who we are
staff & board
Meet the staff and board of UAC.
Meet the staff and board of UAC.
Lauren Kennedy has been working at the Urban Art Commission (UAC) as Executive Director since January 2015. Kennedy brings to the organization extensive project and event management experience and a sincere enthusiasm for contemporary art. In this role, she has been invited to speak at WESTAF's Future History of Public Art Symposium in Honolulu, Hawai'i, ArtBAB (Art Bahrain Across Borders) in Manama, Bahrain, and UNFOLD in Dubai, UAE about public art processes and the current state of public art in America.
She was previously the Partnership Manager for Ballet Memphis, where she focused on collaborative projects and opportunities with creative individuals and other organizations around Memphis. Prior to Ballet Memphis, Kennedy was the Program Manager for the Dallas Art Fair, overseeing the various logistics of the three-day, contemporary art fair. Kennedy was also the founder and director of Southfork - Memphis, an alternative space for art and conversation from 2015 - 2017. She was a Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts Fellow at Rhodes College where she received a Bachelor's of Art in Art History in 2008. Kennedy was named one of Memphis' 20<30 by the Memphis Flyer in 2014 for her contributions to the local creative community and a 2016 Young Cultural Innovators Fellow with Salzburg Global Seminar.
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Ebony Archie joined the UrbanArt Commission in August 2018 and is a Memphissippian who has a love for the cultural landscape of urban Southern cities. She has an extensive background in community building, fostering partnerships, and facilitating projects for non-profits across Memphis. Ebony studied History with a minor in Africana Studies at Rhodes College, which led her to fall in love with the complex narrative of Memphis and other cities likened to it. As a passionate lover of creativity, she currently curates a blog dedicated to the ways we create joy in our lives while highlighting artists across the South. She believes in the power of storytelling and looks forward to uplifting the experiences and value art has on our everyday lives.
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Brett Hanover is a filmmaker and media arts teacher from Memphis, who began working with the UrbanArt Commission in 2018. Brett brings to UAC his experience as an instructor in after-school and university art programs, and as a community media organizer, working with Kartemquin Films, Access Humboldt, and the Mozilla Youth Media Project. As a filmmaker, his work explores outsider art, neurodiversity, queer virtual communities, and the power of love. His documentaries and collaborative narrative projects have been exhibited at venues including the SXSW Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Indie Memphis, and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Brett received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and an MFA from the University of Illinois.
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Shanette Parks joined UrbanArt Commission in February 2019 with a desire to utilize the healing capacity of art as a bridge builder for the immense diversity in the city of Memphis, TN. With recent experiences as Creative Operations Officer for True Artists Recognition (T.A.R.) Networks, in Los Angeles, CA, she is excited to bring keen insight on implementing creative ways to achieve each and every goal in UAC’s strategic plan. Her passion and expertise offer a fresh perspective for cultivating the city’s potential in art programming and developing real relationships between artists and neighborhoods. Her educational background at Dillard University (B.S., Biology/Chemistry) and University of Memphis (M.B.A, Entrepreneurship/Marketing) have provided tools to help see the micro and macro effects art has in enhancing the well-being of the city-at-large. She is a multi-faceted writer, including screenplays and a blog on the art of self care. Having grown up in Memphis, Shanette is invigorated to be back where her roots are and plant new seeds along side the UAC family.
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A.M. O’Malley-Miller is a writer and visual artist with a passion for arts access for all. She is a Literary Arts Writers in the Schools teaching fellow, a Young Audiences Teaching Artist fellow, a Regional Arts and Culture Council grant recipient and winner of the Skidmore Prize for outstanding work in the non-profit sector. In 2012, A.M. started a writing and publishing program at the Columbia River Correctional Institution and taught incarcerated men there for six years. From 2007-2018, A.M. worked at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC), an arts non-profit in Portland, OR, ending her tenure there as the Executive Director. A.M.'s first full length book of hybrid poem-memoir Expecting Something Else was published in 2016. She lives in the Berclair neighborhood with her husband, a native Memphian, and their son, Maxwell.
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The UrbanArt Commission is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its Board of Directors sets its operating policies, organization by-laws, guides private fundraising efforts, and determines the annual operating budget. Furthermore, it serves as the primary body for determining how best to fulfill the organization's mission of enhancing the cultural vibrancy of communities through the development of public art.
Dr. Russ Wigginton, Ed Wallis III, Harley Steffens, Kojo McLennon (Vice Chair), Mary Haizlip (Chair), Chantal Drake (Secretary), Natalie Chamoun (Treasurer), Amelia Thompson, Joel Parsons, Nefertiti Orrin, Laura Gray McCann, Desiree Lyles Wallace
Mary Haizlip is an architect and principal of Haizlip Studio, one of the top design firms of museums and discovery centers dedicated to the education of children and families. She is a native Memphian and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Engineering Technology from The UoM. Mary parlayed her considerable talents in math, science, and design into management expertise and inspired art direction for complex architecture and exhibit design projects. After graduating from Leadership Memphis in 2009, Mary broadened her professional interest in educating children into a volunteer interest in improving the lives of children in danger. She became actively involved with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that trains and supports community volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the Juvenile Court system and served as a CASA board member. Mary also serves as a volunteer Ambassador for the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, helping promote public awareness and Stewards of Children training which works to prevent child sexual abuse. She served on the Board of Directors for the Memphis and West TN chapter of American Institute of Architects (AIA) since 2011 and in 2015 led the organization as President. She is currently a board member of the TN state chapter of the AIA. In 2012, Mary developed and organized the Architect’s Bike Tour to promote community wellness through art and architecture. Alongside fellow board member, Kerry Hayes, Mary was a part of the Bosco’s Cycling Team, raising funds for the National MS Society. She is also a member of the Marx-Bensdorf competitive cycling team. She and her husband, Reb, live in midtown Memphis.
Dr. Russ Wigginton is Vice President for the Office of External Programs at Rhodes College. In this role, Dr. Wigginton oversees college grants, foundations and government relations, career services, fellowships and continuing education. Previously he was a professor in the History department at Rhodes from 1996-2004, specializing in African-American and community history. Dr. Wigginton earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Rhodes College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2006 Dr. Wigginton published a book entitled, “The Strange Career of the Black Athlete: African-Americans and Sports” with Greenwood Press. He has also published articles and essays on African-American social history. Dr. Wigginton’s civic involvement includes Big Brothers Big Sisters, Memphis Zoological Society, KIPP Academy and Memphis Prep Program. Besides serving on the UrbanArt Commisson’s Board of Director, he also serves on the board for Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Memphis and the National Civil Rights Museum. He was formerly on the board of Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, Memphis Literacy Council, St. Georges′ Day Schools and Buckman Boys and Girls Club.
Ed Wallis III practices exclusively in civil trial litigation as a Partner with the firm of Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox P.C. in Memphis where he represents both individual and corporate clients in a number of litigation practice areas, including professional negligence, construction litigation, products liability, business litigation, probate and trust litigation and more. Mr. Wallis is licensed in Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky and has appeared on behalf of clients in the courts of 13 separate states from California to Massachusetts. Mr. Wallis obtained the AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, an acknowledgment by other attorneys that he possesses the highest level of professional excellence. He has likewise been voted as a Mid-South Super Lawyer since 2012. Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Wallis clerked for the Hon. S. Thomas Anderson, currently a United States District Judge in the Western District of Tennessee. He earned his B.S. degree from the University of Tennessee and his J.D. degree from the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law.
Harley Steffens understands the need to negotiate and advise, and he does so regularly for his clients with regard to office, industrial, and retail leasing, as well as acquisition and disposition of real property. His practice, though focused in real estate, has included general corporate transactions, health care, and securities matters. Harley represents commercial real estate developers, public and private corporations, investment companies, family offices, and lending institutions including state and national banks and insurance companies. Development clients include local, regional, and national developers, as well as landlord and tenants in retail, industrial, and office leases. A transactional lawyer, Harley is licensed in Tennessee and Mississippi, and his areas of practice include commercial real estate development and general corporate representation among others. He is a member of the Tennessee, Mississippi, and the Memphis Bar Associations. Harley is a graduate of the University of Georgia and the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he was an editor for the Law Review. Harley serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Mid-South Food Bank. Other civic involvement includes St. Johns Church, ArtsMemphis / Conservation Through Art, Ducks Unlimited, and Delta Waterfowl.
Kojo McLennon is a Portfolio Manager at Gerber Taylor, a Memphis-based diversified investment manager specializing in alternative asset management for high net worth individuals, families, endowments, and foundations. Mr. McLennon joined Gerber Taylor in 2008 and is responsible for managing the firm's private equity and real estate portfolios. He earned his bachelor's degree in Finance from the University of Dayton, and his MBA from Wake Forest University. Mr. McLennon currently serves on the boards of Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association and Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and is past board Chairman of Freedom Preparatory Academy charter school.
Desiree Lyles Wallace is a native Memphian. She currently works as an HR Professional in the Greater Memphis Area. Prior to her work in human resources, she was an educator in what was then Memphis City Schools. Desiree earned her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies for Professional Education (Elementary Education) from Christian Brothers University and her MBA from American Intercontinental University. She also holds both the PHR and HR-CP certifications. In addition to serving on the Urban Art Commission’s Board of Directors, Desiree also serves on the boards of Porter Goodwill Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis (past chair) and Freedom Prep Charter Schools. Desiree, her husband (Ezell), and their Yorkshire Terrier (Collins) reside in the Greater Memphis area.
Chantal Drake manages branding and marketing strategies for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens as the Director of Communications. Prior to her current role she worked as Communications Associate for the Dixon, an Adjunct Professor at the Memphis College of Art, and as gallery manager for a commercial art gallery in New Orleans, LA. Chantal received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She earned her M.A. in Art History and a Museum Studies Certificate from the University of Memphis. Chantal is a member of the National Arts Marketing Project Conference Committee, and was previously on the Emmett O'Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration Nominating Committee and Association of African-American Art Museums Conference planning committee. She is the Community of Practice Accessibility Coordinator for Museums and the Web and is active on the St Georges Independent School Parent Association Board.
Natalie Chamoun is a Trust Officer at First Tennessee Bank. She is a native Memphian, and earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from The University of Mississippi. She has been in the finance industry for over 8 years and joined the First Tennessee Trust Department in 2013. Natalie holds the Certified Trust and Financial Advisor designation, and is responsible for administering and managing trust accounts. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Bankers and very active in the community.
Amelia Thompson joined Ballet Memphis in 2017 as the associate director of development after serving as assistant director of annual giving at Rhodes College in Memphis as well as at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. She spent three years in the buying office at Macy’s, working out of the retail brand's iconic Herald Square hub in New York City, where she gained experience in corporate merchandising, marketing and financial planning. Amelia manages the annual fund for Ballet Memphis as well as helps with major gifts. She is a graduate of White Station High School in Memphis and is an active alumna of The University of Notre Dame. Amelia is a volunteer at Girls Inc. of Memphis and is a former member of the Black Alumni of Notre Dame's board of directors.
Joel Parsons is an artist, curator, and teacher based in Memphis, where he is an Assistant Professor of Art and Director of Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College. His artistic practice centers queer intimacy, and has been shown at Yale University’s Greene Gallery; Western Exhibitions in Chicago, IL; and the Yerba Buena Art Center Triennial in San Francisco, CA. He is the co-founder of Beige, an alternative gallery and performance space devoted to the work of queer artists and a founding member and current co-chair of the ArtsMemphis Artist Advisory Council. His country music performance art band, The Dixie Dicks, recently released their first album, VERS. His curatorial practice is often collaborative and driven by a desire to bring institutional resources to bear on conversations of equity and marginality. Recent projects include The Weight of Hope, No Fate But What You Make: Art and Queer Spirituality, Faith Wilding: Fearful Symmetries, and Rashayla Marie Brown: Supreme Being. As a Thomas J Watson Fellow he spent a year studying relational aesthetics in emerging contemporary art centers. He received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Nefertiti Orrin is a native Memphian whose passion for Education has led her to become the Grants Director at Community LIFT. Her work is fueled by her deep belief that empowered and engaged people can bring about transformative change in the communities where they live, work, and play. With over fifteen years experience as an educator and a champion for education reform, Nefertiti took on leadership roles with United Way, The New Teacher Project, and Partners in School Innovation based in Chicago. Prior to joining Community LIFT, she was the Managing Director of Alumni Leadership for Teach for America and was handpicked to present on Alumni Engagement at the annual TFA Alumni Leadership Conference. Her mission is to ensure there are targeted resources funneled to under-resourced neighborhoods to create sustainable and thriving communities.
Laura Gray is the Assistant Director of the Memphis Chapter of The American Institute of Architects, where since 2017 she has been responsible for assisting in day-to-day operations, internal and external communications, partnerships, continuing education programs and events of the Chapter, which serves nearly 300 architect members and over 80 corporate partners. Prior to joining AIA Memphis, Laura Gray spent five years in the curatorial department at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, TN, where she played a crucial role in the organization and production of exhibitions traveling to the Dixon, the research and development of Dixon-originated exhibitions and catalogues, and the interpretation of the Dixon’s permanent collections. Laura Gray is a graduate of Rhodes College and holds an M.Litt. in the History of Art and Art World Practice from Christie's Education in London, UK, and a certificate in Art and Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. She is also a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and spends her free time teaching yoga.
UrbanArt's development would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of its Board supporters throughout its history. The following individuals have been instrumental to fulfilling UrbanArt's mission.
Tonya Meeks, Rachel Knox, Lee West Morris, Andrew Phillips, Joel Halperm, Anna Wunderlich, Marina Pacini, Robert Fogelman, Charles Shipp, Kristin Newman, Kevin Sharp, Amanda Goetze, Jim Lenschau, Kim Williams, Mary Jane Fuller, Jason Yarboro, Jeff Hudson, Krystal Johnson, Susan Adler-Thorpe, Kathy Albers, Barbara Andrews, Regena Bearden, Jack Belz, Patricia Bladon, Earl Blankenship, Rusty Bloodworth, Kirkpatrick Bobo, Doug Carpenter, Coleman Coker, Carol Coletta, Shannon Dixon, Phil Dotson, Hallie Elliot, Jay Etkin, Barbara Feibelman, Mott Ford, Michelle Fowlkes, Diane Goldstein, Leslie Gower, Cynthia Ham, Nicole Haney, Iris Harkavy, Sutton Mora Hayes, Will Hergenrader, Ethele Hilliard, Carey Hoffman, George Hunt, Kristi Jernigan, Chris Jones, Tom Jones, Dan Keel, Anne Keesee, John Kelley, Angie King, Brian Kuhn, Lisa Kurts, Scott Ledbetter, Baylor Ledbetter-Stovall, Mary Lowery, Leslie Leubbers, Jim Lutz, Jermoe Makowsky, Susan Mallory, Rick Masson, David McCarthy, Janie McCrary, Anne McGrew, Bryan Miller, Brenda Morris Partee, Dexter Muller, Greely Myatt, Jeffery Nesin, Alan New, Jackie Nichols, Robert Norcross, Chip Pankey, Beverly Perkins, Ken Plunk, Ray Pohlman, Biggs Powell, Linda Rendtorff, Frank Ricks, Diane Rudner, Nichole Saulsberry-Scarboro, Leslie Saunders, Ray Schultz, Peggy Seessel, Narquenta Sims, Ritchie Smith, Gregory Smithers, Ed Stanton, Melissa Taylor, Michael Thompson, Caroll Todd, Bob Towery, Ephraim Urevbu, Lisa Vasser, Jim Wallace, Robert Werle, Rosalyn Willis, and Luke Yancy.
UrbanArt's Advisory Council provides expertise and insight in areas relevant to the development of the organization and its efforts in the fields of public art education, non-profit fundraising, private development, and community projects.
Advisory Council members: Jen Andrews, Sandra Burke, Darrell Cobbins, Shannon Dixon, Mott Ford, Katherine Gore, Jerome Makowsky, Nichole Saulsberry-Scarboro, Marc Willis, and Dr. Cathy Wilson.