Meet the Artist

Meet the Artist is an interview series where we dedicate our digital platforms to help amplify the stories and lived experiences of our Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ creative community members. In February 2021, Arts for Learning released it's first Meet the Artist interview. Since then, we have interviewed over 10 artists in the WNY region. Stay tuned for our 2022 interviews!

Featured Artists

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Rashaad Holley

Founder of the Ruth L. Holley Design Studio, Creative Director of Abstract Illism Lifestyle Boutique, Design Director of Vingt-Cinq Rashaad. Introducing fashion as an art form through workshops developed from studies in London, Milan, Beijing, and Buffalo State College’s Fashion & Textile Technology Program.

Annette Daniels Taylor
Annette Daniels Taylor

Annette Daniels Taylor is a playwright, poet, actor, teacher, singer, and costumer. In 1029, Daniels Taylor won the Artie's Emanuel Fried Award for New Play, "A Little Bit of Paradise" which premiered at Road Less Traveled Productions in 2008.

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Thembi Duncan

Thembi Duncan is an arts administrator, director, actor, playwright, and teaching artist with twenty years of experience synthesizing theatre, American history, and social justice in and around Washington, D.C. Past leadership highlights include serving as Creative Programs Director of Young Playwrights’ Theater, Producing Artistic Director of African Continuum Theatre Company, and Lead Teaching Artist at historic Ford’s Theatre. She has directed and performed in numerous productions during her career, most memorably of plays by Pulitzer Award-winning playwrights Lynn Nottage, Dael Orlandersmith, August Wilson, and Ayad Akhtar. She proudly served on the TheatreWashington Helen Hayes Awards Board of Governors for two terms and co-founded the biannual Black Theatre & Dance Symposium at the University of Maryland with Scot Reese, Head of Performance. Ms. Duncan holds a B.A. in Theatre, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Maryland and currently serves as the Director of Arts Engagement and Education at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, New York.

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Le Ballet Touba

Le Ballet Touba is a dance and music duo led by Robin Hibbert, a professional dancer and teacher. Hibbert was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Buffalo. For her work with Le Ballet Touba, Robin is joined by Alassanne Sarr on the drums. Hibbert has taught at many schools, including Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, SUNY Brockport, and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, in Kingston Jamaica. Her interactive workshops are engaging and teach valuable social and historical knowledge.

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Akruti Babaria

Mompreneur Akruti Babaria is the founder of Kulture Khazana whose mission is to help bring heritage and culture to kids around the world. Kulture Khazana provides Indian books, workshops, puzzles and holiday boxes to forge community and confidence in children. “Khazana” means treasure, and we believe learning about your identity and sharing it with others is an asset. 

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Michele Agosto

Michele Agosto is the Director of Arts for the Buffalo City School District. She has served the children of Buffalo since 1994, with 10 of those years as a middle school art teacher in the Black Rock area. Michele's passion for her work is notable. Her continued mission to advance student achievement through the implementation of strong arts education programs that enrich and elevate the lives of all children in the city of Buffalo and beyond. Michele is a co-founder of the Latino Arts Collaborative called Los Artistas del Barrio Buffalo and exhibiting member of the Buffalo Society of Artists.

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Aitina Fareed-Cooke

The skills that Aitina has developed over time has led her to developing Get Fokus’d Productions (GFP). GFP is a creative media arts company dedicated to capturing project-based stories, designing curriculums to teach youth soft skills through the implementation of photography, film, and creative writing programs, and giving back to the next generation of creatives through a movement called Young & Fokus’d. Aitina’s original work has been exhibited at CEPA Gallery, Jamestown Community College, Darwin Martin House, Crzurles-Nelson Gallery at SUNY Buffalo State, Main Street Art Gallery, Blue Plate Studio, and PineAppleCo.

Aitina is now an award-winning photographer, teaching artist, creative director, and lyricist earning recognition through 43North’s Ignite Buffalo People’s Choice Award, CEPA Gallery Exhibition Award, SUNY Buffalo State Young Alumnus Achievement Award, Canisius College Trailblazer Award, the National Society of Leadership & Success Excellence in Teaching Award, Kingdom Choice Up Next and Breakthrough Artist Award, BULYPNY Entrepreneurship Award, Mayors Citizens Participation Academy Award, and more. Aitina has also been featured in Buffalo Healthy Living Magazine, Upstart New York, Challenger News, Buffalo News, Buffalo State Alumni Magazine, National Young Audiences Emerging Leaders, DJ Booth, Rapzilla, Trackstarz and much more.

Mohamed Diaby
Mohamed Diaby

Mohamed Diaby is an acclaimed musician from Guinea, West Africa! He and his ensemble give rousing performances of the traditional music and dance/acrobatics from that region. Mohamed performed as lead drummer with Les Merveilles de Guinée and trained with Les Ballets Africains before leaving Guinea for the US in April 1995. On top of performing, Mohamed is a high energy teacher of Guinea-style African drum and dance, with 25 years of experience teaching students of varying ages and ability levels.

Phyllis Thompson
Phyllis Thompson

Phyllis Thompson works with fiber textiles, printmaking, photography, and collage processes. Her work reflects the influence of her mother and grandmother who made quilts and other creations from recycled materials.

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Fotini Galanes

Artist Fotini Galanes is best known for her unnamable intense abstract drawings that are said to, “teeter strangely between the pure aesthetic experience and conceptual decay.” The artist’s motivation is deeply based in vulnerability. Obsessive and calculated in her method, Fotini draws with graphite directly on porcelain grounds referencing where beauty is found in the unknown. She is also a muralist and the creator/founder of the profoundly compassionate outreach project, My Mark Matters™.

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Van Taylor

32 years ago Van Taylor had an idea to create a jazz oriented band that could work on various public levels including education. Van Taylor assembled an array of Musicians and World Class Entertainers. Thus the journey began, 100s of thousands of miles later hundreds of school performance an countless number of performance for the troops and various festival this group emerged to set a legacy in motion.

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Darren Stevenson

Darren Stevenson, founding Artistic Co-Director of PUSH Physical Theatre was born and raised in England. Darren met New Jersey native Heather during their mutual studies at The Center in St. Louis. their shared love of theatre and performing planted the seeds for their relationship and eventual collaboration. After completing their studies at The Goldston & Johnson School for Mimes and touring together, the couple founded the Studio School of the Arts in Atalanta, Georgia. They relocated to Rochester, NY with their two children in 2000 and created PUSH Physical Theatre, growing it over the next 18 years into the international touring company that it is today.

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Hayden Haynes

My work is about healing-- an expression of Haudenosaunee life today, showing where we come from, where we are today, and where we are going. I enjoy testing the limits of this material and innovating the work in terms of style and color. What is equally important to me is sharing knowledge about this material and art form as it relates to cultural relevancy of our people. I do this through presentations and through my social media. I also find satisfaction by teaching others how to carve through classes and workshops. It is my goal to help revive this art form. Feel free to contact me for commissions, presentations or classes.

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Gaitrie Subryan

Gaitrie Subryan holds a BA in Psychology and Communications from the University at Buffalo. She is a Teaching Artist, Performing Artist, and Certified Yoga Instructor, in addition she is the Founder and
Choreographer for Devi Bollywood Performing Arts based in Buffalo, NY. Through her work, Gaitrie is able to tap into her culture and roots by offering programs in Indian dance, Meditation, Yoga and Visual Art, she has taught over 7 years and has worked with grades Pre-K through High School as well as adults. She offers high quality movement based programs tailored to a broad range of young learners. Gaitrie does offer special programs that are available for youth with special learning needs, home school youth, after school
programs, and children of veteran and active duty military families. Gaitrie believes that her purpose is to enhance students' lives by access and understanding of art and its movements, creativity, relativity and technique. Gaitrie’s mission is to develop, nourish and produce modern and original works dealing with the Indian experiences through a movement based form of storytelling and capturing audiences attention by giving them an experience they can carry with them for years to come.