Our Team

Staff

 

Maria
Fortuna Dean

Executive Director

Maria comes to the Lewiston Council on the Arts with decades of experience as a performer, director, producer and educator.

Most recently, she was on the voice faculty of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as well as the Los Angeles Opera’s Russell Thomas Youth Artist Training Academy. Previously, she was the Director of Opera and Vocal Studies at Pasadena City College, and was a member of the voice faculties of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Carnegie Mellon University, SUNY Fredonia and The Chautauqua Institution.

Maria has performed leading roles with San Francisco Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opéra National de Bordeaux, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera,Teatro Massimo Bellini, New York City Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, Austin Lyric Opera; Spoleto-USA, Opera da Camera Linz-Austria, Long Beach Opera, Dallas Opera, Florida Grand Opera.

She has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Oakland Symphony, the Sacramento Symphony, the Chautauqua Symphony, Sinfonia San Francisco, the Maui Symphony, and made her Carnegie Hall debut in Bruckner’s Te Deum with Riccardo Muti. She was featured alongside Marilyn Horne on the Live From Lincoln Center telecast of The Rossini Bicentennial Gala with Roger Norrington conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, which was recorded and released on CD by Virgin Classics.

Maria was born in Niagara Falls, NY. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and her Master of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music; she is an alumna of the Merola Opera Program of the San Francisco Opera, where she was also an Adler Fellow. She is honored to serve the wonderful people of our community.

 

Michelle Kratts

Outreach Coordinator

Michelle Kratts is the Adult Services Librarian and local history research specialist at the Lewiston Public Library. She graduated from Niagara University with a BA in English and History and has a Masters in Library Science from the University of NY at Buffalo. She also has completed a professional learning certificate in Genealogical Studies and American Records from the University of Toronto, as well as a TEFL certificate from the University of Toronto. Michelle has worked on various research projects in the area for over twenty years--including the history of Italian Americans in Niagara Falls, local cemetery research, the Underground Railroad, women's history and veterans history. She also enjoys researching and writing about local ghost stories! 

 

Board of Directors

 

Tod Kniazuk

President. Community Grants Coordinator for the City of Buffalo

Tod A. Kniazuk has focused his career on organizational development, policy, governance, and research. He currently works for the City of Buffalo as a community grants coordinator responsible for all grants at the Buffalo Police Department; serves as Artistic/Executive Director of the nonprofit music, education and professional development organization The Big Easy in Buffalo; and is the event planner for the annual Boom Days Buffalo celebration and Buffalo’s Best Kielbasa Contest. Tod also serves as Board President of the Lewiston Council on the Arts.

Prior to his city service, Tod worked at Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute (HWI) in advancement and donor relations. He was the first executive director of Arts Services Initiative (ASI) of Western New York, a regional organization that provides grants, opportunities, professional development, and advocacy to cultural organizations and artists in five counties, as well as public programming aimed at increasing access to the arts. Under his leadership, ASI activated a dozen efforts including an economic impact analysis of the sector, eight regrant programs, professional development sessions for organizations and artists, an “ArtsAccess” program to provide cultural opportunities to low income residents, and an annual candidate survey.

Prior to accepting the position with ASI, Kniazuk served as the first executive director for Robby Takac’s Music is Art, founding executive director of the Niagara Erie Regional Coalition, consultant for the Niagara University Center for Hospitality Training and Research, senior staff assistant at the UB Regional Institute specializing in economic development and governmental projects, and as a staff member at the Erie County Legislature. He also frequently served as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts grant panels, and in 2015 was chosen as one of the nation’s top local arts agency leaders by Americans for the Arts.

 

Anna Fontana

Vice President. Teacher at District Board School of Niagara

Inspired by her love of design and architecture, Anna Fontana is a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty, on Center Street, here in Lewiston, NY. She is always amazed by the homes and buildings set in the nature-rich environment of our beautiful region. With her desire to support her community, Anna has also been teaching children for over twenty-five years. Having spent most of those years as an arts specialist teaching visual arts, drama and music, she sees how the arts play an important role in a community.

For enjoyment, Anna also studies and teaches yoga and meditation as a creative exploration of body, mind and spirit. Loving to learn and create, you can find her wherever art is happening around town as she appreciates being part of the thriving community of Lewiston. She loves participating in a variety of arts events herself, most notably known as Lady Bugg at the Children's Bug Fest. Having been on the Board of Directors for the Lewiston Council on the Arts for the past few years, this year Anna is proud to serve as Vice President.

 

Sue Brown

Treasurer. Independent bookkeeper

President of Brown Management Group for 23 years, Sue specializes in individualized bookkeeping, working with a variety of clients and businesses to provide accurate, up-to-date reporting that ensures specific financial needs are met. In addition, Sue’s community involvement spans decades, from sitting on committees for the Maple Avenue Community Playground and the Annual Barbara S. Zimmer Holiday Wish Show, to chairing the Thomas F. Miklejn Community Service Scholarship.

In her “free time,” Sue finds no greater joy than being with her 6 grandchildren: Owen, Adam, Geoffrey, Quinn, Colin, and Gabrielle. 

As Board Treasurer, she enjoys being a part of an organization that truly improves the quality of life for those in our community.

 

Chelsea Sears

Secretary. Photographer and owner of Chelsea Modern Images

Chelsea is delighted to bring 20+ years of fine art photography and art entrepreneurship experience to the Lewiston Council on the Arts.   An active member of the Lewiston small business community since opening her studio in the Red Brick School 7 years ago, she prides herself on engaging with most village business owners on a first-name basis.

Chelsea is a Syracuse native.   She received a BFA with a concentration in Photography in 2000 from Buffalo State College, and has since called WNY her home.   Her work has been featured in various Buffalo arts exhibitions as well as a group BSC Photography program collection in the Albright Knox Art Gallery.  She has been published in Fine Homebuilding and Fender Bender magazines, and has been featured in the local podcast sensation "This Girl Puts Out".  In addition to her professional accomplishments, she is a community member always willing to lend a hand, and has held positions on fundraising committees for Mount St. Mary's Hospital Foundation and Stella Niagara Education Park, and proudly participates in the One District, One Book initiative each year for Lewiston Porter schools.  Chelsea's studio, Chelsea Modern Images, has been a major sponsor of the Lewiston Artisan Market since its inception in 2018, and you will find her there most weekends, camera in hand.

She is a music fan, a "Phish Chick", and supporter of the local live-music scene.  She is also a mother of 3 children, which means she, herself, is a little bit of a rock star.    The Arts have illuminated her life, and she is dedicated to spreading the joy of creativity to the community.

 

Marian Granfield

Director of Art History with Museum Studies at Niagara University

Marian Granfield has over thirty years of professional experience in the field of Visual Arts. Shejoined the Niagara University faculty of the Theatre and Fine Arts Department as a faculty fellow in 2013 and is the Director of Art History with Museum Studies. She was formerly the Curator of Education at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University for nine years where she also served as a lecturer for the Meet Me at the CAM series and curator of the Education Galley.  

Past experiences include, Director of the Art Department, Curator of the Singer Gallery, and Administrative Director of the Schwayder Theatre at the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center of Denver, CO, (now the Mizel Arts and Culture Center); Research Assistant, Interpretive Project, Denver Art Museum, Program Director at Downtown Aurora Visual Arts in Aurora, CO, and Assistant Director of Gallery NAGA (Newbury Associated Guild of Artists) in Boston, MA. She received her M.A. in Art History with Museum Studies from the University of Denver, and received a B.A. in Fine Arts from Emmanuel College in Boston, MA. Professor Granfield has taught courses in Art History at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO, Metropolitan State University, Denver, CO, and currently teaches 14th - 19th Century Art, 19th Century Art, 20th Century Art, Women in Art, Introduction to Museum Studies, and Religion and Art at Niagara University.  She is the editor of Frammenti della Vita, the Art and Writings of Jefferson D. Rubin, and most recently a contributing writer to the publication, The Armand & Eleanor Castellani Collection: Art for the Public Eye, for which she also curated the accompanying museum-wide exhibition, Highlights: The Castellani Collection in 2015.

 

Gene Kulbago

Consultant, NF City School District; online class advisor, State of Pennsylvania

Gene Kulbago has been an educator for most of his life. He taught in the Niagara Falls City School District for 34 years, taught writing at Niagara County Community College for 8 years and also mentored Education Majors and taught writing classes at SUNY Buffalo State University for 6 years. Gene is currently a Tech Mentor, assisting teachers with technology in Niagara Falls, and reviews online courses for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

He graduated from Niagara University and received his master’s degree from The University of Southern California. Gene is a long time supporter of the Lewiston Council on the Arts and enjoys doing anything that can promote and assist the work they do.

 

Patricia MacDonald

School teacher, retired

Patricia MacDonald grew up in Western New York and Oklahoma. After graduating high school in Westfield, NY, she attended Bowling Green State University and graduated with degrees in math and English. She met her husband at school and they had two children while living in Middleport. Pat attended the State University at Buffalo and became certified to teach both math and English, and also did bookkeeping for her husband’s business. She was widowed in 1989. 

In 2004, Pat moved to Lewiston and became very happy in the community. She shares six grandchildren with her husband, fellow board member Gene Kulbago. Pat is a longtime volunteer with the Lewiston Council on the Arts and has returned for a second term of service to the LCA Board of Directors. 

 

Edward Millar

Curator of Folk Arts at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University

Edward Millar first joined the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University as Curator of Folk Arts in 2015, where his responsibilities include fieldwork, exhibition development, videography, digital content creation, and programming focused on the cultural heritage and communities of the Buffalo-Niagara region. In addition to this work, Millar teaches courses in fieldwork and exhibition development, and on folk culture at Niagara University as an adjunct professor. In addition to his work for the museum, Millar continues to serve on the board of New York Folklore, a statewide organization dedicated to supporting the cultural heritage of diverse communities across New York State, and previously presented and organized at both state and national conferences in his discipline. Millar's scholarly interests include fooodways, folk art, folk music, folk narrative, and occupational folklife. Most recently, Millar was a recipient of the 2020 Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, conducting fieldwork about the dirt track racing culture of the Ransomville Speedway - fieldwork that was accessioned in 2022 as an official collection of the library.

Outside of work, Millar enjoys video games, spending time with his family, playing with his dog and cat, listening to music, and hiking.

 

Cynthia Sanchez

Art teacher at Lewiston-Porter High School

Cindy Sanchez is a member of the Lewiston Porter Art Department where she teaches Drawing and Painting and Advanced Placement studio classes. Born and raised in Lewiston, Cindy has fostered strong relationships within Lewiston and its vibrant arts community.  Cultivating that relationship as an art educator at Lewiston -Porter, the Art Department and its students work closely with our local gems; Artpark, Castellani Art Museum, Lewiston Council on the Arts, Albright Knox art Gallery and various local galleries, institutions and artists. These relationships inspired the creation of the new LEVEL Art Gallery at Lewiston Porter High School, bringing Gallery work and connections to artists into our studio based curriculum.  The annual Chalkwalk at Lewiston Porter sends its top art students to the Lewiston Art Festival to compete and share their talents with our community. As a member of the Lewiston Council on the Arts Cindy hopes to bring Lewiston Arts and Culture to students at Lewiston-Porter, exciting and empowering our youth to participate, create, explore and celebrate the arts in our community.