Riverzedge staff share a vision with the board, volunteer corps, and youth for success, innovative capacity, a commitment to materials and resource conservation, and boundless energy to provide hope and contribution to others.

Staff

Kristen Williams, PHD, Executive Director
Kristen’s path to Riverzedge Arts has been a winding one with a perfect destination. Trained as a theatre practitioner and an academic, Kristen has been by turns a director and playwright, a published poet, and a college professor. She holds degrees in Theatre, English, and American Studies from Rhode Island College, the University of Toronto, and the University of Maryland, College Park. Coming of age in the do-it-yourself punk rock scenes of Providence and northern Rhode Island, Kristen believes strongly in the power of creativity to draw out and amplify the unique strengths of people, landscapes, and cultures to produce powerful and healthy communities. In her free time, she is an avid reader, gardener, and amateur furniture-builder, and is never happier than when she is trailing behind her dog on a hike in the woods.

Brad Fesmire, Artistic Director

Brad is an artist who’s work has been in numerous exhibitions in New York, New England and Europe. His work explores personal and universal histories through material abstraction and painting, and is constantly exploring the means to perpetuate these ideas in new directions. He was the Artistic and Program Director of Riverzedge from 2005-2015. In that role, he developed innovative arts programs, consulted on the re-design plans of the downtown for their city, collaborated on education reform initiatives, and oversaw ambitious public art projects. After spending over 4 years co-owning a specialty carpentry and sawmilling company, he felt the need and passion to return to working in the arts, social and educational sectors and returned to Riverzedge in February 2020. As this work continues, his interest in the intersection of art and social change increases as it becomes more important that art does something, and art is put to work in ways that matter...not only about contemporary culture, but how it effects communities and individuals in profound ways. He received his MFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2005.

Kelly Harlow, ELO Program Director

Kelly, a recent graduate of Rhode Island College, studied Youth Development with a concentration in Holistic and Therapeutic Development. She is passionate about social justice work through advocacy and the empowerment of underrepresented youth. Kelly believes in critical and positive youth development and leading with youth.

Kim Keiter, ScreenWorks Director
Kim received her BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Partnership with Tufts University, with a concentration in Photography and Printmaking. Kim has had an extensive career as a photographer and screen printer in both commercial and fine arts. She has taught adults and teens in both mediums through one on one direction and class environment. She has passion for the arts, teaching, community action, and social justice. She loves kitsch, true crime, cat snuggles, and all things comedy.

Sayyid Lestrade, Graphic Design Studio Director
Sayyid Lestrade is a Boston Certified comic book artist. He is a fine arts trained illustrator who studied illustration at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. His comic book titled, Mobius, explores themes of dealing with adversity and change as a teenager in a world that is constantly changing. Sayyid’s work is heavily character design inspired and explores storytelling through symbols and imagery. His work covers a number of mediums such as painting, printmaking, digital art, physical drawings, typography, and graphic design. Sayyid has worked in the past with Boston Public Schools creating artwork with elementary school students in Roxbury, gaining his Boston Artist Certification in 2018. In 2019 Sayyid moved to Rhode Island with hopes of continuing his art career in a whole new environment.

Rhiannon White, ELO Americorps VISTA
Rhiannon White graduated from Denison University with a BA in English and Theatre in 2017. She spent the next two years working as a Youth Services Assistant at a public library where she designed programs for tweens and homeschoolers. Her most memorable program involved teaching kids how to survive a zombie apocalypse! A native of southeastern Ohio, Rhiannon moved to Rhode Island after becoming an Americorps VISTA (bringing along her cat, Dragon). She is excited to work with the students of Woonsocket High and discover all they have to offer.

Beck Gardner, Youth Development Americorps VISTA
Beck is an artist, working primarily with pencil, ink and gouache. He graduated from University of California Santa Cruz in 2011. Since then he has acquired a variety of work experience in the fields of art, logistics, and social work. As the Riverzedge Youth Development Americorps VISTA, he combines his work experience, passion for art, empathetic nature, and his desire to empower those around him to provide both academic and leadership support to participants.

Board of Directors

Mark Cote, President

Affiliations: Community Care Alliance

Mark is currently a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, working as Director of Child Welfare at Community Care Alliance.  Originally from rural Maine, he moved to Vermont to obtain his B.A. and M.A. from Saint Michael’s College, a small Liberal Arts College outside Burlington, Vermont.  Through his work in Woonsocket at CCA he became familiar with Riverzedge Arts and referred many youth to the program, and then in his desire to become more invested in the program, he decided to join the Board of Directors in 2016.  He soon after became Board Chair in the Summer of 2017. His work as a therapist, particularly working with at-risk youth, has contributed to the development as a program working to provide the youth of Woonsocket a safe and stimulating environment that helps to meet several social-emotional needs.

Dennise Kowalczyk, Interim Secretary/Treasurer

Affiliations: CTD Creative Consulting LLC - Owner

Dennise is a multipotentialite who divides her time between growing her consulting business with producing a podcast and convening groups of people to get the most out of life. She got her start in the world of community radio as a volunteer at XPN in Philadelphia, PA and really went to town with her passion at KBOO Community Radio in Portland, OR. Currently, she manages a small business called CTD Creative Consulting and produces content for other small businesses. She hosts and produces a podcast called Artclectic New England. The podcast is a sharing of her discoveries and includes conversational, curiosity-driven interviews. She is the founder of Dames Who Dine PVD, a monthly dining club for women and also the co-founder of the RI Podcasters Meet Up group. She moved to the New England area from the Pacific Northwest in the summer of 2018 and fell in love with her new home in the Ocean State. Living in Providence has opened up one adventure after the next to explore what the region offers in arts & culture.

Somphone Savasit, Member

Somphone is originally from California and moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island in 1995. Both personally and professionally, she strives “to become the change [she] wants to see in the world”. Somphone is passionate and motivated about improving self and community. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees in Social Work from Rhode Island College and is currently enrolled in a Post-Graduate Trauma Certificate Program at the Boston University School of Social Work. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working as a Therapeutic Foster Care Clinician at Community Care Alliance. Somphone previously worked at Center for Southeast Asians which she benefits with helping her deepen her expertise with working with multicultural communities. In her spare time, Somphone enjoys volleyball, yoga, chocolate and spicy foods.

James Tierney, Member

Affiliations: Ocean State Business Development 1st Vice President

James joined OSBDA in October 2015, and serves the role of 1st Vice President.  Currently, James is responsible for business development, loan packaging, and portfolio management. Prior to joining OSBDA, James worked for Coastway Community Bank as a Commercial Credit Analyst. At Coastway, James was responsible for both SBA and non-SBA loan underwriting and portfolio management. James is a graduate of Bryant University, where he received his Bachelor of Science with a concentration in finance. James has also received a certification from the Mass. Bankers Association.

Mark Sheldon, Member

Mark has spent his career as a creative professional working for large corporate and non-profit businesses. He is currently employed at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island as Lead Multimedia Designer for internal communications. He obtained his B.F.A. from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Photography and Electronic Imaging. Mark believes in communication through design. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and strategiesas a mentor to company interns to help them build a creative portfolio within a business environment. Knowing that his interns leave with a portfolio that can help them land a job is his greatest satisfaction. He loves hearing back from them when they share what they’re doing with their career. Mark currently resides on North Attleboro MA with his wife, two children and one giant dog. When he’s not working he enjoys traveling, writing and supporting local theater and restaurants in PVD.

Linda Hutchison, Member

Linda Hutchison, Board Member, currently serves as the Grants Manager for the United Way of Rhode Island, where she is responsible for seeking out and securing funding for programs and research efforts of the organization. Linda has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit management including positions in fundraising, workforce development, formal and informal STEM education at the Museum of Science, Boston, Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board and Bristol Community College. Linda holds a BS in Human Resource Management with a minor in Women’s Studies from UMass-Dartmouth.

Anna Amoiradaki, Member

Anna is the Front Line Business Development Manager in diversified B2B industries, securing, cultivating and managing new revenue through skilled outbound sales strategy, extensive lead generation, overseeing the whole cycle of the sales process from RFP submission, to proposal writing and finally contract negotiation. She also sits on the Marketing Committee for the Barrington Spring Community Center.

Elizabeth Santana, Member

Liz is a proud resident of Woonsocket and mother of three daughters. One of those three daughters was a long time youth participant at Riveredge where she was involved in a myriad of environmentally focussed projects. Liz a true believer of what the organization stands for and the influence they have to the students. She currently works full-time as a case manager at Community Care Alliance and it is her utmost belief and passion that she works to motivate and help families overcome obstacles to reach their goals.