Aviva Kapust is a graphic designer, educator and youth rights activist. Since joining The Village in 2010, Aviva redesigned The Village’s after-school youth arts program by expanding services to youth ages 9-13, increasing teen recruitment by 30% and tripling its course offerings. As Co-founder and Editor In Chief of The Village’s CRED Magazine, a groundbreaking youth arts and culture publication, Aviva grew $5k seed funding to $180k in just 11 months. Working alongside Village directors, Aviva spearheaded Arts Collab—The Village’s satellite, in-school arts education initiative, now in its third cycle at Kipp Philadelphia. In collaboration with Village teaching artists, Aviva will be launching three youth-driven creative businesses on The Village campus this summer. Aviva co-lead The Village’s strategic visioning planning process and will continue to work towards bringing this vision to reality in the years to come. Before working at The Village, Aviva worked as an award-winning Creative Director and Art Director at advertising agencies in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Communications School at Temple University.
Aviva Kapust, Executive Director
El Sawyer, Operations Director/Film Instructor
El Sawyer is a filmmaker, videographer, editor, and community media and youth media activist. Sawyer initiated and developed the digital media arts program at The Village, where he currently teaches Reel Voices, an annual teen video production course in collaboration with the United States District Attorney’s Office.
In 2007, Sawyer was commissioned by WYBE TV to create The Beirut Boys. Drawing from his close-knit connections to the Fairhill community, Sawyer documented the lives of three African American young men in a way rarely ever seen or recorded by the mainstream media. The result is a powerful and intimate portrayal that has been selected for inclusion in the Masculinity Project, presented and organized by the National Black Programmers Consortium of PBS. Sawyer’s work on The Anderson Monarchs with Eugene Martin was presented at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
Jon Hopkins, PhillyEarth Director
Jon Hopkins is a Permaculture and Sustainable Design Consultant with over 12 years of experience working on projects ranging from small-scale farms to suburban homes and urban gardens. In all of his design, consulting and educational projects Jon seeks to restore ecological balance to landscapes while simultaneously increasing a landscape’s resilience to energy shock or disruption. Jon’s expertise is in designing small scale renewable energy systems, rainwater catchment and greywater systems, organic vegetable and native plant gardens, greenhouses, food forests, chicken coops and straw bale buildings. He has lectured and lead workshops at the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology at Humboldt State University, Philadelphia University and Burlington County College. Jon is passionate about environmental sustainability and is dedicated to sharing his knowledge and skills with youth and urban communities.
Melissa Kim, Economic Development Director
Melissa is an urban planner and community organizer. She leads The Village’s initiatives to bolster economic opportunity and activity in the Fair Hill/Hartranft community. Applying an asset-based, data-driven approach, Melissa focuses on the synergies among the arts, land care, entrepreneurship, and business and workforce development. Prior to joining The Village, Melissa worked as the Director of the North 5th Street Revitalization Project and an attorney at various law firms in Philadelphia. She serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and the Asian American Women’s Coalition.
Brenda Toler, Administrative Manager
Brenda Wilson-Toler is the Administrative Manager of Arts and Education at The Village. She has been a member of The Village staff for 14 years and is considered by many to be The Village’s resident mother. She is the proud mother of four sons, the grandmother of 15 and the great grandmother of one. Brenda is currently working towards becoming a licensed Youth Minister.
Heather Jones, Communications Manager
Heather Jones is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Communications Program. She serves as The Village’s Communications Manager and is Managing Editor of CRED Magazine. Heather enjoys working with youth to reach their full potential as future writers, entrepreneurs and leaders. She is interested in loving small animals, eating dessert and maintaining her off-beat sense of humor.
K-Fai Steele, Free Library Hot Spot Computer Assistant
K-Fai Steele serves as the Computer Assistant for the Free Library Hot Spot at the Village of Arts and Humanities. The Hot Spot is a seven-seat computer lab that offers free and open classes for all ages, covering topics from Introduction to Computers to resume writing, applying for jobs online and blogging.
Mahatma Aznar, Teaching Artist: Jewelry Design
Mahatma studied Graphic and Fashion Design at The Art Institute of Philadelphia and remains on the cutting edge of fashion and jewelry design with her one-of-a-kind leather and costume jewelry creations. Mahatma encourages her students to be inspired by everything they love, to problem solve, enhance their jewelry design skills, and to make pieces that express their inner and outer style. She currently resides in South Philadelphia and is thrilled to be launching her apparel line. Mahatma’s jewelry is available on www.ragartfashions.etsy.com
Katia McGuirk, Clay Artist-in-Residence
Katia McGuirk is a tile artist, from Doylestown, Pa. Educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, she has been producing tile in the proud tradition of Henry Mercer of the Moravian Pottery and Tileworks for over two decades. Katia combines this age old art form with a fun, colorful, contemporary touch.