Founder and Executive Director
Shannon is an artist/photographer, educator, gardener, and mother. She is currently an adjunct professor at VCU in the Department of Photography and Film. From 2006 to 2013 she served as an assistant professor of Photography and Digital Imaging at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. From 2004 to 2006 she taught photography at Dar Al Hekma College, a women’s college in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In 2013 and 2016 she was visiting faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco Art Institute, leading classes to Vietnam and Cuba. A native Richmonder who spent nearly a decade helping to develop art communities abroad, Shannon brings a unique perspective and contagious enthusiasm to Oakwood Arts.
An arts and science educator, Liana has served as a darkroom photography instructor for the past eleven years at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, where she specializes in working with students from Richmond Public Schools, the Boys & Girls Club, and the Peter Paul Development Center. She also co-runs VisArts' Make Space program (formerly known as Space of Her Own), which pairs sixth-grade girls from Church Hill's Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School with female mentors, who together focus on artmaking, self-expression, and leadership skills. She served as an educator for two years with Blue Sky Fund’s Explorers program, leading elementary school students on science-based field trips to explore the natural world. She studied photography at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Jessica has been with Oakwood Arts from the very beginning, first serving as an intern and lead mentor before stepping into her role as Programs Coordinator. She spent two years in administration in the VCU Department of Photography and Film and recently worked with the VCU Summer Intensive as a photo teaching assistant. Her photography has been exhibited along the East Coast and in the United Kingdom. She is the recipient of an Etta and Bernie Edwards Endowment for the Arts in Visual Arts and the Hess Personal Mastery Grant.
Cath is a VCU Photo Film graduate with a professional background in film production. Before her time at Oakwood Arts, she worked on several award-winning documentary film teams, both at Vice Media and Motto Pictures, where they produced content for organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and Netflix. Most recently, she worked for Focus Features on the feature film Harriet, produced locally in Richmond, VA. Cath was a mentor during the 2018 Digital Storytelling Class at the VMFA and volunteered for various Oakwood programs before coming on as a staff member in early 2019. She now balances her freelance work in production with her role in operations at Oakwood Arts, where she hopes to share her experiences in film through mentorship and programming engagement.
Julianne has been a volunteer at Oakwood Arts for two years before starting as Development Associate. As a volunteer Julianne served as a mentor for summer workshops, helped out at events and in the office, and ran several photo booths. Before being part of the Oakwood Arts team, she received her BFA in photography from VCU School of Arts with a minor in media studies. During her studies she spent all four years photographing for the schools independent student news organization The Commonwealth Times eventually working her way up to Photo Editor position. Since graduating Julianne spent two years as a professional portrait photographer for Strawbridge Studios Inc. while also working as a freelance photographer in event photography, food photography, editorial portraits, and commercial product photography for publications Richmond Magazine.
Community Outreach and Programs Analysts
Alex is a self-taught photographer and graduate from the VCU School of Social work. Inspired by the therapeutic and transformative effects that art has had on her own life, she believes that every person deserves to have the access and ability to tap into their creative potential and express themselves artistically. Alex has managed her own freelance photography business since 2017 and serves as a teaching artist and mentor to young people in the Richmond community. In working with Oakwood Arts, she hopes to uplift and empower young artists to find and follow their passions.
Founding Board of Directors
Katherine Leatherwood Brakman
Senior Producer, Running With Scissors, The Martin Agency
Katherine is a senior producer at Running With Scissors, the Martin Agency’s postproduction facility. She holds a BFA in film and television from New York University, where she concentrated on documentary filmmaking. She spent several years working in the production department on feature and independent films, and as owner of Fiat Lux Films, she produced commercials for national and regional clients for 18 years. She also serves on the board of Sabot at Stony Point, an independent school in Richmond educating children from preschool through eighth grade.
CEO, Anne Chapman Casting
Anne is a casting director and educator. She has cast countless actors in 150-plus films, including Loving and Spielberg’s Lincoln, both of which were shot in Richmond and environs. Since 2007, she has served on the faculty of VCUarts Cinema, and in that role has overseen the casting of scores of 35mm student films. Anne is also the workforce development liaison for the Virginia Film Office, organizing training seminars for the local film industry. A lifelong volunteer, she most recently served on the board of the Virginia Production Alliance. She has a BA in film and television from the University of Kansas.
Kimberly Merkel Chen, Vice President
Principal Preservation Planner, City of Richmond
A senior preservation planner for the City of Richmond, Kim heads the Division of Planning and Preservation. She completed a master’s of urban and regional planning with a concentration in urban revitalization at VCU, and ran her own business for ten years, specializing in planning and historic preservation services. In 2005, she joined Johannas Design Group, where she was a partner, and VCU, where she taught graduate-level courses in historic preservation planning for a decade. All told, Kim has worked for more than 35 years in the fields of architectural history, historic preservation, and urban planning. She has also served on the boards of the Church Hill Association, the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods (ACORN), and Richmond Affordable Housing.
Rae Cousins, Secretary
Attorney, BrownGreer PLC
Rae is an attorney at BrownGreer PLC, where she is responsible for developing and managing processes for large-scale mass claims resolution programs. Outside of work, she serves as a board member for the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School and the Afrikana Independent Film Festival. She has also volunteered for local political campaigns and is committed to improving the conditions of low-income communities by way of poverty reduction and access to quality education and job opportunities. Rae graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2001 and from Howard University School of Law in 2010.
Donor Relations & Special Events Coordinator
Dia is a teacher, volunteer, and mother of two. She got her start after college at Capital One, where she was an active participant in company-sponsored volunteer projects. This led her to a position at Wheat First Butcher Singer, a full-service securities firm, where she managed special events, including parties and community service, for offices in Richmond and Philadelphia. She went on to oversee branch-office renovations, relocations, and openings along the East Coast. Dia began teaching Pilates in 2012 and volunteers with Community in Schools at Binford Elementary and St. Michael's Episcopal School. She'll be responsible for planning, organizing, and budgeting all fundraising events for Oakwood Arts.
Aubrey W. Fountain III, President
Attorney, Harrell & Chambliss LLC
Aubrey is an attorney at Harrell & Chambliss LLC who specializes in real estate and corporate law and in financial and secured transactions. He is also a nationally recognized real estate and community developer for financial institutions, investors, developers, corporations, and churches. As director of real estate development for Richmond’s Southside Community Development & Housing Corporation, he piloted the creation of over 200 single-family homes for low-income families, earning the Governor’s Award for Excellence for the Paradise Place subdivision. A Richmond native, Aubrey serves on over 15 boards and professional organizations. He is a graduate of UVA, with a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning and UNC–Chapel Hill, where he earned a joint JD and master’s of regional planning.
Director of Integrated Production, Arts & Letters Creative Co.
Letitia joined Arts & Letters Creative Co. in October 2017 as director of integrated production. In her 20-plus-year career, she has worked for some of the top advertising agencies in the field, including Y&R, BBH, Wieden+Kennedy, and Fallon. Most recently, Letitia served as an executive producer and director of project management at the Martin Agency, a premier ad agency based in Richmond, her hometown.
Shantell J. Malachi, PhD
Founder and Executive Director, Dress for Success Central Virginia
Shantell founded and currently serves as the executive director of Dress for Success Central Virginia, a Richmond-based affiliate of the international nonprofit that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Shantell is also the principal consultant for Nonprofitability, a boutique consulting firm equipping nonprofits and faith-based organizations with proven tools and practices that promote sustainability. A native of Richmond and a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Shantell has been recognized for her business acumen and nonprofit work by an array of organizations including the National Association of Women Business Owners, Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Yahoo!, Style Weekly magazine (2012 Top 40 Under 40 Award Recipient), Belle magazine, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Richmond Free Press.
Founder and Creative Director, Afrikana Independent Film Festival
Enjoli is the founder and creative director of the Afrikana Independent Film Festival, Richmond’s first film festival dedicated to highlighting the voices of people of color. As a freelance curator, she lends her programming expertise to organizations that seek to use film as a catalyst for conversation in the community and to diversify and connect with broader audiences. Enjoli, a Richmond native and VCU graduate, has established herself as the curator of choice for indie cinema throughout the region thanks to her eye for high-quality, well-crafted digital stories.
Dean of Academic Affairs, San Francisco Art Institute
Jennifer is dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the chair of the Committee on Women in the Arts of the College Art Association and president emerita of ArtTable, Inc., the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing women's professional leadership in the visual arts. She is also a trustee of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Jennifer lectures frequently on the topic of assessment within fine arts curricula for the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design and the College Art Association. A PhD candidate in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Visual Studies at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, she holds a master’s of humanities from the University of Richmond.
Founder and Director, Candela Gallery
Gordon is an artist, educator, publisher, and gallery owner. In 2010, he founded Candela Books and, the following year, Candela Gallery in downtown Richmond. Featuring photography from nationally notable artists, Candela seeks to elevate the conversation about contemporary photography, provoke thought, and enhance the city’s growing arts community. Gordon’s photographs have been shown in the U.S. and abroad and can be found in both public and private collections. He was the recipient of the 2009 Theresa Pollak Award for Excellence in the Arts, presented by Richmond magazine.
Visual Arts Teacher, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, Petersburg, Virginia
Susann is an artist and educator. Since 2009, she has taught three-dimensional design, sculpture, painting, and ceramics at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg, Virginia. She has also served as an instructor at VCU and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, where she was youth program coordinator from 2011 to 2013 and then gallery education coordinator. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently in Richmond at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as part of its “Wild Art: A Journey Off-Canvas” community art experience. Susann holds a BFA from VCU and an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Board of Advisers
Melissa Brooks, program head, associate professor, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
S. Ross Browne, artist
Carl Byrd, neighbor/longtime Oakwood resident
Tristan Cai, artist; assistant professor, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Sarah Eckhardt, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Rebecca Berlin Field, educator, Douglas Freeman High School
Sue Ann Messmer, retired vice president, VCU
Nadiya Nacorda, photographer, Imani Photo Co.
Ashby Nickerson, associate director, Candela Gallery
Brian Palmer, Independent Journalist and Documentarian
Marlene Paul, cofounder/executive director, Art 180