Staff & Board
coLAB Arts is an artist-driven organization. We call our core team the COLLABORATORS, individuals with passion and artistic expertise to facilitate incredible work and deep engagement. Staff leadership oversees administrative and creative operations. Our BOARD OF DIRECTORS oversees organizational mission and fiscal responsibility.
CO-FOUNDER & PRODUCING DIRECTOR
Dan Swern is the co-founder and producing director for coLAB Arts in New Brunswick, NJ, providing performance and developmental programs for emerging artists, and arts education and social engagement with the local community. For coLAB Arts, Dan created theOrphanage play development program. He has directed the New Jersey premiere of I Heart Kant, and a bilingual production of Romeo and Juliet / Romeo y Julieta. He is also the founder and owner of Smugbug Productions, providing services in creative development and stage direction, production consulting, and producing. Current directing projects include Shake and Bake: Love's Labour's Lost, the new musical Dumb Luck by R.C. Staab and Michael Sansonia, an adaptation of Chekhov's Ivanov with Sandy Simona, and Hiccups by Ben Rosenblatt for American Records. Previous credits include Merchant of Venice for Franklin Stage Company, I Hope They Serve Beer on Broadway by Tucker Max, Flight with Branch Street Productions, and Into the Labyrinth/Art of Love and Kafka Shorts for Voice Afire. Producing clients include The Secret City, Sprat Theatre Company, Foster Entertainment, Poetic Theatre Productions, Branch Street Productions, and National Theatre of Scotland. Previous positions include production coordinator for Holiday Image, associate producer for the New York production of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, associate producer for the national tour of Gazillion Bubble Show, and company manager for George Street Playhouse. He is a proud graduate of Rutgers University.
Twitter | @daswern
DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION and OUTREACH
John was born and raised in the City of New Brunswick and works in NYC and internationally as a freelance actor. Through his work at coLAB, John is committed to creating projects that use the arts as a lens to examine complex issues that affect community. While serving as a member of the Leadership and Director of Education for coLAB ARTS, John has produced main-stage productions and initiated short and long term educational residencies in several central NJ schools. John is also a Board Member on New Brunswick Town Clock Community Development Corporation. John earned his undergraduate degree at Holy Cross and holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Acting from Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. He has taught theater at all grade levels in a variety of residency programs as well as at Rider University, Westminster Choir College and is currently teaching Global Theater and Theater for Social Development at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts.
He has created or curates: HearMe, theVOM, Watershed Sculpture Project, theTABLE, stART, as well as the theaterMAKER residencies for teens.
CURATOR - theVOM
Dustin Ballard is a storyteller and creative artist who works as an actor, director, writer and teaching artist and originally hails from South Mississippi. With a B.F.A in Theatre Performance from Kean University, he was the 2009 Region II Winner and National Finalist of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. As an actor, he has performed at Lincoln Center with the Little Orchestra Society, Two River Theatre, Playwrights Theatre of NJ, and others. As a Teaching Artist, Dustin works with the George Street Playhouse in the New Brunswick Public Schools creating original theatre based on the American Revolution, Greek Mythology, Native American folk stories, and immigration. Dustin is also an improviser and live storyteller and has performed at the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Magnet Theatre, the People's Improv Theatre, and the Moth.
Elise Brancheau is an operatic soprano and arts administrator from New Jersey. She has performed leading operatic roles and oratorio/concert works, premiered new music, sung for film soundtracks, and more. She is the cofounder and artistic director of The Secret Opera, an organization committed to utilizing opera and art song to spark conversation about social issues and inspire positive action. She holds degrees in vocal performance from Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Mannes College The New School for Music. To learn more about Elise, visit www.elisebrancheau.com; for more information on The Secret Opera and its other cofounders, Alexis Rodda and Chelsea Feltman, visit www.thesecretopera.com.
RESIDENT ARTIST, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership
This position is funded in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Jamie Bruno is an interdisciplinary artist, organizer and educator living in Newark, NJ. She has spent years in both the art and agricultural worlds. Her work, often interactive and people-centric, is embedded in internalized examinations of power, the self-organization of humans, and human relationships with their environments. Jamie employs painting, drawing, video and installation in her art making, with an increasing focus on more functional installations and exhibitions. This can be observed in past works such as And all our dead can live again, BARTERLINES, and playfully in the work FREE WEED.
Jamie has worked in urban agriculture development in Newark, NJ for the last four years, primarily on Farm-to-School garden-based education, and composting. Most recently she has dedicated herself to urban agriculture alliance building and sustainability and community health initiatives. Jamie runs a small farmers’ market at Newark Beth Israel Hospital with Planting Seeds of Hope and other local partners.
Jamie graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a BFA in Fine Art in 2008. For a closer look at her work please visit her website tothedirt.net.
PRODUCER & CURATOR - MOTION: NEW DANCE WORKS
Lauren Connolly, Artistic Director of Connolly & Co., is a choreogpraher and dance educator from New Jersey. She is a recipient of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship Award as well as the Dance on the Lawn 2017 Emerging Commissioned New Jersey Choreographer. Lauren has shown her work throughout the New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and New Jersey area including New Jersey Performing Arts Center as part of Jersey (New) Moves! Emerging Choreographer Fellowship, The Koresh Come Together Dance Festival, New York Live Arts, Reverbdance: Echo Tours, Dance Teacher Summit, Rutgers University, Your Move, Dixon Place, Salvatore Capezio Theatre, Grounds for Sculpture and George Street Playhouse.
Connolly & Co. is invested in how dance can initiate physical, intellectual, emotional, and spatial transformations. Her work has been described as “sublime…full of surprises, admirably original ….and engaging…" In 2017, Connolly & Co. joined forces with Robert Mark Dance to create the first of many evenings that will celebrate the art of collaboration. Lauren serves a board member of Dance New Jersey and Curator of coLAB Arts' Motion: New Danceworks Choreography Residency in New Brunswick, NJ.
Emma joined the coLAB Arts team in July 2016. She coordinates with the producing director to develop and create specialized event posters, logos, and banners. Prior to her collaboration with coLAB Arts, Emma interned with Rutgers University Career Services during her junior and senior years of college where she gained valuable design experience. Emma also interned during her university tenure with The Entente/Colophon Foundry, a London-based design studio. That two-month experience, living and working in London, sparked Emma’s love for art-based design for commercial application. Emma graduated magna cum laude from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University where she earned a BFA in Visual Arts with a concentration in Design.
CURATOR - theVOM
Molly Graham is an oral historian, documentary radio producer and archivist with ﬁeld experience in Massachusetts, Maine and the Midwest. She attended Bates College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine, where she's from. Molly produced an award winning radio documentary called Besides Life Here, which was licensed by several NPR affiliates. She earned her M.A. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston. After Simmons, she worked as the oral historian for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, transitioning the archives into the digital age and doubling the collection of interviews with Wisconsin-connected veterans from all over the state. Last fall, she was an invited panelist at the annual Oral History Association meeting in Oklahoma City, presenting on “Digitization, Reference and Communications.” As Assistant Director of Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc., a nonprofit organization she cofounded in Maine, Molly worked to record and preserve the voices and stories of Maine's way of life, language, and history.
Aaliyah Habeeb is a Kent, Ohio native. She received her BA from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Fine Arts from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts. Most recently, Aaliyah wrote, produced, and starred in her own play, Love Ya Like A Sis, Off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theatre. Other Off-Broadway credits include: The Fabulous Miss Marie and Supernatural: The Play.
Adam Hardin is a creative artist who grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma and has loved theatre all of his life. He most recently graduated from Rutgers University in 2016 with an MFA in Acting, and is the 2016 recipient of the John I. Bettenbender Award for Outstanding Graduate Artistic Achievement from Mason Gross School of the Arts. Adam is thrilled to be a coLAB Arts teaching Artist, and enjoys the opportunity to connect to students.
CURATOR - litLAB
Jad is a writer for New Brunswick Today and project curator for coLAB Arts. His passions include archaeology, history, classical stories, reading, and writing. Jad has an interest in science fiction/fantasy, as well as various other genres. He is especially interested in how stories have adapted throughout geography and time, and how they reflect the environment in which they were written.
Brandon Rubin (Rutgers M.F.A. 2014) Is a theater professional originally from Sacramento, California. He is a strong believer that Theater is a tool to teach and with that in mind he makes every effort to reach out to youth using his craft. He is happy to be entering his third year with coLAB arts and the awesome youth at New Brunswick Public High School.
Jennifer Sosnowski is a part-time grantwriting intern for coLAB Arts and full-time Public Policy student at Rutgers University. She has many artists in her family and has a deep appreciation for the arts, enjoying singing and slam poetry in her spare time.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
coLAB Arts is overseen and advised by an enthusiastic and involved group of artistic, civic, and community leaders. Our Board of Directors actively seeks interdisciplinary conversation to incorporate the arts into all areas of civic life.
Christopher Cartmill, President
Adam Gold, Vice President
Pastor Susan Kramer-Mills, Treasurer
Dan Swern, Secretary