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 221OST (out of school time K-12) 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!
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.
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.
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.
Vatina McLaurin
Vatina McLaurinTeaching Artist
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.

Rosey Lowe
Rosey LoweTeaching Artist
Rosey Lowe is a Pittsburgh native 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. Since earning a BFA in Acting from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre program, Rosey has taken part in various projects around the Twin Cities in theatre and film. In addition to acting, Rosey has studied creative writing with a focus on playwriting. Before becoming a frequently working teaching artist, she interned with Penumbra Theatre’s Summer Institute. There she studied pedagogy, critical race theory, and art for social change. The program required her to complete her own teaching philosophy, create and lead multiple lesson plans, and collaborate with the students on devising a performance based on social justice issues of their choosing. Additionally, she has taught Shakespeare workshops at public high schools across Minneapolis and contemporary acting master classes with Lyric Arts Theatre. Rosey has also worked with the students of Northeast Middle School where they focused on the culinary arts. Rosey understands teaching to be an essential part in her life as an artist and has no doubt that one will continue to inform and enrich the other.
Beckett Love
Beckett LoveTeaching Artist
Beckett Love was born in San Diego, raised in Seattle, and settled in Minneapolis in 2013. They received their BA in Fine Arts and a minor in Theatre Arts from Dordt College, IA in 2010. Since settling in the Twin Cities, they have become very active in the visual and performing arts community, and they can often be found acting or directing a production with 20% Theatre Company. Alongside their passion for the arts, Beckett is very involved in social justice organizations and activities with specific interest in advocacy for LGBTQ rights. They are so thrilled to work with children and pass their love of art and social justice on to these young minds and future artists. Beckett spent several years working with a Montessori school and a Head Start program, and they are very excited to incorporate their arts background into their classroom. They enjoy urban farming, hiking, being a part of and viewing theatre productions, and cooking with their wife in their home in Powderhorn.
Julia Nellessen
Julia NellessenTeaching Artist
Julia has recently moved to Minneapolis from Chicago after graduating with a degree in International Studies from Taylor University. She has previously taught in several afterschool programs, including her most recent internship in Mukono, Uganda. She is thrilled to be teaching at Urban Arts Academy this summer! She loves to share her passion for the arts with her students and to learn from other artists in her community. She is a potter and avid maker who enjoys spending much of her time outdoors, biking, climbing and exploring new places around the city.
Daniel Sakamoto-Wengel
Daniel Sakamoto-Wengel Teaching Artist
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Daniel is now a Twin Cities actor who graduated from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program in 2016. When he is not teaching and caring for preschoolers, Daniel is performing at The Guthrie, Park Square, Open Eye, Penumbra, Pangea, and the Southern. Daniel is excited to bring his theatre skills to arts education, believing that an artistic focus is important for developing children to take in order to find identity through self-expression. Daniel is excited to nurture children’s imaginations and social skills, as well as to learn more about himself as an educator and future father.
Imani Vaughn-Jones
Imani Vaughn-JonesTeaching Artist
Imani Vaughn-Jones is an actress, playwright, poet, and model in the Twin Cities. She has been acting and writing for over fourteen years. Imani got her start acting in school productions before doing her first community theater production as Napoleon in Animal Farm at the Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Since then, she has both acted and been a teaching artist all over both Omaha and the Twin Cities. She came to the Twin Cities to study acting with the Guthrie Theater and Univeristy of Minnesota before switching to focus on social justice, activism, and writing.
In her free time, Imani enjoys writing, playing videogames, mermaiding, knitting, and running her digital magazine Super Dope&Extra Lit Magazine. She is always open to creative collaboration and looking to help realize new ideas.
Atlese Robinson
Atlese RobinsonTeaching Artist
Atlese Robinson is a writer, performer, and improv lighting designer. Atlese began writing poetry at the age of 11 and has always loved to read. Raised by her African American, Chicago-bred parents in Saint Paul, MN, Atlese’s creative works are inspired by her familial history. Atlese is a firm believer that the human spirit is shown in its most glorious during communal storytelling. Atlese’s local credits include director for 20% Theatre Company’s production of Naked I: Self Defined, actress and production assistant for Penumbra Theatre Company’s production of The Owl Answers and Dutchman, and production assistant for Pillsbury House + Theatre’s production of Scapegoat, lighting designer for Washburn High School’s theatre 2 and 3 final performances. Atlese is currently a Q-STAGE 2017-2018 Review Committee Member, serving for the fourth year and technician at Huge Improv Theatre.
Bradley Hildebrandt
Bradley HildebrandtTeaching Artist
Bradley Hildebrandt is a recent grad of the University of Minnesota and is very happy to join the teaching staff at UAA. At the U, he received a BFA in Acting in association with the Guthrie Theater. Bradley is originally from Omaha, Nebraska where he first began teaching at The Rose Children’s Theater as a teen intern. At The Rose, Bradley garnered skills in creating curriculum rooted in the dramatic arts utilizing improv, text analysis, and music. In addition to his time at The Rose, Bradley has worked as a child supervisor at The Guthrie Theater where he helped fifteen child actors reach their potential in The Music Man.
Bradley is also a produced playwright. His work has been seen at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at The Secret Theatre in New York City. Bradley has also had his original sketch comedy with his writing partner performed in California and Brooklyn.
He looks forward to bringing his creativity and imagination to the classroom in order to mentor and inspire the students at Urban Arts Academy.
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.