CEO of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art since 2003, Charles Shepard’s past directorships include the Lyman Allyn Museum at Connecticut College, the Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University, and the University of Maine Museum of Art. In his 15 years in Fort Wayne, Charles has added over 4,000 objects to a permanent collection that originally amassed only 1,300 objects in its first 62 years. His particular talents as a museum leader are in nurturing artist relationships, creatively acquiring works for the collection, and adapting entrepreneurial strategies from the business world to make exciting things happen, often on a shoestring. Charles holds a Master of Arts in Art History from Williams College.
Amanda Shepard is the Vice President and COO of FWMoA, having joined the staff in 2007, first as an intern and later full-time in adult education. During the 2010 FWMoA renovation, Amanda tackled administrative and operations projects, leaving behind the world of tour and program planning to dive into all things behind-the-scenes. Today, her role includes staff management, shaping written content for all FWMoA programs and communication strategies, agency fundraising, strategic planning, and linking all institutional planning together for integrated and sustainable organizational success. Amanda’s second full-time job as a mother leaves no time to continue her studio practice in painting, which she formalized in 2008 with a B.F.A. from the University of Notre Dame.
Alyssa studied art education and art history at Ball State University (chirp chirp!) then volunteered as a docent before joining FWMoA’s full-time staff in 2016. Although much of her work is now behind-the-scenes planning, the school tour and docent programs are still very near and dear to her heart. She’s also an alum of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a program she now gets to help bring to the students of Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio. When not at the museum, she enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and baking. Most of her, however, time is spent at the service of her very needy beagle-mix, Addy.
A Fort Wayne transplant from St. Louis, Katy, despite working at an art museum, does not make art. With a B.A. in History from Sweet Briar College and an M.A. in Digital Humanities from King’s College London, she cannot paint or draw. Instead, she spends her hours at the museum discussing the art, and occasionally making crafts, with students in grades Pre-K-12. When not looking at things and talking about stuff, you can find her eating Cookie Cottage and reading a book in Lakeside Park.
Naomi Vanderleest is a Fort Wayne native whose interest in art goes back to her childhood. She graduated from the University of Saint Francis in 2021 with a degree in art education. Shortly after graduation she was a security guard and volunteer docent at the FWMoA before her current role as Education Assistant. Naomi’s interest in art stared from a love for video games; in fact, before choosing to become an art educator, she wanted to be a concept artist and work for Nintendo. (Her favorite video game is Earthbound.) As an artist, Naomi’s favorite medium is gouache, but it changes once a week. As per her title, Naomi assists with a variety of education programs at the museum, including writing blog posts.
Dedicating herself to art in all its forms since age 12, Kaitlin graduated from the University of Saint Francis in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication Art and Graphic Design. She also completed all the credits for a B.A. in Studio Art, Illustration but they can only fit so much on the diploma! Since then she works to boost the visual identity of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art with branding and visual consistency in addition to increasing the public’s awareness of the treasure in their city that is FWMoA through social and traditional media. When not telling everyone she knows about all that’s cool at the museum, she is birdwatching, playing with her three cats, or building things in Minecraft!
Sachi Yanari-Rizzo is Curator of Prints and Drawings. Wearing many hats over the years at the museum, currently she oversees the Print & Drawing Study Center where the public can see works up close and request to see works on paper from the permanent collection that are not on view. She received a B.A. from Michigan State University and an M.A. from Ohio State University, both in art history. Sachi enjoys researching, particularly under-recognized artists. As a recent empty nester, she hopes to use her free time to get her garden under control and continue rearing monarch butterflies.
Suzanne Slick is the FWMoA Collections Information Specialist, which is sort of like the librarian of the art collections. The information trail of art objects coming in, going out, on exhibit, stored, or loaned ends up at her desk to be tracked in our Mimsy database. Suzanne earned a B.F.A. from the IPFW Department of Fine Arts when it was still fondly referred to as “The Old Art School” and later a Master of Library Science from IUPUI. Strangely enough, a long circuit through the corporate world brought her back to the art world! When not immersed in collections data at her desk or digging through the Museum’s historical archives, you can find her hanging out with her retired engineer husband, Bob, digging in the dirt in her garden, or puttering around in their Sears Catalogue house on the near north side in the company of felines Boo, Black, Max, and Smudgie.
Lauren Wolfer is the Associate Curator of Special Collections & Archives, arguably the coolest job at the museum as it means she has direct contact with the art. Though her most recent exhibition, By Women, featured works from FWMoA’s permanent collection, she also curates with artists outside the collection, including contemporary abstract painter Heather Day and multimedia artist Jiha Moon. Graduating with a B.F.A. in Printmaking from Indiana University, Bloomington, Lauren continues to participate in diverse print exchanges and the annual Southern Graphics Conference-International (SGCI). In addition to her love of prints, she also judges the annual Critical Mass photography competition and curates FWMoA’s The National: Best Contemporary Photography exhibition. When not handling the collection or curating, Lauren is acquiring art for her own collection, gardening, and hanging out with her four cats: Scout, Ziggy, Moody, and Kitty.
Paradigm Gallery Director Abby Leon began her journey at the FWMoA just as the museum reopened following the 2010 expansion. She majored in photography at Antonelli College in Cincinnati, Ohio, but she loves all things art! Her expansive knowledge of other mediums operates side-by-side with numerous local, regional, and national artists as she curates the artworks for sale. When she isn’t conversing with artists, Abby enjoys helping customers and working with her amazing team of sales associates. Outside of Paradigm, Abby enjoys the various opportunities to judge at art fairs, group exhibitions, paint outs, photography competitions, and even some home renovation contests. In her spare time, she tackles her own DIY renovations with her husband, Dan. Her passion for architecture is equally paired with her passion for art and design; after all, what’s a great space without great art? Her favorite part of the job is helping visitors find meaningful art pieces! Whether it is their first foray into purchasing art or another addition to an already teeming collection, Abby aims to help bring the art museum to the walls (or table or desk or bookcase) of your home!
Jenna Gilley is the newest edition to the FWMoA’s curatorial team, hailing from New Albany, IN. She joined the museum in 2021 as an intern overseeing the growing contemporary glass collection and has since become Associate Curator of Exhibitions. All interpretive text for exhibitions originates from her desk. While she enjoys many types of art, Jenna has a particular interest in fiber art, fashion, and gender studies. She will always be an avid music fan and BBQ snob thanks to her time living in Memphis, TN, where she graduated with a B.A. in Art History from Rhodes College.
Elizabeth Kilmer is the former Exhibitions Content Manager at FWMoA. A Fort Wayne native, she earned her B.F.A. in Art History from the University of Saint Francis, moving to London to obtain an M.A. in Fine and Decorative Arts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Elizabeth loves exploring Fort Wayne’s trails and cooking her jazzy jambalaya during the day and enjoying the perfect cup of British tea while getting too invested in the fictional lives of characters in her most recent book in the evenings.
Michael Breuning was a student and writer in Fort Wayne, IN. After serving as a curatorial intern at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art he finished his English Degree at Purdue University Fort Wayne. When he’s not busy pretending to understand Dostoevsky he’s probably looking at dogs on the Internet.
Jack Cantey formerly worked part-time in Guest Services for the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. A native of Fort Wayne, he worked and volunteered for several local arts organizations over the years. In his private time, Jack reads avidly and dabbles in creative writing and artmaking.