Our Staff

Kris Rodolico is the founder and Executive Director of Follow Your Art Community Studios. She is an artist, art therapist, and art facilitator with 25 years of experience bringing creative art experiences to children and adults. Kris has a Masters degree in Art Therapy and has been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Massachusetts and Registered Art Therapist since 2001. From 2008-2019 Kris owned Follow Your Art, the small community art studio that later became FYACS. Before that, she worked in schools and treatment centers, with individuals, groups, and families. In her own creative work, Kris uses mainly clay, paint, and mixed media/found object collage.

Chiara Pieri is our Program Coordinator, facilitator of many of our core art classes, and a printmaker and illustrator. She holds her BFA in Illustration from Mass. College of Art, and has been teaching at FYACS since the 416 Main Street days. She’s the studio’s resident expert on drawing unicorns, and loves to sneak UFO’s into casual conversation. She hopes to encourage her student’s confidence in their own creativity through skill building, experimentation, and creating a safe place to make mistakes. 

Jen Blesso is our Arts for All Coordinator, an abstract artist and teacher. She has been guiding children and
individuals/groups with special needs in art activities for the past 7 years. She is drawn to fiber arts and mixed media. Currently, Jen works in acrylics – layering and working up colors while adding various materials. Paper, metal, tree bark, sequins and other found objects are incorporated into her work to create texture and interest. For Jen, making art is when she feels the bravest and the most free to take risks in her creative endeavors. 

Jane Foley is the Administrative Coordinator that keeps all things FYACS running smoothly. She has lived in Melrose for almost 30 years and spends her time parenting and volunteering for different organizations around the city, including the Friends of Melrose Drama and the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church.

Jane holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Salem State University with a concentration in Professional Writing. She also writes creatively, particularly fiction and personal essays, and is working on a novel.

Sara Gravante, one of our primary facilitators, is an Artist-in-Residence at FYACS and a graphic designer. She has been teaching artists ages 5 thorough adults for over 6 years, bringing her training as an artist with a BFA from Massachusetts College Art and MFA in painting from Washington University in addition to her experiences as a Senior Graphic Artist in the advertising industry. Her own work shows her passion for color, depicting reality to the abstract in response to the landscape. “My favorite thing about being a part of the FYACS community is sharing that passion with my students and guiding their own personal visual exploration. The courage children show to fearlessly explore in their art making is both a privilege to be a part of and an inspiration to my own work.”

Facilitators

Steve Aldeus is an artist who has worked in the Greater Boston and North Shore community for most of his life. After graduating with a degree in Animation and Illustration from Lesley College of Art and Design, Steve has explored many art forms, including watch and accessory design and airbrush painting. He began teaching high school art in 2014. Steve has recently shifted his personal creative practice to studio art, specifically drawing figures and portraits using mixed media to express different ideas and stories. Please follow his work on Instagram. (ig@stevealdeusart)

Yasmine Ameli is an Iranian American writer from Worcester, Massachusetts. She holds a BA in English from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from Virginia Tech. In 2020, she was a finalist for Narrative’s 2020 Twelfth Annual Poetry Contest, a finalist for Shenandoah’s Graybeal-Gowen Prize, a finalist for Nimrod’s 2020 Francine Ringgold Awards for New Writers, and finalist for the Sundress 2021 Broadside Poetry Contest. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Ploughshares and the Ploughshares blog, Narrative, AGNI, The Rumpus, Shenandoah, The Margins, Frontier Poetry, Bitch Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her on Instagram @yasmineameli.

Yasmin Azad was born and raised in the Galle Fort, Sri Lanka. After obtaining a degree in English from the University of Ceylon, and a brief stint as a lecturer, she moved to the United States in her twenties. She recently retired after many years as a mental health counselor. She is the author of “Stay, Daughter” a coming-of-age memoir that gives an intimate glimpse into the world of Muslims. See more at: https://staydaughter.com/

Elizabeth Christopher is an FYACS board member and coordinator of our Writers Studio. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Writer, HuffPost, The Boston Globe, Obelus, and elsewhere. As a writer in the tech industry, her work was selected as a 2020 ITSMA Marketing Excellence Award finalist. Elizabeth has an M.A. in English Composition and has taught writing to children and adults. She is currently working on a historical novel.

Amy Drago has 20 years of teaching experience teaching young artists. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan, she got her M.Ed. from the University of Maryland in art education and has continued her love for studio classes at MassArt. She currently teaches for the Wakefield Public Schools and before that in Watertown, MA. She has 2 children in the Melrose Public Schools at both the middle and elementary levels. When she is not teaching, she loves to draw and paint. “I love finding unique solutions to creative problems”. Her favorite part of teaching art to young children is watching the confidence of young artists grow and the joy it brings them.

Tracy Miller Geary is a short story writer currently at work on a novel-in-stories about a beekeeper and his family. She is a writing advisor at MIT and a contributing writer for Northeastern University’s Khoury College of Computer Science. She also has her own business helping high school seniors and graduate students craft compelling application essays (www.A-Plus-Essay-Advantage.com). She earned her Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Harvard Extension School and is the editor of two student publications, Harvard Summer Review and Charles River Review. Her stories have been published in dozens of magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Harvard Review, Puerto del Sol and Seattle Review. A devoted Red Sox fan, she is thrilled to have stories published in the anthologies Fenway Fiction, Further Fenway Fiction, and Final Fenway Fiction. Her middle grade novel, The Summer of my Movie Star, received an Honorable Mention

Sally Bowman Gordon has an M.Ed from Lesley College, Cambridge, MA in Creative Arts & Learning, and a B.A. from Concordia College in Communications and Art. “I create my own paper and sculpt it into images to create a scene. David Leonelli (former gallery owner in Ogunquit, Maine) called it, “Paperscapes”. I take that 3-D quality to canvases, by sewing an image and “stuffing it,” then painting these canvases with acrylics. I am inspired by my father, Dean Bowman, a Sculptor and Art Professor where I grew up in Minnesota. After painting acrylics for many years, I tried paper making, mushing up some scraps I had to make an apple. With further experimentation I discovered I could create a whole scene of a story. Nature and biblical stories are among my treasured inspirations.

Ariel Grubb is an animator, visual developer, and interdisciplinary artist whose showcase of work includes in both digital and traditional methods such as stop motion, collage, projection design, zoetropes, and direct on 35mm film animation. Ariel is a recent graduate of Lesley University and has professional credits that include artistic work for the National Young Arts Foundation, MassOpera, and under public artist and inventor Rufus Butler Seder. Ariel works in animation production as well as experience as an animation, stop motion, and visual storytelling instructor. Ariel’s work is inspired by animals, nature, and fantasy worlds, and currently lives and works out of Somerville, Massachusetts.

Sue Dragoo Lembo moved to Melrose 14 years ago. Looking to meet local Melrosians in her community, she immersed herself in the visual arts: volunteering and teaching painting. She also formed a monthly artist challenge group called “Media Mavens” which has been running strong for the last 5 years.  

Sue worked as a technical illustrator for the Entergy Nuclear plant and then as a graphic designer for NSTAR before deciding to follow her true passion and pursue painting full time. Her Work is represented by 3 major galleries and locally at Hourglass Gift gallery. She considers her long term involvement in various art associations, including the Copley Society of Boston, to be an asset in helping guide her board in their vision for an all inclusive art center.

Jennifer Mancuso holds an MFA in Writing from The New Hampshire Institute of Art. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Becoming an Event Planner, is a member of the Boston Writers of Color, contributor to the Growing Up Girl Project, and writer for Art New England. Raised in the shadow of the Boston Busing Crisis, she is completing a set of novels based on her experience growing up biracial while passing. Jennifer spends most of her time being a single mom to two daughters and volunteering.

Joe McGonegal has taught writing to all ages for 20+ years and is currently a communications professional at MIT. As a journalist, Joe has written for WBUR, the Boston Globe, and The Patriot Ledger. His creative writing on grief and other topics has appeared in Two Hawks Quarterly, Saranac Review, Talking Writing, and McSweeneys Internet Tendency. Joe lives in Melrose with his wife, daughter, and shih-tzu.

Alessia O’Brien is a ceramicist and mixed-media artist living and working in Melrose, MA. Inspired by prehistoric art and the natural world, their philosophy in art centers around taking an organic, hands-on approach. Their personal work focuses on functional folk art, a slow hand, and celebrating the imperfect.

Yuko Okabe is an illustrator based in Medford, MA. She received her BFA in Illustration with Honors from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and has professional and educational experience working in games, design, nonprofit organizations, mental health, poetry, and children’s media. Her illustrations have received accolades from Society of Illustrators LA, Creative Quarterly, and 3×3 International Illustration Awards. Currently, she is represented by Writers House and is a Rose Artist Fellow at North Shore Community Development Coalition in Salem, MA where she uses her artistic ways of storytelling to help bridge communication gaps in the community development realm. In her free time, she enjoys painting, cooking, eating oatmeal, and pointing at friendly doggos in the park.

Rilda Kissel became interested in story telling through a project where she works at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard. For this project she chose tellers, coached, and put together a live storytelling event.  To support this work, she took a class at a local non-profit where she crafted her own story. She participated in a series of story telling ‘slams’ and won the Audience Choice Award at Somerville Theater in 2019. She  has appeared on WGBH’s Stories from the Stage twice. She recently trained with  MOTH in their storytelling education course. 
She lives in Melrose and is the parent to two Lincoln children. She loves teaching at Follow Your Art and hearing the stories from her community. 

Sara Reish Desmond spent many years as a high school English teacher in Los Angeles and Boston and later earned her MFA in Fiction. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, The Los Angeles Review, and WaterStone Review, among other publications. Sara’s favorite genre is the short story but she’s at work on a novel set in rural Pennsylvania where she was raised. She is thrilled to be a part of a vibrant arts center that brings art-based opportunities to all.

Margie Samuels is an artist and instructor, specializing in water media classes. “I was lucky enough to learn from some incredible painters, including Elaine DeKooning and Peter Grippe, and I want to bring that same spark and excitement into each class that I now teach.  I am an artist who focuses on painting, using water colors, acrylics and inks; I love to create landscapes but then I’ll find myself painting florals or abstracts just as often.  I teach a variety of mostly watercolor workshops, online and in-person; my goal is for my students to learn the basic foundations of painting while enjoying the experience.”  https://www.margiesamuelswatercolor.com/workshops

Jane Roper is the author of a memoir, Double Time: How I Survived–and Mostly Thrived–Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins, and a novel, Eden Lake. Her writing has appeared in Salon, The Millions, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Cognoscenti and elsewhere. She has taught writing at FYACS, GrubStreet and The University of Iowa. She is also a freelance copywriter and brand strategist. Jane lives in Melrose with her husband and two very cool teenage kids. Visit her at janeroper.com or janeroper.substack.com

Mara Stewart is an experienced teaching artist, director, choreographer, and performer. She has spent the past six years working with children in performing arts education, including virtual theatre classes and camps. Mara is passionate about theatre arts, working with kids, and fostering a creative and safe learning environment for all students. Mara received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, and has performed professionally throughout Chicago and the D.C. Metro area. She spent the last year teaching children’s theatre and directing in the greater Boston area. Her DC Metro area experience includes directing and teaching for Encore Stage & Studio and Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre. Some of her favorite acting roles include Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, The White Witch in Narnia, and Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress.