Staff and Board of Directors
Our staff and board is as varied as the art for which we find a voice. It includes:
- Arts Administrators
- Community Advocates
- Business Professionals
We strive to maintain an appropriate mix of professionals and executives in the arts, practicing artists, and business and community leaders who support the arts in their communities and across the state.
Susan McKinney, Director
Susan McKinney is an arts administrator, artist, and entrepreneur. Originally from Upper Northeast Tennessee, she has returned to live in the Appalachian region she calls home. Susan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design from East Tennessee State University and returned to the same institution a few years later to graduate with a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and received the MPA Outstanding Student Award. After working in project management, McKinney returned to the classroom at Savannah College of Art and Design, where she received scholarships in Academic Excellence and Artistic Excellence and graduated with a Master of Arts Administration degree.
Susan continues to be a working artist, owning and operating Susan McKinney Fine Art, where she works in a variety of media and produces original works of art including hand-bound books, paintings, photography, fabric design, and mixed media pieces. She is also an experienced ceramicist and weaver.
For over twenty years, McKinney has worked with and for arts organizations across the country, including museums, live theatre, galleries, municipal cultural arts departments, etc. and believes that collaboration and flexibility are important components for success in these times. She currently serves on the founding committee for the Upper East Tennessee Regional Arts & Cultural Alliance and serves on the ETSU Master of Public Administration Advisory Board.
Another passion of Susan’s is fitness and well-being. She completed a Half-Ironman in 2015, which is a 70.3-mile race, and continues to compete in triathlons. Believing that high-quality food contributes to overall wellness, Susan launched Small Batch Farm where she grows organic fruits and vegetables and markets to local restaurants and sells direct-to-consumers at a “locally-grown” farmer’s market. “Growing beautiful, nutritious food is just another form of art,” says McKinney. “It is all connected, as we are all connected.”
Molly Pratt, Government & Community Relations Consultant
Drawing upon more than 30 years’ experience in government relations at the state, federal and local level, Molly Pratt helps clients develop successful lobbying strategies to solve legislative and regulatory issues. Strategic planning and message development aimed at both elected officials and community audiences is part of her expertise. In addition, clients use her extensive experience to help them build community support, develop targeted communications strategies or to assist in the development of funding strategies.
Pratt has held a variety of government and public relations positions since joining Tennessee State Government in 1979. During her tenure with State Government, she worked as a legislative assistant to former TN Governor Lamar Alexander. She also worked on a variety of health care issues and helped launch the first public affairs office within the Bureau of Health Services for the TN Department of Health and Environment. She joined the TN Health Care Association as its chief lobbyist and PAC fundraiser in 1986.
In addition to her work in state government, during the 80’s Pratt worked in a number of political campaigns. She was chief aide to TN First Lady Honey Alexander during Governor Alexander’s 1982 reelection campaign — a role she repeated as a consultant to Alexander’s 2002 US Senate campaign. She was the state director for the Reagan-Bush Campaign in 1984 and worked as the coordinator of voter programs at the Tennessee Republican Party.
In 1989, Pratt moved to Washington DC and worked as a private consultant before joining the Association of Women's Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses in 1993 as the Director of Communications, Marketing, and Fund Development. A “contract” trainer with The National Women’s Political Caucus, Pratt helped design and present political “how to” workshops in more than 30 states.
Pratt returned to her hometown of Knoxville in 1995 and worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority as part of TVA’s “Valley Relations” team, the government relations staff responsible for building strong ties to local elected officials in the seven states that TVA serves. She joined Knox County Government in June 1996 and served in the County Executive’s Office as Director of Government and Community Relations. Since 2003, Pratt has represented a variety of clients as a contract lobbyist.
In addition to serving on the boards of numerous community and arts groups, Pratt served as chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission in 2004. A graduate of Leadership Knoxville, for several years Pratt served as a chapter advisor to her college fraternity, Chi Omega, Pi Chapter at the University of Tennessee.
Board of Directors
Susan Robinson, President, Chattanooga, TN
Susan Robinson retired from the Southern Lit Alliance in July 2015 where she served as Executive Director for 23 years. Through her tenure at So Lit, she helped create and grow the organization’s literary arts programs in the Chattanooga community especially its signature program the Celebration of Southern Literature. She also served for 10 years as the volunteer Executive Director/Secretary/Treasurer of the Fellowship of Southern Writers—an extraordinary group of award-winning Southern writers—before stepping down last July.
Robinson currently serves as a panelist for the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Inter-Arts grants review team. She has previously served onTAC’sArts Education Community Learning panel, and has reviewed literary grants for the regional arts organization,SouthArts. Robinson holds a B.S. from the University of Tennessee in Business Administration. She is a member of the Chattanooga Public Library Board of Directors, is a board member of the UT-Chattanooga Chancellor’s Roundtable, serves on the development committee of the Center for Mindful Living, holds membership in the Tennessee Presenters’ Corporation (where she was a founding member), and is Past-President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Southeastern Tennessee chapter.
Noah Spiegel, Past-President, Nashville, TN
Noah E. Spiegel is a nonprofit leader, arts advocate and executive with over twenty-five years’ experience in nonprofit management and arts administration.Currently, he serves as the Managing Director at Nashville Children’s Theatre the nation's oldest continually operating theatre for young audiences, driving the organization's work to empower youth through theatre training and access to the arts.From 2012-16, Mr. Spiegel served as the Executive Director of Nashville Opera where he eliminated the organization’s accrued debt, increased contributed revenues by over 30%, and increased government funding by 5%. Recognized as an innovator in community engagement strategies, Noah’s work has brought together diverse agencies to deliver compelling civic enrichment programs with results beyond the scope of one agency working on its own, such as developing the nation’s first sensory friendly opera program for children on the autism spectrum. A committed advocate for equitable access to the arts, Noah was a member of Nashville's inaugural REAL: Racial Equity in Arts Leadership cadre, and built meaningful relationships with minority and economically disadvantaged communities that dramatically expanded engagement in the arts. His work was recognized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce with their 2015 Leadership in the Arts award. Prior to coming to Nashville, for eight seasons, he served as the Director of Production for Tulsa Opera following a high-profile stage management career including theatre, ballet, symphony and opera productions at some of the nation’s leading arts institutions. He has spoken at or served on panels for the NEA, OPERA America, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Arts and Business Council of Nashville, and Americans for the Arts. As a speaker and facilitator, Noah has led leadership and organizational development sessions on generational diversity, visioning for agency growth, cultural curiosity and competency, and revenue development and alignment strategies.In addition to his work with TFTA, he is the co-chair of Nashville Arts Coalition. He has served on the boards of the Stage Manager’s Association, Oklahoma BizPac, and Oklahomans for Equality. He is a member of American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), Society of Human Resource Administrators national and Middle Tennessee chapters. In addition to his agency leadership and policy work, he operates a private consulting practice implementing best practices for nonprofits, and is affiliated with Nashville's Center for Nonprofit Management. He attended the University of Southern Maine, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in technical theatre, and received his master’s in fine arts in stage management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Rachel Salter, Secretary, Cookeville, TN
Rachel Salter, a native of Knoxville, TN, graduated from Tennessee Tech University in 2014 with her Bachelor’s degree in cello performance under the study of Dan Allcott. Rachel truly believes that when a town or city has strong arts programs present, the community as a whole benefits and there is a more defined sense of togetherness within that community.
Mrs. Salter began working for the Bryan Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 2012, as the music librarian, and began playing as a section cellist with the symphony in 2013 while receiving scholarship from the University. In 2014 she took over the role of box office manager while also handling many daily operations and management tasks for the symphony. Rachel was thrilled to be named the Interim Executive Director of the BSO in March of 2016.
Mrs. Salter is very involved with the Tennessee Tech University music department and volunteers at many community arts organization events in Cookeville every year. She is an active member of the Westside Business Association and of the Cookeville Arts Council. Rachel is also very involved with the Sewanee Summer Music Festival in Sewanee, Tennessee. She began interning with the festival in the summer of 2014 and this past season was named the Director of Operations for the festival. Rachel truly loves her work at both organizations and feels incredibly lucky to have been given so many opportunities to work within her desired field of arts administration.
When not working for the Bryan Symphony or the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, Rachel teaches private cello lessons at a local music school in Cookeville, TN. She also plays in and manages a very active quartet, The Orfeo String Quartet, of which she has been a member since 2011 and the manager of since 2013. Rachel and her husband, Kevin, are very involved at the First United Methodist Church in Cookeville and help run many of the music programs at the church. Rachel is always looking for new opportunities to expand her arts community network and is always excited to hear of new ideas and projects from other arts administrators and arts supporters in other communities around the nation.
Bob Willie, Treasurer, Chattanooga, TN
Bob Willie is the Executive Director of the Chattanooga Ballet. He is a native of New York and began his career as assistant director to “Tony” award winning director/producer Joe Layton. He received his B.S. degree from East Carolina University where he was the recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship for excellence in theater performance.
He continued his training in the M.F.A. Acting/Directing program at the University of Louisville and at H.B. Studios in New York under the tutelage ofUtaHagan and Charles Nelson Reilly. As an actor, director and fight choreographer, Bob has over sixty professional credits ranging from Shakespeare to musical comedy. Bob has directed several productions for the ChattanoogaTheatreCentre, including On Golden Pond, Last Night of Ballyhoo, Moon Over Buffalo and A Lovely Sunday forCreveCouer, which each received the Miss Annie Award for Outstanding Production in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003, respectively.
Rhea Condra, Vice President – Middle Tennessee, Gallatin, TN
Rhea is a life long resident of Gallatin Tennessee and has served as a volunteer in Gallatin and Middle Tennessee organizations for 40 years. Much of her volunteer focus has been with organizations serving women, children and families including TRAC House, CASA, Department of Human Services Child Abuse Team, and the American Cancer Society. Rhea was also a founding member of The Gallatin Junior Service League and for the past 15 years has been a member of the Sumner County Library Board. She has also been a member of the Warioto Regional Library Board and served as a member of the Executive Board of the Gallatin Downtown Library Committee. Rhea had her own fashion consulting business for 15 years. Rhea was a member of the Tennessee Arts Commission from 2009 until 2014 and was Chair of the Arts Commission in 2013-14. Rhea has been a member of the Tennesseans for the Arts Board of Directors since 2011.
Rhea is married to Dennis L. Condra and has two grown sons and five grandchildren. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and gardening.
Leigh Patton, Vice President – Middle Tennessee, Nashville, TN
Leigh Patton has worked for 20 years in community engagement in the public and private sectors. Key areas of expertise include nonprofit organizational support, partnerships, collaborations, project/program planning, grant writing, proposal development, and training. For ten years, Patton managed the community arts programs at the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metro Arts Commission, distributing $18 million in public funding for the arts to hundreds of nonprofit grantees. In her current role at Metro Nashville Public Schools, Patton supports the full-service community school model, reinforcing the link between parents, schools and local business, nonprofit and volunteer resources. She is active in arts consulting, and is a dedicated arts advocate throughTFTAand the Nashville Arts Coalition.
Ann Looney, Vice President – East Tennessee, Crossville, TN
Ann K. Looney lives Crossville, Tennessee where she is a private piano teacher and accompanist at Crossville First United Methodist Church. Ann grew up in Vonore, Tennessee and graduated from Vonore High School. Ann holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee, where majored in flute and minored in piano in Music Education. She was President of ZTA and involved in music in a variety of ways including being a member of the Concert Band and the UT Orchestra. Ann taught music in Crystal River, Florida and taught Kindergarten in Bamberg, Germany and in Kingsport, Tennessee. She previously served as Choir Director at Crossville FUMC, was President of PTA, and the Jaycerettes. Ann also served on the Tennessee Arts Commission in 2007, representing Tennessee District 4.
As a result of a TAC workshop in Paris, TN, Ann was inspired to create an arts networking group in Cumberland County. “Arts Roundup” meets the first Tuesday of every month and is a place where everyone can share their successes, upcoming activities, distribute flyers, and connect with other arts groups and supporters in the community. The group also often hosts guest speakers. Arts Roundup has grown to include approximately twenty five organizations being represented at the monthly meetings with a growing email list.
Ann is married to Tom E. Looney, a Crossville attorney. She has three children; Ruth Ann, Tom K, and Scott, as well as three grandchildren; Tyler, Kennedy, and Sarah.
Kiran SinghSirah, Vice President – East Tennessee,Jonesborough, TN
KiranSinghSirahis President of the International Storytelling Center (ISC), an educational and cultural institution dedicated to enriching the lives of people around the world through storytelling.ISCorganizes the world’s premiere storytelling event, the National Storytelling Festival, and supports applied storytelling initiatives across a wide variety of industries. Prior to his appointment atISC,Kirandeveloped a number of award-winning peace-building programs in cultural centers across the UK. As an artist, folklorist, teacher, and advocate for social justice, he has used the power of human creativity to establish dialogue. An advisory member to UNESCO and a Rotary Peace fellow, he has developed educational programs and publications, articles, talks and conference papers about interdisciplinary approaches to relationship building in communities and around the globe.
Melinda Hearn, Vice President — West Tennessee, Jackson, TN
Melinda Hearn began serving as the Executive Director of the Jackson Arts Council in May 2013. As a graduate from Mississippi State, she used her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to develop her career as a graphic artist for Porter-Cable/Delta and DeVilbiss. Subsequently, she has served as the community representative for the American Cancer Society Mid South Division since 2008 where she worked with volunteers, donors, and survivors in Madison County, Chester County and Gibson-Humboldt. Her responsibilities included Relay For Life and Runway For A Cure. Melinda served as an intern for Jackson Arts Council in 1998 where she coordinated and instructed a free children’s art camp and helped designed promotional materials such as Hal Halbrook’s Mark Twain performance at The Ned.
Melinda is a native of Jackson and is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Jackson. She enjoys giving back to her community that has provided her with great opportunities. Melinda serves as West Tennessee Vice President for Tennesseans for the Arts, Jackson Rotary Club Communications Committee, Women in Business Committee, Leadership University Board, Jackson Cotillion Club New Member Educator, West TN Mississippi State Alumni Association Social Chairman, Boys and Girls Club, and American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event volunteer. She has served as a grant panelist for the TN Arts Commission, is currently serving as a UT Martin Jackson Advisory Board Member, is on the Publicity Committee for Jackson International Food & Art Festival, the Season of Unity Art Exhibit Committee, and is an ArtmadisonAchieves and tnAchieves Mentor. She proudly supports art events, cheering on Mississippi State Bulldogs, and enjoys painting in her free time.
Parke Kennedy, Vice President — West Tennessee, Memphis, TN
Parke Kennedy joined ArtsMemphis in 2013. In her role as Donor Relations & Grant Manager, she has worked passionately to raise money, awareness, and support for the arts In Memphis and Shelby County. For the last three years she has served as ArtsMemphis’ administrator for the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Arts Build Communities grant program for Tipton, Shelby, Lauderdale, and Fayette counties. She has worked extensively with donors, artists, chefs, and volunteers to produce ArtsMemphis’ Culinary Series fundraising dinners and the innovative Conservation Through Arts events. These events have been critical to ArtsMemphis’ efforts to raise funds to support over 65 arts organizations and a dozen individual artists.
Raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Parke speaks fluent Portuguese. She graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts with a BA in International Relations and Economics, and a minor in Anthropology. She received an MA in International Relations and an MA in Communications from Boston University prior to moving to Atlanta, Georgia. There, Parke worked for several years at the Southern Center for International Studies conducting research on international political, economic, and cross-cultural issues for briefs, seminars, and public television productions. Upon the birth of her daughters, she temporarily retired but became actively involved in St. George’s Independent School in Memphis, serving on the Parents Association Board, co-chairing the St. George’s Art Show and various other fundraising events while supporting the activities of St. George’s thespians with her costuming expertise. She appreciates art in all its forms, but has a special love of theatre, dance, and the culinary arts.
John A. Allen, Jr, Board Member, Cookeville, TN
John A. Allen, Jr’s background has been with youth development education on the state and national levels working with the 4-H program in Davidson County, and Washington, D.C. While at National 4-H Council he developed marketing and fundraising skills and took on Annual and Planned Giving. After almost 20 years in Washington, John moved to Atlanta, GA to be the Executive State Director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving for two years and then moved to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for another two years.
At this stage in his life John decided to become a Realtor, a life-long dream. John worked in real estate for five years and retired back to Tennessee in 2008 where his mother and he opened an antique shop in Cookeville. John has always have loved quilts since he was a child and it was a natural for him to volunteer to help with the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival which he did in 2008 working with Ruth Dyal. John also joined the board of the Patton House Museum in Cookeville in that same year.
When Ruth left to create the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association John took over as Coordinator of the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival and has continued in that role to the present. John also worked with the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail and recently applied for and received an ABC grant from the Tennessee Arts Association for the Quilt Trail.
Lisa Bobango, Board Member, Germantown, TN
Appointed to the Tennessee Arts Commission in 2013, Lisa Bobango servedon the Allocations Committee and Committee for Governor’s Arts Awards for the Commission throughout the 2014-2015 fiscal year. She also served as Vice-Chair for FY15-16.
An active community leader, Lisa has been involved in numerous nonprofit organizations. She has served on the board of the Memphis Literacy Council, the Junior League of Memphis, the Germantown Women’s Club, is past president of the Memphis Bar Auxiliaryand isthe former Sustainer Director for the Junior League of Memphis.
She has also taken part in several arts-related organizations in Memphis. Lisa and her husband, John, were founding members of ‘Young at Art’ at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens and have supported the Orpheum Theater and ArtsMemphis. Additionally, Lisa is a member of the Suburban Garden Club of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc.
Lisa received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and her MBA from the University of Florida. She received her law degree from the University of Memphis.
Lanis Cope, Board Member, Knoxville, TN
Lanny Cope has more than 35 years of experience as a professional architect. He founded Cope Associates, Inc. Architecture in 1983 and serves as President. Under his direction, Cope Architecture has achieved honored distinction in commercial, institutional and historical preservation works.
He has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Tennessee, and continues his dedication to the University by serving on the University of Tennessee School of Architecture Board of Advisors and as a member of the University of Tennessee President’s Club.
Among his other civil and professional memberships are the State of Tennessee Arts Commission Board Member, Dogwood Arts Board Member, Knoxville Heritage, National Roundtable of Architects, and University AreaSertomaClub Founding President.
Signature design projects have included numerous facilities on the University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus over the years, including a new residence hall, the recently opened Fred D. Brown, Jr. Residence Hall, Anderson Football Training Facility, and the College of Veterinary Medicine Large Animal Hospital. Work for the Tennessee Board of Regents has includedPellissippiState Community College Blount County Campus, as well as projects for Walters State Community College on both the Sevier County Campus and the Morristown Campus. He has also served as Principal-in-Charge on numerous award-winning K-12 projects including such recent projects as:NorthshoreElementary School (2014TSBAElementary School of the Year); Mt. Horeb Elementary School (2013TSBAElementary School of the Year);DyllisSprings Elementary School (2012TSBAElementary School of the Year); and Morristown-Hamblen East High School STEM Center,9thGrade Academy and Cafeteria (2011TSBAPeople’s Choice Award and 2011TSBAHigh School of the Year).
Charlotte Halford, Board Member, Dyer, TN
Charlotte Halford is the Office Manager for Nite Lite Theatre in Trenton, TN. She has been involved with this theater since the early 80s when the theater was in its infancy. She has been the office manager for only one year, but has learned so much about what it takes to keep a theater group moving forward! Charlotte is responsible for the grant writing, the bookkeeping, newsletters, programs for plays each season, and as anyone who has worked for a non-profit knows, there are many, many duties too numerous to mention! Her greatest joy regarding the arts is being an alto member of the David Johnson Chorus for a period of fifteen years. This is an auditioned, thirty-eight member group of singers who have performed at various venues in several states. Charlotte also has been an active member of the West Tennessee Regional Art Center in Humboldt, Tennessee for several years, and also enjoys being involved in the arts in this respect.
During her working career, Charlotte was employed for 20 years as a certified paralegal for a local law firm, then for ten years as a legal representative in a local bank. Charlotte is a native of Dyer, Tennessee where she lives with her husband, Curtis, a member of the House of Representatives and also a member of the Arts Caucus! They have two children and five grandchildren.
Debby Koch, Board Member, Nashville, TN
Debby Koch is a communications and marketing professional who currently serves as Director of Communications for the State of Tennessee’s insurance program which covers 275,000 state, higher education, local education, and local government employees and retirees. She was also Director of Communications and Marketing for the state’s Cover Kids, Cover TN, CoverRX and Access Tennessee programs. Prior to that, Ms. Koch was Vice President of Communications and Marketing and then Senior Vice President for Administration at Baptist Hospital.
She has worked in several political campaigns and was spokesperson and Deputy Press Secretary for Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander. She has served in leadership positions on numerous boards, including Chairman of the Tennessee Arts Commission and Chairman of the Tennessee Arts Foundation, on the executive committees of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Cumberland Valley Girl Scouts of America, The Blakeford at Green Hills, and on the Nashville Symphony Association Board of Directors. She is currently a board member and has served on the Executive Committee of the Tennesseans for the Arts, is on the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, and is the Regent of the Ladies Hermitage Association. She is married to retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice and Dean of the Nashville School of Law William C. Koch, Jr. and lives in Nashville.
Christopher Lester, Board Member, Nashville, TN
Christopher Lester is a digital marketing and brand consultant at C4ward Strategy, where he focuses on helping companies and organizations tell their story in a more human and compelling way. With a lengthy background in email marketing and brand storytelling he’s proud to be a self-professed digital geek who also is passionate about the arts.
He works with high school music program across the country and is an active adjudicator for Winter Guard International. Christopher also serves on several boards in Middle Tennessee and is the Marketing Chair for the Nashville LGBT Chamber. He’s a lover of the underdog, hot dogs and a dog named Olive.