he works as a Docent for the Save Ellis Island Foundation where he is the head guide and keeper of the historical narrative. He was the Executive Director of the Montclair Arts Council and was Interim Director of the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance. He has taught at Drew University, Northview High School and was an artist in residence for the NJ State Council on the Arts, PaperMill Playhouse and NJPAC among other. As a theatre professional he was a resident director for What Exit? and Playwrights Theatre of NJ and has directed in regional and small professional theatres.
CHRISTINE GOODMAN | Founder & Executive Director Emeritus
Christine was named by Jersey City Magazine as the #1 Most Influential Figure in the city's arts and culture scene. She received the Key to the City in 2007 on behalf of Art House Productions, in recognition of Art House's outstanding leadership in the arts. In 2009, The Star-Ledger highlighted Christine in their "I Am NJ" feature spread as "a woman who is turning the spotlight on [Jersey City's] arts community." In 2010, Christine was honored by Bank of America as a Local Hero through its Neighborhood Excellence Initiative, in recognition of her outstanding community leadership and service.
Prior to her career in arts management, Goodman has toured the country as an actress, performed her poetry across NY/NJ, and taught acting classes for children and adults. Goodman trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and is an honors graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
If you are interested in joining the Art House Productions Board of Trustees, please contact Meredith Burns at email@example.com.