Instructor Bios

Stefanie Baechler

College student and fashionista Stefanie Baechler has been passionate about art since primary school. She has been instructing youth classes and arts adventures programs at the Farmington Valley Arts Center for three years and is pursuing a degree in Art Education. She loves working with pen and ink, as well as clay and watercolor.

Lindsay Behrens

Lindsay Behrens received her BFA from University of Connecticut in 2002. Lindsay works in a variety of mediums including painting, printmaking, illustration and design and does commission work. She can work figuratively as well as abstract, though in both areas she uses bold lines. Her paintings and illustrations display vivid colorful images with unique compositions. Visit Lindsay's website

Jim Brunelle

Jim Brunelle has been working with clay for over twenty years and has acquired mastery of the medium over the years. Jim produces work out of his studio in New Britain, CT, the Farmington Valley Arts Center, and the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Aside from his work in clay, Jim’s paintings and prints have been exhibited in Connecticut galleries and museums. He was the winner of the print award in the NBMAA’s 43rd annual juried Members Exhibition. Visit Jim's website.

Maurice Casas

Maurice Casas’ art is a result of several years of experimentation and a search for identity. It is the fusion of these two disciplines plus his personal sensitivity that have given him a new vision for color and design. His work creates an environment of invented realms and is juxtaposed between past and present. He uses semi-abstract and figurative mark making to create tension between reality and fanciful. Using Pre-Columbian Art and Iconography and elements of Architecture, Maurice has developed a unique and colorful language with its own vocabulary. Originally from Colombia in South America, Maurice has attended Colegio Antonio Narino and New York City Technical College. He has lived in the United States for 35 years where he has worked as a Visual Artist and Architectural Designer. Visit Maurice's Facebook page.

Pedro Centeno

Pedro creates functional pots such as, teapots, mugs, plates and jars using wheel throwing, hand building, and mould making techniques. His love of old building material, wood, rebar, and rusty metal, influences each piece. Through multiple glaze applications and firings, the desired weathered appearance is achieved and intriguing illusions of materials are formed. Visit Pedro's website.

Lisel Crowley

Creating and teaching are at the core of just about everything that I do. I find inspiration everywhere and enjoy the camaraderie and community that is built when people of like minds and spirits gather together. As an artist, I am constantly trying new media and finding new directions for exploration. I currently specialize in metal clay, fused glass, alcohol ink painting and silk dyeing. As a teacher, I thrive on awakening the creative spark within people of all ages and backgrounds. Visit Lisel' s website.

Peggy Dembicer

Peggy Dembicer is a fiber artist with a contemporary design aesthetic. Her background in tapestry and pattern weaving has evolved to focus and explore the unique and intricate possibilities of paper weaving and bead artistry. Her background includes years of teaching adults and children in public and private educational settings. She exhibits her work regularly in CT galleries, including Gallery on the Green in Canton, Silvermine Art Guild in New Canaan and West Hartford Art League. She also exhibits regularly as a member of Connecticut Women Artists and the Surface Design Association. Visit Peggy's website.

Carolann Dvorak-Brewer

Carolann has accrued an impressive list of honors and awards. A first class realist, you may come upon her work in the form of Trompe L’oeil (French for “fool the eye”) murals, faux finished walls and furniture. Carolann paints these illusory scenes in Oil or Acrylic using brushes, rags, sponges, or feathers. Wherever you find her Art, you will find it to be vibrant, happy and alive. Carolann has a BA degree Magna Cum Laude from Douglass College at Rutgers University. She has been teaching at FVAC since 1991. Visit Carolann's website.

Grace Epstein

After earning a B.S. in Art Education and a M.S. in Special Education Grace taught Art and Ceramics for over 30 years. Her experiences range from teaching Art in Pearland High School, Texas, Ceramics at High Meadow Day Camp in Granby and most recently before retiring Grace was teaching middle and upper school Art at Ethel Walker School. She lives in Simsbury where she raised three daughters.

Elena Gibson

Elena Gibson has been a practicing fiber artist and educator for over 15 years. Her work is represented by galleries in Connecticut and Massachusetts. As an experienced art teacher, Elena has run numerous workshops in CT and MA in a variety institutions including Farmington Valley Arts Center, West Hartford Art League, Mandell JCC and New England Felting Supply. Originally from Slovakia, Elena has a background in graphic design.

Zbigniew Grzyb

Zbigniew is an abstract painter. His work gravitates towards different textures, shapes and feelings. His process of creating his abstract paintings require patience, for his work has extensive texture, line quality and balance. His paintings create a sense of space though the layers of line repetition and color. “While I paint, I work out ideas to their extremes without attempting to control the destiny of each painting. I control the process to a certain point, but then the painting itself takes over. When I recognize that every element of the painting connects, I stop the process. My painting is not about any theory or –ism. There is no content other than the image, no political message. The lines themselves are only the visual evidence of the energy of the process.” Visit Zbigniew's website.

Jill Henderson Pasanen

Jill came to the USA from the UK in 1992 after a long career in the world of dance as a dance educator and choreographer. Starting watercolor classes, she fell in love with visual art and moved on to her current passion–mixed media collage–which she has now been creating for 20 years producing prizewinning collages and exhibiting in many local and regional galleries. Taking classes at FVAC and West Hartford Art League and from many independent artists, she became a teacher herself, teaching mixed media collage at West Hartford Art League. The connections between dance and visual art have been a constant source of inspiration.

“To discover something that gives you intense pleasure in the second half of your life is truly a gift. To play with layers of color and texture on bright white paper is to re-experience childhood — an experience of pure play.”

Paul Iezzi

Nature for Paul, is the stimulus for artistic expression - the essence of the work of art. His endeavor is unity of formal consideration, with the process or thought, spontaneity of vision is sought to achieve simple awareness of living. Harmony and balance are key components in the construction of image. Of course, a little disorientation could lead to insight. Color lays the foundation for all of his work. Whether abstract, figurative, or figuration, color emotes the possibilities of the universe. This revelation becomes clear, and begins to take shape as the work evolves. “My methods and approaches vary according to the subject. Changes happen and occur spontaneously as needed. I find media and methodology change to suit the course of life's events. Creativity is an expression of what is experienced, thought, felt." Visit Paul's website.

Karen Israel

Karen Israel is an award winning pastel artist currently serving as President of Connecticut Pastel Society. Her paintings are created as a celebration of light and color that aim to delight the eye and engage the mind. Karen’s paintings are representational but symbolism and abstraction are constantly emerging in the frame. Her work can be found in many collections throughout the Northeast and Canada. Visit Karen's website.

Deborah Leonard

Deborah is an impressionistic and abstract painter that lives in West Simsbury Connecticut. Using acrylics as her medium, she enjoys plein air painting as well as studio work. Deborah’s love of nature, through observation and academic study has a strong influence on her painting. Her work has appeared in numerous juried shows and is in many private collections in the U.S. and Europe. Visit Deborah's website.

Andy Mars

Andy Mars is a Freelance Photographer (specializing in weddings), Photo Artist and Instructor who creates one-of-a-kind mixed-media artwork by integrating photography with watercolor and acrylic paints as well as pastel chalk and pencils. Andy’s main areas of focus are nature, people, animals, seascapes and urban scenes. Her work has been exhibited at the Memorial Arts Museum in Rochester, NY, Metropolitan Musem, Manhattan & CT galleries. Visit  Andy's website.

Donna Miller

Donna Miller is a certified interior designer with twenty five years of upscale residential design experience. She has participated in BFA and MBA programs and museums nationally and continues to be active in the arts of the Farmington Valley. Her four session workshop and workbook highlight all of the major topics considered by professional interior designers that can be applied to home decorating projects.

Lisa Pichnarcik

Lisa Pichnarcik has been designing jewelry for over fifteen years. Her metalwork and mixed media designs are rooted in her study and exploration of a variety of techniques, including fold forming, wirework, stitching, stringing and knotting, chainmaking, lampworking, and beadmaking using precious metal clay, polymer clay, paper clay, and wool. The inspiration for her designs, although broadly ranging from living creatures and natural items to industrial forms and tools, comes from the emotional impact, mood, or memory associated with places and objects. Her work has been published in several magazines, including an honorable mention in CLOTH PAPER SCISSORS magazine’s Mixed-Media Excellence Awards in 2017. Lisa’s designs have been sold at various vendor shows, shops and galleries, and as commissioned pieces. She shares her love of jewelry design by teaching classes to both adults and children.

Yesenia Rivera-Ortiz

Yesenia Rivera is an art teacher born and raised in Puerto Rico. She started her art journey at 11 years old when she was accepted into a specialized public Art School (Central de Artes Visuales). There she was introduced and immersed into the visual arts and specialized her studies in sculpture ceramics. Yesenia earned a bachelor's degree in Art Education from the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño (School of Plastics Arts and Design) in Puerto Rico. In college she started working with young students and discovered her passion for teaching and finding ways to successfully engage her students through the visual arts. In 2014 she moved to Connecticut where she continues teaching art.

Ceil Rossi

Living in Arizona for 26 years, Ceil discovered and learned from well-known gourd artists “the art of the southwest”. Soon she became a juried artist herself and opened the Carefree Gourd Gallery studio. Today she lives in Agawam, Massachusetts and participates in many art competitions and fine art venues with much success.

Kathleen Curran Smits

Kathleen Curran Smits is a landscape painter and teaches computer graphics at Manchester Community College. Her work has been exhibited regionally and includes not only landscapes in oils but digital abstracts as well. Most recently she co-juried and curated the Hospital For Special Care annual Joy of Art show and was part of a 2 person exhibit following. Visit Kathleen' s website

Julie Weaver

Julie Weaver is a practicing artist in Hartford, CT. She received her MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and a Certificate of Museum Studies from Tufts University. She has shown her work in galleries throughout the United States including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington, DC. Julie is primarily an oil painter and hand paper maker. She is interested in community systems, human relationships, and the borders that separate neighbors. Visit Julie' s website.

Terry Wolfisch Cole

William Shakespeare never met Terry Wolfisch Cole, but he must have known she was coming when he wrote the words, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Terry is the founder and director of Tell Me Another. She is a Moth GrandSLAM champion whose story of running away from home was featured on the Moth Radio Hour and in Readers Digest. She has told stories onstage at the Moth in New York, Boston, Miami, and Burlington, at Risk! in Washington DC, and at numerous local shows throughout New England. An expatriate New Yorker, Terry is a cutthroat mah jongg player who prefers tequila and almost certainly swears more than you do. She is also a writer, yoga teacher, cookie baker, and passionate Bruce Springsteen fan.