Meet our Instructors

ArtsConnect is proud to employ a well-rounded and highly professional staff of teaching artists and arts educators.  On this page, you will be able to read about each instructor, find out what each one teaches, and follow a link to their class web pages.  We hope that you will enjoy the ArtsConnect classes and each instructor's approach.  If you are not sure what kind of class to take, then check out our Wednesday Workshops taught by our own instructors.  Those happen one time and allow you to get to know our instructors and how they teach.

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Sydney Gentry-Barth is currently a Fine Arts and Art Education major at the University of Cincinnati in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Sydney's focus of her studies is photography and videography.  She enjoys working with children and creating curriculum that is interesting and appropriate for their development levels.  Sydney has been trained in Social Justice Art Education where sensitivity to inclusion is prevalent in the curriculum.  Sydney teaches the Kids Painting & Drawing Class.

Charlie Berger is a professional artist and sculptor with more than 35 years of teaching experience, most recently as Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Design at the University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Charlie holds a B.A. in Art from Dickinson College and a M.F.A. from the School of Art in the College of DAAP at the University of Cincinnati.  He is an energetic and articulate educator with significant and in-depth teaching, teacher training, and management experience.  Charlie has developed curricula, courses, and written and edited books and articles for techniques, materials, and artistic methods.  He holds classes at multiple locations in Cincinnati.  His greatest pleasure comes from helping adults and younger artists develop creativity and significant skills in drawing and painting. Charlie is teaching the ArtsConnect Evening Drawing Class on Thursdays 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. and ArtsConnect Evening Painting Class on Wednesdays from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Gary Brooks was born and lives in Amelia, Ohio, east of Cincinnati. Brooks began formal art training at Kent State University but finished at the University of Cincinnati where he earned both a B.F.A. in painting and a M.A. in Art Education.  While at UC, he began painting exclusively with watercolor under the guidance of Bob Fabe and  Phil Tucker.

Brooks worked as a studio artist with internationally known wildlife artist John A. Ruthven hand-coloring double-elephant sized aquatints. After several years as an art teacher, Gary worked in corporate theater production. He later returned to college, earning a second Masters degree and a Doctorate in Educational Administration.

After private tutoring from Gary Akers (AWS), Brooks began painting sharp focus watercolors and egg tempera.  He's continued watercolor studies with Terry Armstrong, Alan Shuptrine, and Laurin McCracken (AWS, NWS).  Gary is a signature member of both the Ohio and Kentucky Watercolor Societies, and an associate member of the National Association of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, Ohio state representative for the International Watercolor Society, and a member of the Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society.  Brooks is also featured on "painting with the Master," a cable access program on public broadcasting and is a frequent presenter at schools and businesses throughout the tristate.

Brooks' watercolors and egg tempera paintings can be found in multiple private and corporate collections throughout the Midwest and at Gary teaches the Watercolor Class for ArtsConnect.

John and Suzanne Carpenter

Suzanne Carpenter (pictured above) is a highly trained and experienced piano teacher. She studied at Oberlin College and Conservatory while attending grade school. She attended high school at Interlochen Arts Academy. Suzanne has her Bachelor of Fine Arts in music (and art, drama, dance and creative writing)  from the University of Connecticut and Masters studies at Antioch in Special Education. She taught at East Manhattan School for Bright and Gifted in New York, taught in Mt. Healthy schools pre K-12, and has run 3 piano studios. Ms. Suzanne teaches the ArtsConnect Private and Group Piano Lessons. Ms. Suzanne and Dr. John both own True Virtuoso Piano Studio.

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John Carpenter (pictured at left) is a concert pianist. He has the Artist Diploma from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (a doctoral degree awarded him due to his high level attained in his piano performance after finishing his DMA coursework), Masters of Music from Manhattan School of Music and Bachelor’s in Music from Manhattan school of Music. He has recently played in the Los Angeles area with the orchestra and at the NAMM monster concerts and with Dayton philharmonic. John is the first place winner of the BMTA International Piano Competition for solo pianists. He plays the traditional service for Mother of God in Covington and for the Wyoming Choir, and has a Radio show on WAIF 88.3 F.M. in Cincinnati, “Music Making Together – a building community program”. Dr. John assists Ms. Suzanne with the ArtsConnect Private and Group Piano Lessons. Together, they own True Virtuoso Piano Studio.

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Arch Cunningham is a graduate of the Al Gable's Advertising Art School.  His advertising experience led him to the printing industry. Arch was a prepress assembler at Hennegan Printing Company.  During his time at Hennegan, Arch saw the prepress technology evolve from film to digital editing. For 6 years, Arch shared his knowledge of prepress assembly with others through classes that he taught.  He has also taught Graphic Communications at Union and Great Oaks schools.  Arch has enjoyed working as a freelance photographer for 20 years.  His love of photography combined with his digital knowledge of printing has led to his work in digital photography as an artist. He hopes to pass along the joy of photography to others and to better his skills and those of his students. Arch teaches the Digital Photography Class for ArtsConnect.

Sharon Doering is a mother, artist, a board certified and licensed art therapist, supervisor, educator, avid traveler, and a “decent” cook.  She holds a B.A. in Fine Arts, an M.A. in Art Therapy, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. Her focus of her doctoral research was the recovery of human trafficking survivors.  Dr. Doering has taught courses in human development, mental health, cognitive-behavioral therapy, diversity, and communication skills at the community, undergraduate, and graduate levels.  Her work spans hospitals, schools, and residential facilities with adults, teens, and children.  Dr. Doering currently runs a private practice, Discover Solutions, LLC, that assists people to discover creative solutions in their lives.Sharon teaches the various Art and Mindfulness Workshops for the ArtsConnect Wednesday Workshops.

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Willie Evans is an artist and framer and the owner of Art Expectations, Ltd., custom wall art designs for commercial and residential clients.  Mr. Evans has been involved in framing since the middle 1970s.  He is a native of Crawfordville, Georgia but spent most of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He learned framing design and techniques through several framing schools affiliated with the Professional Picture Framers Association.  Mr. Evans completed his advanced training in 1986. Through the 1980s, he operated several framing shops.  He has since offered framing as a mobile service.  Mr. Evans is known for his work with many local galleries.  Many clients of his comment on his patience, his precision, and his keen eye for color and moulding choices.Willie teaches the ArtsConnect Picture Framing Classes.

Marian R. Fisher is a retired elementary educator, writer and sales manager She began painting in 2008 and chose oils because that's what her fraternal grandmother used.  She continues painting just with oils because they are so colorful and forgiving.  Lately she has experimented mixing oils with unusual mediums such as charcoal.  Marian also enjoys applying the oils in surprising ways using a palette knife or painting on textured paper.

Marian is an active member of the Arts Alliance Painters a division of The Arts Alliance and continues to take classes. Marian teaches her techniques in ArtsConnect Workshops and teaches residents at Brookdlale Senior Living for the ArtsConnect Retirement Home Outreach Program. 

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Marlena Hebenstreit grew up in a family of professional artists in Cincinnati.  As a young girl, she admired the old masters and her current work is influenced by their techniques.  She is educated from the Cincinnati Art Academy where she studied painting and figure drawing classes taught by her mother, renowned portrait painter, Carin Hebenstreit.  Marlena was formally trained, as well, by Mike McGuire of the Cincinnati Academy of Design.  Marlena manages a studio at the Pendleton Art Center, Cincinnati, where she creates and sells her paintings and artwork. 

Heather Hitchman is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Southern State Community College, Hillsboro, Ohio.  She is also the Nature Shop Manager at Cincinnati Nature Center.  Heather holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art History and Art Education from Mt. St. Joseph, a Master of Arts in Art Education from Miami University and a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of Tennessee. Heather teaches the  Stained Glass Classes and leads Girl Scout Fine Arts Workshops.

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Joan Klefas is an art enthusiast!  She is a Springfield Township resident and is a member of the senior drop-in programming. Joan is active with the Tuesday afternoon painting group, the Wednesday morning stained glass group, a participant in the ArtLocal Art Show, and has taught a Friday morning crafting group.  Joan is well versed in many art and craft techniques, mediums, and approaches.  She loves to teach people how to create beautiful items either for their home or to give to others.  

Joan teaches the residents at Brookdale Senior Living a monthly craft project for the ArtsConnect Retirement Home Outreach Program!

Gary Lord is a professional decorative painter and has recently retired from a 40-year career as a decorative painter and owner of his company, Gary Lord Wall Options.  During his tenure, his company won 10 National awards for being the "Best in Craft."  Gary also owned and ran a school for decorative painting for over 25 years.  As a teacher, he was showcased on hundreds of "how to" radio and television programs teaching his award winning finishes.  For over 30 years, Gary has taught both nationally and internationally.  He specializes in water-based paints and enjoys sharing his talents with other adults.  Gary holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio State University. Gary teaches the Cabinet & Furniture Makeover Workshop for ArtsConnect.

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Joseph Mast is a self-taught wood worker who enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for woodworking with other people.  He studied Elementary Education at Western Kentucky University.  Joe currently works at Humana Health Care as an Automation Engineer, in the IT division.  His love for woodworking and fine carpentry began at age 6 when his grandfather taught him how to build and how to run a wood shop. Joe continues his grandfather’s legacy by teaching his own son, age 6, and other friends who are interested, woodworking.  Joe fulfills commissions for other people during his after work hours and teaches the ArtsConnect Woodshop Classes for teens and adults.

Emily Kimmich Neff is a mother, an artist, and an educator. She graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art from Denison University in 2003, her M.A. in Art Education from Miami University in 2006, and her TESOL Endorsement from UC in 2017. Emily has taught all ages, young children to adults, in various settings, including Finneytown Local Schools (six years) and Mt. Healthy City Schools (two years).  Emily loves to go on “adventures” and see things grow! She enjoys travel, meeting new people, and having experiences with her family and friends, and any creative process. Emily currently resides in West Chester (with her husband, two sons, and two cats) and teaches English as a Second Language for Lakota Local School District.  She is excited to be back with ArtsConnect teaching Art and Wine Workshops.

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Heidi Rice. Sewing Instructor

Priscilla Oehlschlaeger is a Cincinnati based costume designer.  She has worked for the Playhouse in the Park and with specific performers such as Jefferson James of the Contemporary Dance Company. Also know as Ms. P, Priscilla has been teaching hundreds of children how to create art and how to sew for many years.  She has worked on projects and taught classes with Roundabout Opera for Kids (ROK, Cincy), The Art Cart, I.S. Design Works, Summer Theatre Day Camp for the Playhouse, The Fringe Festival 2012, Nativity:  The Pop Opera for Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Main Street Opera Company, and her own Theater Magic Classes. She is the author of Make Costumes!:  For Creative Play under the name of Priscilla Hershberger.  Ms. P teaches the ArtsConnect Kids Sewing, the ArtsConnect Kids Camp, the ArtsConnect Girl Scout Fine Arts Workshops, and Wednesday Workshops.

Heidi Rice is a Springfield Township resident, wife, and mother of three.  She learned to sew as a pre-teen in the 4-H program.  Heidi taught sewing and quilting classes for 4 years at Sewn Studio.  Her favorite part of teaching sewing classes is watching people realize the joy and relaxation that creating with your hands brings. She also loves showing people that the craft of sewing and quilting can be trendy and modern, that they can sew stylish garments or make quilts that are either traditional, or works of modern art.  

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Katherine K. Smith is an artist, art educator, and the Education Director for ArtsConnect. She holds a B.F.A. from Wittenberg University and both a M.A. in Art Education and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Miami University. Her paintings and murals are found in homes, public buildings, and as illustrations in books and book covers. Her published writing is found in teaching, curriculum, and education journals. Katherine has served as an adjunct instructor for Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. She has taught curriculum leadership classes and Art Education classes for Elementary Education majors and has taught Art Appreciation for undergraduate students. Katherine also consults with Woodford Paideia Academy in Cincinnati Public Schools to assist with their integration of the arts into the classroom curricula. Prior to her university teaching, Katherine was a middle school art teacher at Tower Heights Middle School in Centerville, Ohio. Katherine has conducted research with ArtsConnect. 

Roger Ross holds a B.S. and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington.  Roger served two years in the Army and worked for Proctor and Gamble in California and in Ohio.  He and his wife began taking watercolor lessons together from Ray Loos and Lou Austerman and continued for 10 years.  He began painting in earnest after retiring in 1998. Since then he has studied with Eric Weigardt, Margaret Scanlan, Arne Westerman, Sam Holingsworth, Vola Lee, Bruce Neville, Ron Ranson, Tony Couch, Frank Webb, Homer Hacker, Mel Stabin, Susan Tregay, Dale Latinen, and Tom Fong.   

Roger is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society, The Queen City Art Club, The Ohio Watercolor Society, and the Art on Symmes Guild. In 2013 Roger won a Springfield Township Art contest where one of his paintings was displayed on 18 winter theme banners on Winton Road. Roger teaches the ArtsConnect Intermediate Watercolor Class on Wednesdays.

Megan Stevens Ceramics

Megan Stevens is a ceramic artist who creates functional pottery heavy with color and surface decoration.  She is experienced in hand building, wheel throwing, slip casting, glaze/clay making, and kiln maintenance.  Along with her functional pottery, Megan has created a few bodies of sculptural work.  She has had solo exhibits at UC and group exhibitions in Jindgezhen, China, Chicago, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio.  Images of her work can be seen on her website: and on her instagram @meganstevensceramics.  Megan holds a B.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Megan teaches the ArtsConnect Ceramic Hand Building Classes for Adults and for Kids. She teaches  Workshops. and Girl Scout Pottery workshops.