Meet Our Team - ART-ventures for Kids 


Over the past ten years, the ART-ventures for Kids' creativity team has brought it's imaginative and playful spirit to more than 80,000 kids and families. Our fun-loving, super-talented and energetic instructors are true professionals who genuinely care about the quality of the art enrichment they provide. They LOVE what they do!



" We look forward to getting creative with you and your group. Tara and the entire staff at  ART-ventures for Kids are very professional and a pleasure to work with. The instructors do a great job with the children while providing them with quality art projects and keeping their interest throughout!" - Recreation Supervisor, Suffield Parks and Recreation Department


"Thank you! The Art-ventures for Kids team was fantastic. They mangaged the group beautifully. 25 tweens and teens were engaged and involved the entire time. The feedback from the kids was great... several asked when we would be doing this again. The t-shirts came out terrific. We will definitely be in touch for a program this winter!" - Kathleen Feeney, Prosser Library, Bloomfield, CT


Michael O. Budnick, Executive Director


Michael has been running Mad Science of Western New England since 2011 and welcomed the opportunity to join with and help lead ART-ventures for Kids. He has a lifetime of experience in management, education, science and theatrical performance. Michael has a BS in Science from McGill University, an MBA from Iowa State Ivy School of Business and an Ed.M. in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Michael believes strongly in the integration of all STEAM topics into enrichment education for elementary-aged children, and is a firm proponent of fun, student-centered, hands-on learning that inspires creativity. When not managing the organization, he can be found perfoming as Professor Micron in science shows or acting and directing for community theater.  



Lisa Panaia, After School and Summer Program Manager


Lisa is a valuable office administrator for Art-ventures for Kids. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College in Boston, MA., eight years of experience working in childcare, and another nine years of experience in an office setting. She loves children and has known since third grade that she wanted a career involving education in some way. Being detail-oriented, she also loves office work, so she feels that her role at Art-ventures for Kids gives her the best of both worlds. It makes her so happy to know that the work she does behind the scenes will help to shape the minds of future generations by bringing incredible art experiences to children.


Sarah Cohn, Operations Manager


Our incredibly organized Sarah oversees inventory maintenance and materials preparation for Art-ventures for Kids’ many after school, summer, and various other art programs. Sarah is trained in behavior modification and medical interventions. She has more than 15 years of childcare experience, and another 5 years of experience in human services working with adults with cognitive impairments. And her talents don’t end there! She also has a degree in music from Holyoke Community College, and is the lead singer and front woman of the wedding band The Glorious Unknown.



Clarke Kennedy, Creativity Instructor


Whatever Clarke does, be it teaching art to kids, face painting or balloon twisting, he is surrounded by happy children! He has an awesome sense of humor and is super fun-loving. He loves to get the kids laughing while he, himself, gets a kick out of their unedited sense of humor. Clarke joined ART-ventures for Kids and DazzleDay Face Painters in August, 2014. After studying Fine Arts at Amherst College and the Hallmark Institute of Photography, Clarke is pursuing a degree in the field of art management and education at UMass Amherst. While substitute teaching several years ago, Clarke found that inspiring children was so rewarding he wanted to make a career of it. With a calm, caring and confident manner, Clarke provides a relaxed and non-competitive atmosphere. He leads children through the creative process, building their confidence and allowing them to fully experience their creativity without judgement. He focuses on the overall learning experience that "playing" with art inspires and allows children to develop their own original ideas. He is valued as a prominent member of our talented team!


Kathy Carr, Creativity Instructor


Kathy studied graphic design at Kent State University. After working for a few years as a graphic artist, she started a small business designing and painting ceramic tile murals. Later she entered the corporate world, working as a sales representative for Merck for 17 years, before taking an early retirement to focus on her newest interest: interior design. And now, after all that, Kathy is having a lot of fun calling on her wide range of skills to teach art to children!





Jess Roberge, Creativity Instructor


At Art-ventures for Kids, Jess is known for being highly energetic and constantly having a smile on her face. She’s had a natural, lifelong knack for entertaining kids, and children are drawn to her. Jess attended Westfield State University as a Liberal Arts Major with concentrations in Fine Arts, Education and Philosophy.  An artist since childhood, she loves to draw, paint, and create mixed media art using mostly natural found items. She is passionate about bringing art education to children, more now than ever, at a time when the Arts are dwindling in school budgets. Jess believes that art education plays a crucial role in the development of children’s critical and abstract thinking as well as dexterity, hand eye coordination, and imagination.  She is proud to help expand young minds.  



Marla Veilleux, Creativity Instructor


Marla is a mixed media artist with many years of experience working with children. Art is her passion, and she has a fondness for teaching, so she feels ART-ventures for Kids is a perfect fit for her. Marla loves to see children truly enjoy being creative and expressing themselves through different mediums. It never ceases to amaze her how unique and creative each child’s work of art is upon completion. Seeing her students excited, confident and inspired is an unparalleled joy for her. Marla studied fine arts at Syracuse University and CCSU. She has lots of ideas for encouraging artistic minds, and is excited about sharing her knowledge and love of art with others. Her calm, sweet, and enthusiastic demeanor, as well as her experience with acrylics and mixed media art, make her a wonderful asset to the ART-ventures for Kids team.



Jennifer Cain, Creativity Instructor and Art Party Hostess 


As a kindergarten and 1st grade teacher for the past 13 years, our cheerful Jenn enjoys bringing unique and creative ideas to the students in her classrooms. She seeks out the potential in each and every child and loves helping them find their very own inner artist. Because of her calm, caring and gentle manner, kids are super comfortable exploring their creativity with her. Jenn has 20 years  of experience working with children from preschool age to middle school, including the instruction of specialized art projects at summer camps. Both kids and parents describe Jenn as a “totally awesome" ART-ventures for Kids team member!



Sharon Jacobson-Deragon, Creativity Instructor


Sharon joined ART-ventures for Kids as a parent volunteer. Having always studied, practiced, and been surrounded by art and music, she understands and promotes the wonderful impact of involvement in cultural opportunities. She is a vocal performer and has worked as a director of activities/volunteers for long-term care facilities, for intergenerational groups, as an assistant in a self-directed arts & learning space, for summer camp arts, community centers, and most recently public schools (after 5 years of being an elementary homeschool mom). Sharon has always been a dedicated volunteer with community organizations, and believes in “Doing what you love and loving what you do”. She is thrilled to share more creative time learning and imagining with children, supporting them warmly as they develop each of their unique stories, and affirming their natural inner sparkle!



Amanda Picardi,  Creativity Instructor


Amanda joined ART-ventures for Kids as a graduate from Smith College, where she studied studio art. Her passion for the arts was first ignited by the same kind of childhood after school and summer art experiences she now enthusiastically provides. As a happy–go-lucky ART-ventures for Kids instructor, Amanda delights in helping children discover their own creative spirits! She considers art education, in addition to being fun and exciting, to be a powerful tool in the early foundation of crucial life skills. Amanda, herself a mixed media artist, believes that providing kids with unconventional art materials and techniques encourages them to find innovative solutions to familiar tasks, a skill that inevitably helps them throughout their social, academic, and occupational futures. When she’s not teaching, Amanda works behind the scenes of ART-ventures for Kids, helping with the administrative, operational and program development aspects of the business.


Ashley Parker, Creativity Instructor


With a bright, bubbly personality and a staggering list of professional accomplishments, Ashley is a fantastic addition to the ART-ventures for Kids team. She combines her formal arts education with her positive energetic nature to inspire and motivate others by following her true passion: teaching. For four years, Ashley held the post of Director of the nation's leading fabric and craft store's art camp for children. Furthermore, Ashley has spent the last eight years providing arts education for both children and adults in various community centers and retail outlets, with subject matter such as sewing, fashion illustration, jewelry making, cake decorating, acrylic painting, and so much more. In her classes, Ashley provides a focus on instilling confidence, and a sense of accomplishment within each student. Her creative nature coupled with her education and experience has given her the ability to create inspired projects for her after school programs. We’re very excited to have her as part of our team!



Randi Steiger, Co-Founder, Consultant for Art-ventures for Kids

Art-ventures for Kids  has joined with Mad Science under the direction of  Michael Budnick. We are pleased to have Randi as an ongoing consultant  during the transition period. Randi was the backstage Wonder Woman of the ART-ventures for Kids team. With a lifetime of entrepreneurial business experience, Randi assisted with the operational and administrative responsibilities. She is an avid believer that children having fun with art and learning art skills will ultimately make the world a better place. Her heart-felt desire to “give back” made her determined to schedule as many educational programs and creative art entertainment events as possible for the  ART-ventures for Kids team!





“The children LOVED your workshop and parents thought it was wonderful. The fact that the children brought home 4 art projects, all different from one another, speaks volumes about your program. The kids were so proud of their creations and could not wait to show their parents. The young women who facilitated the program were wonderful. We will definitely do this again!” -Joan and the Staff at St. Thomas the Apostle After School Program, West Springfield, MA


"I just wanted to send a note with a big THANK YOU to Tara, who did a wonderful job. She is such an amazing and talented face painter, and so sweet. Everyone loved her, and she did a phenomenal job. Please pass that along to her." Darlene Buttrick, Tighe & Bond, Westfield, MA


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