Board Members

Dr. Katy Bergman Cassell
Katy Bergman Cassell earned an MFA from Kent State University and a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She worked as an archaeological illustrator in India and as a museum educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, in New York. She taught metals, enameling, and drawing at colleges in Ohio until moving to Greenville, SC to teach at the Fine Arts Center. She was awarded a National Artists Teachers Fellowship to travel to England in 2015. She teaches workshops nationally, has been a South Carolina State Parks Artist-in-Residence, and was on the board of the Center for Enamel Art in Oakland, CA.

She exhibits her work extensively. Recent exhibitions include the Blaze International Enameling Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan. She has had eight solo exhibitions, the most recently at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa, AZ in 2017 and Riverworks Gallery in Greenville, SC in 2018. Her artwork has been selected to promote the Society of North American Goldsmith’s Exhibition in Motion, and the Richmond Art Center’s Place as Landscape exhibition, and other publications include The Art of Enameling, 500 Enameled Objects, Metalsmith magazine, Cleveland Scene, At Home in the Upstate, and The Greenville News.

Her website is

Jess Burgess

Jess Burgess is the CEO for Greenville Center for Creative Arts with over 16 years of experience in nonprofit arts administration. She has a proven track record of start-up to growth-phase organizational leadership and development. From formulating strategic fundraising plans to preparing annual budgets and implementing sound strategies, her background has consistently been characterized by a steadfast dedication to managing fiscal responsibility and achieving organizational growth objectives. She has dedicated her career to diligently diversifying income streams and building lasting relationships to secure financial stability for arts organizations that will ensure all programming emphasizes diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. Art should be a fundamental right, not a privilege.

Jess currently serves on the Board of Directors for Palmetto State Arts Education in addition to joining the Board of Directors for the Fine Arts Center in Greenville. She received Bachelor of Arts degrees (Magna Cum Laude) in both Dance and Communications from James Madison University and a Professional Certificate in Fund Development from the University of Richmond. In a panel review by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, jurors commented that “Jess Burgess is a strong and active advocate for the arts at every level.” She is excited to serve for such an exemplary institution such as FAC!
Raquel Collier

Racquel “Rocky” Collier is the President of Caliber Real Estate, a development firm specializing in developing multifamily communities and residential subdivisions.

She graduated from Clemson University, where she studied English with an Emphasis on Writing + Publication Studies and Real Estate Development.

Racquel serves on the Board of Commissioners for The Greenville Housing Authority and Ten At The Top.

Wes Hyler

West Hyler (He/Him) is the Executive Artistic Director of the South Carolina New Play Festival and co-Artistic Director of the socially-distanced theater company Artistic Stamp. Prior to COVID, West was the Producing Artistic Director of the New York Musical Festival, the largest Musical Theater Festival in the World.

West was the supervising director of Jersey Boys on Broadway and around the world (including South Africa, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, London, and Canada), the associate director on the Broadway premiere of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and he directed Vanessa Carlton into Beautiful on Broadway and assisted David Hyde Pierce on It Shoulda Been You.

He received his MFA in Directing from University of California at San Diego where he studied with Darko Tresnjak, Anne Bogart, Des McAnuff, Ivo Van Hove, and Tina Landau and directed Measure for Measure and A Dream Play by Strindberg. He has been a Drama League Fall Directing Fellow as well as a Drama League Resident Artist, a recipient of two South Carolina Arts Commission Grants, and a hosts a weekly Dungeons and Dragon campaign on youtube called “Broadway Hit Points”.

West has a 20 year career as a theater director, recent projects include:

  • Cirque Du Soleil’s Paramour (Broadway),
  • Shrek! The Musical by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire (National Opera House of Bulgaria),
  • Piff the Magic Dragon by Jon Van Der Put (Flamingo Casino Showroom in Vegas),
  • Air Play by Seth Bloom and Christina Gelsone (International Tour),
  • Djembe! by Doug Manuel (Apollo Theater, Chicago),
  • Avenue Q by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and by Jeff Whitty (National Puppet Theater of Bulgaria, IKAR award),
  • Panda! (Beijing State Theater, Palazzo Hotel and Casino)
  • Getting My Act Together… by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford (York Theater Company),
  • NYC premiere of H2O by Jane Martin (59E59),
  • Tempest, Love’s Labours Lost, Merry Wives of Windsor (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival),
  • Georama by Hyler, Matt Schatz, and Jack Herrick (St Louis Rep, St Louis Critics Circle Award and at NYMF, Festival award for Outstanding Direction),
  • Legendarium, Metamorphosis (Big Apple Circus, Lincoln Center),


His writing credits include:

  • Paramour (Broadway),
  • Georama (St Louis Rep, Great River Shakespeare Festival),
  • Inspector Shell and the Eggcellent Mystery (Artistic Stamp),
  • Electra’s Diary (Artistic Stamp),
  • Acorn-ucopia Mystery (Artistic Stamp),
  • the Short film A Jake and A Tom (Hollywood International Film Festival, Charleston International Film Festival),
  • Legendarium, Metamorphosis (Big Apple Circus, Lincoln Center)
  • and the novel Circus of the Gods.
Katie Howell
Katie Howell grew up in Greenville, SC. She’s a graduate of Christ Church Episcopal School, SC Governor’s School for the Arts (creative writing), and Furman University. After living/working in Atlanta for 10 years and receiving a degree from The Art Institute of Atlanta (culinary arts), she and her family moved back to Greenville. She is married to Rob Howell, and they have three children, the oldest of whom is a junior in the Voice program at FAC. Katie has a background in public relations and sales, specifically in the technology and hospitality worlds.
After moving back to Greenville over a decade ago, Katie became and continues to be a trustee of The Daniel-Mickel Foundation, which supports local nonprofit organizations that strengthen the Upstate socially and economically. Over the years, she’s had the opportunity to serve on boards and committees for several Greenville nonprofits. She is currently a trustee on the boards of Christ Church Episcopal School, Community Foundation of Greenville, Artisphere, and Greenville Tech Foundation. She looks forward to helping The Partners continue to promote the excellence of the FAC.
Brock Koonce
Brock Koonce is a ’95 graduate of the Fine Arts Center concentrating in Theatre under Christina Keefe. The FAC not only offered him and excellent arts education, but also provided him with the necessary skills to move forward to toward his college career and eventual calling as a part-time stage actor and lover of the arts.  “My experience at FAC was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Without my time at FAC, I feel I would not have developed the many skills I carry with me today. I am very proud and honored to call myself an FAC Graduate.”

Brock graduated from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville with a degree in Communications and a minor in Political Science.  Since moving back to Greenville, he has been very involved in the community through several boards and commissions, continually working to help move Greenville forward to a more inclusive and vibrant place.

Brock currently works with Goodwill Industries of Upstate/Midlands South Carolina as their Marketing and Public Relations Manager. 

Nicole Michel (ex-officio)

Nicole Michel has almost two decades of experience as an educator in Greenville County Schools. From 2005-2016 she taught English at Mauldin High School, before entering the administrative ranks as sixth-grade Assistant Principal at Greer Middle School. From there she went on to be Assistant Principal at Carolina High School and Academy and in 2019 was named Assistant Director at the Fine Arts Center. 

She believes the unique educational opportunities the FAC afforded to students are surpassed only by the incomparable experiences the students have to create and perform their art, helping them become their best selves. Ms. Michel is a cum laude graduate of Furman University. She has a Master’s Degree in English Language and Literature from Middlebury College and a Master’s of Education Administration from Clemson University.
Anita Pacylowski-Justo

Anita Pacylowski-Justo the co-artistic director of DanceArts Greenville and a part-time Ballet Instructor at the Fine Arts Center. Her formal ballet training came from the Washington School of Ballet in Washington, D.C. She is a Princess Grace Award winner in Dance, National Young Arts Level 1 winner, and a recipient of the Presidential Scholar in the Arts in Dance award by the White House Commission in the Arts. Anita was a finalist at the New York International Ballet Competition and semi-finalist at the Prix de Lausanne competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. She was a nominee for the coveted Benois de la Danse Award – “the Oscars” of the Ballet world – and as a result, was invited to perform in Moscow. 

Her professional career started in The Washington Ballet under the direction of Mary Day. While there, her international touring took her to Russia, Thailand, Singapore, France, England, and Spain. Highlights include performing the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center for President Clinton, as well as for the First Lady at the White House Holiday Tea Party. Anita then moved to Charlotte Ballet as a principal dancer, where she met her husband, Hernan Justo. After seven years with that company, she joined her husband as artistic leader of Carolina Ballet Theatre.
William H. Pelham, AIA
William Pelham is the president and founder of Pelham Architects, LLC (1983) and a Managing Partner of RPM Partnership, LLC (1999). He currently serves on the Christ Church Episcopal School Board, the Camperdown Academy School Board, the Fine Arts Center Partners, the Jean T. & Heyward G. Pelham Foundation, and the Poinsett Club Foundation (vice president). He previously served on other boards including: the Peace Center board (vice chair), the Clemson University Foundation, the Clemson Architectural Foundation (president), the Clemson University Foundation, the Poinsett Club (president), BankGreenville, now HomeTrust Bank (board chair), the Warehouse Theatre (president), the Carolina Music Museum (now the Sigal Music Museum) and the Greenville Museum Association. He co-founded the Fine Arts Center’s Art of Architecture program with Dr. Roy Fluhrer.
Vee popat (EX- OFFICIO)

Vee Popat is the Director of the Fine Arts Center of the Greenville County Schools. The Fine Arts Center (FAC) is South Carolina’s first public school for the visual, performing, and creative arts, offering pre-professional education in – Architecture, Creative Writing, Concert Dance, Digital Filmmaking, Music (Jazz, Chamber Strings, Percussion, Recording Arts, Winds, and Voice), Theatre (Performance and Design/Production), and Visual Arts. Vee started as Director of the FAC in 2019, and was named as Greenville County Schools’ Administrator of the Year in 2022. Under his leadership, the Fine Arts Center earned Arts in Basic Curriculum Certification in 2020, and was named an Arts School Network Exemplary School in 2023. 

With 23 years of experience as a public school educator, Vee served as a band director for the first 9 years of his career before moving into the administrative level. He holds a B.A. in Music Education from Virginia Tech, an M.M. in Jazz Education from the University of Miami (FL), and an M.S. in Educational Administration from the University of Scranton.

The bulk of Vee’s career as a music educator was in the award-winning programs of the Randolph Township Schools in Randolph, NJ, where he was twice named “Teacher of the Year.” His tenure as an administrator began as an Arts Supervisor, serving in that role in the Randolph Township Schools and the West Essex Regional School District (North Caldwell, NJ). He then served 6 years as West Essex Middle School Principal before moving to Greenville to become the Fine Arts Center’s Director. Vee currently serves on the Board of the Greenville Center for Creative Arts, Palmetto State Arts Education, South Carolina New Play Festival, and the Arts School Network. He also maintains an active career as a saxophonist and educator, playing jazz gigs in both South and North Carolina, and teaching sax lessons in person and over Zoom.

Jay Sanderson

Jay Sanderson is the CEO of Three Twenty Two Group. A local consulting organization who partners with small and medium businesses specializing in creating programs to improve growth, employee engagement, and leadership development. Most recently, expanding their client base to include independent artists, songwriters, and those in the entertainment industry.

Originally from Massachusetts, Jay dipped his toes into the arts as a performer in several high school drama productions, jazz band, concert band, marching band, and a few garage bands. 

His experience playing alto saxophone, electric bass, piano, and percussion provided a foundation for his love of music, but unfortunately not the talent to pursue further.

He received his bachelor’s in business from Framingham State University where he was a prime-time DJ for WDJM. He went on to earn his master’s in human resources and development from Clemson University which allows him to work as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer when Clemson has a need.

While a major fan of the Beatles, don’t be surprised to hear anything from Harry Connick Jr. to Will Smith coming from his vehicle when he arrives on campus. When talking about artists, be prepared to hear him say “I saw them in concert” as he has seen nearly a thousand performances.

Dr. Catherine Smith-Gates

A Spartanburg, South Carolina native and two time Clemson Graduate, Catherine spent over seven years in New Orleans, Louisiana working with Waggonner & Ball Architects. There her work experience was focused on educational, commercial and institutional projects, several of which won American Institute of Architects’ awards. Post – Katrina, she managed a three year long design/build repair and alteration project on the 1880s era National Historic Monument US Custom House. In October of 2009, Catherine returned home to be closer to family and to open her own residential architectural practice.

Today, Catherine is practicing her craft locally in Greenville as the firm of Catherine Smith Architect, LLC which has also been recognized with AIA awards. The firm focuses on creating residential architecture specific to the individual client with a style that can be described as crafted, simple, and honest. Perhaps the work CSA is most proud of lately is with Allen Temple Community Economic Development Corporation which provides Energy Star homes for low-income families. Follow this link for a story that the Greenville County School District recently did about this work.

Catherine, the Architecture Department Chair, recently completed a term on the Greenville City Planning Commission, is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Professional Leadership, serves on the Metropolitan Arts Council Board, and is living with The Izzy (not quite the best dog, yet).

Craig A. Walker, MHA
Craig A. Walker, MHA is a Texas native who has lived in Greenville for over 15 years. He is a seasoned healthcare executive who has authored over seven patents in healthcare IT. He is the founder of VidiStar, LLC, an SC Launch graduate company, which he sold to Hitachi Healthcare Americas in 2018. Walker has served as CEO for several hospitals and as an executive and board member at Hitachi Healthcare Americas, a Fortune 500 company. Walker has worked as a registered lobbyist for the Texas rural hospitals and other healthcare and healthcare IT companies, and he was the former Chairman of the American Telemedicine Association’s Industry Advisory Board.

Walker served as the Chief of Staff to State Representative Patricia Gray in the Texas Legislature where in the late 1990s he helped draft and pass the first legislation on telemedicine and telehealth. Walker also worked for US Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

Walker obtained his Masters in Health Administration from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and he completed his undergraduate studies at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. Additionally, Walker was an Associate in the 2005 Class of Tenet’s Leadership Development Program for CEO/COO. Walker is married with two children.


Creative + Innovation leader with 20+years of expertise driving transformation across multiple industries by placing the human experience at the core of the design + development process. Passionate about understanding value systems of individuals, organizations and culture. By understanding where value is placed, interactions take on a stronger purpose. Identifying key actionable insights to use as a springboard for development of future scenarios that are human experience driven and business relevant. 

Currently Michele is Director of Global Marketing at Sage Automotive Interiors, based in Greenville, SC. She has been with Sage for 6+ years. She holds a BFA in textile design and a Masters in user centered design & strategy.