Able Artist Foundation Officers

Stephen Letnes

Stephen Letnes

Executive Director, Grant Development Committee
Film Composer | Stephen Letnes, LLC | stephenletnes.com

Stephen Letnes is an American composer and the Executive Director of Able Artist Foundation. Stephen has composed music for over 100 films, including features for Sony Pictures, European historical societies and nonprofits that support people with disabilities. His films have been nominated and won many awards, including the 'Bill Murray Comedic Award' and 'Best of Fest' for Z-Fest, for the film "Lady Lillian" and his score for "Santa's Boot Camp" was nominated for "Best Score" at the Love Int'l Film Festival in Los Angeles. Stephen (and his films) have been written about in Variety Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and Ability Magazine.

Paul Erickson

Paul Erickson

Chair, Grant Development Committee
Former Executive Director | Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission

Paul was the former Executive Director of the MN Amateur Sports Commission and National Sports Center Foundation in Blaine, MN where he served for 28 years and retired in 2015. He currently serves on the board of the Herb Brooks Foundation and also provides mentoring for the Three Rivers Park District Foundation.

In 1982, Paul led an 8-member team on a 500 mile, 40 day ski expedition across Arctic Lappland that included 2 visually impaired skiers.

In 1980, he led an expedition across the Greenland Ice Cap skiing 440 miles in 36 days and was featured on ABC Wide World of Sports.

Robert Zaske

Robert Zaske

Vice-Chair
Vice President, Membership | Fairview Lakes Medical Center Volunteer Organization

Retired, former elementary school teacher and 'Council for Exceptional Children' member. Former Sales and Marketing Manager in educational publishing. Served/serving on several boards aiding organizations in development, fundraising and mission focus.

Marilyn Erickson

Marilyn Erickson

Secretary
Retired Literacy Educator | Augsburg College/Centennial School District

Marilyn retired after 40 years in the field of education. She taught 1st and 2nd grades as well as serving as the District Literacy Coordinator for the Centennial School District in Circle Pines, MN. Marilyn was an adjunct professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis for 15 years teaching Children’s Literature and Language Arts to preservice teachers.

Marilyn was also a member of the base camp for the 1980 Minnesota Greenland Expedition. She was a skiing member of the 1982 Minnesota Lappland Expedition.

Kris Bjerkness

Kris Bjerkness

Treasurer
Semi-retired | Able Artist Foundation

Kris has 35 years of management experience developing, building and creating sport and recreational experiences for youth and adults at the National Sports Center. Experience includes serving on the board for 28 years and leadership positons including Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer. In his position, Kris interacted with numerous non-profits and worked with them to provide quality experiences for their members including; International Special Olympics, Minnesota Special Olympics and several Para Olympic and Veterans athletic events.

Kris volunteered as an instructor/guide and board member (1987-1990) for Ski For Light, teaching visually impaired skiers and was also a member of the 1982 Lapland Expedition, crossing Artic Lapland with 2 visually impaired skiers.

Able Artist Foundation Board Members

Dan Chinander

Dan Chinander

Board Member
President/Film Director/Producer | Twin Cities Creative Media Group

Dan Chinander formerly was Director of Video and Film production for National Car Rental. In 2001, Dan left the corporate world and opened his own production company producing commercial content as well as full-length feature films. Dan's first feature film, Hiding Victoria, went on to win awards on the festival circuit and then went on to distribution playing on Hulu, Direct TV, and currently can be seen on Amazon Prime and Tubi-TV.

Dan is in development on Blues Man, Animal Air, and The Big Roscoe. Dan plans to follow these films with a slate of four of his other screenplays, ranging from drama, action/adventure and family films. Dan is also a songwriter and musician playing piano, harmonica and bass.

Abby Dirks

Abby Dirks

Grant Development Committee
Managing Director | Huntington Learning Center (Plymouth, MN)

Abby Dirks is an accomplished businesswoman and educator. She has a passion for individualized education and specializes in helping students of all ages learn how to maximize and expand their skill sets to become more efficient learners. Abby has worked in supplementary education for over 15 years, and she is currently enjoying her duties as Managing Director of the Huntington Learning Center in Plymouth, Minnesota. This Huntington Learning Center location has risen in the ranks to be a top-10 performing center in a franchise system of 300 centers, earning numerous national awards including the “Commitment to Student Success” award the last two years running.

Abby holds English Education and Studio Arts degrees from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and Lancaster University in England, as well as a degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Abby enjoys meeting and working with people, being exposed to a variety of perspectives, and engaging in creative problem-solving. She has traveled in the United States and Canada as well as Europe, Asia, and South America. In addition to recreational travel, she lived and worked in London, England, and also taught English in Ningbo, China. Abby resides in Minneapolis with her husband, Alan Ingman, and their dog, Beatrix.

Dr. Ron Letnes

Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes

Board Member
Retired ELCA Pastor | Chair of St. Paul Synod-ELCA ENGAGE

Ron Letnes is a retired minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Ron has served congregations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Colorado, and was the executive director of two outdoor ministry camps in Minnesota and Colorado. Throughout his ministry, music of all styles has been a major contributor to giving witness to Christ. Music unites and focuses the community in unique and powerful ways. A life-time commitment to peace and justice has led to chairing synod-wide peace and justice committees in MN, WI and CO. In the Rocky Mountain Synod, Ron focused on empowering nonviolence and, currently, in the St. Paul Area Synod, Ron is addressing gun violence prevention. Presently, Ron is on the Executive Committee of Protect Minnesota which addresses gun violence prevention statewide. Ron is the founder and chair of the St. Paul Area Synod ELCA gun violence prevention team called ENGAGE and serves on the Twin City Peace with Justice Committee. Ron and his wife Linda travel extensively throughout the U.S. and internationally which gives them an appreciation of cultural diversity and joy of life together.

Monte Moir

Monte Moir

Grant Development Committee
Songwriter/Producer | Keyboardist - Morris Day & The Time

Monte Moir is an American songwriter, producer and musician best known as the keyboardist of Prince's band 'The Time' and songwriter of many notable American artists. Monte Moir is the original and current keyboardist for The Time, as well as a songwriter and producer for Janet JacksonAlexander O'NealGladys Knight, as well as the duo Deja (Curt Jones & Starleana Young). He is also credited for working with PrinceVanity 6Deniece WilliamsThelma HoustonSteven DanteLolly Pop and various other artists.

Some of his greatest writing successes were writing the first side of Alexander O'Neal's solo debut - including "If You Were Here Tonight" and "The Pleasure Principle'[1] by Janet JacksonPatti Austin and Thelma Houston are other notable artists he wrote classics for as part of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis's 'The Secret'. Monte is something of a cult writing figure in the world of soulful music. "In My Life" by Ruby Turner as well as Steven Dante's "It's Only Love" are key examples of his songwriting.

He left The Time soon after Jam and Lewis were released by Prince, following conflicting writing interests with The SOS Band and failing to make a concert. However, he rejoined The Time for their Pandemoniumalbum and Prince's final film Graffiti Bridge, in the late 1980s when the original Time members reunited.

Monte Moir continues to produce his own material, play keyboards for an amended version of the band and to produce for various artists. He most recently surfaced on the 59th Annual Grammy Awards with The Time, and was credited on Rihanna's 2016 Grammy nominated track, "Work".

Aleshia Mueller

Aleshia Mueller

Board Member
Script Supervisor | Reel Nomad Productions

With sixteen years of experience in the film and television industry, Aleshia Mueller is a self motivated and charismatic storyteller and problem solver. She is detail-oriented but still understands the big picture. Her roles in the business have ranged from pre-production to production, to post-production, including producing, directing, shooting, and editing television, documentaries, commercials, and narrative films domestically and around the world. This experience informs her current work as a Script/Continuity Supervisor.

Aleshia's Script Supervising work includes commercials for The Walking Dead: No Man's Land, Gold Bond, Marvin Windows, 3M, General Mills, Best Buy, and Sleep Number; the short films Waabooz, Sad Clown, Robert in the Bedroom, Evergreen, and Ana's Playground; the feature films Down for Whatever, The Nanny, The Blood Stripe, Santa's Boot Camp, and Death to Prom; and TV Series Superstition and Black Lightning. Some of the documentaries Aleshia has produced include I Am From (“Best Doc” at Twin Cities Black Film Fest, Living with the Land ( “Most Informative” and “Second Place” at CERTS Green Energy Video Contest), Another Direction (Honorable Mention at the 1968 Project), The Canoe King of Ely, Lady of the Woods, A Wartime Geologist, and CSCAN – The Crustal Stress Community Awareness Network (Made for a Philippine UNDP program in 2001, still used today).

Mueller has received project support grants from the Mellon Foundation, the MN State Arts Board, and the Jerome Foundation. Aleshia also does consultations, speaking engagements, and workshops, including workshops and panels on FCP Editing, How Directors Work with Editors, Documentary Production, and The Craft of Script Supervising for the Georgia Big Picture Conference. She has also attended and juried several film festivals.

In addition to media production, Aleshia has many other interests. She likes to meet new people and connect people with common interests, believing that “we all do better when we all do better.” She does volunteer work such as puppet making for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and organizing for the MN Cuban Committee, including the Cuban Film Festival. She is a native American English speaker, conversational Spanish speaker, and knows enough French to get around the Cannes Film Festival. She feels comfortable outside of her comfort zone and doesn't hesitate to explore the world. She hikes, bikes, paddles, and goes salsa dancing. Aleshia strives to enriches lives through promoting art, music, science, or the moving image industry around the world.

Through her production company, Reel Nomad productions, Aleshia continues to produce independent films and do contract work for other production companies. Aleshia has the skills and commitment to realize a creative vision from script to screen. Her curiosity, fearlessness, & passion for her craft continue to take her on storytelling adventures throughout the world.

Alexandria (Alex) Mueller

Alexandria Mueller

Legal/Business Affairs, Grant Development Committee
Attorney/Film Composer | Entertainment Attorney-at-large

Alexandria (Alex) Mueller practices in Copyright, Trademark and Entertainment law and is currently vice chair of the Sports, Art and Entertainment Law Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Alex works with filmmakers, musicians, composers, artists and game developers to manage their rights and maximize their market potential and assists businesses and non-profits with intellectual property matters such as clearance, risk analysis and licensing agreements.

Additionally, Alex is an award-winning composer and accomplished musician. She studied film music composition at Berklee College of Music and performs with the Saint Paul Civic Symphony Orchestra and the Boom Island String Quartet, as well as on recording sessions.

Alzie Ramsey

Alzie Ramsey

Board Member
Musician/Producer | Black Widow Music, LLC

Due to his father's tenure with the U.S. Army, Al was afforded the opportunity to travel around the world and acquire a rich musical history! At an early age in Indianapolis, Indiana, he began his formal training through piano lessons, moved to Europe and the rest is history. After his father retired in 1984 from the US Army JAG Corps in Fort Lee, Virginia, he moved with his parents to West Palm Beach, Florida where he quickly became one of the top studio players in the city.

Throughout his musical career, he's participated in performances from local rock bands to national jazz ensembles. Al has provided musical support for varied situations - local studio work, jingles, original bands, churches, etc. Recent compositional credits include scores for TV and film that have been featured on "A&E," "CBS," "MTV," "VH-1," "Bravo," "USA," "The Discovery Channel," "TLC," "Spike TV," "National Geographic," "The Food Network," and "The Travel Network." He can be seen in many different venues across the United States and has been recently been seen sharing the stage with Chuck Loeb, Kim Waters, Alex Bugnon, Marion Meadows and many other jazz greats. Currently, has been recording and touring extensively with violinist Noel Webb. For the majority, Al has been playing jazz and gospel sprinkled with other genres. Over the recent few years he has been playing and producing EDM (Electronic Dance Music). Al has been strongly influenced by Ahmad Jamal, Alex Bugnon, Ramsey Lewis, Bob James, George Duke, Russell Ferrante (Yellowjackets), Joe Sample and Herbie Hancock in his keyboard performances. He states that the band that influenced him the most while growing up was ELO (Electric Light Orchestra).

The development of his unique musical style is a result of a lifetime of musical influence and he also plays several additional instruments other than the piano. Being reared in a talented musical family meant that expectations were high and constant exposure to different genres of music was abundant. Having famous cousins such as Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis (Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald) and Nathan East (Eric Clapton, Fourplay, Toto) has always been a driving factor.

He attributes all of his success to God and the people who have been close to him and have supported his career, especially his family. His experience and talent keep him constantly in demand.

Alzie Ramsey is also a composer/musician that works under the independent company name Black Widow Music, LLC that he founded in 2004. In a critical time when the music business is reinventing itself Black Widow Music, LLC has developed to include a production music library as well as brand-driven record label. The result after many hours of labor and hard work is a business organization that stays on the forefront of industry technology and practices, but remains true to the "music" and avoids the traps of commercialism. Featuring the best in EDM, jazz and various genres of instrumentals the catalog is broad and diverse, but prevails on the primary focal point of why the label was created in the first place. Black Widow Music, LLC - Keeping the quality in the music!

Heidi Stark

Heidi Stark

Grant Development Committee
Business Support Mgr., VP, Corp. Risk, Corp Investment Banking | Wells Fargo

Heidi Stark is a vice president and relationship manager for the Local Government Group, a division of Wells Fargo’s Government & Institutional Banking. The group serves governmental institutions such as counties, cities, and K – 12 public education, as well as essential services such as water and sanitation districts and public safety.Heidi is based in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Heidi joined Wells Fargo in 1998. During her 18 years, she held positions in Treasury Management Sales and was a relationship manager in the Business Banking Group. She spent the past eight years in Wells Fargo’s Corporate Banking Group, where she worked in relationship support management and as a relationship manager in the Power & Utilities division. She spent the last three years working on compliance and operational risk programs before joining Government & Institutional Banking.

Heidi holds a B.A. in organizational management and communication from Concordia University, where she graduated magna cum laude.

Heidi currently resides in Minneapolis with her husband and two sons.

John Taillon

John Taillon

Board Member
Artist / Designer / CEO | Shelterbelt Studio

John M. Taillon is an artist and creative professional working in the Twin Cities. He attended the University of North Dakota majoring in English and Anthropology but, ultimately, a creative pursuit is what he has followed. John owns a successful screen printing business and creative studio called Shelterbelt Studio located in the Mid City Industrial area of Northeast Minneapolis. He has over 20 years of creative experience in a wide variety of mediums. Most notably he is known for his collaboration on poster artwork for 2017 Grammy nominated artists Mastodon and The War on Drugs. He also worked with his studio partner on poster art production for 2013 Grammy award nominees and 2014 Grammy award winners, The Alabama Shakes. John is also known for his work as an Art Director on several highly acclaimed table top gaming projects that involved collaboration with Disney and Lucasfilm, Ltd. via Fantasy Flight Publishing. John currently resides in St. Paul, MN with his wife, Deborah, and their 2 year-old daughter.

Craig Tollis

Craig Tollis

AAF Representative - Los Angeles
Picture Editor | ABC's "The Good Doctor"

Craig Tollis is an Emmy Award winning film editor, director and independent filmmaker based in Los Angeles, California. He has worked on set and in post production on documentaries, television series and feature films for clients such as ABC, NBC, Sony, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., CNN Headline News, BET, Major League Baseball, Fox Sports South, the United Nations and Armed Forces Entertainment.

Arlene Wirth

Arlene Wirth

Grant Writer
Retired | (...and LOVING IT!)

Arlene recently retired from a career as a Director of Human Resources for the St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission where she was responsible for hiring, training, and workforce management. Prior to that, Arlene worked as an independent grant writer and successfully wrote grants for school districts, units of government and nonprofit organizations.

Katie Wirth

Katie Wirth

Grant Development Committee
Assistant Vice President | U.S. Bank

Katie Wirth has worked as a communications manager in the banking industry for over ten years and has been recognized for her success as a collaborative leader. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in Business Communications from the University of St. Thomas. Katie uses an assistive device and resides in Minnesota with her husband and two children.

Able Artist Foundation Team Members and Advisors

Heather Mueller

Heather Mueller

Consultant/Interpreter
Owner | Remote Office Manager, LLC

Heather Mueller is the owner of Remote Office Manager, LLC and the Co-Owner of YourVOM.com. She is a film producer and writer. Originally from Minnesota, Heather currently resides in Atlanta, GA. She has lived in Ecuador, Mexico and France. She co-authored curriculum for a successful acting program and has worked in many levels of the film industry. She has co-created and led acting workshops in France and Italy. Heather has volunteered for Helps International as a medical interpreter and at Save the Horses. She is a foodie who enjoys reading, making jewelry and gardening.

Kris Kautzman

Kris Kautzman

AAF Advisor
Manager of Community Partnerships, American Composers Forum

In her role at the American Composers Forum, based in Saint Paul, MN, Kris coordinates artist residencies and other grant-funded collaborative projects, a performance series, and a weekly newsletter of regional events that feature music by living composers. She also sings professionally with several vocal ensembles, performing music that spans from Gregorian chant to Bach to world premieres.

Stacy Porter, Photo by CorpFoto

Stacy Porter

Front-End Developer
CEO | Sweater Fish Society

Stacy has spent over 30 years in the theatre and film industries in various capacities. Starting with South Coast Repertory as a Production Assistant, she moved into the Art Department for Film and Commercials and finally into Screenwriting with several independent sales of her work.

She is currently focused on launching Able Artist Foundation while simultaneously launching her own non-profit with Devin Watson. Their non-profit, The Sweater Fish Society aims to increase diversity in the entertainment industry through various programs and grants. They will be launching their first program in spring 2019.

Together with Devin as HoD, she is also the Managing Director of Write Vault, a virtually autonomous company that offers intellectual property registration services for artists.

And finally, she doesn't understand the word "quit" in several languages.

Devin Watson

Devin Watson

Lead Programmer
CTO | Sweater Fish Society

Devin Watson was born in Brunswick, Georgia, in 1978. Growing up watching countless horror films due to many childhood maladies, he harbored a love of writing with an active imagination. Even through high school and college, graduating with a degree in Computer Science, he pursued his study of screenwriting, culminating in the production of The Cursed in 2007. He is also the author of Horror Screenwriting: The Nature of Fear. He currently has no plans to grow up or let The Man grind him down.

Kaitlyn Yang

Kaitlyn Yang

AAF Advisor
Chief Executive Officer | Alpha Studios (Los Angeles)

Kaitlyn Yang is the founder and visual effects supervisor of Alpha Studios, a post production company. She has worked on shows such as Robot Chicken and The Walking Dead. Recently Forbes named her one of 30 Under 30 for Hollywood/Entertainment. She is a wheelchair user, and lives in Los Angeles with her two dogs.

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