ARTPLAY TEACHING ARTISTS
LaShanna R. Tripp
LaShanna R. Tripp is a publicist, spoken word and voice-over artist, writer, songwriter, actress and director. In 2002, she founded Wordz & Rhythmz LLC (W&R LLC), a Spoken Word/Performing Arts and PR/Event Promotions organization. A published writer, LaShanna’s autobiographical excerpt, “What If God Said ‘No?’” appears in Tavis Smiley’s book, Keeping The Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing, and Hope from Black America, which garnered the 2003 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Nonfiction.
Mary Elizabeth Neal
Mary Elizabeth Neal is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. She earned her Master of Music in Composition from The Florida State University in 2008 and her Bachelor of Music in Composition from Birmingham-Southern College in 2006. Mary Elizabeth is deeply committed to music education at all levels of development. She currently teaches music theory, aural skills, counterpoint, composition, and analysis at Birmingham-Southern College and preschool music at the Highlands United Methodist Church Child Development Center. Mary Elizabeth also sings in the Highland’s United Methodist Church choir and is a featured soloist and assistant conductor. She lives in Helena with her dog, four cats, two frogs, and a turtle.
Mary Kaiser teaches writing and literature at Jefferson State Community College. She has been knitting all her life, and has been spinning and dyeing yarn and designing patterns for fifteen years. Her designs have appeared in Socks-Socks-Socks (XRX Publishing, 1998) and The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters (Interweave Press, 2007) . Mary is on the board of the Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild. Her column Knitting Life appears in Interweave Knits, and she blogs about knitting, reading, and life at Mrs. Ramsey’s Knitting, http://mrsramseysknitting.blogspot.com.
Melissa Turnage has been a teaching artist for dance everywhere from Baltimore to Birmingham and is an Artist Educator for the Birmingham Cultural Alliance. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Melissa’s experience in performing and teaching dance spans over 40 years. Melissa is trained in both ballet and modern and has worked all over Birmingham doing both community dance education and outreach. She currently also teaches ballet at Birmingham Southern College.
Michelle Reynolds, a contributing writer for Alabama Gardener Magazine, is a self-taught naturalist and plant enthusiast. She serves on the Board of Directors at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve and on the Advisory Board of Birmingham Audubon. She has spent the last three years spearheading the native plant restoration and rain garden projects at the LEED certified Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. She also works as an Outdoor Classroom Consultant for the Alabama Wildlife Federation. She leads garden programs at Ruffner Mountain, Audubon Mountain Workshop, Birmingham area botanical gardens, and local garden clubs. A contributing writer and blogger for Alabama Gardener Magazine, she profiles unique gardens in the Birmingham area. When she is not talking, working, writing, or thinking about gardening, she is designing and making slipcovers and nature inspired fabric art in the studio behind her house. Lately, her business, Coverings, has been taking a back seat to her more naturalist leanings.
Pat Bowman Billups is a piano teacher of some 34 years in the Birmingham community. She is passionate about teaching the skills that prepare students of all ages to play piano, compose music, and develop their individual music goals and creativity. She currently serves as the state chair of Alabama Junior Music Festivals under the auspices of the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC). In Alabama’s District II (Birmingham), she serves as chair of the Theory Festival and has worked with the state chair of the Junior Composer Festival. These festivals offer opportunities for young musicians to compete in various areas of music. Previously, she served for 13 years in the position of coordinator for City Stages Jazz Camp. She also serves as the choir director at First Baptist Church Graymont.
H.Ray Robinson, Jr. was born in East Orange, NJ. He started playing the drums formally at the age of 11. As he continued taking lessons and got involved in the school bands, plays, and other events, he pursued playing all instruments in the percussion arena such as the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, congas, bongos, tympani, etc. After graduating from Hoffman Estates High School, in Chicago, Mr. Robinson joined the US Army. He performed in the 3rd Armour Division Band in Frankfurt, Germany and 82nd Airborne Division Band in Ft. Bragg, NC. He toured and had the pleasure in performing for many military and ccivilian dignitaries such as Bob Hope, Secretary of State George Shultz. Mr. Robinson resides in Birmingham, AL where he teaches at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and ArtPlay/ArtReach in group format, and privately.
Sarah Heath received her BFA in sculpture from the University of Kansas and her MFA from the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, where she graduated with distinction. While in Georgia Sarah was the gallery coordinator for the Georgia Sculptors Society and an active member of the Lamar Dodd School of Art Student Advisory Board. In the past 6 years Sarah has shown in 27 art exhibitions in 8 states across the US. In 2009 she won a “Gold Metal in Fine Arts” Award from Creative Quarterly magazine and was listed in their “New Talent Gallery.” In 2010 she won the Athens Classic Center purchase award from the Juried Athens Sculpture Festival. Sarah has given artist lectures at Salem Art Works in New York, Piedmont College, Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art in Georgia. She has been an artist in residence at Sloss Metal Arts in Birmingham Al, and Salem Art Works in Salem NY.
You can view other works by Sarah at www.sarahheath.carbonmade.com.
Sharrif Simmons is a performance artist, songwriter and poet whose writing career has spanned more than a decade. His poetry combines relevant messages about today’s life experiences and social struggles with images of self-expression and inner strength. His education as a writer began at U.C.L.A. (also known as University on the Corner of Lenox Avenue), at the famed Liberation Bookstore on 131st St. & Lenox Avenue.
Sunny Davenport is a native of Birmingham, attended Birmingham schools, and received a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy from the University of Alabama. She completed her clinical internship at HEALSOUTH Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital and became a nationally board-certified music therapist in 1998. She is experienced in providing music therapy to people with a wide range of neurological, physical, and emotional disorders. Sunny pioneered the Music Therapy Department at UAB Medical Center and guided its development and growth from 1999 to 2011. In 2012, she started Music Therapy of Alabama, LLC.
Sunny’s passion is teaching music (piano, guitar and voice) and providing music therapy to children and young adults with special needs. She is an instructor for Dance Trance, a national dance fitness program. Sunny is married to Peter Davenport. They have one son, Isaac, two years old.
Susan holds an MFA in theatre from the University of Alabama and has served Jacksonville State University with emphasis in directing and performance. She has published with “Southern Theatre”, adjudicated for the Kennedy Center Association for College Theatre, and presented intensives such as “Creative Culture—Developing “Th BURNING” and “The Real Method with Anna Strasberg.
Trent Thomas (b. 1980) works as a painter, book artist & art teacher in his native Birmingham, AL. Beginning in the mid-00′s, Trent studied art at the University of Birmingham at Alabama, achieving a Bachelor of Arts in 2009. In that time, he exhibited in several shows in the area, including a solo show, “Everybody (Almost)”, a collection of portraits in 2008. Trent has also conducted lectures, classes and workshops in several universities, high schools, and for area art associations, as well as at Forstall Art Center. He resides in Birmingham, Alabama.