Lulu Miller

Keynote Speaker

Invisibilia, NPR

Lulu Miller is a Peabody-Award winning science reporter for National Public Radio. She is the co-founder  of NPR’s Invisibilia, and a founding producer of Radiolab. She reports on disability, mental health, and occasionally, on insects. She is currently at work on a book about taxonomy and when collecting becomes madness. 





Randy Cohen

VP of Research & Policy

Americans for the Arts

Randy Cohen is Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading arts advocacy organization. A member of the staff since 1991, Randy stands out as a noted expert in the field of arts funding, research, and using the arts to address community development issues. He publishes Americans Speak Out About the Arts, the nation’s largest public opinion study about the arts, and produces the two premier economic studies of the arts—Arts & Economic Prosperity, the national economic impact study of nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences; and Creative Industries, a mapping study of the nation’s 675,000 arts businesses and their employees. His 10 Reasons to Support the Arts blog recently received the Gold Award from the Association of Media & Publishing—their top honor for best blog post of the year. Randy led the development of The National Arts Index, the annual measure of the health and vitality of arts in the U.S. as well as the National Arts Policy Roundtable, an annual convening of leaders who focus on the advancement of American culture—launched in partnership with Robert Redford and the Sundance Institute. In the late 1990’s, Randy collaborated with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities to create Coming Up Taller, the White House report on arts programs for youth-at-risk; and the U.S. Department of Justice to produce the YouthARTS Project, the first national study to statistically document the impact of arts programs on at-risk youth. A sought-after speaker, Randy has given speeches in all 50 states, and regularly appears in the news media—including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on C-SPAN, CNN, CNBC, and NPR.

Randy has been a policy specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts, founded the San Diego Theatre for Young Audiences, and worked in medical research for Stanford University and Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. His board work includes the League of Historic American Theaters. Randy is a past Chairman of the Takoma Park Arts & Humanities Commission, during which time the Commission completed a cultural plan, established the city’s Poet Laureate and public art programs, and led the development of a million-dollar conversion of the city council chambers into a performing arts space.


Joy Peterson Heyrman

Executive Director

Virginia Center for the Creative Arts

Joy Peterson Heyrman is the Executive Director of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) and began her tenure there in September 2016. Previously, she served as Deputy Director for Museum Advancement at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, where she worked for 23 years to build a culture of philanthropy and teamwork. Heyrman holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Art History and Archeology from the University of Maryland, as well as a B.A. in English from Amherst College.

The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) is a unique Virginia-based organization of national stature and international impact. VCCA’s mission is “providing creative space for the world’s best artists to create their finest literature, visual art, and music.” VCCA hosts over 400 artist-Fellows annually at its Mt. San Angelo facility in Amherst, VA and the Moulin à Nef in Auvillar, France. The artists who come to VCCA, whether emerging or established, are selected through competitive peer review on the basis of the important or innovative work they are doing in their respective fields. Since its founding in 1971, VCCA has hosted over 6,000 writers, visual artists, and composers.


Charese L. Chambers


Financial Fancy

Charese is bookkeeper and financial literacy coach to people of all ages with an array of issues. She focuses on small businesses, non profits and personal financing. Charese is most passionate about passing along information that can better and potentially change people’s lives.




Christina Garnett

Founder and Digital Strategist

Marketing Media Maven

A North Carolina native and Davidson College Alumna, Christina Garnett has found her home in the Roanoke Valley. As a marketing strategist and social media consultant, Christina strives to stay up to date with the ever-changing digital marketing landscape. She is currently certified by Google, Hootsuite, HubSpot, Wix, and YouTube. With her teaching and counseling experience, she works to empower small business owners to take charge of their marketing needs and use it to create and share their brand. She loves the voice that social media can grant people and adores Twitter. With a marketing foundation based on inbound marketing, she showcases a deep love of audience understanding and data analysis. Experienced in Google Analytics and Tag Manager, she enjoys diving into the data to learn more about the audience experience, perform A/B testing, and utilizing Google Optimize to further enhance her campaign(s).


Marc Willson

Retail Consultant

Virginia Small Business Development Center

Marc has 35 years of experience helping retail, restaurant and tourism-related small businesses refine and promote their concepts to the public.

In 1975, Marc started his retail career as co-owner of the largest distributor of Earth Shoes in the U.S. Since then he has held executive positions with retailers such as Britches of Georgetowne, Crown Books, Circuit City, The Bicycle Exchange, and Storetrax, Inc. Most recently, he traveled to Dallas, Texas to open the world’s first energy efficiency store for Current Energy, LLC, a company funded by Ross Perot, Jr.

Marc joined the Virginia SBDC Network in 2009 as a Retail Industry Consultant; he delivers seminars and assists retailers throughout Virginia and across the United States.


Eliza Lamb

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Lamb Center for Arts and Healing

Dr. Eliza Lamb is a practicing fine artist, researcher, arts administrator, and educator. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design where she earned her BFA in Photography and Columbia University where she pursued her graduate studies. She holds master’s degrees in Clinical Psychology, Art + Art Education, and Arts Administration, as well as a doctorate in Art + Art Education. Lamb built her professional career in New York City, where she served as Curator of the Children’s Museum of the Arts and co-authored the Armory Show’s first Kid’s Guide to Viewing Contemporary Art. She is a professional performing and visual artist whose work has won numerous awards and accolades, including Columbia University’s Myers Art Prize. Her research interests include: career preparation for artists, art and spirituality, and arts and healing. Most recently, Lamb was charged with surveying the developing field of arts and health for VCUarts and the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru). In 2016, she relocated back to her home state of Virginia to establish the Lamb Center for Arts and Healing (Lamb Arts), where she helps bring creativity and optimism to thousands of our state’s most underserved community members. You can find out more about Lamb Arts’ recent initiatives at Presenting on Moving Past Fear and Taking Action. 

Janet Starke

Executive Director

Virginia Commission for the Arts

Janet Starke is the Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Prior to her appointment, Janet served as Executive Director of Richmond Performing Arts Alliance since November 2015, having served as the organization’s Director of Education for six years prior. A native of Chesterfield County, Janet has worked in arts education and performing arts institutions for 22 years, in Richmond, Nashville, Memphis, Charlotte and Cincinnati. Janet holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Arts Administration from Shenandoah University, and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from University of Cincinnati College–Conservatory. She has served as a grants panelist for Virginia Commission for the Arts, Montalvo Teaching Artist Fellowship, The Kennedy Center and US Department of Education. She has presented nationally at conferences and symposia, including those of Arts Education Partnership, Southeast Center for Education and the Arts, Arts Schools Network, U.S. Department of Education, Americans for the Arts, and National Arts Marketing Project.

The Virginia Commission for the Arts is the state agency that supports the arts through funding from the Virginia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Commission distributes grants to arts and other not-for-profit arts organizations, educational institutions, educators, artists, and local governments.


Karena J. Heyward

Clinical Faculty, Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Southern New Hampshire University

Dr. Karena J. Heyward received an MEd in Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from The College of William and Mary. She is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia and a national certified counselor. Her clinical experience includes work with a variety of populations and presenting concerns, specializing in couples and family counseling.

Heyward has held faculty and administrative positions. She previously served as the president of the Virginia Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling and in various roles with the Virginia Association of Couples and Family Counseling. She is also a trained member of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team and Disaster Mental Health Team.

Heyward engages in continued scholarship, presenting at the state, regional and national levels. Her research interests include: body psychotherapy and somatic counseling, transpersonal psychology, sexuality counseling, the experiences of military personnel and their families, and international perspectives on the counseling profession.


Ariel Lev


Treehouse Collaborative

Ariel is a small business owner with a background in marketing, public relations, consulting, content creation and brand development. Former director of the CoLab, Roanoke’s largest coworking space and small business hub, Ariel now runs Treehouse Collaborative along with two other women in Roanoke. Ariel also produced CityWorks (X)po, an annual placemaking conference focused on “Big Ideas for Better Places.”



Maggie Perrin-Key


Treehouse Collaborative

Maggie Perrin-Key is an artist living and working in Roanoke, Virginia. She is one of the founders of Treehouse Collaborative, and helps with the development of an environmentally sustainable and ethical clothing brand based in Roanoke, Line + Tow. She also maintains a regular art practice in her studio at The Aurora Studio Center, showing her abstract oil paintings in juried group shows as well as solo exhibitions. Maggie graduated in 2017 from Hollins University with a B.A. in Studio Art.



Josh Jackson

Program Director


Josh Jackson began his radio career at WWOZ in New Orleans, worked as a production assistant at American Routes, and moved to New York to become the associate producer of Jazz From Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. Josh joined the WVTF team in October 2014 as the station’s Program Director and Content Manager. He is also the host of Last Quarter – Sunday nights on WVTF.

He was formerly the Vice President of Content at WBGO, the nation’s most important public media jazz outlet. Josh was the founding producer of the multi-platform concert series Live at the Village Vanguard and The Checkout: Live, a live performance extension of the hourly music magazine he created, The Checkout. His efforts in multimedia production led to the creation of Jazz Night in America

Josh Jackson is a two-time recipient of the Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting. He lives on a mountain in Roanoke, Virginia.


Eric Byrd


Loudoun SBDC

As the manager of the Small Business Development Program in Loudoun since 2015, Eric leads a team of experienced business advisers and educators to help small businesses thrive and grow. With over 30 years of business experience Eric has worked with companies and organizations of every size and structure. He draws from strong storytelling skills learned during his days as a television producer and screenwriter to help businesses articulate their own value to customers. He brings over 20 years as a technology sales professional and 8 years a a trainer and business coach to classes and sessions with individual companies. Leveraging proven entrepreneurial tools and concepts Eric strives to help business owners identify key areas of opportunity and challenges. He leans on skills learned while a freelance IT trainer for Cisco,Polycom and NATO. He also draws heavily from his expertise launching and running his own coaching practice, which focuses on business communications, when working with clients. He understands small business dynamics and challenges from his own experience as an entrepreneur and from growing up in his family’s small business and uses that knowledge to help entrepreneurs develop a strong strategy for success. Leveraging his BS in Communications from James Madison University, Eric teaches and coaches strong planning and communications practices as the point person for the business consulting team at the Loudoun SBDC.

A Virginia native he lived in many parts of the state growing up attending high school in Chesterfield County, south of Richmond. After college he settled in Northern Virginia. Eric has lived in Loudoun county since 1999 and has been a resident of the Town of Leesburg since 2008. Eric served on the Technology and Communications Commission for two years and since 2017 he has served on the Economic Development Commission  for the town. He is often a speaker, sometimes and author and always a proud father and grandfather. His favorite activity is making up stories with his seven-year-old grandson Mason.


Tim Saunders



Tim Saunders is an Emmy-award winning journalist who has worked in television news for more than 20 years. He joined the team at WDBJ7 in 2006.

Prior to joining WDBJ7, Tim spent three years at WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg, VA, where he worked as a reporter and weekend anchor. He started his broadcasting career in 1998 as a video editor for Roanoke’s NBC affiliate.

Tim is a native of Bedford County, where most of his family has lived for generations. He’s a 2002 graduate of Radford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Media Studies. Tim holds a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University, where he graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2003.

In addition to his work at WDBJ7, Tim is proud to teach future journalists and media professionals as an adjunct professor in the Communication Studies department at the University of Lynchburg.


Scot McCarthy

Founder and Principal Consultant

StyleWise Partners

After a fulfilling 25+ year career in Fortune 500 companies ranging from the world’s largest conglomerate to the financial services industry and non-profit healthcare, Scot McCarthy founded StyleWise Partners, and has been working independently in the Organizational Performance / Talent Management arena since 2015. He has played a key role in the assessment and development of human capital for leading domestic and international companies in the sectors of retail, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, banking and local, state and global non-profits. Prior to establishing StyleWise Partners, he developed my broad-based skill set in talent management, human resources, organizational effectiveness, Six Sigma quality, change acceleration, financial analysis and project management. His passion and expertise is working with organizations to assess their current state and help them increase their efficiency and effectiveness within the three areas of Purpose, Process and People.


Elise Spontarelli

Executive Director

Vector Space

Elise Spontarelli is the Executive Director at Vector Space, Lynchburg’s makerspace. There she combines her business and nonprofit experience with her creative passions. With a background in graphic design, she gives her designs life by vinyl cutting, laser engraving, and silk screening. Elise is also a strong advocate of the maker movement, and loves community collaborations. She works with her husband and whenever they can find the time, they enjoy making toys and contraptions for their two young sons.


Geoffrey Kershner

Executive Director

Academy Center of the Arts

Geoffrey Kershner is the Executive Director at the Academy Center of the Arts (Lynchburg, VA) and the founder of the Endstation Theatre Company. He is the winner of the 2015 Vice Mayor’s Young Adult Award of Excellence (City of Lynchburg) and was named a 2016 “Top 20 under 40” by Lynchburg Business Magazine. Under his leadership, Endstation was the winner of the 2012 Rising Star Award (Virginians for the Arts). 

In his time at the Academy Center of the Arts, the organization increased need based scholarships for arts programming by 124%, increased the overall operating budget by 200%, and completed a capital campaign for a historic theatre restoration project which opened its doors in December of 2018. Geoffrey has served on Virginia Commission for the Arts (Area 2, state wide) grant review panels, was a member of the National Arts Strategies’ 2014-2015 Chief Executive Cohort, and completed the Arts and Culture Strategy course through the University of Pennsylvania and National Arts Strategies in 2017. Currently is he is a member of the American’s for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders Council. 

In 2016, along with the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development and the Small Business Development center, he founded “Create Lynchburg” a conference geared for artists that promotes the arts as a part of the business sector. In 2019, the conference will expand state wide and is now the “Create Virginia” conference. In 2018, along with the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, he implemented the “Creative Commerce” program. This program uses the arts as an instructional tool for the business sector. 

Geoffrey served as a faculty member at Florida State University, Daytona State College, and Lynchburg College. He earned his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA and his MFA from Florida State University.


Anna Bentson

Assistant Director

City of Lynchburg Economic Development & Tourism

Anna Bentson is the Assistant Director of Economic Development for the City of Lynchburg. In her role, Anna leads marketing, entrepreneurship and business development for the Office of Economic Development and Tourism and the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority. She is a graduate of the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina and has earned a Certificate in Creatives Cities and Economic Development at NYU and a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at Lynchburg College. Anna has a strong background in nonprofit management and cause marketing with a passion for urban revitalization and creative placemaking. Anna currently serves on the board for the Downtown Lynchburg Association and the International Economic Development Council Awards Advisory Committee. 


Stephanie Keener


Small Business Development Center – Lynchburg Region

Stephanie works throughout the Lynchburg region advising and consulting with small businesses and entrepreneurs. She came to the Small Business Development Center from Lynchburg’s Virginia Main Street Program where she developed and directed marketing and events for Downtown Lynchburg, including the James River Batteau Festival, Friday Cheers and Get! Downtown. Prior to that, she worked at the Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Chamber of Commerce as the membership and communications coordinator and was the director of Blowing Rock’s elite art show, Art in the Park. The founding Director of the Stephenson Center for Appalachian Studies and the New Opportunity School for Women at Lees-McRae College, she served on the steering committee for the Appalachian Studies Association. She holds a Master’s degree in Appalachian Studies and has special expertise in heritage asset development, rural development, and transitional economies.