Jane Hess Collins
Founder & Executive Director
Jane is the founder and executive director of Heard. She is a communications consultant and coach with a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University, and a retired colonel, United States Air Force. Jane founded the nonprofit to offer a platform for both artists and the area’s marginalized adults to be heard. Artists are heard by receiving a small fee for each class they teach – a feature that Jane implemented after watching her mother, an artist, continually get asked to lower the price of her work. Heard’s clients are also heard through choosing to share their creative work during class or on Heard’s website. In her spare time Jane and her husband love to travel and spend time with their families, where Jane manages Heard through her constant companion, her iPhone.
Wendi R. Kaplan is a poet and was the City of Alexandria Poet Laureate from 2016-2019 where she conducted poetry classes, readings and events to create connection and build bridges among different communities in Alexandria. She understands that in good times and hard times poetry brings joy, support, and awareness. Wendi facilitates the writing of poetry and believes that poetry can give people a voice, even when they feel they have none. Wendi has a master’s degree in social work as well as a certification in poetry therapy. Wendi says, “Being a part of Heard allows me to work with people who know the power of the creative process as well as introduce poetry to people who need to be heard! It has been such an honor to help people turn their troubles, difficulties, hopes and dreams into poems.”
Visual Arts Instructor
Alison McHugh is an art therapist, using her talents as an art teacher for the HEARD team. She has taught for almost 20 years in private and public special education as an art therapist, working with students on the autism spectrum or with emotional disabilities. She currently teaches at Cedar Lane High School in Fairfax County Public Schools. She received her master’s degree in art therapy from the George Washington University. She loves being a part of Heard because she can share her love of scrapbooking and paper-crafting with women who most need the artistic outlet. When she’s not scrapbooking, she’s cheering on her World Champion Washington Capitals or planning her next Disney trip for her family—her husband of 13 years and her 10-year-old and 7-year-old boys.
Creative Writing Instructor
Nancy Carson offers creative writing workshops and courses aimed at reminding folks how much fun writing can be, and how it shapes our thoughts and memories. And our view of the future. Nancy has done writing most of her life, though her professional career focused on national policy issues. She worked for many years in an agency of the US Congress. She holds a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy school at Harvard. She is active in Alexandria community issues including affordable housing and ending hunger.
Keely Kirk teaches improvisation as a life skill for Heard. She is an improvisation performer and the founder of Playing Outside the Lines, where she provides team building workshops for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, law firms, accounting firms, nonprofit organizations, and schools. She trained and performed with Mental Floss and Laughing Gas Comedy Improv of Miami, Florida, as well iO (formerly Improv Olympics) and Second City of Chicago. Since 2010, Keely has also taught, developed and marketed an improv curriculum at The Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Creative Writing Instructor
A native of Iceland, Solveig Eggerz, has authored two novels, Seal Woman and Sigga of Reykjavik. She holds a PhD in comparative literature from Catholic University. Solveig was a reporter for the Alexandria Gazette Packet and has worked as a journalist, a professor of writing and research, and as a teacher at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her writing has appeared in such places as The Northern Virginia Review, Delmarva Review, and Palo Alto Review. Through creating and teaching her writing classes for Heard, Solveig has learned that everyone has a story to tell or write..
Creative Writing Instructor
Alexandra Fleming has been a print and TV journalist for 25+ years. Her clients are People magazine, the Washington Post, and Swedish Broadcasting. She has a BA in journalism/news-editorial from San Diego State University. In 2012 she co-wrote “Full of Heart,” Iraq War vet JR Martinez’s memoir, which became a NYT best-seller.
She leads a Heard class called “Journalist for a Day,” which teaches students that the skills journalists practice in their trade — curiosity, precision, and objectivity — are powerful assets that can be applied by everybody in everyday life.
Her favorite thing about being a part of Heard is having the privilege to share ideas with people who are interesting, inquisitive, expressive, and open to considering divergent viewpoints — and to see in real life how important it is for everyone to be heard.
In her spare time, Alexandra fosters kittens and teaches Life Skills ESL to immigrants and refugees.
Tina Kantiano has over 30 years of dance experience and has shared the stage with Patti Labelle, Savion Glover, and Gregory Hines, and danced and choreographed for the NFL Baltimore Ravens cheerleader squad. Her students have danced with P. Diddy and Ludacris, and in movies, Cirque De Soleil, and the traveling company of Cats.
She teaches dance for Heard, where she inspires each of her dancers with her “can-do” attitude, challenging them to achieve their personal best in dance and in life. She selects dance moves that teach the athletic and artistic skill while emphasizing teamwork, individual excellence, and respect.
Tina’s favorite thing about Heard is its mission to bring a productive form of expression to everyone. Tina loves that Heard breaks down the common barriers and self-doubt around having a voice and gives those who may have not previously been comfortable or empowered to tell their story a means and a safe environment of discovery.
When she’s not in the studio, Tina counts the minutes until her son gets his driver’s license, travels with her husband, and does freelance writing and marketing strategy.
Marci Lash is an international thought leader and authority in the etiquette, professionalism and protocol industries. She is the founder and Chief Etiquette Officer of Contemporary Etiquette Institute, a social and business etiquette consulting firm. Marci holds a master of arts in advertising and a bachelor of arts degree in journalism. She is formally certified in Multilateralism and International Protocol by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, and as an etiquette consultant through The Etiquette Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. Internationally recognized for her expertise, Marci’s experience includes hosting events at the White House, managing a G8 Conference dining event on behalf of former Vice President Al Gore and coordinating national black tie functions. Marci also has over 20 years of experience in the public relations and marketing industry, working with Microsoft, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Entertainment Industry Council in Hollywood. She is a lover of good manners, business professionalism, civility and thank you notes.
Visual Arts Instructor
Sharmila Karamchandani is a freelance graphic designer, art educator, and an entrepreneur coach has a passion for design and working in arts education and community non-profits. She is a multidisciplinary artist and works in mediums such as painting, jewelry design, photography, calligraphy, henna painting, mixed media collages, and fiber arts. Sharmila acquired her MFA in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and has been teaching graphic design for more than a decade in several local colleges and universities. Recently, what gives her the most joy is to facilitate weekly art workshops through Heard and to work with marginalized groups.
Joanne Marie Clark
Joanne Clark recently retired from a 33 year career in international relations, designing study programs for mid-level professionals invited to this country by the U.S. Department of State. An important recent topic of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) has been the impact of the arts on marginalized communities, whether the incarcerated, disadvantaged youth, and victims of abuse and trauma. During her tenure at Meridian International Center, Ms. Clark was responsible for the design and implementation for a number of these projects. She is excited to join the Heard team as a research volunteer with the goal of uncovering information and statistical data relevant to the organization’s community outreach and engagement initiatives.
Ms. Clark grew up in Connecticut, earned a B.A. in French from Manhattanville College in Westchester County, New York, and a Masters in International Transactions from George Mason University in Virginia. She is the owner of a small crafts business, latebloomerstm, specializing in original jewelry and photographic products.
Creative Writing Instructor
Nina Sichel has published poetry, memoir and creative nonfiction, and co-edited two collections about cross-cultural international childhoods, Unrooted Childhoods and Writing Out of Limbo. She leads local guided writing programs and memoir workshops. She is been a part of Heard since its inception, and is thrilled to see the program stretch and grow and reach so many emerging writers and artists.
Director of Development
Danielle Perry is the Development Director of Heard. She is currently a Master of Social Work student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Social Work with a specialization in Community Action and Social Policy. Danielle is an Alumni of the Sondheim Nonprofit Leadership Program and has several years of experience working within the nonprofit sector. She loves being a part of Heard because she is passionate about serving marginalized populations and working to create a more equitable world. After all, we all have a unique journey that matters, and our stories are worth sharing. “Because everyone deserves to be Heard”, connected deeply with Danielle and she is honored to be a part of the Heard Team. In her free time, Danielle enjoys listening to music, writing, and painting!