Meet Our Staff And Board
Our staff at Great River Arts are dedicated to providing the community with a variety of arts experiences. However, due to COVID-19, GRA will be operating with limited staff.
If you'd like to help us, check out our Opportunities At GRA page for more information.
Michelle Kiley | Executive Director
As an experienced community development professional and emerging creative placemaker/public artist, Michelle seeks to curate people inspired spaces. Her work results in collaborative and customized concepts (temporary or fixed) for a public space(s). Michelle holds a B.A. in Local and Urban Affairs and an M.S. in Tourism, Planning, and Development from St. Cloud State University. In 2017, she was selected as one of twenty individuals across the state, to participate in the “Emerging Public Artist” workshop - hosted by Forecast for Public Art. In addition, she is an alumna of the 2018 “Teaching Artist Roster Program,” offered through the Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB).
Alexandra Becker | Communications Intern
Alexandra was born and raised in Little Falls, MN. She is currently a junior attending the University of Minnesota - Duluth; studying marketing and graphic design, while also involved in her school’s cheerleading teams and various business clubs.
Alexandra has always enjoyed creating different forms of art, but has recently dedicated her time to graphic design. She has a passion for marketing and networking as well as content creation. She is excited to have this opportunity to learn and grow her marketing and communications skills as an intern and becoming more involved in the community.
Ashley Maciej | Event Specialist
Ashley Maciej was born in Little Falls, MN and has continued to reside close to the area throughout her life. She is a musician with a short military background, which has helped improve and open many opportunities for her, while being a member of the 34th Infantry Division (ID) Red Bull Band.
She is excited to have the opportunity to engage with local artists that might help inspire some new unique ideas in her own art making. She currently plays music, is beginning in the direction of jewelry making, and is an animal fanatic, highlighting her love of natural beauty anyone can find in the art of nature.
Ashley has previously worked at Camp Ripley with the Visitors Bureau and Public Affairs team, but is very excited to take a step into the heart of Little Falls and become an engaged member of Great River Arts.
Martin Nelson | Marketing Specialist
Martin Nelson was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Willmar, MN. He moved to Brainerd, MN in 2010 and has been involved in the arts and community in the area since that time.
Martin primarily works as a mixed media collage artist, but does painting, sculptural, and installation work as well. He creates his artwork with the use of found materials and an abundance of old magazines, books, newspapers, and other interesting printed matter collected in the studio. His work covers many topics including the environment, history, culture, mass media, and human interaction within all things.
Over the years he has held gallery director and curator positions at select galleries in the Brainerd lakes area, including the Franklin Arts Center Gallery, and the Central Lakes College Art Gallery, as well as being Co-Owner of The New Bohemain Gallery. In 2017, Martin received his Graphic Design degree from Central Lakes College, and continues to use his presentation and layout skills through his design and mixed media work.
He has exhibited his work at the Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND, and Minneapolis Institute Of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, along with other select galleries and exhibition spaces both locally and nationally. In 2016 his work was published in Studio Visit Magazine Vol. 33. He lives in Brainerd, MN and works out of his studio located in the Franklin Arts Center.
Darla Hueske | Retail & Administrative Assistant
Darla Hueske is a native of western ND. She moved to Little Falls in 2019.
She has devoted her life searching for beauty and meaning in life. She has resided and worked in Texas, Arizona, New York, New Mexico, Andalusia Spain, Southern England, Australia and Egypt. She has traveled and photographed in more than 300 cities and 24 countries. She digs deeply into the regions where she lingers, creating art and film out of her time spent there.
Darla has been a photographer and writer for most of her life, working as a corporate and commercial photographer. Recently, she has delved into fine arts photography, studying still life art. She has won numerous awards for her work. Her photographs have been exhibited at galleries in western North Dakota and PhotoMidwest Center for Photography in Wisconsin.
Darla holds a B.S. in Communications from Minnesota State University and an M.A. from New Mexico Highlands University.
Renee Zeleny began her professional development in Japan during her apprenticeship with the Master Potter Kimura Kada. Kimura apprenticed with the Nakazatos, a Living National Treasure* family, in Karatsu, Japan. During her apprenticeship she lived and worked with the Kimura family where she learned traditional Japanese production pottery.
Upon returning from Japan, she apprenticed with Master Potter Jasper Bond** who apprenticed with the National Living Treasurer Shimaoka Tatsuzo in Mashiko, Japan. Working with Bond for over 4 years enabled her to hone Japanese throwing and trimming skills. In addition she learned traditional English pottery techniques using her 17th century design treadle wheel. Bond, a master at kiln design, building, and reduction firing, shared his knowledge with her. During her time at Bond’s studio, she became proficient in all aspects of production studio management.
Renee has been a professional potter since 1991, and for the past 23 years has primarily created functional pottery items for wholesale orders with long-standing customers. Before becoming a mother (of 2 wonderful daughters), in addition to her studio work, Renee spent several years teaching clay hand building techniques to students (grades 2nd - 6th) throughout Central Minnesota via the Central MN Arts Board’s After School Arts Program. Though Renee was extensively trained in, and employs various methods of using the potter’s wheel, this will be her first time sharing “throwing” techniques. She will primarily be teaching hand building techniques, and the seldom-taught Japanese style of “throwing off the hump.”
Quality of life and work-balance are a priority to Renee, she takes time daily to be outside in nature where she is inspired by the forms, patterns, colors and textures that are prevalent in the woods and prairie near her home. The inspiration and tranquility that comes to her during those times is reflected in her pottery.
Renee believes that handmade objects are important to help keep us balanced and centered, and serve as reminders of the connectedness that we have with each other and the earth. She is also convinced that food and drink look and taste better when using handmade dishes!
*Living National Treasure” are bearers of important intangible cultural assets. With it comes both an annual stipend and the duty to share the secrets of their craft with others, both younger artists and the general public.
**Jasper Bond: Apprentice to Tatisuzo Shimaoka (Shoji Hamada’s 1st apprentice), 1978; assistant to Michael Cardew, 1976; assistant to potter/teacher Glenn Nelson 1974-1976; studied with: Walter Keeler (summer 1985), Warren Mackenzie and John Reeves (summer 1977), Walter Hyleck (summer 1974). Master of Education (1976), BA (art) (1969).
Michael Burr | Grant & Fund Development Officer
Michael brings a range of skills to his work in the arts. In addition to experience in music, theatre, and event production, he also applies expertise gained in his 30-year career as a communications professional, publisher, grant writer, project manager, and business administrator.
Michael serves as president and producer for Little Falls Summer Musical, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational theatre organization that he co-launched in May 2019 with his son Lucas. Michael also owns and operates Burr Energy LLC dba Microgrid Institute, a collaborative consultancy that he formed in 2013 to support private clients, communities, and state and tribal agencies who require sustainable and resilient energy solutions. Before founding Microgrid Institute, Michael spent 25 years as an analyst in the electric utility industry, most recently as editor in chief and associate publisher of Public Utilities Fortnightly. He has supported grant writing and management for programs exceeding $10 million in aggregate award value.
Michael also supports local arts and cultural development through volunteer service for such organizations as Little Falls Community Schools, Great River Arts, the Morrison County Historical Society, and the Charles Lindbergh House & Museum.
Mark Slupe | Great River Television Station Manager
After a successful career as a photojournalist, Mark Slupe has been serving as the Station Manager for Great River Television for the last five years. A native Minnesotan, he was born, raised and educated in Windom. Slupe is a graduate of Central Lakes College’s Videography program. True to the Minnesota spirit, Slupe enjoys an outdoors lifestyle which includes camping, fishing, and cross-country skiing. Slupe is a world traveler with a passion for introducing the Little Falls community to new cultures and foods.
Are you interested in joining the team? Check out our Opportunities at GRA page for current positions.
The Great River Arts Board of Directors volunteer their time and expertise to support creativity in our community.
If you are an arts advocate and would like to be considered as a GRA board member, please complete the Letter Of Interest Form and mail it to GRA (PO Box 157, Little Falls MN 56345) or email it to the Executive Director. The board reviews submissions quarterly.
Mark Gerbi, President
Ron Bieganek, Sheryl Johnson, Yadira Frey, and Scott Saehr (members)
Visual Arts Committee