Programs & Education Advisory Committee




As The Cowles Center looks to shape programs into the future, it is imperative that we have input from the diveristy of voices in our community. The Cowles Center formed the Programs & Education Advisory Committee in Fall 2020 with representatives who offered to provide insights, guidance, and feedback to The Cowles Center's programming - which encompasses everything from the Goodale and TEK BOX curated seasons, to community engagement initiatives for artists, and our education programs for youth to adult learners. Each of these program areas proivde different ways for the individuals we engage to grow artistically.

The Cowles Center was intentional in soliciting the participation of BIPOC individuals, LGBTQIA2+ representatives, and people with disabilities to form this committee. Committee members were chosen via an application process reviewed by the members of the Cowles Council’s Programs and Education Committee.  


The Cowles Center's 2020-2021 Programs & Education Advisory Committee members:

Amelia Hardy* is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives for Inclusion and Diversity at Best Buy. She joined the company in 2014 and has held various roles including Category Marketing Director- Home Theater & Digital Imaging, Director of Brand Marketing for Holiday, and seasonal campaigns. Most recently she was the Sr. Director Health- Enterprise Relationship Management. She has had over 20 years of strategic and P&L leadership roles at fortune 100 companies. Her career experiences include marketing, strategy, brand management, business development, product commercialization, and business management. Amelia is significantly involved within the community. Currently she serves as the Champion for the Black Employee Resource Group and serves on multiple national and community boards including the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities and Minnesota Community Care.

Outside of work, Amelia resides in Woodbury, MN and enjoys spending time with her husband and their 4 kids ranging in ages from 3 yrs old to 15 yrs old. She spends time at dance competitions, soccer and basketball games, and at the local playgrounds. *Cowles Council Member

Debra Bulluck is an Alabama native and who relocated to the Twin Cities two years ago by way of Wyoming to pursue her legal career.  She began formal dance lessons at the age of 15.  Her passion for movement grew while attending Berea College (Berea, KY) where she learned Modern, Middle Eastern Belly Dance, and West African movement.  Prior to settling in Minneapolis, Debra searched for dance opportunities and found a home at Zenon Dance School.  Currently, she serves as a volunteer in their Xchange program and is enrolled in their Zone Performance track, where she has worked with local professional dancers/choreographers.  While serving on the Advisory Committee, she aspires to help The Cowles Center reach beyond its four corners to feature hidden gems in the community who deserve a seat at the table.



Erinn Liebhard* is a dance artist making opportunities for people to experience the reflective and connective power of groove through performance and education. Having grown up dancing socially at her dad’s rock band’s gigs in the Midwestern region of the United States, she discovered young the exhilaration of playfully experiencing groove alongside others. Guided by this inspiration and a fondness for jazz and American social dance ideas, she's worked with creatives as varied as hip-hop dance theater artists Rennie Harris and the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers Appalachian clogging company. In performance, she makes and performs new staged works and presents those of others through her company Rhythmically Speaking, is a member of Afro-Brazilian contemporary company Contempo Physical Dance, and performs as self-created character “Nerdette” for St. Paul Saints Baseball’s Entertainment Team. She also creates new works for professional dance companies. Her creative works emphasize groove, interaction and improvisation, and are inspired by both social and concert dance movement while often driven by jazz music. In addition to her education work as a Cowles Center Teaching Artist and a member of the Advisory Council, she is also an active jazz dance residency artist in higher education, is faculty at St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, Winona State University, and Zenon Dance School, and is an active writer and conference presenter. She's driven to help connect people to themselves, one another and the moment through rooted and innovative embodiment of groove. *Cowles Council Member

Janis Lane-Ewart
hails from Chicago, Illinois and began her career as an arts administrator in 1977.  Her work with nonprofit organizations led her to Minneapolis, MN in 1989, where she currently resides. She has
 an extensive background as an arts administrator working with local, regional and nationally based arts organizations requiring expertise with operational management of nonprofits; grant writing/fundraising/development; strategic planning; project development; and initiation of youth-based programs, especially within communities of color. Janis has provided services to nonprofit organizations such as Arts Presenters, the Rhythm & Blues Foundation (Washington, DC); Little Black Pearl, Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; Muntu Dance Theatre (Chicago, IL); and as KFAI, Fresh Air Radio’s Executive Director for 12 years. She is also active in community service, providing guidance and/or governance locally, on the boards of the Midtown Global Market, Intermedia Arts, Ananya Dance Theatre and the KRSM-FM Advisory Board. She remains active in mentoring youth of color seeking direction and leadership towards advancing their educational and community-based careers.

Janis is currently employed as Development Officer at KBEM, Jazz88.FM (Minneapolis, MN) and engaged with varied nonprofit organizations in the Midwest as a development consultant and media producer.

Karen Long Charles* was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  She received her B.F.A. in Ballet and B.S. in Computer Science from Texas Christian University and a M.Ed. in Educational Administration from Georgia State University.  Karen studied as a fellowship recipient at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and has danced professionally with the Pittsburgh Choreography Continuum, Susan Warden Dance Company (Kansas City), and Room to Move Dance Company (Atlanta).  Karen opened a dance school (Discovering Dance) in 1996.

In 2000, Karen moved to Minneapolis, MN where she worked as Co-Principal at Perpich Arts High School (2000-2002) and was founding Principal of Main Street School of Performing Arts (2003-2010).  In 2010,  Karen  founded Threads Dance Project.  Karen’s company has had successful tours to Atlanta, GA and Philadelphia, PA; held extended residencies at Carleton College, Macalester College, University of Iowa, and University of Georgia; collaborated with Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock; was nominated for a Sage Dance Award (2015); and co-hosted McKnight International Choreographer Salia Sanou (Burkina Faso/France) Fall 2017. *Cowles Council Member

Scientist by day, dancer by night, Maia Maiden aka Rah Fyah has been a leader in the dance community for over 20 years.  A South Minneapolis native, her work as a dancer and choreographer in Hip Hop led her to create Maia Maiden Productions, a Twin Cities based arts presenter.  Established in 2009, Maiden’s curation is focused on uplifting and recognizing artists aligned with the organization’s mission to provide an equitable and engaging platform for Hip Hop, people of color (BIPOC), women and youth through performing arts. 

• Facebook: @maiamaidenproductions 




Masami Kawazato* is originally from Japan and has lived in Minnesota for the last 25 years. She is a program director at Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), the events coordinator at Bogart's Doughnut Company, and chairs the Economics Workgroup for the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL). She and her husband live in Minneapolis and are frequent attendees of arts and cultural events in the Twin Cities. *Cowles Council Member





Originally from Gary, Indiana, Melissa Clark began studying dance at the age of two. She travels both domestically and internationally to study traditional dance and rhythms, as well as the influence of historical events on the evolution of dance and culture in the Diaspora. She is the founder of COHORTS Collective, a recipient of the 2020 McKnight Dancer Fellow, and her specific interests focus on cross-cultural intersections in dance and arts.





Nancy Xiong is a Hmong American woman who was born and raised on the Northside of Minneapolis, Minnesota who identifies herself as an Open Style/Hip Hop dancer. As of today, she is one of the Co-Founder and Co-Director for Elite Family Dance team who was featured in events such as World of Dance, Prelude Midwest, Hot Indian Dance and MN State Fair.  She is one of the co-captain for GentleBaes, a sisterhood founded in 2018 and a member of an all women's collective group called S.H.E [She who Holds Everything]. On top of running two teams, she is an instructor at House of Dance - Twin Cities and a proud mother to her girl Alicestasia.



Always a dancer. Always a performance/performing arts creator. Now a patron and a very (very) active audience member, Ricardo (Richie) Torres-Rivera (he/his) is a proud Puerto Rican gay man that today calls Minnesota home. Sincea teenager, Richie has been training in various dance, body/space awareness, and performing art forms, including: Site-specific, healing voice, experimental, Alexander Technique, classical ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, contact improvisation, and mask theater. He has participated in classes and workshops with Myrna Renaud, Viveca Vázquez, Waldo Gonzalez, Deborah Hunt, Ñequi González, Olaya Muentes and Vanessa Ortiz. Ricardo comes to The Cowles Center Programs and Education Advisory 
Committee to ensure the voices of the BIPOC, the LGBTQIA2+, the Latinx, and especially the diverse and polyphonic voices from the Caribbean are represented and heard. For Richie, being part of this advisory committee means an opportunity to collaborate with other community leaders to propel the actual Education and Community Engagement programs in place and to develop new programs that will have a meaningful and significant impact in our communities. Professionally, Ricardo is an entrepreneur and owner of a technology consulting company in the life sciences industry.

Suchi Sairam
is an artist, entrepreneur, and business professional with a range of diverse experiences. She is the founder and principal of Kala Vandanam, where she shares her passion for Indian classical dance and allied arts through education, outreach, performance and presentation. She has received several grants and awards to support her work, including a Knight Arts Challenge award, a McKnight Foundation Next Step Grant, and several grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Suchi is honored to be a member of The Cowles Center Programs & Education Advisory Committee. She has served in many volunteer capacities with pleasure, including board member of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce’s (SPACC) Foundation, 2020 chair of SPACC’s Leadership St. Paul, a panel judge for the Minnesota Cup entrepreneurship competition, panelist for the Minnesota State Arts Board programs, and a panelist for the 2020 McKnight Dancer Fellowship.

Suchi holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.


Questions regarding the Programs & Education Advisory Committee should be directed to Jessi Fett, Director of Programming & Education -