Our People

Get to know Oregon Arts Commission commissioners and staff. 

Christopher Acebo, Immediate Past Chair
Contact | Ashland

Christopher Acebo of Ashland is the associate artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). His work at OSF includes collaborating on season planning, creative team selection, casting, strategic planning and producing the festival productions.

Christopher is a set and costume designer who designed the world premiere production of “All the Way” by Robert Shenkkhan, as well as its Broadway production which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2014, among many others. For seven years, he was an ensemble member of the nationally acclaimed Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles.

As a teacher, he has been an assistant professor in the Theatre and Dance Department at Cal State University, Los Angeles (2002-2007) and has also taught master classes in Design at UC San Diego.

Christopher currently serves on the Board of Directors for Theatre Communication Group. He is a recipient of an NEA/TCG fellowship and several awards including a 2015 Latina/o Outstanding Advocacy Award presented by the Latina/o Theatre Commons. He has served on panels for the NEA, the Arts Commission and Playwrights Center.

He received his MFA from the University of California, San Diego and his BA in Political Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
 

(Term Expires: 3/19/2022)
Avantika Bawa, Commissioner
Contact | Portland

Avantika Bawa is an artist, curator and academic.

She has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India.

Noteworthy solo exhibits include shows at Schneider Museum, Ashland, Oregon; Suyama Space, Seattle, Washington; The Columbus Museum, Georgia; Saltworks Gallery and Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, Atlanta, Georgia; Nature Morte and Gallery Maskara, India; Disjecta and White Box, Portland, Oregon.

Avantika has participated in the Skowhegan, MacDowell, Jentel, Vermont Studio Center, Kochi Biennial Foundation and Djerassi residencies. In April 2004 she was part of a team that launched Drain: A Journal for Contemporary Art and Culture (www.Drainmag.com)

She is currently an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at Washington State University Vancouver. Her work can be viewed at www.avantikabawa.net.

(Term Expires: 6/30/2020)
Michael Dalton, Commissioner
Contact | Corvallis, Newport

Michael Dalton was a professor in OSU’s College of Education, where he also served as assistant to the dean for program and research development until his 2008 retirement.

He has a Ph.D. in teacher education and a masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Oregon; he earned his bachelors in mathematics at Central Washington State College.

Michael maintains homes in both Corvallis and Newport. He has served on the board of Corvallis’ da Vinci Days since 2008 and is currently immediate past chair. He also has been a board member of the Newport Symphony Orchestra since 2005, where he also serves as immediate past chair.

(Term Expires: 5/10/2022)
Jenny Green, Vice-Chair
Contact | Bend

Jenny Green is the owner of Jenny Green Gallery in Bend, a pop-up contemporary art gallery exhibiting in Bend, throughout the United States and, soon, in Venice, Italy. She has worked in arts and education for 22 years and is a former adjunct professor of art history at Central Oregon Community College.

Prior to moving to Bend in 1994, Jenny worked in art galleries, art museums and art auction houses in London and San Francisco. She is a founding board member for the independent college-prep school Cascades Academy and serves on the board for the social change organization World Muse as well as the advisory board of Caldera Arts. She holds a master of arts in fine and decorative arts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and a bachelor of arts in art history from the University of Vermont.
 
“I believe deeply in the power of art and its ability to enhance the quality of life not only for artists but for the communities in which they work,” says Jenny. “The Oregon Arts Commission strengthens our statewide community through the arts and I want to support this important work.”
 
 
 

(Term Expires: 11/30/2020)
Harlen Springer, Commissioner
Contact | Florence

Harlen Springer is currently the chair of the Florence Public Arts Committee and a founding member and past president of the Florence Regional Arts Alliance.  He is also a member of the “Beautification for Florence” committee, a past member of the Siuslaw Library Art Committee and was the Art Coordinator for “Florence Fest,” the annual Jazz, Art and Wine festival.

Harlen is a retired corporate executive with extensive experience leading artistic and consumer products companies. He served as president of Portal Publications, a leading designer and publisher of posters, prints and greeting cards; chief operating officer of Numi Organic Tea; and chief operating officer of Boing Designs, a Portland-based designer and manufacturer of products for the gift industry.

Prior to that, Harlen held senior management positions at Fortune 500 companies such as Procter and Gamble, Clorox and Unilever, where he served as vice president of sales, vice president of marketing and general manager.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oregon and an MBA from Seattle University.

(Term Expires: 11/7/2023)
Matthew Stringer, Commissioner
Contact | Ontario

Matthew Stringer, the executive director of The Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Oregon, was appointed to the Arts Commission in December 2017.

Born and raised in Nyssa in Oregon’s Malheur County, Matt graduated Cum Laude from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s in journalism and marketing before embarking on a successful 29-year career in New York City. He worked in advertising for Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, and spent more than 20 years managing marketing departments for mainstream music labels such as Island, Arista and Sony Music. He has in-depth experience in all marketing disciplines, new product development and project management. After choosing to return to Oregon, Matt accepted the position at Four Rivers Cultural Center in 2011.

The Four Rivers Cultural Center contains a 13,000 square-foot museum, a Japanese garden, an exhibit gallery, a theater and a conference facility. It served more than 89,000 unduplicated people in 2017, including more than 16,000 children, through 680 meetings or events. As executive director, Matt spends the bulk of his time writing grants, programming for the theatre, conference facility, garden and gallery and in community engagement. The center programs more than 52 events each year, ranging from exhibits of Basque, Japanese and Hispanic culture to events like Mexican Independence Day and the Obon Festival. It offers the biggest music event in the Western Treasure Valley, a summer concert series called Live After 5. 

Matt’s hobbies include music, hiking and swimming.

(Term Expires: 12/18/2021)
Anne Taylor, Chair
Contact | La Grande

Born and raised in western Washington, Anne Taylor moved east in 1975 to earn a degree in interior design from Washington State University. In 1980, she moved to the northeast corner of Oregon.  For 30 years she resided in Joseph and Imnaha, located in Wallowa County and 65 miles from the nearest town with a population greater than 15,000.  In 2010 she relocated to La Grande in Union County.

Anne’s work experience includes technical illustrator, graphic artist, ranch wife and mother, bronze foundry production, art marketing and sales, custom matting/framing and art sales, parent educator, executive director and research assistant. She also has had the honor of serving as a Girl Scout troop leader, a 4-H club leader, a member of the Wallowa Valley Arts Council, Rotary Club and several non-profit boards.

Anne has pursued lifelong education through college distance learning and personal or professional development workshops. She is a 2005 graduate of the Ford Institute for Leadership and became an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow in January of 2010.

For the past 24 years, Anne has played violin with various regional orchestras and ensembles; she currently plays with the Grande Ronde Symphony and the Inland Northwest Orchestra.  She actively pursues skiing, biking, hiking and gardening, and also enjoys reading, drawing and watercolor painting, cooking, sewing and travel.

(Term Expires: 10/31/2022)
Brian Rogers, Executive Director

Brian Rogers, a longtime arts and culture consultant, was named executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust in June of 2014. He has led planning and facilitated retreats, with a focus on funding stabilization and grant programs, for several state arts agencies and multiple cultural organizations across the country.  

Rogers served as deputy executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) for 16 years, where he was responsible for grant programs, financial oversight and the administration of the agency. He led development and implementation, through a public/private partnership, of the innovative and groundbreaking data collection and reporting tool, the “Cultural Data Project.” Rogers served on the governing body for the project and acted as the state’s task force manager. He also implemented several PCA programs and services including “Picture Pennsylvania,” a statewide traveling exhibition program. He helped conduct and implement four strategic planning processes, one of which resulted in a nationally recognized funding reorganization that more than doubled the number of applicants funded while providing a higher level of service.

During his more than 20 years with the PCA, Rogers also served as deputy director of administration, program director for art museums and fellowship manager.

An active and accomplished artist, Rogers holds a bachelor’s in fine arts from Tyler School of Art at Temple University, where he majored in painting, and a master’s in fine arts from the Graduate School of Art at the University of Arizona.

Deb Vaughn, Arts Education & Poetry Out Loud Coordinator

An arts education leader with over fifteen years of experience, Deb developed a national Poetry Out Loud participation model for students who are deaf. Prior to joining the Arts Commission, she served as the School Services Manager at Oregon Children’s Theatre. Under her leadership, Connecting Students to the World of Work (2013-2016) grants provided arts mentorships for underserved students. In 2011, Deb assembled a statewide team responsible for passage of a bill allowing for proficiency-based demonstrations of knowledge in Oregon schools.

A trained singer, actor, writer, and creative drama teacher, Deb received two Sunburst Awards for her commitment to arts education and advocacy. She is a member of the Arts Education Speakers Bureau at Americans for the Arts. Deb holds a Nonprofit Program Evaluation Certificate from Portland State University, a MFA in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University and a BA in theatre from University of Portland.

Kat Bell, Grants & Office Coordinator

Kat Bell is the Grants & Office Coordinator for the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Arts Commission. With the agencies since 2006, Kat oversees the online grant system and database and assures compliance with state and federal policy. Kat earned an Oregon Project Management Associate Certification from the Willamette University’s Atkinson School of Management and is in her junior year at Southern Oregon University where she studies Accounting. In addition to serving in the military, Kat has experience working at the state legislature as a Committee Assistant. She belongs to the PEAK Grant Making, a nationwide grant administrator network. She is a self-professed Data Viz Ninja and proud member of Ravenclaw.

Carrie Kikel, Communications Manager

Carrie Kikel is a longtime nonprofit communicator who has led communication efforts in the arts, education and health care arenas. Carrie spent 15 years with the Oregon Symphony, from 1991 to 2006, where she held the position of vice president of communication. Her Symphony accomplishments include initiating annual telecasts and National Public Radio broadcasts, organizing media partnerships that allowed a post 9/11 In Memorium concert to be experienced by 250,000 Oregonians and orchestrating a national simulcast and release parties for a Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute recording that then reached number four on the Billboard classical charts. She also led communication for the music director transition that paid tribute to James DePreist and welcomed Carlos Kalmar.

Carrie joined Providence Health & Services in 2006 and served as a regional public affairs manager until 2012 when she established her own consulting business. Her cultural clients have included fEARnoMUSIC and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, as well as the Arts Commission and the Cultural Trust. She also helped found Portland Radio Project, an online music station honored with two Edward R. Murrow Awards in its first six months on the air.

Kikel has an associate degree in journalism from Mt. Hood Community College, where she started her communication career, and a bachelor’s in communication from Marylhurst University. She lives in Canby with her beloved Springer Spaniel Ella and has three grown children – Daniel, Nichole and Kelsie – and five grandchildren – William, Kody, Alexa, Isaac and Ashlynd. Carrie is an avid walker and loves adventures with family and friends.

Eleanor Sandys, Registrar & Research Specialist

Eleanor’s focus areas include managing the Art in the Governor's Office exhibition series, overseeing the Career Opportunity Grant program for individual artists and collections management for the Percent for Art in Public Places Program. She began her position at the Oregon Arts Commission in 2016.

Eleanor has over 10 years of professional experience in arts and nonprofit administration. She graduated with a Master’s in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University and has a bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology from Reed College. She currently serves on the board of the Oregon Museums Association.

Liora Sponko, Community Arts Coordinator

Liora Sponko serves as the Community Arts Coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission. She provides technical assistance to arts organizations and communities across Oregon to help them thrive through the arts. She also manages the grant programs for Arts Build Communities, Small Operating Support and Operating Support for Arts Services, Music and Dance.

Liora has been an arts administrator and grassroots community-builder for more than two decades. She previously served as the Executive Director for Lane Arts Council for nine years, where she tripled the organizational budget, developed inclusive programming and increased partnerships with the public and private sectors.

Liora also served as a programs coordinator for the University of Oregon and did development work for nonprofits including Community Center for the Performing Arts/WOW Hall, Centro Latino Americano and Womenspace.  She is fluent in Spanish and has a master’s in International Peace and Development from Universitat Jaume I (Castellón, Spain) and a bachelor’s in Sociology and Spanish from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has received multiple certifications and awards, including recognition as a rising business star in Lane County.

 

Oregon Arts Commission

Phone
(503) 986-0082 (phone)
(503) 581-5115 (fax)
Address
775 Summer Street NE, Ste 200
Salem, OR 97301-1280