Tamar Ghidalia, ext 215
Tamar Ghidalia, ext 215Executive Director
Tamar Ghidalia was born in Tunisia, grew up in Paris, moved to Israel in 1976 and came to the U.S in 1989. Tamar is an educator and a professional musician (percussionist and singer). She is the founder of Kolot, a local Israeli-music quintet. She brings more than 30 years of experience in leadership, mentoring, program building, curriculum development and program management.Tamar has a B.A. in Education with a minor in Oriental Languages and a B.A. in Music. She has been very active with Racial Justice and immigrant rights’ work in the community and received the Paul Wellstone Call to Action Award in 2005 for her work with the Racial Justice Leadership Team at Jewish Community Action. In December 2014, Tamar was recognized by the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA) with an Outstanding Achievement Award for many years of dedication and leadership.I am truly honored to be part of an organization which serves ALL children! I look forward to continue and offer our neighborhood youth and their families diverse programs that reflect excellence in the arts and education!(tghidalia@urbanartsacademy.org)
Elizabeth Roach, ext 210
Elizabeth Roach, ext 210Preschool Program Director
Hi, my name is Elizabeth Roach. After starting at UAA as an intern, then as a member of the teaching team, I am very excited for the opportunity to continue working closely not only with the students, but with the parents, board, and community as the Preschool Director. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I am a member of the Psi Chi Honors Society, and my degree was focused around Child Psychology and Assessing and Observing Young Children. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, crafting, exploring museums, and spending time in nature. As an artist, I specialize in flute and piccolo. I have competed as a flautist in state competitions, participated in pit orchestras for several plays, and have received recognition for musical excellence from the Minnesota Music Educators Association.
Lydiah Durene, ext 221
Lydiah Durene, ext 221Interim OST Director
Hi I’m Lydiah! I graduated from North Central University, with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education. My job here combines two of my greatest passions in life – working with kids and creating art. I believe that art is essential, because it helps to cultivate creativity and is a great way to express oneself. Some of my favorite forms of art include abstract drawings, calligraphy, pottery, and music. I also love traveling the world, trying new foods, and spending time outside. My hope is to guide students to explore and discover the form(s) of art that they most enjoy, and to continue to grow and express themselves through art for years to come!
Leah Robertson, ext 213
Leah Robertson, ext 213Office Manager
As a child, art was always one of my favorite classes. Working at Urban Arts is a wonderful way for me to help pass on the love of art to others. I believe that everyone can find a way to access and explore creativity and that having the opportunity to do that early in life is extremely important. It’s so fun to see how the kids get inspired. I love being part of the team at Urban Arts that helps give so many children the tools they need to develop their creative lives.
Sveta Henin, ext 220
Sveta Henin, ext 220Accountant
My name is Sveta Henin. I come from Belarus where I worked as an accountant for a state insurance company. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, traveling and reading. I am currently working at the Urban Arts Academy as an accountant. I love my job and the staff very much. In my opinion, art is an adventure that children take to express their inner world: thoughts, feelings, ideas, little secrets, and joys without using words. Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once one grows up.” The experience that kids gain at Urban Arts Academy is priceless. They apply their skills in multiple ways. Art helps them interact with the world and see it from a different angle, which is through their heart!
Barbara Conway
Barbara ConwayDevelopment Officer
Hi! I am Barbara Conway, the Development Officer at UAA. I am excited to join the talented staff, board and volunteers that serve the Urban Arts community.

I have over 30 years experience in nonprofit management with a concentration working for education and art based organizations. Among others, I have worked with the Cultural Council Foundation (New York), The American Craft Council (New York), WGTE Public Broadcasting (Ohio), and The Museum of Nature and Science (Denver).

I am inspired by the laughter, creativity, enthusiasm, cultural inclusion and celebration that I experience at Urban Arts every week. I appreciate the impact it has on me and how I am able to carry these messages and feelings home with me.

When not working with Urban Arts, I enjoy listening to NPR, blowing glass, working in mixed mediums, learning the banjo and coordinating a weekly art program for children with special needs.

Sukanya Mullick
Sukanya MullickDevelopment Assistant
Sukanya joined UAA in 2016 as an intern. This is her second innings at UAA, this time as a Development Assistant. She is going to work closely on the different development efforts of the organization.
She has completed her Masters in Economics from India and holds an MBA from University of Wisconsin River Falls. She is bringing 5+ years of professional experience as a project & business development manager. She has experience and a strong interest in digital marketing. She loves working with children and was a teacher at a school in India. She is excited to be part of this great organization.
She loves watching horror movies, reading story books, travelling and cooking in her leisure time.
Andrea Barcenas
Andrea BarcenasGrant Writer
Hi! My name is Andrea Barcenas, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to write grants to help support the incredible work of Urban Arts Academy. After graduating from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in English and Religion, I began my nonprofit career working with a start-up organization in South Minneapolis. I later earned an M.A. in Nonprofit Management from Hamline University and have been assisting nonprofits with grant writing, program development, and evaluation since 2004. When not working, my top priority and greatest joy is spending time with my husband, Roberto, and two young daughters, Lila and Maya. I also enjoy playing the piano, cooking, baking, gardening, yoga, and being outdoors.
Vatina McLaurin
Vatina McLaurinTeaching Artist and Office Assistant
Vatina McLaurin is a preschool teacher and office assistant at Urban Arts. Her interests in art and social justice work drew her to the organization, and she has been at Urban Arts in various roles since fall 2015. Art has been an inspiring and empowering force in Vatina’s life since she was as a young child, and she loves watching the preschoolers learn to express themselves through art. Vatina is a visual artist and works in painting, drawing, dyeing fabric, and printmaking. She grew up outside Chicago and graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL in 2014 with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies. She enjoys cooking, reading, camping, and biking.

La Kong
La KongTeaching Artist
Hi, my name is La Kong.  I graduated year 2012 at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, with a Bachelor Degree in Family Social Science.  I love working with people and making a difference in their lives.  As of now, I am just focusing on being a preschool teacher assistant at the Urban Arts Academy.  I am so blessed to be working with a great organization.  What I love most about my work are the children.  They bring joy to my life and I would love to continue working with children.
Am'Ber Montgomery
Am'Ber MontgomeryTeaching Artist
Am’Ber Montgomery is thrilled to be joining the Urban Arts Academy team. She was born and raised in Detroit, MI and values the love and support of family and friends. She is an avid learner who has a huge passion for arts education. She whole-heartedly believes in reigniting the value of creativity and self-expression in educational settings. She has had the opportunity to work with many art-centered youth in the twin cities such as Penumbra Theater’s Summer Institute.
Maria Davison
Maria DavisonTeaching Artist
Maria Davison is a graduate of the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities with a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies. In her last semester of her college career she began interning with Urban Arts in the preschool department, and is excited to have the opportunity to work more closely with the staff and students of these wonderful programs. Her free time is filled with playing music, exploring photography, reading, enjoying the outdoors, and learning from the people around her. Maria believes that teaching is a great opportunity to learn from and with others and is thankful to do so in the Urban Arts community.
Christine Novotny
Christine NovotnyTeaching Artist
Christine Novotny received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Indiana University in 2012.  Since then she has focused on experiential education, using the outdoors as her classroom.  She has created earth art with students in the San Bernardino Mountains, led backpacking trips in the Southwest and beyond, and planted with children in the raised-bed garden right here at Urban Arts. She believes education is about exploration and imagination. She is looking forward to learning about each child’s sense of self and using art to help them see the world in new and magical ways.  She is a painter, avid outdoorswoman, biker, bread baker, and musician. 
Katie Swenson
Katie SwensonTeaching Artist
Hi! I’m so excited to be teaching with Urban Arts! I graduated from Hamline University in May 2013 with a degree in cultural anthropology and sociology. I have several favorites in terms of artist, but some of my favorite mediums include photography and painting. I choose to work with Urban Arts because of both my interest in non-profit work, working with kids, and art and my background in volunteering with after school arts programs in college. Some of my hobbies include biking, yoga, cooking, photography, going to art museums and concerts.
Abi El-Ghazzawy
Abi El-GhazzawyTeaching Artist
Abi Chase El-Ghazzawy graduated from Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in Graphic Design. As a designer, she has had the opportunity to work with many arts organizations including the Walker Art Center and Midway Contemporary Art. In 2013, she completed her Teaching Certification through teachNOLA in Louisiana. She worked as a Pre-K teacher at ENCORE Academy in New Orleans for two years. In her free time, she likes to craft, draw, cook, and go hiking with her dog and husband.
Rosey Lowe
Rosey LoweTeaching Artist
Rosey Lowe is a Pittsburgh girl who made her way to Minneapolis to study theatre at the UMN/Guthrie Actor Training Program. She is so excited to be joining the Urban Arts team as it combines two of her greatest passions in life—making art and teaching. She believes that access to the arts as a young person is of vital importance in order for students to be able to tell their own stories and express their unique experiences through different artistic mediums. Rosey has had the opportunity to work with youth at a variety of theaters and arts schools around the city, including Penumbra’s Summer Institute program. In her free time, she loves to write, read, watercolor, and play guitar.