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Staff 2018-03-21T18:04:37+00:00
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!
Beckett Love, ext 210
Beckett Love, ext 210Interim Preschool Program Director
Beckett Love was born in San Diego, raised in Seattle, and settled in Minneapolis in 2013. He received his BA in Fine Arts with a minor in Theatre Arts from Dordt College, IA in 2010. Since settling in the Twin Cities, he has become very active in the visual and performing arts community and 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. He is so thrilled to work with children and pass his love of art and social justice on to these young minds and future artists. After working as a teacher at a Montessori school, a Head Start Program, and here at Urban Arts, Beckett is excited to now be serving the community as Interim Preschool Director. He enjoys urban farming, hiking, being a part of and viewing theatre productions, and cooking with his wife in their home in St. Paul.
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 KongEarly Education Teaching 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.
Anna Walters
Anna WaltersTeaching Artist
Hi, my name is Anna Walters!
I am an Ohio native who moved to Minneapolis to attend North Central University. I’m finishing up my youth development degree while working here at UAA!
I would describe myself as a painter who dabbles in all sorts of things. I often find myself in creative phases where I’m really obsessed with things like welding, stamp making, photography, weaving, furniture building etc. However, painting is my first love! In November 2016, I started a business called “The Mint Bee.” For all artwork I sell, I donate a percentage to local shelters that help rescue people from human trafficking. Other notable accomplishments in my artwork are: Finalist in Ohio Governors show 13’, creating album artwork for multiple bands, Cover on local MPLS publication, worked to create custom pieces for organizations in Columbus, OH.
I’m really excited to be teaching after-school because I believe art is important for the development of young people! My art teachers played a huge role in cultivating self confidence and a sense of self pride by allowing me to dream and create. I dream that my classroom will be a place for students to be proud of themselves, to dream, create, and find self confidence in their work!
Vatina McLaurin
Vatina McLaurinEarly Education Teaching Artist
Vatina McLaurin is a preschool teaching artist 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.

Sagirah Shahid
Sagirah ShahidTeaching Artist
Sagirah Shahid is a Black Muslim poet, performance artist, and an educator. Sagirah’s poetry and fiction has been published widely and has received considerable recognition, including: A Loft Mentor Series award in poetry, a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant and a Minnesota Center for Book Arts Mentor Series award. She was also one of four poets selected by the city of Minneapolis to have her poems transformed by sculptor Blessing Hancock into a series of giant stainless-steel lanterns featured along downtown Minneapolis’ iconic Nicollet Mall.
A former Urban Arts Academy intern, Sagirah has nearly 10 years of experience working with youth, including teaching creative writing courses for over five years with Upward Bound Vison Quest (a program designed to meet the academic and motivational needs of high school students who are from low-income families and/or are potentially the first generation of their family to receive a bachelor’s degree).
In addition to teaching, Sagirah has utilized her creativity as a tool to bridge connections between Twin Cities’ communities. Her work often aims to center the voices and concerns of POCI communities through art and action.
When this St. Olaf college Alumna isn’t writing, reading or working to build up the diverse communities she loves to love on, she’s probably trying to plant seeds of appreciation for poetry in young minds and hearts.
Julia Nellessen
Julia NellessenEarly Education Teaching 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. 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.
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.
Bradley Hildebrandt
Bradley HildebrandtEarly Education Teaching 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.
Hilary Greenstein
Hilary GreensteinEarly Education Teaching Artist
Hello my name is Hilary! I am a fine artist based in South Minneapolis. I graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA in Drawing and Painting. Since graduation, I have maintained a painting practice from my artist studio in the California Building in Northeast Minneapolis. I am an active member of the local arts community, working to bolster emerging artists through my work on the California Building Marketing Committee and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Alumni Board. I have a passion for arts education, and I have taught at Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Minnetonka Center for the Arts, as well as private art lessons for school-age children. At Urban Arts, I am elated to combine my passion for art and working with children in such a wonderful organization committed to arts, community, and social justice. I am so happy to be joining Urban Arts full time in the preschool. I’m grateful for the opportunity to nurture the creativity of preschoolers in order to foster a lifelong excitement for the enriching power of art. When I am not making art, in my spare time I practice yoga, do improv, cook, rescue injured squirrels and birds, and work tirelessly to keep my cat, Charlemagne, out of trouble.