Founder, Artistic Director, Artist Facilitator Inside
Leslie Neal has been an active member of the Miami dance community since 1981. She received a B.S.Ed. in Dance from the University of Georgia and a M.F.A. in Dance from Florida State University. She also was the founder and artistic director of Leslie Neal Dance, a modern dance company that performed throughout Florida and the Southeast, including the national conference of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Charleston, South Carolina and a special tribute to creative southern women at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. Ms. Neal was an Associate Professor of Dance at Florida International University (FIU) from 1988 to 2007.
In 1994 Ms. Neal began teaching Inside Out, an interdisciplinary arts program for incarcerated women at Broward Correctional Institution in Florida. Since that time, she has implemented arts programs through ArtSpring at five other correctional facilities for women and female juveniles in Florida, and taught at facilities for women in California and Michigan. In 1997, Ms. Neal was chosen to serve as an artist-in-residence for the National Endowment of the Arts at the Federal Correctional Institution for Women in Tallahassee, Florida. She left her tenured position at FIU in 2007 to devote all of her efforts to ArtSpring, and in 2008 she was given a courtesy appointment from the University of Florida as Project Director for Arts in Corrections at the Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education (CAHRE).
Ms. Neal has won many awards for her teaching and was the recipient of the Dade Cultural Alliance Unsung Hero Award in 2006, volunteer of the year from the Florida Department of Corrections in 2012 and most recently in 2014 was selected to receive an award of appreciation from Images and Voices of Hope in New York. Ms. Neal has been a featured speaker at several national conferences and is published in The Citizen Artist by Linda Burnham and Steve Durland, Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women – A Portable Memoir by Gail McKeegin, and Teaching the Arts Behind Bars, by Rachel Williams.
Lorenna Feliz Santos
Lorenna Feliz Santos was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in the United States. She specializes in marketing, corporate partnerships, corporate social responsibility, program and business development.
She has traveled to more than 25 countries, and she holds a B.A. from Hartwick College and maintains several certifications in project management, events development, non-profit management, and destination (tourism) management from universities such as MIT, Harvard University, United Nations University, Maastricht University, Non-Profit Management Institute and others.
Lorenna joined the ArtSpring team in the summer of 2014 as executive director, applying her skills managing and marketing non-profit organizations to connect ArtSpring with its partners, donors, support members and community at large.
Finance Director, Artist Facilitator Inside Out
Nicole Bible (formerly,
Thomas) is a Florida licensed CPA and a Miami native. Nicole has worked with Leslie Neal since 1989 and was one of the original company members of ArtSpring when it was founded in 1992 as Leslie Neal Dance. She graduated cum laude from Florida International University (FIU) with bachelor degrees in accounting and dance and a master of science in taxation. Nicole also earned a certificate in nonprofit management from FANO/Barry University. Nicole currently holds ArtSpring’s finance director position, formerly serving as executive director, treasurer and member of the organization’s board of directors.
Nicole began to assist in the Inside Out – Expressive Arts Workshops for Incarcerated Women program in January of 1995 at Broward Correctional Institution (BCI). Since that time, she continued facilitating classes at BCI, Homestead Correctional Institution and the Broward Outreach Center. She is currently implementing a program at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida.
Nicole began her professional career with a sole practitioner CPA, working part-time for nine years while completing her studies. She then spent over seven years with a multinational Big 4 accounting firm, where she specialized primarily in tax services for nonprofit exempt organizations. She left corporate America in 2005 when she was appointed as the first fulltime executive director by ArtSpring’s board. Nicole maintains her license to practice public accounting and is a member of the American and Florida Institutes of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA/FICPA). She served as an FICPA Sailfish Chapter Officer and Director from 2006 to 2013.
Youth and Family Program Director, Artist Facilitator
Lela Lombardo is a commissioned, multi-disciplinary performing artist in music, theatre and dance. She currently serves as Youth Programs Director after working with ArtSpring as an arts-facilitator continuously since 2003. She has over 25 years of performing and professional teaching experience, working in communities all over the world, engaging people of all ages and abilities, through creative arts strategies in playful exploration and introspective discovery, building community by helping individuals find their voice in it. Settings include countless residencies, workshops, seminars and conference presentations, fostering an environment of multicultural diversity and mutual understanding, bridging divides through cultural diplomacy.
With years in youth art programming, she has collaborated in curriculum development for arts in education programs focusing on the subjects of Jazz history, ethnomusicology, conflict resolution and environmental awareness and is the recipient of the Arts for Learning/Miami Affiliate of Young Audiences, 2011 Sun Award for Outstanding Teaching Artist. In the arts-in-alternative-settings and social-services arena, Ms. Lombardo has worked with programs for at-risk youth, gang-violence prevention and intervention, displaced and homeless populations, hospitalized children and adults, people with special needs, hospice patients, the elderly, women and family shelters, refugees, civil-rights advocacy, migrant workers and their families, substance-abuse treatment centers, correctional facilities, wildlife advocacy and environmental organizations. Youth in inner-city communities have been her specific focus in this spectrum, being very familiar with the complex challenges they face, not just through working with, but also by living in the neighborhoods she serves; i.e., Little Haiti, Liberty City and Harlem. Lela is of mixed heritage from Panamanian and German descent and speaks 5 languages, which makes her very flexible in relating to and connecting with diverse populations.
Aimee Garcia – Board President
Aimee has a diverse background in consultative and relationship-based selling and marketing in the business-to-business area. Raised in NYC, she obtained her BBA at Pace University and began her career with Xerox, selling primarily to the NY Board of Education in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. In 1989, she began working with American Express and relocated to Miami in 1990. During her 20 years at American Express, she obtained an MBA from Nova Southeastern University and held several client management and business development positions with clients such as AOL, Sprint, USA Today, and Home Shopping Network, among others. Currently, Aimee is a licensed insurance professional working with employers and individuals consulting on employee benefits, health and life insurance, as well as working with businesses for commercial insurance. Aimee also sits on the Board of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
Susan Furman – Vice President
Susan Furman is a licensed Psychologist, certified Psychoanalyst, and a Master Trainer in Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy. She has practiced in Miami for over 30 years. As one of the original co-founders of the Women’s Resource and Counseling Center, Susan facilitated groups, families and individuals focusing on personal growth. Recognizing the value of continuing her education, she left the Resource Center to earn her doctorate in psychology, maintaining a private practice while she completed her studies. When the American Psychoanalytic Association began admitting psychologists into their institutes, she started her training in psychoanalysis, graduating in 1997. Over the years, Susan has come to realize the impact of couple’s work, and the power of the couple’s dyad in promoting deep therapeutic growth in the individual partners. She is part of an international Master Class in Couples Communication. Additionally, Susan has been involved in Lotus House and in the family shelter downtown. Her involvement in ArtSpring is an exciting logical progression to her commitment to and work with women.
Pascale Denis Denizé – Treasurer
Pascale Denis Denizé received her medical degree in Psychiatry from Haïti and worked as a licensed psychiatrist for 7 years before moving to the United States. During those years, in her private practice, she worked with patients dealing with depression, substance abuse and other mental illnesses. She also worked with a team of psychologists providing psychological support to women victim of politically-motivated abuses.
Pascale Denis Denizé received her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Miami. In September 2012, she began working as a facilitator at the Cancer Support Community Greater Miami while also developing her private practice. She is the Haitian Support Program Coordinator and attends health fairs in the community as well as facilitates the support programs for Haitians diagnosed with cancer at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Ana Abele – Secretary
With almost 30 years of owning and operating her own business, Ana Abele is one of Miami’s leading women in the entrepreneurial arena. Ana launched Professional Press in 1986, a local print shop that grew to be one of the more highly reputable businesses within South Florida due to Ana’s incredible work ethic, determination and leadership.
Born to Spanish parents, Ana emigrated to the United States in 1963. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Florida International University at the age of 20. Soon thereafter she earned a licensure in Real Estate where she worked for several years before she decided to strike out on her own and open Professional Press.
Ana is mother to two daughters who became entrepreneurs themselves. Today, she is still active in Miami’s business communities and many programs that support women in business.
Janice Billie – Board Member
Janice Billie is a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, one of two federally recognized Native American tribes in Florida. She was incarcerated for twelve years at Broward Correctional and three years at Jefferson Correctional and is a former participant of the Inside Out workshop at both institutions. Since her release from prison, Janice has committed to keeping her life on a positive journey. Janice worked as the editor for the Seminole Tribune until she ventured into her own business. She is currently owner/manager of Big Cypress Landing and continues to serve as a representative and ambassador for the women ArtSpring serves.
Ellen Shishko, LCSW – Board Member
Ellen Shishko is a clinical social worker and has practiced psychotherapy for 35 years. She sees individuals and couples and has worked with many groups. In additional to being active in professional organizations, Ellen has been involved in many community organizations over the 40+ years she’s lived in Miami.
Ellen is an emeritus board member of the Womens’ Fund of Miami Dade. She was introduced to ArtSpring as a site visitor for the Women’s Fund 13 years ago. Subsequently she ran a group for two years with inmates in the program. She is committed to this transformational program that helps women connect to a creative, self-affirming space of inner freedom, often for the first time in their lives.
Mari Tato – Board Member
“When you have mastered your mind, you can achieve everything you want in life.”
This quote truly reflects Mari’s core values along with her motivation and desire to live and work. She has worked in the advertising business for over twenty years as well as having worked for Fortune 500 companies. Presently, she serves as an Executive Producer at In & Out Production Services, Inc. in Miami, Florida. Her passion and drive in the field of advertising and production has taken her to work internationally in multiple countries. A wife and a mother of three sons, Mari is grateful that ArtSpring has given her the opportunity to participate in this amazing program that changes women’s lives.
Clara Vertes – Board Member
Miamian by choice, Clara is a teacher, an educator, and a lifelong learner. She believes that teaching is perhaps the only profession that has the power to bring about long term changes for the improvement of the human condition – at all stages of life. Based on this belief and impressed by the quality of the people serving at ArtSpring, Clara decided to join the organization. She is also a member in good standing of the Florida Bar. She has been a marathoner for the past ten years, an activity that requires heightened personal discipline and physical strength – motivators that have transformational power.
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Ruth, Homestead Correctional Institution,
“During the four years that I was actively involved
in this program as an inmate participant, I was afforded
the opportunity and means by which to delve into my innermost
being, thereby being able to begin to “patch up” the
broken woman that I was and blossomed into the vital, courageous
woman I am today.”
Isabelle 6/8/01, former Inside
Out Participant, now released
Out has given me a healthy sense of body awareness and creativity
self-expression, which has resulted in an improved self image
and higher self-esteem”
Joyce, Broward Correctional Institution, Inside
“After twenty years of
imprisonment I realize I have adapted coping behaviors that
are unhealthy, and that would not benefit me in a free society.
In preparation for my release I joined Inside Out. Though I
was impressed as a member of the audience it does not come
close to my gratitude at being a part of Inside Out and experiencing
the workshop’s unique form of emotional therapy.”
Marilyn, Homestead Correctional Institution, Inside
Out participant 2001
I have been incarcerated for a number of years, I
noticed myself withdrawing and closing
down with regard to interacting with others. The program
with its creative cultural abilities has
allowed me to learn how
to work through unhealthy issue and become an active
part of social group. The class has also taught
to deal and cope with my emotions whether it is through
writing or movement. It also gives me the opportunity
the inner me and constructively work through
my emotions in a healthy
Patricia, Homestead Correctional Institution, Inside
Out participant 2001