You are currently the Board President of Young Audiences WNY. What has this experience been like for you?

It has been a great growth experience. I have especially enjoyed developing the formal relationship with Cynnie our ED to realize the partnership a board president and ED must have to maximize the potential of YA and our board. I had been board president once before but that board was not nearly as involved in managing policy as we do in YA. This board also had helped design and initiate best practice policies to help at the management level.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Erie Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition? How does your passion for the arts factor into a community organization like this one? Do you think they are an economic driver of community change?

Our Coalition’s mission is to drive down the number of adult tobacco users and prevent youth from ever starting. Our numbers have been going down steadily for years but we still lose 25,000 New York residents and billions of dollars in health care each year so our work if far from finished. It connects to my work in the arts because soon after becoming an art maker in performance and video I became excited by creating the show and the community around my work and the work of others. Creating community around changing tobacco policy is similar.

Think back to when you were young. Was there an arts experience you had that stuck with you, or influenced you in some way? Tell us about it.

There were a number of experiences growing up but I think what pushed me toward art was seeing my first photograph begin to appear like magic in the developer bath while in high school. It also helped that my teacher was of tremendous support even after I left the class. Thanks Mr. Morris!

We heard you are called “Bird the Painter” in Off Beat Cinema. Tell us about this interpretation.

He is actually Bird the “Whacked-out” Painter. He allows me to keep my fingers in my passion for acting. Our show is a labor of love and an homage to all the locally produced late nite movie shows popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Our characters are all caricatures of the beatniks from that era. In most of the movies the artists were seen as “out there baby.” His name is a tribute to be-bop jazz great Charlie Parker.

Name three artists (of any genre) whose work you particularly enjoy/influences you (bonus points if they’re WNY artists).

My favorite local artists are painter Peter Fowler and photographer Brendan Bannon. My favorite current non-local artist is Gerhard Richter. When I was doing events I was influenced by the style and approach of Andy Warhol’s happenings.

In ten words or less, tell us why you think Young Audiences matters.

We bring art to kids as a bridge to better learning outcomes leading to better life outcomes and we pay the artists who do it! Win-Win.