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.
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).
Mark Slupe | Station Manager, Great River Television (Channel 180)
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.
Darla Hueske | Retail & Volunteer Coordinator
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 | Volunteer Clay Center Coordinator & Teacher
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).
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
- Scott Saehr, Vice President
- Ron Bieganek, Treasurer
- Zoe Back, Secretary
Members at Large
Yadira Frey, Sheryl Johnson, and Kris VonBerge
Visual Arts Committee
- Randy Asseln
- Kathy Braud
- Bev Gold
- Kerry Kupferschmidt
- Scott Wonderlich