175 S. Main St., Suite #100
Akron OH 44308
Nicole serves as the Executive Director of ArtsNow, an organization that helps build and strengthen a thriving Summit County arts and culture scene to add economic vitality and social vibrancy to our region. In this role, she collaborates with local leaders and organizations to advocate for the arts and culture sector, connects local talent to resources, and leads a team that promotes the diverse catalog of arts and culture offerings across multiple platforms to Summit County residents.
Nicole was recently elected to the Private Sector Network Council of Americans for the Arts and will serve a two-year term representing Summit County and Ohio, ending in December of 2021. She was selected to serving on the Founding Delegation of the Arts Funders Forum in 2019 and, in 2018, was one of 16 arts executives from across the country selected to participate in Americans for the Arts’ annual Executive Leadership Forum. In addition, Nicole serves on the board of Ohio Citizens for the Arts.
Nicole is a graduate of Leadership Akron Class 34, serves as Secretary of the board of the Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation, and co-chaired the 2017 Sugar Plum Tour. Nicole is also a proud alumna of Torchbearers, where she served on its board from 2013 to 2017 and as president in 2016.
Community and Corporate Liaison
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Communications & Marketing
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BOARD OF DIRECTORS
During a thirty-five-year career in higher education, Mark Auburn taught and administered at The Ohio State University, Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas System, Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, and his alma mater The University of Akron. He held positions at the dean or vice-presidential levels at all. For UA since 1991, he served as Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and Professor of Theatre and as Senior Vice President and Provost and as Executive Vice President, among other roles. He completed active service in 2006 and is Professor of English Emeritus.
Auburn has served in Akron on the boards of the Urban League, the Executive Committee of the Akron Regional Development Board (now Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce), Akron Civic Theatre, Ohio Ballet, Tuesday Musical Development Committee, ProjectGRAD Akron Development Committee, the Downtown Akron Partnership, the Summit County Regional Arts and Cultural District Board of Trustees, Weathervane Community Playhouse Board of Trustees, and the City of Fairlawn Charter Review Commission (four triennial appointments, three as Secretary, one current). He is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Akron and a former Assistant District Governor. He served the Greater Akron Musical Association as Executive Vice President (2012-2014; President, 2014-2016; Past-President, 2016-present), the Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross as the only Life Member of the Board, Northeast Educational Television of Ohio (dba Western Reserve Public Media, operators of PBS 45 & 49) as former Chair and Secretary and as returning Chair (2016—present), and the founding Board of Directors of ArtsNow (2015—present). He has joined the board of Ohio Living-Rockynol (2017—present), is Co-Chair of the United Way of Summit County Campaign Committee for Special Gifts, and participates in Diversity on Board, Leadership Akron’s board-service encouragement program.
Auburn’s spouse Sandy (the couple met as students at UA in the mid-1960s) led the Fort Wayne YWCA and the Summit Education Partnership Foundation (forerunner of Summit Education Initiative) and served as a vice president for the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and the Akron Community Foundation, from which she retired in 2006. She has been active on nearly a dozen non-profit boards, including United Way of Summit County and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. She served for almost ten years as Trustee of the Akron Summit County Public Library. In 2012, together with Mark, she was honored with the H. Peter Burg Community Leadership Award. The couple’s son David is a director, screenwriter, and playwright and the father of their two granddaughters.
Olivia P. Demas considers herself as a community advocate and volunteer servant-leader. She serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, The University of Akron. She is an alumna of the University and holds degrees in chemistry and law. Mrs. Demas previously was a member of the University’s National Alumni Board and a constituent board member for the School of Law, serving as its president in 2009-2011. She has a long history of community service and her past board affiliations include the Akron Bar Association, Akron Community Foundation, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, Women’s Board of The Ohio Ballet, Summit Developmental Disabilities Board and Old Trail School. Mrs. Demas is a member of the Akron/Canton Barristers Association, and the Ohio State Bar and Akron Bar Associations. She received in May 2017, the University of Akron School of Law, Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Mrs. Demas and her husband, Dr. William F. Demas, have three adult children and reside in Richfield.
Jon Fiume currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Mustard Seed Market and Café. Mustard Seed Market and Café currently has two locations in Akron and one in Cleveland.
Jon graduated from John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Marketing. He also holds a state of Ohio medical board license to practice massage therapy. He is a past graduate of Leadership Akron and was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business 40 under 40 in 2006. In addition, Jon is highly involved in the Akron community having served on or currently serving on such boards as Stan Hywet, Akron Art Museum, Leadership Akron, and Weathervane Playhouse to name a few.
In his spare time, Jon enjoys all facets of wellness including physical conditioning, running, and being a vegetarian for over 20 years.
Leianne Neff Heppner has been with The Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio since 1999 first serving as curator and government records consultant to the County of Summit. Leianne took over as head of the agency in 2009 and was proud to serve during its 90th anniversary in 2014. She assisted the City of Akron in its Akron History Exhibit for over a decade at Lock 3 (that project is now in a new space and will reopen in the future) and has prepared numerous changing exhibits for the County of Summit. Leianne considers herself blessed to be on the board of ArtsNow at this pivotal time for the organization and has previously served on the Interpretation Subcommittee for the Ohio & Erie Canalway Association along with a variety of historically linked committees and collaborative projects.
Serving on the Lieberth Community Vision Award Committee for Leadership Akron is one of her favorite projects each year. Leianne has been a speaker at the Ohio Museums Association annual meeting and the Ohio Local History Alliance (under the Ohio History Connection in Columbus) at its regional and annual meetings and is a past board member of that agency as well as the Akron Area Arts Alliance and the Friends of the Main Library.
Leianne’s past positions include volunteer and internship coordinator at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio; interim director and assistant director of The Castle, an historic house museum in Marietta, Ohio; and intern at Zoar Village State Memorial, an Ohio Historical Society site featuring a communal society in Zoar, Ohio. She holds a Master of Arts in Public History from Kent State University and a Bachelor of Science in Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University.
A transplant to Akron moving here in the late 1990s from rural southeast Ohio, Leianne and her family (a number four legged) enjoy living in Akron/Summit County where life is good.
Justin Everett Hilton began his professional career as an architectural designer over 20yrs ago. Within that timeframe, he worked in the greater Akron and Cleveland areas on a plethora of projects including; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The New Cleveland Browns Stadium, The Great Lakes Science Center, The Downtown Cleveland Public Library, Continental Airlines Concourse at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mr. Hilton then became an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Architectural Design and Orientation at Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design. Over a seven-year span, his work was recognized in the form of multiple Outstanding Teaching Award nominations and extended beyond the classroom in contributions to collegiate student recruitment, advising, retention and diversity efforts.
Mr. Hilton was then specially selected to spend two years working with Kent State University’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, as a special analyst and success solutions consultant; after which he was promoted to Senior Associate Vice President for University Relations. In this role, he develops and implements strategies for the university’s marketing, media relations, government relations and regional development. He is second in charge of a mission-critical area that employs nearly 90 professionals and manages a multi-million-dollar yearly budget. Mr. Hilton has continually augmented his professional career as a motivational speaker, an artist and by serving on numerous boards of directors for schools, universities, businesses, associations, foundations, and non-profit and community organizations.
His awards include inductions to the Greater Akron Chamber’s 30 for the future class, Kaleidoscope’s 40 under 40 club, the 27th class of Leadership Akron, and the Cambridge Who’s Who Executive of the Year; all while also functioning as the Chief Executive Officer of two business enterprises. Among all this, Mr. Hilton has studied and lived oversees in six different European countries, was the first and youngest African American male to ever attain a Masters of Architecture degree from Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design, and is the first and youngest African American Senior Associate Vice President Executive ever, in the 106+ year history of Kent State University.
A Certified Public Accountant and proven executive leader in financial management and strategic development with over 20 years of experience in a leadership role with organizations from a multi-billion dollar for profit organization to nationally recognized non-profits.
Sean is currently the President and Executive Director at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, with responsibility for oversight of the financial management and direction of the organization, providing leadership and oversight of operations and serves as President of Stan Hywet’s for profit subsidiary ARRC, Inc. Through his leadership, the financial stability of the organization has improved significantly and earned income has increased from previous years in a challenging economy.
His past roles have included the Chief Financial Officer of Goodwill Industries of Akron, Chief Financial Officer of Integrity Parking Systems, LLC and Director of Accounting for Standard Parking, Inc. of which he participated in the company’s significant growth to a multi-billion dollar organization.
Sean had been able to apply his vast expertise in the for profit arena that includes strategic planning and development, business acquisitions, public financing oversight for major parking projects, project management of large construction projects and much more to increase earned income for non-profit organizations of which he has become involved.
He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Ohio Society of CPAs and past member of Rotary. Sean has contributed his expertise as the Founding Board President of Dancing Classrooms Northeast Ohio, a non-profit formed in 2008, Chairman of the Dancing Classrooms Global Board of Directors representing sites in over 30 major cities throughout the U.S. and 4 countries and Vice Chair of the University of Akron Finance Advisory Board.
In addition to serving as Board President of Dancing Classrooms for the past five years, Sean has volunteered at Crouse Elementary School, St. Barnabas Parish, and coaches soccer, basketball and baseball.
Sean received his Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from the University of Akron. He is a two-time Crain’s CFO of the Year Nominee (2014 & 2009). In 2009, he was a recipient of the Greater Akron Chamber 30 for the Future Award. In 2010, Sean became a graduate of Leadership Akron. In 2016, he was named the Financial Management Association Outstanding Financial Executive by The University of Akron.
Sean currently resides in Macedonia, Ohio and has two children Sean and Cailin.
Rob Lehr has over 15 years of professional experience in organizational development, community engagement, and project management for nonprofit organizations.
His career has been dedicated to the nonprofit sector, starting with ten years of service as an arts administrator for the National Costumers Association where he connected to creative entrepreneurs across the United States. In recent years, he has served as the Marketing Director at the Canton Museum of Art and the Gallery Director at Summit Artspace. Beyond his leadership roles, Rob has worked as a freelance arts consultant for regional organizations such as CAN Journal, Kent State University School of Art, and many others.
Since 2018, Rob works to advance GAR Foundation’s mission of helping Akron become smarter, stronger and more vibrant. As program officer, Rob reviews and evaluates grant inquiries and applications with a focus on the Foundation’s community grantmaking in the areas of basic needs, arts and culture, and nonprofit sector advancement.
Rob earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art where he was awarded a fellowship to the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy. He has served on the COG grantmaking committee for Artists of Rubber City and the Masque of the Red Death fundraiser committee for the Akron Civic Theatre. He currently lives in Akron where he can be seen collecting new music from Square Records or viewing the latest indie film at the Nightlight Cinema.
Beginning his professional career in 1981, Akron native, Gregg Mervis is an active member and advocate of the travel and tourism industry.
After 14 years of employment with the Quaker Hilton, Gregg left his position as Director of Sales in 1995 to become Director of Sales for the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau and the John S. Knight Center.
He was promoted to Vice President of the Bureau and Center in 1996 and became Vice President & Chief Operating Officer in 2008.
In 2012, Gregg was named President & Chief Executive Officer; he is responsible for the management and oversight of the organization’s three (3) business units.
Gregg is a member of various national industry organizations, including: Destination Management Association International, International Association of Assembly Managers and National Association of Consumer Shows. His involvement to foster the visitor economy at the State level includes: Ohio Travel Association, Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, Downtown Akron Partnership and ArtsNow, where he is also Board President.
Gregg currently resides in Akron with his wife Terrill and daughter Grace.
Dominic, now in his 9th season with Inlet Dance Theatre, hails from Akron, OH where he attended the University of Akron and Firestone High School (Akron School for the Arts). Recently recognized as 2019 “New Agent” by MOCA Cleveland, Dominic has received numerous fellowships and recognitions as an emerging artist and arts leader including: 2018 Commission by Akron Art Museum to his solo work, “CAUTION”, a 2018 Breakout Artist by the Devil Strip Magazine (Akron), 2016 National Arts Strategies (NAS) Creative Community Fellow (DC), 2016 Collen Porter Fellow (International Performing Arts for Youth), and an inaugural member of Leadership Akron’s Diversity on Board Program. Currently, Dominic is participating in National Arts Strategies Executive in Arts Leadership Program (University of Pennsylvania) to enhance his capacity in all aspects of running a successful arts & culture non-profit organization.
Dominic began his relationship with Inlet as a Trainee in the Inlet Trainee & Apprentice Program and quickly grew to Apprentice status. A year later he was promoted to Company Member. In 2014, Dominic was promoted once again to become Inlet’s Rehearsal Coordinator and was selected to be the Company Representative on Inlet’s Strategic Plan Steering Committee. This season, Dominic was appointed to be the Company Dancer representative of the Capital Campaign’s Project Leadership Team. Dominic is currently being mentored as an emerging choreographer. Under the direction of Bill Wade, Dominic has established a large-scale community based dance theatre project called “The ‘Black Card’ Project” that premiered in Sept 2018. “The ‘Black Card’ Project” is a live action dance-theatre cartoon that examines the narrow definition of blackness and the African-American ideal of the “Black Card”. Dominic is entering Phase 2 of this project which will use the show as a catalyst for economic development/diversity for “The Black American Family”; partnering with arts, education, and business institutions/corporations to create conversation around black identity, how it relates to economic development in the black community, and the solutions we can create to cultivate a more diverse pool of black professionals.
Since joining Inlet Dance Theatre, Dominic has been involved in the collaborative creative process Inlet is known for, been a lead instructor in numerous Outflow residency programs for children, and he has performed/and or taught all over the country (Cleveland, Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, East Lansing, Des Moines, etc..), including Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out series in August of 2017. Dominic feels strongly about designing, creating, and executing human centered artwork and programming for communities he works with through his practice. His long-term goal is “to become a world class artist and arts leader who understands the needs of the people. And to position myself as a beacon who can lead our communities into a time of hope, humility, trust, and radical reconciliation”.
Howard Parr has more than 25 years of professional experience in arts, entertainment, and consulting.
His work includes organizational development and strategic planning, as well as program management and event production. Howard has served as executive director of the Akron Civic Theatre since September 2007. He served as The Civic’s Director of Development and Planning from 1999 – 2004, during which he directed the capital campaign for the theater’s $22.5 million expansion and restoration project. In addition to his work on the capital campaign, he was talent buyer for in-house programming (through 2002 – 2003), as well as for the first season of Lock Three Park, an outdoor performance space immediately adjacent to the Civic Theatre.
During his time away from the theater from 2004-2007, Howard was co-producer of an original gospel, jazz and R&B musical based on the life of the Apostle Paul – which enjoyed a 36 performance run including stops in NY and Chicago. During that time, he also promoted King of the Cage mixed martial arts events and coordinated non-liturgical public programming at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland. Howard previously served as General Manager of Ohio Ballet. During his tenure at the Ballet, the company produced the cross-cultural ballet, Jungle Book: The Adventures of Mowgli, which set revenue records for both ticket sales and touring. Before joining Ohio Ballet, he served as General Manager of Cleveland Signstage Theatre where he expanded the theatre’s programming, including its first-ever national tour, bringing its production of Children of a Lesser God to more than 40 cities. Prior to moving to northeast Ohio, Howard served as General Manager of the David S. Palmer Civic Center in Danville, Illinois, a 5,000 seat multi-purpose arena and conference facility. During his tenure in Danville, and while serving as Performing Arts Coordinator at Western Illinois University in Macomb, he coordinated the programming of a wide variety of cultural and popular programs ranging from symphony orchestras and ballet companies to rock-n-roll and country concerts.
The Testa Companies is an umbrella brand that represents a collection of companies related to the real estate development industry. From design, development and construction to branding, marketing, sales, management and building maintenance.
Testa Companies was founded in 1967 with the creation of Testa Builders, Inc. and has twice made the INC Magazines list of fastest growing privately held companies in the US. Along with many other accolades both locally and nationally, Testa is the only contractor to be named Builder of the Year 4 times by the Home Builders Association. Testa’s portfolio spans several states, includes over 700 properties and more than 2 million square feet of office, retail, medical and educational facilities. Testa has developed over 6,000 mixed use and residential units and at one time was producing as many as 1,500 homes per year. They have developed several notable projects including the first aids housing facility and first vertical parade of homes site in the country along with the first for sale urban housing product in downtown Akron and the city’s first new hotel in 40 years. Most recently Cassie and her husband Joel developed The Northside Marketplace, a retail incubator that that assisted eBay in selecting Akron as the first pilot city in the US for a retail revival program and is currently being featured in a documentary about small businesses by American Express.
Cassie is a graduate of Kent State University and a licensed REALTOR in Ohio. She oversees the residential sales and leasing for Testa Companies and directly manages several properties in their Midwest portfolio. In addition to setting several performance records at Testa, she has been honored with the Rookie of the Year and Gold Sales Level awards by the Home Builders Association. She is an active member of the Akron-Cleveland Association Board of Realtors, Home Builder’s Association Board of Trustee, HBA Membership, Leadership and Engagement Committees, sits as a Board of Directors for the non-profit Formerly Homeless Foundation, which works to raise awareness of and end homelessness in Akron. Additionally, Cassie and her husband have co-chaired the Summa Sapphire Ball Corporate Committee raising over one million dollars for the Hospital Foundation.
Cassie and Joel are avid runners who enjoy traveling to new cities, spending time with their three beautiful children, and love helping to grow the Akron Community!
Kendra is a Senior Manager in the Assurance Services practice and a member of the firm’s not-for-profit core group. In this role, Kendra assists in the planning of engagements, supervising staff, reviewing financial statements, working with clients and the accounting staff to find solutions to problem areas, and developing ideas for growth.
Over her 14 years with the firm, Kendra has worked directly with numerous not-for-profit organizations performing both attestation and tax services. In addition to her not-for-profit experience, Kendra also conducts audits of 401(k) and 403(b) plans, pension plans and a wide variety of corporate engagements including manufacturing clients.
Areas of specialization include not-for-profits organizations, employee benefits, internal control review and best practices. She’s also a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Her community and philanthropic pursuits include Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation (Vice President), ATHENA Akron, Inc. (Treasurer), 2018 Women’s Endowment “For Women, Forever” Annual Dinner (Chair), 2017 Women’s Endowment Fund Biannual Forum (Committee Member), Leadership Akron Class XXXIII, United Way Young Leaders Society, Torchbearers Alumni, 2016 Greater Akron Chamber 30 For the Future Recipient
Shane Wynn is an artist/photographer from Akron, OH. Her work includes several large scale public installations displayed throughout Akron. She is a two-time Knight Arts Challenge winner. Shane was the juried award Akron Art Prize winner in 2017. She was the Arts Alive Visual Artist awardee in 2018 for Summit Art Space and most recently placed in the Parallax Contemporary Art Show as part of the FRONT Triennial Art Fair.
Shane has been a photojournalist in Akron for 24 years contributing to 15 local publications. In 2017 she was awarded first place in portraiture with an Ohio Excellence in Journalism Award by the Cleveland Press Club. In addition, she was recognized with local ADDYS in 2012, 2013, and 2018 for her contributions to local print and media. In 2016 Shane contributed photography to a campaign securing the first-place RUBY award for the Ohio Travel Association. She is a local activist, currently serving on the boards for ArtsNow, CANAPI, and The Akron Press Club. She is a graduate of the University of Akron with a Fine Arts Degree. Shane is happiest when the worlds of art and journalism collide and she is able to make expanded series reflecting social issues aligning with her beliefs. She is currently working on a project in collaboration with the North Hill CDC in Akron to create multigenerational portraits of the North Hill refugee population.
Deb is the CEO of the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Conservancy is the park’s friends group. It connects the community with the park in many ways, including managing the park’s education, volunteer and cultural arts programs. It also operates two retail stores, and raises money for park projects. She has served in this role since 2002. Prior to this she served as the director of Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center.
A national leader in the National Park Service partnership community, Deb serves as President of the NPS Friends Alliance, the network of national park friends groups. She also is on the NPS Advisory Board’s Education Committee.
Deb has a B.A. from Miami University and an M.S. in natural resources from the University of Michigan.
As a community volunteer, Deb serves on the executive committee of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in Cleveland and on the board of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus. She plays viola in the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chagrin Valley Studio Orchestra and the Hermit Club Orchestra.
Deb and her husband, Sherman Bishop, have 3 grown children.