Staff & Teaching Artist Bios

Ann Kita Executive DirectorAnn Kita – Executive Director

Ann Kita has returned home to Genesee County and she brings to Youth Arts: Unlocked 25 years of experience in nonprofit and social services work. Most recently, she served as the Executive Director of Sistercare, Inc., a domestic violence service agency in Columbia, South Carolina. Her work started in Detroit as a foster care worker and in 1993 she focused her professional career in Flint. She was the Director of the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services at the YWCA Greater Flint. Prior to working for a nonprofit,  Ann was a caseworker for the Genesee County Friend of the Court as a child support enforcement officer, parenting time specialist and child custody evaluator.  Ann has extended her expertise in crisis intervention by teaching as an adjunct professor at Saginaw Valley State University. Ann has in-depth experience with community collaborations, operational management, program development, financial management, fundraising, and board engagement. She has a Master of Arts degree in Counseling and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology & Sociology – Criminal Justice.

Shelley SpivackShelley R. Spivack, JD MA – Community Outreach and Development Director

Spivack has 35+ years of experience in both juvenile justice, and arts and non-profit administration. She recently retired from the Genesee County Family Court where she served as a Juvenile/Family Court Referee She has also taught at UM-Flint since 2002. Spivack co-authored the book ‘Implementing a Gender-Based Arts Program for Juvenile Offenders’ and has written numerous articles and presented workshops on issues related to the arts and the juvenile justice system. In 2019 and 2020, Spivack was awarded FTAAPP grants by the Kellogg Foundation for her work with YAU. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profits.

Emma DavisEmma Davis – Dance Teaching Artist

Davis, who established YAU’s dance program in 2014, lives, thinks and breathes community dance. A Lecturer II in dance at UM-Flint since 2012 who earned an MA in Liberal Studies from the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and is currently working toward her PhD in Dance at Texas Woman’s University, Davis has over 10 years’ experience in community dance practice. At UM-Flint, in addition to teaching all dance styles and choreographing works for student productions, she created a new course in Community Dance. In the Flint community, she has created dance programs for children with autism and developmental disorders, has worked with senior citizens, and teaches and performs with El Ballet Folkórico. As a performer, she appears with DDC Dances in Detroit and hip-hop performer Tunde Olaniran. In 2018, Davis received a fellowship from the Jubilation Foundation for her work with YAU.

Teaching Statement: I am passionate about dance’s transformational power in non-traditional environments and the meaning it provides in people’s lives. I believe dance is an important tool for personal growth, expression, and physical and mental health. One of the most important positive impacts I have witnessed in our classes during the pandemic is the emotional outlet we provide for the girls. Together, we all create an environment where we feel emotionally supported, a lift in our moods and a little bit of joy for an hour.

Dan GericsDan Gerics – Theatre Teaching Artist

Gerics, who co-founded YAU’s boys’ theatre program in 2014, makes Shakespeare come alive for inner city kids in Flint. Having earned an MA in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University and a BA in Music with a minor in Theatre from UM-Flint, Gerics was the founder of Flint City Theatre, teaches drama at Mott Community College, performs and co-directs productions for the Goblin King Players, and is a working musician. With a passion for Shakespeare, Gerics created “Shakesprov” – a series of workshops in which the youth improvise scenes drawing on themes and story lines from Shakespeare.

Teaching Statement: Drama requires performers to set aside their shyness and often be silly. This can be difficult to do in an environment where machismo and toughness may be the rules of the community. But over time, we have broken through that and the boys are learning to express themselves in ways they hadn’t considered before. During the pandemic, Zoom was a saving grace and a curse. It was a way to meet during the pandemic and keep things moving. The success of the Zoom classes was due to the boys’ gratitude for our taking the time and spending the effort to be with them in such a challenging time.

Meghan KellyMeghan Kelly –Visual Arts Teaching Artist

Kelly, YAU’s newest teaching artist, has a long association with the program. As the former director of Buckham Gallery, she administered the project when it was affiliated with Buckham. After leaving Buckham, Kelly, who holds a BA in Visual Art and a MA in Arts Administration, went on to earn a second master’s degree and certification as a secondary school art teacher. Currently employed by the Beecher School District, Kelly brings her passion for teaching and her skills as an artist to the youth in YAU’s Arts in Detention and Arts on Probation programs.

Teaching Statement: Not teaching art in person is a challenge. However, the students have been able to try things (creatively) that they might not have ever tried to do before – and their work is amazing!

Ella McAndrewElla McAndrew – Theatre Teaching Artist

McAndrew was bit by the theatre bug at the age of nine, when she played Helen Keller in Flint Youth Theatre’s production of The Miracle Worker. Equally passionate about criminal justice reform, she received a BA in Criminal Justice in 2016. At the same time she continuously trained as an actor, appearing in Shakespeare, Contemporary, Musical, and improvisational theatre. McAndrew combined her passions by joining YAU as an intern in 2013 and as a teaching artist in 2014. She has received 2 MCACA New Leaders grants and currently is employed by The Whiting and The Capitol Theatre as the Director of Operations and Community Outreach.

Teaching Statement: Pivoting to Zoom from in-person classes was very exciting. The kids almost always had big smiles and laughs throughout class. I think there was immense relief every time we were there. Now, I am so thrilled to be back in the classroom. We’ve built a really lovely bond with the kids we are currently working with. We’ve had nearly all of them through the last 8 months, or more, and we went through this together and that is something to be cherished. 

Marcia McGeeMarcia McGee – Yoga Teaching Artist

A certified yoga instructor since 2007, McGee specializes in bringing yoga out of the studio and into diverse communities. McGee completed the “Art of Yoga” training in 2018 and started the program for girls at GCJJC in 2019. In 2020, she created “Strength and Stretching” – a program specifically designed for incarcerated boys.

Teaching Statement: By leading the classes at GCJJC, I have seen a development of ownership of the class and of the youths’ personal practice. There is a sense of enjoyment, community support and most importantly – calmness while being on the mat. Most surprising is the boys’ request for meditation in each class.

Sharlene HoweSharlene L. Howe – Visual Arts Teaching Artist

Howe has been a freelance artist for 30 years and an art instructor in her Art Studio for 12 years. She coordinated the VSA-MI Arts program at Elmer A. Knopf school for 10 years and is a Teaching Artist for Club Create. She studied art at C.S. Mott Community College and is working toward a degree in Art education. She was a Para-Educator and Sign Language Assistant for GISD for 17 years. She authored the book, ‘AZALEA: An Introduction to Queen’s Daughters.’

Teaching Statement: Art is a gift that allows an individual to express emotions that are intangible and difficult to verbalize. I am grateful to be able to share this gift!

Canisha BellCanisha Bell –Yoga Teaching Artist

Bell became a certified yoga instructor in 2018, and began teaching the practice to youth in the Flint Community Schools and to adults with community yoga in Flint. She completed a year-long professional development program, through Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) in 2020, becoming certified to teach mindfulness meditation to teens & young adults. She joined the YAU staff in 2022 and feels she has benefited so much from the energy and love shown by the youth at GCJJC.

Teaching Statement: I absolutely love what I do at GCJJC through YAU. I dont think the youth there even realize that the classes impact me just as much as them. I feel like I learn so much from them, and always leave each session with a takeaway. Many of the youth have never practiced yoga or meditation before their encounter with it at GCJJC and are now asking for yoga classes and a mat when they are released, its so beautiful to witness.

Frankie McIntosh Frankie McIntosh – Spoken Word Poetry

Frankie McIntosh received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice & Sociology with a minor in Computer Science at the University of Michigan-Flint. Frankie is passionate about working with various community organizations and nonprofits in Flint and Detroit, MI. Before joining AHI, they worked as a program facilitator at the Latinx Technology and Community Center, empowering youth through programming that involved community engagement and leadership development. Poetry has always been a consistent joy in their life. As an artist living in Flint, MI, Frankie can share their truth and encourage others to do the same by connecting with the local community. This inspired Frankie to create poetry programs and mental wellness programs among adolescents in Flint and Genesee County. By engaging communities and implementing programs, Frankie has always advocated the importance of arts and culture in mental health and adolescent development.

Teaching Statement: Spoken word is a fantastic tool to amplify one’s journey. Teaching spoken word for YAU allows me to witness the tremendous growth of the girls in the program. Seeing them speak their truth through art and provide support to one another has helped me realize that this is more than a class. It’s a garden; witnessing them grow into confident young ladies and pouring support not only awards me as a teacher but helps me as an artist to continue using the spoken word to change lives.

Talia WootenTalia Wooten – Dance

Talia Wooten is  currently a member of the multi-disciplinary Vertical Ambition Dance Company and is entering her 11th year working with the company.

Talia is an ABT Certified teacher and holds a certification in levels pre-primary through level 5 in the American Ballet Theater National Training Curriculum.

Talia has 19 years of experience teaching movement to students aged birth through adult and has taught master classes and served on the faculty of many Michigan dance schools. She has taught countless outreach classes in Genesee County and served as the Flint School of Performing Art’s Head-Start Coordinator, Summer Dance-N-Fun director, Children’s Performance Workshop Director and Adult Ballet Ensemble Founder and Director. She also served as the Children’s Ballet Mistress for the FSPA’s production of the Nutcracker for 14 years. Talia had the opportunity to be an ABT project Plie’ teacher for the Boys and Girls Club for 2 years. In addition to teaching in the classroom Talia has created a course in GISD’s Edupaths program for teacher training focused around incorporating movement into early childhood classrooms. Recently Talia co-founded A.R.T. Addressing Racial Tensions, an art collective that aims to build community through discussion and collaborative creation of multi-genre art. Her goal is to use art to break racial tensions in and around Genesee using both professional artist and community members.

Teaching Statement: I believe that dance heals. I want to continue to use movement to uplift my community. During our dance classes for YAU we have been able to not only share movement but to share feelings, make connections, inspire, be inspired and provide some comfort, stress relief, joy and hope. We provide an opportunity for the girls to process feelings and gain self confidence.