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Community Building Through Creativity

Airs Monday, March 21st at 7pm on WVIA TV

Tamaqua, PA was one of three communities in the US featured in a 2021 report by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kresge Foundation, for using arts and culture to improve social cohesion and community well-being. Watch Keystone Edition Arts to learn why social cohesion is important, and what the people and organizations in Tamaqua did to improve their community's well-being.

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Micah J. Gursky
Executive Director, Tamaqua Area Community Partnership

Micah works at the St. Luke’s Miners Campus where he is the Rural Health Clinic Administrator and Director of Business Development & Physician Relations for the 49-bed hospital in Coaldale, PA.  The Rural Health Clinics were named Pennsylvania’s 2016 Rural Health Program of the Year by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health and the 2018 Outstanding Rural Health Organization by the National Association. of Rural Health.   The clinics are the site of Pennsylvania’s first Family Medicine Residency Rural Training Track and will begin a Rural Psychiatry Residency in 2022.

He served as a member of Tamaqua Borough Council from 2000-2003 and from 2006-2017 including 8 years as President and was named Pennsylvania’s Council Person of the Year in 2016 by the State Association of Boroughs.   

Micah works with the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership (TACP), charitable, place-based, comprehensive community development organization in his hometown of Tamaqua, PA.   Efforts include historic preservation, heritage and ecotourism, downtown revitalization, arts and culture, recreation, affordable housing, and neighborhood improvements. TACP operates The Tamaqua Community Arts Center and “Hope & Coffee”, a recovery-friendly coffee shop that hires people in recovery from addiction.

He serves on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council, Chairs the Sexual Assault Resource Counseling Center of Lebanon & Schuylkill Counties (SARCC), and represents his county on the Northeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Planning Organization.   The non-profit recently started a new planning effort, “Tamaqua Choose Happiness,” an effort to make Tamaqua a place where peoples’ happiness is a community goal.  He received the 2021 Architectural Excellence Award for Contributions to the Profession by a Non-Architect from AIA Pennsylvania.

Micah graduated from Head Start in 1978, Tamaqua High in 1991 and cum laude from Princeton University in 1995. 

Leona M.Rega
Executive Director of the Adams County Arts Council

Leona is the Executive Director of the Adams County Arts Council, joining the organization in November of 2020.  She oversees the county wide education center servicing over 26,000 people yearly with a mission to cultivate an arts rich community.  

Prior to moving to Adams County, Leona was the director of the Tamaqua Community Arts Center and coordinator of the Tamaqua Safety Initiative for 8 years.  The work of both programs  helped transform the facility from an all-volunteer, upstart center into a state-of-the-art regional center for the performing and fine arts.  It was during that time, the Tamaqua Arts Center became a nationally recognized leader in creative placemaking with unique community engagement projects such as Dear Tamaqua, Tamaqua Has Heart, Tamaqua Raw Aspirations, Tamaqua Escape Room, and the Choose Happiness Mural.  She led initiatives like National Night Out and transformed a former troubled neighborhood bar into a music and voice rehearsal studio space as an addition to the arts center.   She served as a facilitator for the Strengthening Families program, helping families develop communication and decision-making skills while giving parents and children the skills to resist negative peer pressures.   

 Other work experience includes several years at a community college where she was the assistant director for their after-school program SHINE servicing 6 elementary schools in 2 counties.   

 Leona enjoys building community relationships, developing partnerships and provides a unique perspective of how the arts can be integrated into our daily lives as a tool for education, recreation, healing, and community revitalization. 

Sunil Iyengar
Director of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts

Sunil Iyengar directs the Office of Research & Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. Under his leadership, the office has produced dozens of research reports, hosted periodic research events and webinars, led strategic plan development for the agency, and established research and data partnerships with the U.S Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. His office also conducts program evaluations and performance measurement for the Arts Endowment. Working with his team, Iyengar has created and pursued a long-term research agenda (based partly on an arts “system map” his office helped to design), founded a national data repository for the arts, and launched two awards programs for arts researchers, including the NEA Research Labs initiative. He chairs a federal Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development. For nearly a decade, he has contributed a monthly research post (titled “Taking Note”) to the agency’s official blog.

Iyengar and his team have collaborated with organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the National Academy of Sciences, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore the arts in relation to such topics as health and well-being, economic development, and STEM and medicine. His office provides research consultative support to Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network. Most recently, he has led a research funding partnership with NIH as part of Sound Health, an initiative of the Kennedy Center and NIH in association with the Arts Endowment.

Prior to joining the agency as research director, Iyengar worked as a reporter, managing editor, and senior editor for a host of news publications covering the biomedical research, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries. He writes poems, book reviews, and literary essays. Iyengar has a BA in English from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Anne Gadwa Nicodemus
Metris Muckety Muck

Anne Gadwa Nicodemus has led Metris Arts Consulting since its launch in 2009. Metris’ mission is to improve and measure cultural vitality. Via planning, Metris helps clients equitably advance cultural vitality. Through program development, Metris helps clients fill knowledge gaps so that they can effectively incorporate arts and culture into their work. Metris uses a range of research and communication skills to advance understanding and field building. Metris also evaluates; it helps clients understand what difference their efforts make, why, and how. 

Anne is honored to have helped shape arts-based community development via reports, journal articles, book chapters, and public speaking. She recently led the development of WE-Making: How arts & culture unite people to work towards community well-being (2021) for a consortium of major funders. It offers an opportunity for practitioners to intentionally and strategically align their efforts to address today’s most imperative crises: struggles for racial justice and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. She co-authored Creative Placemaking, the report for the National Endowment for the Arts (2010) that helped define the field. Her book chapters and journal articles look more deeply at creative placemaking as cultural policy and its ethics and practical challenges. 

Anne speaks widely on creative placemaking at universities and professional conferences nationwide, and as far-flung as Macau, the Czech Republic, and Ontario. Anne holds a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in dance and biology from Oberlin College. She is an ex-choreographer/arts administrator, queer, and an adoptive mom of two.


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About the Show

Witness first-hand the creativity of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania as WVIA Radio Program Manager and afternoon classical music host, Erika Funke interviews area artists, musicians, performers, authors, and more each month. Erika’s award-winning program, “ArtsScene” introduces you to the creative minds of your community. Now, she’ll get in-depth about what motivates those artists, as they share their passions, techniques, and inspirations with our viewers at home and on-the-go.

About the Host

Erika Funke

Morning host of Classical Music, Art Scene, Early Birds, and other WVIA programs, Erika Funke is a Senior Producer and Classical Music Host at WVIA Radio. “ArtScene”, her award-winning daily arts program, features interviews with creative individuals from the region, the United States and abroad. She has produced many programs about the history of northeastern Pennsylvania and its residents.

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