Island Center for the Arts Faculty

Island Center Directors & Staff

Tom Dempsey is the Founder and Co-Director of the Island Center for the Arts and a Visiting Professor of Painting and Foundation Studies at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, since 1984. Tom’s  work is exhibited widely in Greece and the U.S., and he has been the recipient of many grants and awards for public art projects. Tom is committed to building a positive, open, creative environment for artists and he brings to the Island Center 26 years experience as Program Director and faculty, as well as his encouraging and challenging teaching style.

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Isabel Dempsey is Co-Director of the Island Center for the Arts and leads Greek Cultural Presentations. She earned her BFA from the University of Northern Iowa and completed extensive studies in Modern Greek as an Independent Scholar at Harvard University. Isabel was awarded a Maliotis Foundation Research Grant for documenting changes in the women’s role in rural Greek society. She is the author of Breath of Madness – on the Isle of Skopelos an Ancient Rite Endures, published by the Municipality of Skopelos, which documents the Carnival customs of the island. In addition to her research, Isabel is a painter, assemblage artist and illustrator who’s work has appeared in major publications and exhibitions in Greece and the U.S.

About Isabel’s Book     View Isabel’s Artwork 

Miranda Vivian Dempsey is Administrative assistant for the Island Center for the Arts. She is a costume designer with experience designing for film, video, theater productions and fashion collections, and has organized and led paper-mache workshops for adults and children. Miranda has a BA in Costume & Perfomance Design from Arts University Bournemouth, and a BA in Fashion Design from Middlesex University UK, AKTO College of Art & Design, Athens. She was raised on the island of Skopelos and lives in Athens.
View Miranda’s online Costume Portfolio


Adria Arch is a painter and art instructor whose work is represented in private and corporate collections including the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Fidelity Corporation, the Boston Public Library and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Adria specializes in helping students unlock their creative potential and leading them toward fullfilling art making experiences. She has taught painting, drawing and printmaking at Montserrat College of Art, Endicott College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the DeCordova Museum and the Dansforth Museum of Art.  Adria’s wall work is currently on view at Dansforth Museum of Art in Framingham and at Lesley College in Cambridge, MA.

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Jodi Colella works with a broad range of materials to create provocative, tactile works that often include public participation. She has exhibited at Danforth Art Museum; Fruitlands Museum; Wheaton College; Helen Day Art Center; World of Threads Toronto and Textile Museum Washington D.C., among others. She is a member of Boston Sculptors Gallery and has received numerous awards including the 2016 Fay Chandler Emerging Artist, 2016 Fellowship ComPeung Thailand, Pollack-Krasner Fellowship Vermont Studio Center, and Somerville Arts Council Fellowships 2015, 2012. Jodi has taught nationally at Society for Craft in Pittsburgh, SDA’s Confluence in Minneapolis and is the founder of FiberLAB, a community workshop and laboratory for inquisitive makers. She lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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Kat O’Connor earned a Bachelor of Arts in drawing with highest honors from Montana State University in 1990 and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1995. O’Connor was awarded a Mass Cultural Council Fellowship for her drawings in 2018, and is honored to have received a Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts 2021 Residency. She received an Arts Worcester Material Needs Grant in 2017 and 2021. She is a Copley Master in the Copley Society of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, and her work is included in many private and corporate collections. O’Connor has exhibited her work nationwide, including a solo exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum in the summer and fall of 2022, and won numerous awards.  She has shared her love of art with students at Clark University, Southwest Texas State University, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Worcester State University, Worcester Art Museum, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, and Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord, Massachusetts. Kat has led landscape painting workshops in Maine, New Hampshire, Cape Cod, New Mexico, Italy, and Greece.

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Merill Comeau is a narrative artist working in mixed media telling stories of shared human concerns. Her work has been featured in over 80 exhibitions, at venues including the Fuller Craft Museum, Danforth Art Museum, Fitchburg Art Museum, Attleboro Art Museum, and Fiber Arts International of Pittsburgh. The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston’s Art Lab hosted her interactive project Threads of Connection. In conjunction with her solo studio practice, Comeau facilitates the emergence of artistic voices. She has executed over 30 public projects in educational, spiritual, and residential settings resulting in individual and collaborative artworks. Teaching highlights include Eliot School of Applied Arts and Craft, Surface Design Association’s biennial conference, Design Outside the Lines, and Snow Farm New England Center for Craft. Among her multiple projects for, Comeau provided the inaugural workshop Expressive Stitch Challenge for the launch of their international Members’ Stitch Club. Numerous publications have showcased Comeau’s work, including Surface Design Journal, Fiber Art Now,, The Boston Globe, FiberArts, and World of Threads Artist Interviews.

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Nan Hass Feldman  received her BFA from SUNY at Buffalo, her MA at Goddard College and an MFA in Painting at Vermont College. Since 1981 she has had more than forty one-person shows, numerous museum exhibits and received many awards on the national, state, and local levels. She continues to teach at the Worcester Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum, the Dansforth Museum of Art and Worcester State College. Her work is represented in numerous corporate and private collections throughout the United States, Japan and Europe.

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Melanie Mathews was born in Montreal. She studied Painting and Drawing at Dawson College and earned her B.F.A. with honors in Studio Art from Concordia University. Melanie splits her time between her prolific personal art practice and extensive teaching schedule as a Working Artist for Golden Paints for the Province of Quebec. She teaches workshops and classes at the Visual Arts Centre, Dawson College, Concordia University, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Canadian Society of Artists on a wide spectrum of topics including; Methods and Materials of Acrylic Painting, Acrylic Encaustic Techniques, Monoprinting, Large scale image making, Painting on Plexi, Essential Acrylics, Mixed Media,  Digital Mixed Media,  Contemporary Watermedia, Creative Colour Mixing and Image Transfer and more. Melanie maintains a studio art practice and has had annual solo shows at the Belgo Contemporary Art Building in Montreal and has exhibited in many group shows in Quebec, Ontario and abroad.

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Katherine Downey Miller is a painter and art instuctor who works in the genre of Landscape to Abstraction. She earned her BS from Skidmore College, her MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and received a teaching scholarship from SACI College of Art & Design in Florence, where she taught painting. She has taught at Skidmore College, the DeCordova Museum, the Danforth Museum, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the New Art Center, Concord Art Association, the Rockport Art Association, the Currier Museum, the Art Association of Nantucket, and she leads private workshops as well. Katherine has had residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and received grants from Mass Moca’s Assets for Artist’s and from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Katherine has had solo exhibitions and has been included in many juried exhibitions throughout New England. Her work is in collections nationally and internationally.

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Emily Passman is a painter of oils and acrylics, known for her expressive, loose style. She works from observation both in the studio and en plein air, and describes her work as “a reaction to” the subject as opposed to “rendering”. In addition to teaching oil and acrylic techniques, she encourages students to sketch. She says daily sketching is a great way to heighten one’s ability to see, and important to incorporate into one’s painting process. Emiliy’s work is in galleries in New England and in private collections internationally. After earning both a fine arts degree and Master’s in Education she had a successful career as an educator and graphic designer. She teachers privately in ther barn-studio and at various educational venues near Boston.

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Alexandra Sheldon is a collage artist and painter who has lead numerous workshops and has taught at the Concord Art Association, Massachusetts College of Art & Design and the Maud Morgan Art Center in Cambridge MA. She has exibited in numerous solo and group exibitions and her work is included in the collections of the Gillette Corporation, the Fidelity Corporation and private collectors.

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Sue Swinand is a painter and instructor who has taught at Clark University and the Worcester Art Museum and continues to teach at the Green Houses at Wellesly College. She received her BFA from Moore College of Art, attended the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and is the recipient of a Sartain Fellowship. Sue has exhibited widely in the USA including one person shows at Woodmere Art Museum, the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Vorpal Galleries NYC, Arden Gallery Boston, the Berman Museum and Danforth Museum. Her work has been selected for The Boston Drawing Show, the Cambridge Art Associations National Prize Show and the Fitchberg Art Museum 1998 Biennial, New England/ New Talent. She is signature member of the American Watercolor Society and her work is featured in many publications, including Contemporary American Watercolor Masters. 

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See Sue’s cable TV show:  Arts & Ideas with Sue Swinand

Steve Tourlentes is Photography Program Director at the Island Center and Visiting Professor at Massachusetts College of Art. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and three time recipient of the MacDowell Residency Fellowship. Steve’s photographs are exhibited nationally, widely published, and are included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

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