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Meet the 2024 Cohort

Photo of a woman smiling. 

Akilia MCain (Lake County)
Opera/ Music Theatre

If there’s one thing Akilia McCain knows, it’s the voice. As both a classically trained lyrical soprano and a speech pathologist, McCain has dedicated her life to working with people– particularly young people– to hone their voices. McCain performs classical music, jazz standards, the American Songbook, and spirituals.

McCain began her classical training journey in 2005, but becoming a mother to three children put her training on hold. Now, she is ready to return to the stage. Since returning to music, she has performed at several memorials, recitals, and concerts and is eager to continue devoting more time to her artistry. Her artistic goals include recording her music, performing more, and serving as a mentor to young artists.

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Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo (Vigo County)

Alexandra McNichols-Torroledo is a Colombian-American photographer. Her work bridges the fields of artistic and documentary photography using a range of alternative photographic processes and digital photography. Her current body of work centers themes of global concerns of cultural diversity and climate change. Since 2011, she has been photographing indigenous people in North and South America affected by mega-projects imposed on their territories, changing their lives and the environment of the world. For her work, McNichols has traveled to many places including the Amazon Rainforest, the Andes, Brazil, and more.

McNichols works to spread the stories that her documentary photography illustrate through hosting lectures, working alongside journalists, and exhibiting her work in both America and Colombia. Through the On-Ramp program, McNichols hopes to grow her business and continue to market her project, with her overarching goal being to help these communities that are in need.

Woman in front of a map background holding a paintbrush. 

America Carrillo (Marion County)
Visual Arts

America Carrillo is a muralist known for her interactive paint-by-number mural experiences that empowers inexperienced artists to participate in the mural-making process. She has painted murals for communities across 20 different states. Carrillo is also a teaching artist who hosts classes across the state, with her most recent class being a journaling workshop through the Indiana Youth Institute. Her biggest passion is to inspire artists to create within their own creative power– without comparing themselves to other artists.

Currently, Carrillo sells murals full-time and is pursuing a social media project where she shares her journey of traveling and painting murals in the hopes to inspire other artists. Her current artistic goals include painting a skyscraper in Indiana, creating a YouTube channel where she vlogs about her creative process, and creating the first virtual reality mural in Indianapolis.

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Brandon Meeks (Marion County)

For nearly two decades, Brandon Meeks has been deeply interwoven into the vibrant tapestry of Indianapolis’ diverse music scene. His journey as a bass player has been about more than creating melodies– it’s been about fostering connections and reaching communities often overlooked within the music world. He has collaborated with both local jazz artists and nationally recognized artists like Don Cheadle, Robert Glasper, and Thundercat. Meeks runs a jazz concert series in Indianapolis, is a bandleader for The Brandon Meeks Quintet and Native Sun and has performed in various venues from Indianapolis’ The Jazz Kitchen to The Bowery Electric and New York City.

Meeks’ overarching creative ambition is to establish an annual concert series that aligns with his desire to impact underserved populations within the music community in the hopes to create a welcoming space that involves underserved communities in the cultural narrative.

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Christina Hollering (Boone County)
Visual Arts

Christina Hollering is a visual artist and a faculty member at the Herron School of Art and Design. She works in various mediums including digitally designed murals, cut paper collage, gallery pieces, and installations. Concurrently, she exhibits her work locally and nationally while managing a studio, both within and outside of her home.

Her long term creative goal centers on continuing to share her creative pursuits with the community, growing her business and increasing her financial literacy. She aspires to extend her reach by expanding her mural and public art practice across the country. She is committed to nurturing her studio practice, fostering personal growth as an artist by participating in residencies, workshops, conducting research through travel, and showcasing her work internationally. She would also like to continue collaborating with not only the community but other creatives as well.

Woman leaning on wall next to artwork.

Dana Caldera  (Allen County)
Visual Arts

Dana Caldera creates contemporary combinations with found paper, found fabric, and handmade paper in a study of sentimentality and materiality. Sentimentally, she is drawn to the stories in the found objects. Materially, she considers how both fabric and paper are fibers. She believes that these found fiber objects seem linked in the way that they record our lives, how they are impermanent, and in their physical properties.

Caldera is currently a teaching and exhibiting artist. She has taught both at the undergraduate and high school levels. She graduated with her MFA in 2017. She uses her art to connect with people through the process of collecting found materials from community members as well as teaching. Through the On-Ramp program, Caldera is looking to connect with other artists in Indiana.

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Elisabeth Hegmann (Jennings County)

Elisabeth Hegmann received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from Indiana University and a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from North Carolina State University. While trained as a traditional literary writer, Hegmann has evolved into a speculative fiction writer. She writes stories both short and long and is currently working on the libretto for a musical theatre piece. Her book of interconnected short stories, “Modus Perfectus", was published in June 2023.

Hegmann has taught college writing for the past fifteen years. Her current artistic goals include being able to devote more time to her writing, make more connections with professionals in theatre, and continue to promote her current books, as well as the series of novels she is working on.

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Emily Wilson Gillespie (Monroe County)

Emily Wilson is an abstract landscape painter. Her paintings are a composite of memory, observation and imagination that pull inspiration from photographs, her own memory, and recent studies. Through her work, she seeks to explore and celebrate rural landscapes by combining playful shapes, bright paints, and native plant dyes. Wilson works primarily as a teaching artist for Little Spring Studio– a business she started in 2021. She also exhibits her work in and around Central Indiana and sells her work online.

Wilson’s long-term creative career goal is to have a more balanced career when it comes to teaching and painting. To achieve this, she will create a new body of work, learn to build her own stretcher frames to make large-scale paintings, and exhibit in a solo show in central Indiana. She’s looking forward to building confidence in herself as an artist and creating a holistic balance between painting and teaching.

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Emily J Casella (Porter County)

Emily Casella’s work knows no boundaries as she attempts to convey what it means to live in the 21st century. Through multi-dimensional, installation, interactive and conceptual artwork, Casella mimics the struggles and motifs of society. She uses a colorful approach in conjunction with greyscale to inspire curiosity in viewers to think about their own relations to their society and the world.

Casella graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Indiana University Northwest in 2016 and a Master of Fine Arts from Herron School of Art and Design in 2019. She is an exhibiting artist and has shown work across the midwest and internationally in online group shows. Along with exhibiting her work, Casella has created public art pieces and served as an adjunct professor and advisor for various universities. She also leads workshops, sells her art at fairs, and does freelance design, photography, and art restoration. Her artistic goal is to continue selling her work, exhibit her work in museums around the world, and participate in artist residencies.

Photo of a man playing the drums 

Erik Fox (Marion County)

Erik Fox is a drummer who was raised on church hymns, Garth Brooks, and the Ramones. As a drummer, Fox offers live performances, in-studio session work and song co-writing across all genres.

Fox believes that the beauty in music is the mutual passing of energy, whether between an artist and the audience or the musicians in a shared space. His goal as a drummer is to carry that energy and emotion throughout a performance or recording session, and to make everyone involved feel welcome and present. He describes drumming as a Wizard of Oz/Person-behind-the-curtain job; It's the unseen work that makes the experience complete. Fox sets things up so that, come stage call or recording time, the artist or persons involved have nothing to worry about except giving the music their whole self.

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Essence London (Monroe County)

Essence is an academically trained poet, who studied at Cave Canem. She edits and writes for the Black Film Center and Archive, however she wants to work on sharing more of her poems and stories. In the past, she has edited for literary magazines, sold her own original zines, taught workshops, and published her work in literary magazines.

Almost as long as she’s been writing, she’s been editing and publishing other people’s work. After joining her high school’s literary magazine, Essence has been dreaming up a press of her own called CONTINUUM. The publication will be a series of reprints that include commentary in the marginalia from the authors themselves. She’s also in the process of creating a board game based on the literary magazine industry that she believes will be a great overall launch for CONTINUUM in the near future.

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Freddy Rodriguez (St. Joseph County)
Visual Arts

When Freddy Rodriguez creates art, he hopes that those who encounter his work experience a sense of inclusion and deep connection. The central themes of his art are unity, empathy, and the interconnectedness of humanity. He believes that art has the unique ability to transcend boundaries, inviting people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life to come together, share in the experience, and find common ground.

He creates these connections through collaborative community art projects that reflect inward on the community it represents. In his personal work, Rodriguez uses repurposed material as his canvases to expose the beauty hidden in everyday life. His long term creative business goal is to open a studio where he can create future works of art and create bodies of work for display at galleries and museums. He aims to one day open a gallery that offers spaces for artists to thrive.

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Evan Lee Reagan (Clinton County)

Evan Lee Reagan has had a love for rap music for most of his life. For Reagan, the best part of the genre is how it draws influence from all cultures and types of music. Rap music and culture have been a part of his artistic style from a young age as he witnessed rap make an impact on music and evolve over time.

Reagan has developed his own studio, GemCity Studios, where he is able to pursue many types of art including graphic design, web design, audio engineer and more.

Reagan aims to improve his skills as a musician and a performer. He’s in the process of recording and producing some songs with his band to release on Spotify. His long-term artistic goal is to provide affordable avenues for artists to release their music and organize a music festival to help spread awareness about emerging creators.

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Jamika Smith (Lake County)
Design Arts

Jamika Smith’s work is about more than just upholstery. It is the intersection between upholstery, healing, and activist art. She believes that upholstery has the potential to boost self-esteem and sharpen the imagination. A self taught upholster, Smith’s first project was in 2013 when she reupholstered a castaway chaise lounge her mother found in an alley. It wasn’t until later that she learned there is a long line of Master Craftsmen and Craftswomen in her family, including one older relative who ran his own upholstery business.

Smith connects with others through storytelling by taking an old, discarded piece of furniture and transforming it into something that represents the spirit of who they are as individuals, organizations, or communities. Smith’s goal is to expand her business by building and selling original pieces of furniture and designing original textile fabrics.

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Kevin Titzer (Vanderburgh County)
Visual Arts

Kevin Titzer creates both small scale figurative sculptures and large scale site-specific installations. Both of his styles of art use found and recycled material and are built to have an open-ended narrative. Titzer has been exhibiting and selling his work since 1997, and recently had a documentary film made about him entitled “Sack Race with Knives: The Curious Art of Kevin Titzer”

Titzer attempts to connect with others through narrative in his art. While his art is often ambiguous, he believes a way to effectively engage an audience is to suggest elements of a story and leave enough open space for the viewer to finish it. According to Titzer, it's his job to simply prepare the setting and give others an opportunity to bring an element of themselves to that moment in the story. He hopes that his work can be a catalyst for many and varied narratives.

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Kimberly McMurray (Vigo County)

Kimberly McMurray is an actor and vocalist who has been on stage for over 30 years. Her love of performing is rivaled by her passion to understand the inner workings of performing arts. She has sat under experienced directors, producers, and writers which lead her to love the creative process of getting a performance to the stage. She began creating and facilitating artistic events, in addition to continuing working as an artist.

Now, she aims to open her own dinner theatre– called Encore Dinner Theatre– in Terre Haute. McMurray is already on her way to making her goals reality after doing market research and meeting with city officials. She is looking forward to the On Ramp program so she can acquire further tools to set her business up for longevity.

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Kristen Warning (Clark County)

Kristen Warning is an equine and landscape photographer based in southern Indiana. Her images focus on moments of interaction, emotion, and the aesthetically pleasing lines of the horse. She is a part–time professional photographer and has juried at local art shows, sold prints of her work, and been exhibited in several art galleries.

Long term, Warning sees herself continuing to learn to grow existing and new skills, embark on travel adventures to see and capture new landscapes. She is also interested in attending equine photography workshops out west. No matter what, she wants to continue creating equine work of her own and others’ horses, as the images spark conversations and memories.

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Liliana Guzman (Monroe County)
Visual Arts

Liliana Guzman is a visual artist that combines painting, photography, drawing, and collage to express the multifaceted layers of the self. Since receiving her Master of Fine Arts from the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design at Indiana University in 2021, she has been focusing on expanding her current series Next To Myself and continuing her professional practice as an art educator. Her current project has been selected for three solo exhibitions and won several awards and scholarships. She has presented her work as an active member of her local Latinx community through different exhibits and leading workshops. For the past three years, she has been providing private art lessons to children that focus not only on technical artmaking skills but Spanish and French language learning.

As she continues her professional career as an artist, she is working towards expanding her exhibition record, organizing community art workshops, and participating in artist residencies. She hopes to continue developing relationships with galleries and would like to have representation as well as gain access to a larger studio space where she would be able to work at a larger scale.

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Madelyn Heskett (Delaware County)
Visual Arts

Madelyn Heskett is a fused glass artist that creates functional and decorative fused glass artwork and jewelry. Heskett began learning how to fuse glass from her grandmother 11 years ago. Since launching Made by Madelyn in 2021, her business has led to consignment contracts with art museums and coffee shops as well as selling on her own social media and website.

As she continues to grow, she wants to expand her studio space to be able to increase production, which includes buying new kilns and building a small building on her property to use as a studio space. For her artistic future, she envisions a larger studio with a retail space to sell her artwork and a classroom to offer creative classes to the community.

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Maggie Jean Ross-Barnhizer (Union County)
Visual Arts

Maggie Jean Ross-Barnhizer is a watercolor painter who incorporates poetry into her paintings. For 18 years she has taught art to children K-12. This year, Ross-Barnhizer is teaching part-time while transitioning to working full time as an artist. She sells work by commissions and through local community shops. Last year she published her first book that included paintings and poems of Fayette County and is currently working on her second book.

She is currently creating an artist retreat on a 90 acre farm. Ross-Barnhizer hopes to provide a place where people can learn, heal, grow and find their purpose. Eventually, she would like to provide art and art therapy classes as well as classes in gardening and sustainable farming. Already, she is leading a series of heirloom classes led by community members in subjects including soap making, blacksmithing, and gardening and is excited to expand her offerings and share her place with others.

Photo of a woman smiling and holding up a children's book. 

Mary Ellen Ziliak (Vanderburgh County)

Mary Ellen Ziliak is a writer. Her first book “MS: Beyond the Red Door” was published in 2013. She was a contributing author in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Finding Your Inner Strength." In 2023, she released a children’s book, “Tiny Teak,” and a commemorative nonfiction book, “From Acorns to Oaks, a Century of West Side Nut Club Fall Festivals and Philanthropy.”

Her recent focus has been on promoting her two new books, and working on a series of books, in which “Tiny Teak” is the first installation. The book has been placed in libraries at Catholic schools across Evansville, Indiana and Ziliak will join her co-author as a keynote speaker for the Catholic Diocese of Evansville. Through the program she hopes to expand her career and the reach of her writing, while learning how to make a sustainable living as an author.

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Tiffany "DJ MaryJane" Radcliff (Marion County)

DJ MaryJane’s musical journey began at age seven, deeply rooted in house music, R&B, and hip-hop. Her early inspiration came from radio DJs and the mesmerizing late-night slow grooves, which shaped her passion for music mixing and production. She has always been fascinated by the power of music to connect and resonate with people, and this fascination has driven her artistic endeavors.

DJ MaryJane aims to explore new realms within R&B and hip-hop, creating a sound that respects the genre’s roots while integrating new, contemporary elements. She applied to the On-Ramp program as a way to support her research and help her delve into sound engineering, enhancing her ability to refine her techniques and contribute to modern music. Through her work, she hopes to demonstrate the transformative power of music and its ability to bridge gaps, evoke emotions, and create unforgettable experiences.

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Melody Johnson (Marion County)

Melody Johnson is a multifaceted creative, but her main work revolves around music, specifically beat production and studio recording. She is also a poet, and poetry was the gateway into her passion for music. She uses her skills in music and poetry to convey thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a unique and deeply personal way. In the studio, she takes on the role of capturing and refining music recordings, a vital part of preserving people’s musical legacy. She has produced over 50 studio recordings and worked with various artists on a regular basis.

Johnson’s long term creative career and business goal is to own her own record label in studio space. Through this space, she would like to foster an environment of creative support in the Central Indianapolis area. She envisions this space becoming a place for underprivileged children to come and make beats, create a studio recording or music video, and develop their creativity in a safe and inclusive space.

Black and white photo of a man. 

Micah Bornstein (Porter County)
Visual Arts

Micah Bornstein is part of the two-person team that makes up Too Rad Comics, an organization that curates exhibits featuring comics by contemporary cartoonists. The exhibitions consist of large-scale reproductions of comic pages, process-related materials, reading rooms, and opportunities for visitors to make their own comics. Too Rad Comics was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for their first exhibit, displayed at South Shore Arts in Munster, IN. Their second full-scale exhibition is scheduled for 2025 in San Antonio, Texas.

Going forward, Bornstein hopes to see Too Rad Comics create smaller touring exhibitions in more intimate venues, making the shows more accessible to a broader range of partners and leaving additional funds to pay the cartoonists more. Bornstein is looking forward to the On-Ramp training as he believes it will help him better articulate his vision and reach the goals for his organization through a series of logical, incremental steps.

Black and white photo of a woman smiling. 

Miracle Hall (Hendricks County)

Miracle Hall’s creative work is inspired by afrofuturism and ecology, in which she seamlessly merges the concept of nature, space, and plants in her creations which use vibrant colors and bold brush strokes. Her creativity is rooted in her culture and environment, and she takes pride in showcasing the beauty and strength of people of color. Through her art, she aims to challenge negative stereotypes and promote positive affirmations and images that celebrate the diversity and resilience of individuals.

One of Hall’s artistic goals is to become an influential teacher who guides aspiring artists into creating a lucrative living from their creative pursuits. She would also like to increase her creative income, and hire a team of employees to assist in the management of her website and establish her own store or gallery where she can showcase her art.

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Morgan Lee Smith (Madison County)

Morgan Lee Smith is an epoxy artist and floral preservationist. She preserves all things sentimental including wedding bouquets, ashes of loved ones, salvaged historic building material and more. Using epoxy resin, Smith creates a breadth of creations including bookends, coffee tables, and coasters for her clients using different colors, techniques and designs to tell their story.

Smith’s long term goal for her shop, The Idea Factory Preservation & Memorabilia, is to re-open her hometown gift shop as a walk-in storefront selling unique goods and gifts created by local artisans, including her own work. In addition to floral preservation, Smith aims to create commemorative pieces of historical value for a wide range of businesses, organizations and municipalities to help them tell their stories.

Woman smiling in front of floral background. 

Phyllicia Carr (Marion County)
Visual Arts

Phyllicia Carr is a self-taught painter, graphic designer, photographer and muralist. Her art weaves together photography and graphic design to create a fusion of realism and abstract elements. Her work is rooted in spirituality and a connection to God, and her dreams and visions serve as the foundation. Dialogues and research, drawn from community conversations and historical references, also contribute to the layers of her work.

Carr’s artistic goal is to sustain her career as an artist and painter well into her senior years. She envisions her work being featured in public institutions, especially museums as her initial exposure to an art museum played a pivotal role in shaping her artistic journey. At that time, there was a notable absence of representation for people of Carr’s demographic, making the idea of becoming a painter seem distant and more of a hobby than a potential profession. She believes that achieving the goal of having her work displayed in these public spaces is not just a personal achievement but a beacon for the next generation, signaling that their dreams can indeed become a reality.

Photo of a man wearing a hat. 

Rodney Carlstrom (Hamilton County)
Visual Arts

Rodney Carlstrom is a storyteller and filmmaker. His creative journey started as a creative consultant for storytellers, working with filmmakers, poets, musicians, and prose writers. After serving as an editor for multiple publishers over the last decade, Carlstrom decided to try his own hand at writing. His first short story “Door of Hope” co-written with local Indiana author Maurice Broaddus, was published in 2022. In the summer of 2023, he applied for the opportunity to embark on a worldwide journey to Lithuania to attend Summer Media Studios , an annual bootcamp to learn filmmaking, where he worked with people from all over the world.

His goal as a storyteller is to foster inclusivity and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds. He aims to bring people along with him on a journey of self-discover, teaching them to pursue their authentic voice. Carlstrom aims to create a production company that serves as a hub for these endeavors. He would like to conduct storytelling workshops in low-income areas throughout Indiana, providing mentorship programs, scholarships and opportunities for emerging artists.

Photo of a woman holding a large rabbit figurine. 

Shayla Fish (Vigo County)

Shayla Fish uses painting and collage to create a vibrant and expressive exploration of nature and animals through the lens of surrealism. Her work blends the elements of nature in whimsical ways to convey a unique perspective on the natural world, pushing the boundaries of the imagination. Fish sells her artwork online and exhibits her work all over the world. She has worked for Quanta Magazine on several projects, paints murals locally, and works as a public art educator.

Fish likes how her work creates connections with others as they experience something new they haven’t seen before. People stop in their footsteps to look at her work, and families and photographers take pictures with her murals. She sees her art as a great way to bring what she loves into her community.

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Utam Moses (Monroe County)

Utam Moses’ main creative work centers around dance and embodied practices, including scored/improvised performance, teaching, and film. She has created her own teaching and performance style integrating the many forms of dance and theatre, including practices that center the body and create presence, such as Qigong and Tai Chi. Her main creative work is teaching, and she sees all of her classes as creative practice as she is continually learning and gaining new insights from her students.

Her goal is to develop her work with older movers, taking her classes to community centers and creating a series that culminates in performance nights or short films. She would also like to create intergenerational dance performances as well as offer dance retreats in Indiana, where they are not often held.  Through the art and dance and teaching, Moses offers new ways to see the world, which she thinks is something everyone can benefit from.

Photo of a man. 

Yorgo Douramacos (Madison County)

Yorgo Douramacos is a science fiction and fantasy writer who has published three novellas through his fiction brand, Yr1Stories. He is working on more novellas based on ideas he has developed over the last twenty years. Douramacos is a resident artist at A Town Center and Gallery in Anderson, Indiana where he shows both his photography and literature on a monthly basis and teaches classes.

With his brand, Douramacos is in the process of developing a fully realized creative ecosystem that includes a blog, Patreon community and podcast that centers around his unique vision of storytelling and entertainment. Through On Ramp, he hopes to gain a fuller picture of his potential as a creator while also deepening the understanding of the creative work others are doing.