Express Yourself immerses young people into the creative world of music, dance, and visual arts and empowers them with life-changing results. Express Yourself celebrates cultural diversity and collaboration with isolated youth from 17 Department of Mental Health residential and inpatient facilities who form their own large community. Since 1989, over 2,200 kids in newly created communities have worked collaboratively with artists and celebrities such as Blue Man Group, STOMP, Boston Pops Conductor Keith Lockhart, and Broadway dancers. Youth and artists become inspired during a full-year program creating set designs, visual art, and performance pieces for their grand celebration at the Citi Performing Arts Center’s Wang Theatre. Express Yourself challenges myths surrounding young people with mental illness and at-risk youth, allowing these individuals to explore art as a path toward a healthy sense of identity and belonging and toward feeling valued for their artistic contributions. More than 300 young people per year emerge from a sense of isolation in hospitals, residential programs, and community settings to a strong sense of collaboration and celebration in a thriving multi-disciplinary art community.
Paula Conrad, Co-Executive Director
Paula founded and created Express Yourself in 1988. She has served as a choreographer and has taught dance, creative movement, and served as an artist in residence in several public and private schools and human service agencies. She has performed with flamenco and Latin dance companies both here and abroad. Paula has presented workshops on arts integration and the creative process in conferences and workshops throughout the United States. She has a Master’s degree from Lesley University in Creative Arts in Learning, holds five teaching certifications, and currently teaches in the MA program at Endicott College.
Stan Strickland, Co-Executive Director
For the last 15 years, Stan has served as co-executive and artistic director of EXYO. Singer, saxophonist,
actor, and flautist, Stan has performed extensively throughout the US, Europe, the Caribbean, and New Zealand. He conducts workshops in voice and movement therapy internationally. Stan has been center stage for our performances since 1995. He has helped more than 1,600 students create a grand culminating performance after year-long residencies. He is the recipient of the 2007 Eliot Norton Award for Best Individual Performance.
Kristi, the program coordinator for EXYO, works in the administrative and visual arts programs. She holds a BFA from Ohio Wesleyan University with a concentration in ceramics and painting. Kristi has served as exhibition coordinator and technical support at Clayworks Studio Workshop in the Manhattan gallery. She has also served as a visual artist and exhibition coordinator for Express Yourself.
Actor and builder, Miles Herter has worked with EXYO since 1994 in a variety of capacities, creating original pieces through process-driven theater and collaborating with kids constructing stage sets and props. Currently serving as production coordinator, Miles helps to script the final show and to transfer the youth-inspired artwork to the theatrical setting of the Citi Performing Arts Center. He has a B.A. from Harvard in Visual and Environmental Studies (Theater, Design, and Film).
Malena del Mar
Malena has been choreographing and performing dance with EXYO since 1988, before it emerged as an organization. She performed with Ethnic Dance Arts Company, flamenco dance throughout Spain and Italy, Ramon de los Reyes “Spanish Dance Theatre, ”and Omayra Amaya’s “Flamenco Sin Limites.”
VISUAL ARTS TEAM
Barbara Keiter, Visual Arts Director
Barbara has been making art with EXYO since 2000. She has a BFA from Syracuse University and has worked as an illustrator and decorative painter. Barbara serves as visual arts director, teaches, and designs our set each year relying on her past experiences as a visual artist, prop maker, and performer.
Shawn Paul Filtranti
Shawn is new to EXYO this year. He has a BFA from Montserrat College of Art with a double major in sculpture and art education. He loves building, sculpting, and creating with our youth. He is the proud father of two young children.
Everardo has been with EXYO since 1994, teaching and developing the model for the visual arts program. He has a BFA from Montserrat College of Art with a specialization in photography and painting. He has served as a consultant for graphics and web design and has exhibited in the United States and Mexico.
Set designer, muralist, and mask-maker, Emily Getchell holds a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, where she majored in painting. She has worked as an arts educator in the California public school system and arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Shayla is an artist and teacher at Solstice who has shown her work in a number of group and solo exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. Since 2004, Shayla has had the pleasure of working within the Solstice groups performing with EXYO and has seen the transformative power of art.
Neil has been with us since 1998, bringing teaching expertise and energy to the visual arts component.
A 1997 graduate of Montserrat College of Art with a BFA, he is currently completing two Master’s degrees at Salem State College in special education and art. Neil is a practicing visual artist and due in part to his experience with EXYO, has been teaching in the Haverhill Public Schools alternative program for five years.