Real art. All ways.
Presenting new and innovative art, supporting artists and connecting people.
Will K. Wilkins – Executive Director [email]
Amanda Baker – Deputy Director [email]
Tom Bittel – Communications Specialist [email]
Ian Ally-Seals – Cinema Coordinator [email]
Neil Daigle-Orians – Visual Arts Coordinator [email]
Lindsey Fyfe – Education Manager [email]
Sarbani Hazra – Grant Writer [email]
Barbara Hocker – Controller [email]
Jean Paul Leblanc – Business Manager [email]
Jess Martel – Front of House Manager [email]
John Morrison – Director of Film Programming [email]
Disha Patel – Community Engagement Manager [email]
Paige Usher-Rankin – Membership Coordinator [email]
CAFÉ AND CINEMA STAFF
Ana Altiery – Housekeeping
Namulen Bayarsaihan – Front of House Staff
Rae Caldwell – Front of House Assistant
Tabitha Hujar – Front of House Staff
Aly Leone – Front of House Staff
Rachel Rubenbauer – Front of House Staff
Mark Schreier – Board Chair
James Bridgeman – Vice-Chair
Audrey Conrad – Secretary & Acting Treasurer
John F. Byrnes
Will K. Wilkins
Will K. Wilkins became the director of Real Art Ways in 1990, at a moment when the organization was in crisis and government funding for arts was a focus of political debate.
In late spring of that year, when four artists had award recommendations abruptly vetoed by the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Wilkins invited each of the four performers to come to Hartford. It was the first in a series of events that Real Art Ways presented in the context of the culture wars, and a foreshadowing of Wilkins’ demonstrated commitment to supporting artists and taking risks to present meaningful programming.
Linking art and ideas with community has been central to his work. More than 30 commissioned public art works, located throughout Hartford, have been completed during his tenure, including notable projects by Pepón Osorio and Sofia Maldonado. He oversaw Real Art Ways’ sponsorship of a design competition, with neighborhood residents as jurors, to design neighborhood gateways, commissioned artists’ residencies with the neighborhood senior center, and developed free arts programming for neighborhood children.
Real Art Ways’ dedication to presenting innovative music has been proven during Wilkins’ tenure, with performances including Trilok Gurtu, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, Vinicius Cantuaria, Mark Dresser, Burnt Sugar, Faust with Keiji Haino and Thurston Moore, Debo Band with Fendika, Cecil Taylor, William Parker, and many more. Improvisations, a monthly concert series curated by Joe Morris and Stephen Haynes, is a one-of-a-kind event in the Greater Hartford area that has drawn world-class musicians and international attention.
Before taking the helm at Real Art Ways, Wilkins worked in community arts in Brattleboro, Vermont, and at Central Park SummerStage and WBAI in New York City. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, where he studied with Chinua Achebe and Joseph Brodsky.
In addition to her involvement with Real Art Ways, Amanda is a professional flutist. In 2002, she founded janus, a Brooklyn-based flute/viola/harp trio that focused on contemporary music. The trio presented concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Aspen Music Festival and many other notable institutions nationally. Concurrent with janus, she was the co-principal flutist of the Coast Guard Band from 2003-2010 (New London, Connecticut). She is the former the Principal Flutist of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra in Guangzhou, China.
Amanda served as the Tour Marketing Manager for the Coast Guard Band, spearheading annual tours nationally and internationally. She was also a Finance Administrator for several years in which she processed unit tangible acquisitions and travel reimbursements. Following her military service, she was the Residency Program Manager at I-Park in East Haddam, Connecticut. Amanda earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s in music from Northwestern and Yale University respectively and an MBA from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. She enjoys spending time with her family as well as gardening, hiking and traveling.
Tom is a graphic designer and communications professional with a background in higher education, ad agencies and corporate settings. He holds a degree in Graphic Design from CCSU and has evolved with the industry over the years from marker comps, t-squares and technical pens to Photoshop, HTML5 and social media.
Outside of work, Tom collects LPs, 45s and 78s and practices audio engineering in his basement recording studio. He also assists his wife with landscaping projects and plays lead guitar in his surf-rock trio, The Aquatudes.
Visual Arts Coordinator
Neil Daigle Orians is an interdisciplinary artist originally from Omaha, Nebraska. Neil earned his BFA in studio art from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and MFA in studio art from the University of Connecticut. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, recent credits including the Czong Institute of Contemporary Art in South Korea, the Atlanta Print Biennial at Kai Lin Art, and Sideshow Gallery in Brooklyn, New York.
When not at Real Art Ways, you can probably find Neil locked in his studio, holding hands with that special someone, or wishing he was in the ocean.
Lindsey Fyfe is an artist and educator from Glastonbury, CT. She holds a BA from Skidmore College, where she majored in Studio Art & Spanish and apprenticed at the Tang Museum. Her first formative experience in urban community education was teaching in Los Angeles, via a year with AmeriCorps. Now at Real Art Ways, she works to give Hartford area youth and community members access to the arts.
Sponsored by a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, Lindsey completed an MA in Painting in 2010 from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where the physical and cultural terrain of the region guided her body of abstract work. Locally, Lindsey has worked as an educator at the Connecticut River Academy high school in East Hartford. Certified in TESOL, Lindsey has taught English to Speakers of Other Languages with the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford.
Outside of Real Art Ways, Lindsey enjoys exploring her home state by road, trail and river. She enjoys oil painting, photography, throwing pots, and singing folk and bluegrass music with The Connecticut River Ramblers and other rogue musicians.
Barbara has over two decades of experience creating and exhibiting work in New England including many solo shows, installation projects, and group shows in Hartford, New Haven, Newport, and Boston. She has worked in corporate and private collections, most recently the permanent collection of The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. Barb holds a degree from Syracuse University’s College of Visual & Performing Arts and attended Cranbrook Academy of Arts. She now lives in Coventry, CT and maintains a studio in the Arbor Arts Center in Hartford. Barbara received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Greater Hartford Arts Council and a Creation of New Work Initiative Grant from the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, Inc.
To support her artistic habit she has held a variety of real jobs including jewelry buyer for the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Shop, Star Wars Exhibition store manager and buyer for the Museum of Science, Boston, fabric store manager, art supply warehouse order picker, audio services technician, and bookkeeping for college bookstores, cake bakers, jewelry makers, museums, and engineers. She has been with Real Art Ways since 2005.
To keep everything balanced, Barbara practices T’ai Chi and Zen Yoga.
Jean Paul Leblanc
Jean-Paul attended Coventry High School and is a graduate of Bryant (College) University. He has been involved with Real Art Ways since about 1992, beginning as an event volunteer. Jean-Paul became an employee in the café selling movie tickets and refreshments when cinema opened in 1996.
After about 18 months, JP moved to the office as a bookkeeper and now serves as Business Manager. He is the RAW “phantom” employee, working weekend evenings as well as special events. He has participated in most aspects of Real Art Ways over the years, serving as a stage hand, set up crew member, sound assistant, cleanup crew member, and café staffer.
JP has been employed as the Director of Business/Finance at LEARN, a Regional Educational Service Center in Old Lyme, since 1994. He oversees an agency budget of approximately $22,200,000 which is comprised of more than 100 individual program budgets. Prior to his employment at LEARN, Jean-Paul was employed as an accountant at the Capital Regional Education Council in Hartford.
Front of House Manager
Jess grew up in Tolland, CT, with a tremendous love and appreciation for art and music that eventually led her to Real Art Ways when she moved to the Hartford area. Jess initially came to work in the café as a favor, and has since found a home among the staff and many of the regular patrons. After leaving for a short time, she’s glad to be back and putting her own spin on the Front of House Manager position.
Jess has diverse interests, and studied biology at ECSU and film at UHART. To stay well rounded, she also got an AS in general studies from MCC where she studied mostly art and foreign languages. She enjoys hanging out with her long haired Chihuahua (Remy), driving her Mini Cooper (which she named Lou Reed), and making everything from homemade jam and salsa to Odd Ball costumes.
Director of Film Programming
John has been the Director of Film Programming for Real Art Ways since 1995.
Now living in San Francisco and also working as Director of Education for the California Film Institute and as the Children’s Film programmer for the internationally acclaimed Mill Valley Film Festival, John co-founded innovative film groups and businesses like the Amherst Film Cooperative, Pleasant St. Theater and PST Video, Tower Theaters, and the Northampton and New England Film Festivals. His roots were deep in New England as both an entrepreneur and City Councillor in Northampton MA, but California gets him closer to the film industry’s taproot.
His favorite films are My Neighbor Totoro, Seven Samurai, Only Angels Have Wings and Grand Illusion.
Community Engagement Manager
A native of New Haven, CT; Disha attended Columbia University and Hunter College and is proud to say she doesn’t know her college mascots.
Her desire to explore has led her throughout four continents, hopefully with more to come! In between expeditions, Disha enjoys cooking for small armies — especially experiments in breakfast items – exploring bookshops, podcasts, all colors of tea and is especially content when all three occur simultaneously. She survives on a steady diet of biking, rock climbing, theater going, and keeping well-read and well-fed.
Paige is the Real Art Ways Membership Coordinator.