Alyona Aleksandra Ushe, President & CEO
Alyona has extensive experience in launching and growing cultural arts organizations across the nation. She has presented and produced a wide array of international talent and emerging artists in multiple venues including musical concerts, visual art exhibitions, theater programs, and educational and outreach initiatives. Alyona launched and developed Arts Garage in Delray Beach into one of South Florida’s most acclaimed cultural venues, launched Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) and lead the efforts to revive a dormant Pompano Beach Amphitheater (The Amp) with festivals and concerts and recently opened Pompano Beach Cultural Center.
Previously, she was the executive director of the New Orleans Opera Association, where she oversaw the restructuring of its Board of Directors, significantly increased organizational fundraising base, and launched an array of educational outreach programs and community partnerships. As the founder and executive director Classika-Synetic Theatre, she developed a diverse theater company in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan, where she produced hundreds of original theater productions and organized an extensive educational outreach program for under-served youth that was praised on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The organization won many prestigious awards and participated in numerous international festivals.
Fun fact: Swam from Europe to Asia and back.
Favorite Quote: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem”
Michael Tipton, General Manager
Michael is a venue management professional with over twenty years in the entertainment industry – sixteen of those years have been spent specifically in performing arts venue management. He particularly enjoys the challenges of opening new performing arts centers, and the Pompano Beach Cultural Center made it his third new venue opening. Since beginning his career at Florida State University, Michael has worked in performing arts centers all over the country from Wisconsin and Arizona to Louisiana and Florida.
Fun Fact: Michael and his wife Kelly have six dogs – all rescues.
Favorite Quote: “The answer is yes, now what is the question?”
Sharon Stone-Walker, Director of Community and Business Development
Sharon Stone Walker is a fourth generation resident of Pompano Beach. Her Great Grandfather, Reverend Clinton Mac founded and built the Mt Zion Missionary Baptist Church located on NW 7th Street in Pompano Beach; Her Great Grandfather O.C. Josey Served on the Deacon Board of Antioch Baptist Church, located on NW 8th Avenue in Pompano Beach for over 50 years; and her Great Grandmother Murdis Wells-Josey owned and operated the historic, ”Moms Country Kitchen” restaurant that was located at the corner of NW 6th Avenue and Hammondville Road in Pompano Beach. Sharon became Director of Community Development on February 29, 2016. From her early days as a student attending Blanch Ely High School, Sharon’s desire was to have a positive influence on the community. She is passionate about spreading love & good to all. While working as an Account Executive for AT&T Yellow pages, Sharon accumulated over 15 years of finance, marketing, sales management, and event planning experience.
Sharon’s vision for the city of Pompano Beach is to become the epitome of Cultural Arts. She believes that together, we can engage the power of the arts to provoke just and fair inclusion, cultural respect, and civic participation.
Fun fact: I really should be a Top Chef!!
Favorite Quote: “Three things that will last forever – Faith, Hope, & Love, but the Greatest of these is Love.”
Byron Swart, Curator
Born in Kimberley, South Africa, Byron is a global creative force conceptualizing events, programs and art exhibits leveraging 12+ years of experience in the non-profit art & cultural sector as well as the event field. His creativity rooted in the visual and performing arts (dance) provides him with the ability to remain flexible and able to produce innovative solutions to a wide range of problems. Accustomed to driving large-scale events for individuals and foundations both locally and internationally, his experience includes project design, development, and implementation ensuring flawless execution of the project’s vision. His South African heritage brings a complex cultural blend that serves as his drive and inspiration both as a curator and a choreographer. In addition to understanding the non-profit sector, he possesses exceptional skills in program evaluation and development along with strong capabilities in forming and implementing innovative and creative strategies and alliances, while being dedicated to the principle of continuous improvement for the organization. Never satisfied with the status quo, he is always exploring current trends, new solutions, and ideas that allow him to remain competitive in a quickly changing marketplace.
Fun fact: Byron was born in the diamond capital of the world, Kimberley, South Africa.
Favorite Quote: “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Ary Milligan, Creative Manager
Originally from Cartagena, Colombia, Ary specializes in logo design, branding and brand identity, and design. Ary specializes in nightlife photography and hospitality. Prior to joining The Creative team, his clients have included nationally known performing artists at major venues including House of Blues, private ultra-lounges and major tour events, such as Life in Color, the World’s Largest Paint Party, and architectural photography.
Fun fact: I can’t swim.
Favorite Quote: “Art is a deception that creates real emotions – a lie that creates a truth. And when you give yourself over to that deception, it becomes magic.”
LaCora Renae Funches, Sponsorship Coordinator, Box Office and Office Manager
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, LaCora relocated to Delray Beach, Florida with family and attended Florida Atlantic University. LaCora, truly knows who she is and recognizes that she has a calling to fulfill. LaCora has over15 years of expertise in many office applications along with an extensive knowledge of sponsorship and grant opportunities. LaCora’s passion for helping others is unmatched.
Outside of the office, LaCora is an event coordinator and emcee. Known as the “Voice of Greatness” many have witnessed her skills of planning and voice throughout South Florida. LaCora has had the awesome opportunity to emcee at many of the local festivals, receptions, political galas, church programs, shows and events to include City of Delray Beach’s “I Got Talent”, Eta Phi Beta Sorority Appreciation Ceremony, Alpha Kappa Alpha early Scholarship program, Delray Beach’s Roots Cultural Festival Annual Talent Showcase and Luncheon yearly, Deerfield Beach Mango Fest, Pompano Beach Juneteenth Celebration “Blue & Sweet Potato Pie”, City of Pompano Annual Senior Luncheon, City of Ft. Lauderdale Jazz Nights, City of Oakland Park Carter G. Woodson Festival, African American Cultural Research Library Youth Summit and many more. LaCora truly has a way of making her audience feel great while providing her own sense of entertainment!
Fun Fact: I really can sing!
Favorite Quote: Today is a GREAT day to inspire someone and make a difference in the lives of others!
Kay Renz founded her eponymous boutique lifestyle public relations firm in 2007, after having served as vice president of two South Florida public relations companies. During her career, she has developed a reputation as a dedicated and creative representative who achieves numerous media placements for her clients and skillfully develops their brand image. Kay has achieved an excellent client base that has included some of south Florida’s most influential business leaders and has spanned an array of diverse industries. Her client list includes arts organizations including Arts Garage, The Wick Theatre and Costume Museum, The Amp, Magnetic, Bailey Contemporary Arts, Ali Cultural Arts, Plumosa School of the Arts. Restaurants including Café Maxx, Mario’s of Boca, Cucina D’Angelo, Nick’s Fishmarket and others. And her business and community leaders have included Carl DeSantis, Founder of Rexall Sundown; Yvonne Boice, award-winning entrepreneur and philanthropist, RMA, a strategic planning/management company that reinvents cities; Marilyn Swillinger, philanthropic leader; Jan Jessup, advocate and author; and Hal Spielman, author and founder of McCollum Spielman Worldwide. Prior to becoming a publicist, Kay was a two-time Florida Press Club award-winning journalist that covered the fashion and beauty industry locally and nationally. Notable interviews included Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Laura Mercier, Carolina Herrera, Christy Turlington, Bobbi Brown along with other media personalities including Matt Lauer, Jose Carreras, Joan Rivers and Donald Trump.
Favorite quote: To thine own self be true
Fun fact: In an interview with The Today’s Show Matt Lauer, one question I asked made him tear up; the other had him jump in front me and jokingly demonstrate his butt exercise, “I squeeze and squeeze!”
Sahim is the founder of Zaid Designs, Inc., a full-services Web Development, Internet Marketing & Presentation design firm in Pompano Beach. His clients include World-class Architects, General Contractors, Luxury Home Builders, Realtors, Attorneys, Mega Yacht Charters, Advertising, Non-profits and other B2B Enterprises. He leads a team of communication aficionados who are dedicated to their craft and share in the vision of helping start-up and established businesses showcase their work experiences both on and offline.
Sahim considers himself an art historian foremost and lives vicariously through the lens of his camera. He can easily spend hours in a bookstore and days at the same museum. Two clients whose works are easily recognizable are Carrera Partners Advertising – the creators of the Arrigo car dealership commercials and Themed Development, the builders of Disney’s Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios and most recently one of the world’s largest Ferris Wheels on the Vegas strip.
Sahim was an honored guest at the 2016 D3 Expo at Miami Dade College where he participated in a panel discussion on presentation effectiveness for the students in the Multimedia and Video Communication Sciences Program.
Favorite quote: “Dress for the job that you want and not for the one that you have”
Fun fact: Sahim is “South Florida’s #1 Foodie!” (self-proclaimed of course)
Sharonda “Eccentrich” Chery
As part of team Dada, she competed with her partner poets at the 2016 National Poetry Slam, the team finished second place in group finals. During the 2016 Southern Fried Regional Competition, Eccentrich was a part of the Burn Beautiful Slam Team which finished in tenth place.
Eccentrich has graced stages of more than 45 venues from Florida to California and was honored to have a poem displayed by Button Poetry.
A strong community advocate, she is the founder of The Poetry Pipeline Series, which brings workshops and spoken word events into local prisons.
When she is not busy in the performing arts world, her greatest and most rewarding job is being the mother of two beautiful boys.
Fun Fact: Eccentrich published her first novel in December 2015.
Favorite quote: “There is always time for my family.”