Listee Features — Art


Brenda R. Velazquez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in 1987 at the age of 7. It was this background, combined with her desire to support her family and the encouragement of her husband of 20 years, Luis Erik Velazquez Sr., to which she attributes much of her current success. She was further inspired by her father, an engineer, and developed a great love for marketing, business and construction. This led to her establishing Future Sign Co. in 2001, alongside her husband and mother-in-law, while working toward her citizenship, which she achieved in 2004. Today, Ms. Velazquez acts as the chief executive officer of Future Sign Co. and is responsible for conducting meetings to go

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After 30 years in the corporate world, Lily E. Smernou, PhD, turned her career path toward the arts to pursue her passion for photography, painting and drawing. Her art, which can be found on her website, combines her life-long love for aesthetics and imaginative narratives with the expertise in quantitative psychology that she cultivated throughout her earlier career to create deeply profound pieces that speak to the depths of human behaviors. It was her desire to understand what makes people behave in certain ways that drew her to the field of psychology in the first place, and she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from North College Thessaloniki in Greece. Going on to matriculate at the University of Georgia, Dr.

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Liz Ryan


Attributing much of her success to hard work and optimism, Liz Ryan began her professional life as a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley following her graduation from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 1981. She subsequently switched paths and completed training with the Directors Guild of America with the intent of becoming a producer. Specializing in large film projects, Ms. Ryan now excels as a producer and director with Ryanworks Inc., an entertainment and film production company. With considerable skill in all aspects of the filmmaking process, from writing to post-production, Ms. Ryan’s day-to-day tasks encompass overseeing market research for productions, communications and program management, budgets and finances, and scheduling, casting and crew. Over the course

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Carol Modesitt


Carol Ann Modesitt is a professor of music and former chair of the department of music at Southern Utah University, where she has taught voice, opera, diction and vocal pedagogy for more than three decades. She joined the faculty at Southern Utah University in 1993, helping establish and develop the school’s voice program into one of the best in the region, and guiding her students to win more than 200 state- and national-level awards for performance. Currently, she is the head of Southern Utah University’s voice department and director for the school’s award-winning musical theater and opera productions. During her time with the university, Ms. Modesitt has directed more than 40 student productions of repertory classics including “La Boheme,” “Don

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Bihong Margaret Sha


An accomplished art director, producer and screenwriter from China, Bihong Margaret Sha has traveled extensively through Asia, Europe and the United States and strives to create a platform for international artists around the world through her work as chair of the Hollywood International Women Arts Alliance. Currently, she and her team are organizing an international film festival with a focus on women artists for this coming November alongside the regular artists’ workshops they run. Looking toward the future, she hopes to build up a school within the Hollywood International Women Arts Alliance. She is also the founder and co-chair of the Montgomery International Film Festival and has served as the director, producer and chair of Shafilm since 1995. Ms. Sha

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An award-winning operatic soprano with more than 40 years of international recognition in some of the medium’s most iconic roles, Luana DeVol has served as the executive director of the American Wagner Project since 2013. Ms. DeVol has performed and taught around the world, but is perhaps best-known for her performances of the German repertoire, and was selected as Singer of the Year by German opera magazine Opernwelt in both 1997 and 2000. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Ms. DeVol grew up with a love of music and an appreciation for the arts, but had no intention of becoming a singer, instead harboring dreams of training in ballet. After a chance choir audition as a teen

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Elizabeth Moss is the scholar and gallerist behind Elizabeth Moss Galleries, a fine art gallery in Falmouth, Maine, dedicated to showcasing the work of 20th century and contemporary artists from Maine with a focus on the Monhegan Island region. She had a lifelong interest in the visual arts, describing art as a source of comfort and something that just made her feel good. As a young teenager, she would often take the Metro to downtown Washington, D.C., to visit museums. She fell in love with the National Gallery of Art, where she was transfixed by the room-sized works of abstract expressionist painters Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell. By age 17, her enjoyment of art had extended to an excitement for

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Polly Forcier


Mary Hill “Polly” Forcier is a teacher, artist, and historical preservationist who has dedicated the last four decades to promoting the historical art of wall stencil painting. She is the founder of MB Historic Decor, a company offering more than 700 historically-accurate reproduction wall stencils recorded from original wall paintings in addition to paints, brushes, and other supplies. Her passion for early American decorative arts was sparked in part by her mother, a talented tinware artist, and Ms. Forcier recalls watching her mother work as a young child and “falling in love with the smell of turpentine” as she learned to paint as well. Ms. Forcier began nursing coursework at Simmons University before leaving school to marry and start a

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Kristine Finklea


Kristine Nash Finklea celebrates more than 35 years of personal and innovative work as an interior designer and the owner of Kristi Finklea Interiors. Her passion for art and design began at a young age, and Ms. Finklea credits her success to having the confidence to recognize and develop her talent early in life. A graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, she holds both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in painting and art education. She financed her education by selling original drawings and paintings, and began her career as a public school art teacher. While working as an educator, Ms. Finklea started exploring her interest in interior design and antiques. After inheriting her father’s

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Cecile Shellman is the owner and president of Cecile Shellman Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based private consulting firm providing museums and other arts institutions around the country with customized diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion programming and visioning plans that “ensure that museums are truly for all.” Driven by a lifelong passion for equitable access to art, Ms. Shellman completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting at Brigham Young University in 1991, and spent time as a commercial artist and then as a gallery director before exiting the field to find better opportunities to use visual arts as a medium for education and communication. She found herself drawn to museum studies as a way to highlight and guide the narratives that art objects

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