The Arts Northwest Staff is dedicated to the success of our members.
Sam Calhoun has been with Arts Northwest since 2010. She comes from San Diego, California and was a pastry chef with a background in dietetics. After moving to the North Olympic Peninsula in 2002, she involved herself broadly in the community as the owner/manager of a general contracting business, and as the volunteer coordinator and board member for the Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. She is an award-winning sculptor and is recognized by all in her community as being an avid supporter of the local arts scene.
The Arts Northwest Board of Directors are Arts Northwest members. They represent the best and brightest from the field of presenting and touring.
Jill is the Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, WA. She has worked for over a dozen years for arts organizations, including: The Idaho Falls Arts Council, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. She received a Masters in Arts Administration from Boston University and has a BA in Music (vocal performance) from the University of Utah. “I am honored to be on the board of Arts Northwest. ANW is a valuable resource for organizations of all sizes to be educated, network, and plan for successful seasons. I have made significant professional contacts through ANW and lifelong friendships.”
Laura Forbes has been the Arts Education Program Director at the Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA) since fall of 2011. Laura’s duties at ASCA include administering grants, the development of networks, facilitation of Alaska Poetry Out loud, supporting the field of presenting and touring performing arts and visual art exhibition, and technical services for artists, educators, arts organizations and all Alaska’s citizens. Laura graduated from the University of Alaska, Anchorage with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. She worked throughout Alaska and in Chicago, Illinois as a teaching artist, director, designer, and administrator for community arts organizations, with a focus and special interest in Theatre for Young Audiences/Youth Theatre. Laura has worked with such organizations as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Vittum Theatre (now Adventure Stage Chicago), and a variety of Chicago’s storefront theaters. Returning to Alaska in 2007, Laura became the Director of Programs and Exhibits at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, and in earned an M.Ed. in Integrated Teaching through the Arts from Lesley University. Currently, Laura serves on the Arts Education Working Group for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Arts Education Managers and as an Advisory Board Member for the Alaska Arts Education Consortium.
Brandi Newton was born and raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. After graduating from the University of Idaho, with a degree in Accounting, she landed in Washington at high-end fishing rod manufacturer G. Loomis, starting in accounting and progressing to Order Fulfillment Manager before starting a family. Newton and her family relocated back to Idaho Falls in 2007. She began working for the Idaho Falls Arts Council as the part-time accountant in 2010 and was the ARTitorium on Broadway project manager, before becoming the Executive Director in July 2013. When not participating in Arts Council events, Brandi can be found wrangling her son, Garrett and identical twin daughters, Isabelle and AnnaKate, between swim, choir, cheer, and horses.
John Zirkle is the Founding Director of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, an internationally-award winning composer, and a nationally-honored music educator. Under John’s leadership, WMPAC has hosted over 150 programs to more than 35,000 patrons in a town of less than 3,000 full-time residents. As the key development officer for WMPAC, John has raised over $5 million for the arts in Montana by establishing strong relationships with public funding entities, private foundations, and individual donors. In his tenure at WMPAC, John has served as an expert panelist for the Montana Arts Council, the Cultural and Aesthetics Projects Committee for the Montana State Legislature, the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), and the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently serves on the boards of the Arts Council of Big Sky, the Montana Performing Arts Consortium, and Arts Northwest.
Wendi Hassan is Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts (CacheARTS) in Logan, Utah, the management entity for three Logan City owned cultural facilities: the Ellen Eccles Theatre, Bullen Arts Center and Thatcher-Young Mansion. Wendi is a Utah Change Leader and has served on the boards of the Center for Persons with Disabilities (Community Advisory Council), Bear River Heritage Area, Cache Valley Visitors Bureau, Cache Children’s Choir and Utah Presenters Network (Chair) and on the data committee for the Utah Cultural Alliance. She currently serves as President of the Rotary Club of Logan. Wendi holds Master’s Degrees in Arts Administration and Policy (The Ohio State University) and Business Administration (Utah State University) and has developed courses in Quantitative Methods in the Arts and Theatre Management and Leadership for Utah State University. When she’s not at the theatre, Wendi is knitting, reading, going for a walk, or trying to do all three things at the same time.
Executive Creative Producer of Indigenous Performance Productions and Principal of Walrus Arts Management, Andre Bouchard (of Kootenai/Ojibwe descent) is an internationally recognized agent, producer and consultant In 2001 he founded Walrus Performance Productions, a non-profit dedicated to providing first opportunities to choreographers, playwrights and multi-disciplinary performing artists in the Pacific Northwest. In this role he opened the Walrus Theatre, a blackbox venue in the heart of Seattle's Capital Hill which fell victim to the real estate boom of 2008. In 2010 he founded Walrus Arts Management and Consulting which was expanded in 2015 to serve as a home to the first Native run performing arts booking agency representing Indigenous dance, theatre, music and multi-disciplinary artists. In 2019 he founded Indigenous Performance Productions, a non-profit company dedicated to production of touring Indigenous performing arts festivals. He holds a Master's degree in Arts Management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, a BFA in Dance and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Montana. He has had the honor of serving as an Association of Performing Arts Professionals/University of Southern California Leadership Fellow, was the founding Chair of the Western Arts Alliance Indigenous Committee and was the co-designer of the Advancing Indigenous Performance Program and is currently serving on the Western Arts Alliance Conference Committee and serves on the Washington State Arts Commission.
Ben is currently fulfilling a 3-year term on the Board of Directors for NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents), where he also participates on the Professional Development and Communications Committees. Ben also currently serves on the Membership Committee for Western Arts Alliance (WAA), the Professional Development Committee for Arts Midwest, and is an alumni of Cohort III of the Association for Performing Arts Professionals’ Leadership Fellows Program.
Ben is thrilled to be serving on the Arts Northwest board and looks forward to assisting in the growth and continued success of the organization.
Michelle Fujii, taiko artist and co-director of Unit Souzou, creates contemporary work through the art forms of taiko and Japanese folk dance, placing cultural art within the present. After graduating with a degree in ethnomusicology from UCLA, she was awarded a fellowship from the Japanese government to study with Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe, Warabi-za, in Northern Japan. Michelle has been a guest artist and collaborator with numerous North American and international taiko groups, including San Jose Taiko, On Ensemble, Portland Taiko, TaikoArts Midwest and Kagemusha Taiko in the UK. In Portland, she serves on the resource council for New Expressive Works and is an active teaching artist with The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington. She is a fellow at the Asian Pacific American Women's Leadership Institute (APAWLI) through the Center for Asian Pacific American Women. In 2014, Michelle with her partner Toru Watanabe, fused their unique skills to build Unit Souzou, a Portland-based taiko ensemble-driven to create an expressive blend of taiko and Japanese folk dance, forging new traditions for evolving communities.
From the chorus of Broadway National Tours and the lines of the Radio City Rockettes to the television sets of Los Angeles, Palmer Davis has worked in almost every venue imaginable. Palmer starred in the dance film “Stepping High” now streaming on YouTube and has written and performs her critically acclaimed solo show “Suburban Showgirl” around the United States. She also recurred as a defense attorney on CSI Las Vegas for over 10 seasons and guest starred in several television shows, films and commercials. A graduate of UCLA, Palmer majored in Dance, minored in Spanish and has choreographed for film, commercials, industrials, and over 2 dozen musicals. In the fitness industry, Palmer is a certified personal trainer and movement/ fitness specialist for athletes, special needs children, seniors and kids from 5-105 years old. Palmer created and currently still teaches her Theatre Works Kids after-school enrichment program in Los Angeles and gives master workshops internationally and at home. Palmer’s eldest daughter is studying animal sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and son is a senior and ASB president at Providence Catholic High School in Burbank CA and is currently serving the 2018-19 year as the Providence High School Parent Board President herself. Palmer is eternally grateful to the presenters, artists, and staff here at Arts Northwest who have guided her through the conferences these past three years.