Nette Forné Thomas, President
A graduate of Montclair State University with a B.A., M.A., and administrative and supervisory certification, Thomas was employed by the Newark Board of Education as an art educator and administrator for thirty six years. Her experiences in a comprehensive high school and a renowned magnet high school (Arts High School) have been successful on many levels.
She became a cooperating teacher for a student teacher at the onset of her third year of teaching. Throughout the succeeding years she was solicited to perform this service for ten other student teachers. Other educational responsibilities included appointments to Textbook Evaluation Committees, the Art Curriculum Committee, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and a supporting member of the State Education Department’s Alternate Route Certification Program. She has been a presenter at many educational conferences, such as the Art Educators of New Jersey’s conferences on Computers in Art, Increasing Ethnic Arts Awareness, and Educational Technology, and the Infusion of Multicultural/Multiethnic Instruction in the Art Program.
Other educational professional experiences included revising the curriculum guide for Arts High School, working with the Educational Testing Service in Princeton NJ as a scorer for the Praxis Series in Art exam for prospective art educators.
Thomas was in the second group of art educators awarded the Geraldine R. Dodge Visual Artist/Educator Initiative Fellowships of $7,000, which have been given for the past 14 years to artists who teach in New Jersey’s public schools in order to support them in their roles as both artists and educators. Her artwork and her writing were selected for publication in A Passion for Teaching, which was edited Sarah Levine and Scott McVay, the former director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Her art has been exhibited widely, in major African American shows, on college campuses and in regional museums. These include the Studio Museum of Harlem, the “Emerging and Established ” exhibit at the Newark Museum, the Women Artist Series at Douglas College, as well as exhibits at Trenton State College, New Jersey City University, Seton Hall University and Rutgers University.
Since retiring in 2000, Thomas has served on the Board of Directors at City Without Walls Gallery, The 1978 Maplewood Arts Center, The George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University and Pen + Brush, where she previously was the Assistant Treasurer and First Vice President.
Rashidah Ismaili, First Vice President
Rashidah Ismaili is currently the First Vice President and Co-Chair of the African Heritage Month Celebrations, and was formerly Chair of Pen & Performing Arts. Originally from West Africa, she came to the US to study music and become Africa’s first opera singer. She studied at New York College of Music as a Voice major with Literature as an interest. She had a very rich experience at that college and Mannes School of Music where she had a scholarship in musical theatre. She later switched her priorities due to the volatile situation in the 60’s in Africa and felt she could best use the education she was acquiring by doing graduate work in sociology. She finally got a doctorate in psychology (SUNY) after doing a masters in sociology and literature (New School for Social Research). She also did a certificate in Psychodrama under Dr. Siroka.
During her graduate studies, Ismaili worked at Job Corps, Essex County College and Rutgers University. She has worked in group homes for juveniles in need of supervision for the Children’s Aid Society, New Jersey. She was the Associate Director of (HEOP) Higher Education Opportunity Programme at Pratt Institute. All during her long career in academia, she did community work and was writing and active in political forums on behalf of Africa.
She is a member of many organizations, including: ALA, African Literature Association; CSA, Caribbean Studies Association; AHSA, African Heritage Studies Association; ASA, African Studies Association; OWWA, Organization of Women Writers Association; PEN International Writers Organization, an NGO at the United Nations.
Ismaili has been a member of Pen + Brush for over ten years. She participated in the Poetry and Prose workshops and readings. Eventually, she began organizing the exhibitions for Women Artists of African Descent, which have been very successful and supported by Pen and Brush to the fullest. She has been on the Governing Board for some years now and is very active in pushing the mission of the organization, expansion and securing the legacy of this historic organization. She looks forward to working with other organizations to help forge relationships that will make Pen + Brush a dynamic force in the community of women artists.
Liz Cenedella, Treasurer
Liz Cenedella graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in Greek and Latin, and from Boston University, School of Fine and Applied Arts, with an M.F.A. in Stage and Costume Design. After graduating, Cenedella worked in regional theatre, summer stock and off-Broadway in Costume Design and Production.
In New York in 1970 she began her own company, Domino Patchworks Inc, designing and manufacturing children’s wear and children’s specialty bedding for the trade: department stores, mail order catalogues, and gift stores. At the same time she worked on commissions with New York area interior designers, producing quilts, pillows and window treatments. For the last twenty years or so she has primarily spent time as a fiber artist, designing one-of-a-kind quilts, wall hangings, pillows and other decorative items for the home for private commissions, fine craft exhibitions and solo and group shows. As a decorative painter she has designed floor cloths, furniture and floor treatments, and continues to work in oil, pastel and mixed media.
Flora Jacobson, Director
Flora Jacobson has been a member of Pen + Brush for 21 years and served as the Chairperson for the Mixed Media Collage Division for 10 years. She has studied either privately or in art classes such as the Art Students’ League, the National Academy of Fine Art, The Victor d’Amico Institute of Art, The Truro Castle Hill Center for the Arts, the Provincetown Art Association and the Fine Art Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Jacobson has a Masters’ degree in Social Work from the Boston University School of Social work. She has extensive work experience, having been employed by Community Service Society, the James Weldon Johnson Mental Health Clinic, the Day Treatment Center and School, and the Department of Education where she served as a social worker with the School Based Support Team. She still works as a State Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) for the Bleuler Psychotherapy Center.
She is a member of the Society of the New York School for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis (NYSPP), having completed 2 years’ of study after her Masters’ degree.
Jacobson has had two solo shows and been in manifold group shows at the Pen and Brush, where she received a number of awards. She has had exhibits at the Pauline Rireloff Gallery-New York Design Center, The Albertson Peterson Gallery in Winter Park, Florida, The Marcoleo Ltd Frameshop and Gallery, The Merimack Valley Music and Art Center, the Gracie Square Art show, and the Denise Bibro Fine Art Gallery. She has sold over 100 collages and paintings. Ronald Bricke, an internationally known Designer was an ardent and staunch buyer as was designer Austin Chin.
Other infusions into her work have been opera, museums, concerts, theatre, literature, family, the sky and the undulations of the ocean. She says of her art: “My paintings and collages reflect a moment in time, a mood, a stance, captured by the figure, abstract forms, the multiplicity of colors, line, design, and movement.”
Anne Dushanko Dobek, Director
Anne Dushanko Dobek is an artist/activist whose multidisciplinary installations reference issues of social justice and or the environment. Often located in alternative venues including oceans, forests and fields, the artist’s work invites social engagement as well as conversations on the status of women and refugees in an increasingly dangerous world.
A graduate of Pratt Institute (MS) and Rowan University (BS), the artist’s work on social justice issues has been recognized by grants from the Puffin Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Chashama and New Jersey State Council for the Arts Fellowships in 1982, 1985 and 2012.
An educator for over twenty years, Dushanko Dobek is a frequent lecturer on topics congruent with her art production: “Art as Social Commentary” and “Artist in the Rainforest.” The latter reflects a lifelong passion for entomology and her volunteer work with scientists in Costa Rican rainforests. These efforts have been supported by fellowships from both Earthwatch and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Fellowships at art colonies (such as i-Park, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Visual Art, Moulin au Nef and Long Beach Island Foundation and others) have allowed Dushanko Dobek to create some of her more ambitious outdoor installations, including integrating light and sound into her decades-long Parallel Migrations series.
She has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally, in locations that include the Musee Cantonal des Beaux Arts in Switzerland, the Gulbenkian Foundation, the Museum of Art and Design in New York, High Museum, Newark Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and other venues. Solo exhibitions include The Bauhaus Pavilion in Berlin Germany, Chashama, Montclair Art Museum, Monmouth Museum, Pen and Brush, and Windows on White.
Dushanko Dobek’s work is in numerous collections including the Montclair Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Art and Design, National Museum of American Art, Noyes Museum, Library of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
She is a member of the Women’s Caucus for the Arts, New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Feminist Art Project, North American Butterfly Association, Book Arts Symposium, Printmaking Council Of NJ and Lepidopterists Society.
Elyse Topalian, Director
Elyse Topalian is an independent arts consultant specializing in communications. Over a 30-year career at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was Vice President for Communications for the past eight years, she promoted the breadth of the institution’s exhibitions, announcements, and activities, and oversaw its advertising program. Earlier, she was the U.S. editor of the art magazine FMR and a freelance cultural writer. She is also a two-time book author, having published biographies of V. I. Lenin and Margaret Sanger for young adults.
Lani Doktori, Director
Lani Doktori is the VP of Marketing and Sales at Colorfast NY and independent art appraiser. Originally trained as a lawyer, she served as a staff attorney for District Council 37 and the New York State Commission on Investigation before taking a position as the Director of Program Practices at CBS. She then spent over twenty years as the President and owner of Accurate Printing & Graphics, where she quadrupled the company’s sales. She is an alumna of Boston University, the New England School of Law, and NYU’s Art Appraisal Certification program.
A committed female entrepreneur and active member of the NYC business community, Doktori is the Past Vice Chair of the women’s business committee and the public policy committee of National Association of Women Business Owners NYC Chapter, and the Past President and current member of the 451 Broome Street Corporation Board of Directors. Doktori is a founding member of the Beacon Group, a volunteer organization that funds grass roots organization in the New York city area. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, where she was Chair of the Women’s Business Committee.
Pamela Morgan, Director
Pamela Morgan is the Executive Director of Women In Media – Newark, an organization which she founded that advocates for and educates the community about issues affecting the global status of women using film, video, and new media as its platform. Their flagship event is their annual Women’s History Month Film Festival, housed primarily at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, where they screen an international array of independent films by and about women. Currently, Morgan is one of five United Nations representatives for Zonta International in New York, and her work is a reflection of her focus on the critical importance of addressing myriad issues facing women worldwide.
A retired educator, Morgan worked for over thirty-five years in public education. Starting as a classroom teacher, she became an instructional technologist, working in that area for twenty years. During those years she thrived on her ability to identify inventive ways in which to use technology as a tool for academic achievement, spearheading innovative award winning projects.
Morgan has served on numerous New Jersey State Department of Education Instructional Technology committees and was a contributor to two of the New Jersey State Educational Technology plans. She wrote numerous proposals securing funding for technology for the Newark Public School district and has given testimony before a US Senate sub-committee investigating funding for instructional technology. Additionally, she has spoken before major institutions including the US Department of Commerce regarding the effective implementation of community-based telecommunications networks, as well as authored articles on that subject. Morgan completed her career in education as an Executive Assistant for the Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools.
Janice Sands, Executive Director
Janice Sands has served as Executive Director of Pen + Brush since 1998. She has over 37 years of experience in nonprofit management and administration and has served as a director for Planned Parenthood and The Los Angeles County Bar Association. Her work with arts and entertainment organizations began in 1992 when she became the executive director of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and subsequently a strategic planning consultant to the Actors Fund of America. Sands has written legal education curriculum for the Constitutional Rights Foundation and contributed various articles for Los Angeles Lawyer magazine and contributed to a U.S. congressional research paper on Huntington’s Chorea. She has participated in several arts organization panel presentations for the Arts and Business Council of New York, the Council for Arts and Humanities of Staten Island, and the Women’s Studio Center. She is a member of ArtTable, a national organization for professional women in the visual arts. Through Pen + Brush she is also a member of Americans for the Arts, the Arts and Business Council of New York and the New York Nonprofit Coordinating Committee. She personally has also received a Los Angeles mayoral citation for literacy advocacy in the Los Angeles public school system. Sands is a graduate of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare.
Dawn Delikat, Associate Executive Director
Dawn Delikat is the Associate Executive Director at Pen + Brush. Her work with the organization began with an internship in 2004 and she came on as gallery manager in 2008. She has facilitated numerous multidisciplinary international exhibitions with prominent curators and artists. Delikat’s professional experience includes managing Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, operating a high-profile artist’s studio in Chelsea, exhibition installations at the Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ and working as an exhibition facilitator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Delikat holds a graduate degree in art history with a concentration in museum studies from the City College of New York and holds undergraduate degrees in art history and studio arts with a concentration in painting. Delikat was an adjunct professor in the fine art department at Union County College in Cranford, NJ where she has also juried and curated several student exhibitions at the college’s Tomasulo Gallery. She has also served as a juror for Melissa Wolf Fine Arts 2012 online exhibition “Virtual Perspective” and the Northwest Area Arts Council’s 24th National Art Show, “Women’s Works 2011.”
Parker Daley, Curatorial Associate and Visual Arts Manager
Parker Daley is the Visual Arts Manager for Pen + Brush. She has worked at multiple art fairs, including Spring/Break and NADA in NYC, as well as organized exhibitions (specifically at Syracuse University, Ithaca College, and Sunnyview Rehabilitation) and has worked as a gallery consultant. Daley interned in Museum Administration in the New York State Museum, and provided tours of the New York State Capitol and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Art Collection while serving as the Touring Services Assistant at the Empire State Plaza Office of General Services.
A passionate modern art enthusiast, Daley has studied abroad and also served as the teaching assistant for ART111 History of Modern Art: 1850 – Present at Syracuse University, worked as a Gallery Supervisor for the Handwerker Gallery (Ithaca College), and held the position of Ithaca College Student Curator and Student Assistant for the Art History Department. She holds a BA in Art History from Ithaca College and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Syracuse University.
Lisbeth Redfield, Editor and Literary Arts Manager
Lisbeth Redfield is the Editor and Literary Arts Manager for Pen + Brush. An advocate for strong voices in women’s writing of the past, present, and future, Redfield has worked at Chicago-based literary agency Browne & Miller Literary Associates, Bloomsbury Publishing, and (for six years) at Oxford University Press. Redfield is professionally active in the New York publishing world and personally committed to the non-profit arts community, where she is a regular volunteer at events run by the New York branch of the Country Dance & Song Society. She holds a BA with honors in English from the University of Chicago and is an alumna of the prestigious Columbia Publishing Course.