Meet our team of dedicated leaders, extraordinary educators and lovers of the arts.
Founder and President Emeritus
Gary Bernstein founded Wingspan Arts in 2001, bringing over 25 years of professional experience in business, marketing, producing and arts management to the non-profit organization. Prior to founding Wingspan Arts, Gary spent 11 years on the Board of Directors for Blue Heron Theatre. Under his leadership as Executive Director, the Blue Heron Arts Center opened in 1999 on East 24th Street. Among other accomplishments across a range of media, Gary’s production and touring highlights at Blue Heron include the Audelco Award-winning drama We Are Your Sisters, Tony Vellela’s Admissions and a 25th anniversary revival of the Drama Desk Award-nominated play Medal of Honor Rag. Rescuers, a drama about Christians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, was presented by special invitation at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Gary’s Off-Broadway production credits include the co-production with Roger Alan Gindi of Tony Vellela’s What We Don’t Confess. A graduate of Cornell University, Gary spent 16 years as a marketing executive at leading New York advertising agencies. Throughout the 1990s, Gary served as a consultant and producer developing independent television, video and educational projects that include “Brooklyn, USA” a documentary hosted by Oscar-winning actor Vincent Gardenia, “What’s Up?” a tourism video featuring Regis Philbin and “A Walk on The Wild Side,” a marketing video for the New York Zoological Society hosted by Jerry Orbach.
Paul Ashley has been a key member of Wingspan Arts’ growth as an arts education provider in the New York region for the past 13 years. Paul has a strong connection to the arts and education communities in New York City, and has represented Wingspan at many events and conferences, including the 2009 AATE/ATHE: Risking Innovation Conference and the 2012 National Afterschool Association Convention. In his time with Wingspan, he has been involved as a Teaching Artist, Site Director, Director of Afterschool Programs and Education Director. Paul’s many stage credits include Crazy For You (National Tour), Mame (w/ Carol Lawrence and Loretta Swit) and Forever Plaid. In New York, he lent his performance talents to The Donkey Show and Fringe Festival award-winning a cappella musical, Minimum Wage: Blue Code Ringo! Paul holds a B.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Northern Colorado and has attended Columbia’s Institute for Not-For-Profit Management and Harvard’s Executive Education course in Performance Measurement.
Ben oversees program operations, managing the systems and communications the Wingspan Arts team needs to run our programs effectively. Originally from Baltimore, Ben joined Wingspan in July, 2015. He brings extensive operational experience to our team, having previously managed operations across a number of different industries, including artisan bread-making and digital marketing. He lives in Harlem, is a diehard Arsenal fan and his favorite restaurant is Cafe Habana.
Education Program Manager
Meghan started as a Site Director and Teaching Artist before joining the Wingspan team as a Program Manager. Meghan is the Artistic Director of Underling Productions, a local classical theatre company. Before joining the Wingspan team, she worked as a Teaching Artist and actor galavanting throughout New England. Meghan holds a B.A. in Theatre Education from the University of New Hampshire.
Education Program Coordinator
After working as both a Teaching Artist and a Site Director with Wingspan Arts in past years, Justin is thrilled to be joining the Education Team as our Program Coordinator. Prior to working with Wingspan, he spent many years teaching and performing with multiple children’s theatres throughout the country—and training to become the next Pokemon Master. Justin holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Piedmont College.
Matt Freeman has worked with organizations such as Tectonic Theater Project (inaugural Education Director), Brooklyn Academy of Music, The New Victory Theater, New York Cares, The New York City Arts-in-Education Roundtable and The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS), where he served as the first Assistant Director of its M.A. in Applied Theatre. Matt holds a B.A. in Theater and Arts Administration from Muhlenberg College, an M.A. in Arts Administration from Teachers College at Columbia University and an M.A. in Applied Theatre from CUNY SPS.
Director of Finance & Operations
Emily Gnagey oversees financial and operational management for Wingspan Arts. Since joining the Wingspan team in 2009, Emily’s experience in developing and implementing business management strategies has proven instrumental for our growth. Before joining the Wingspan team, Emily founded Ever After Productions, a youth theater company in southeastern Michigan that has been making integrated arts education available to the community since 2003. Emily holds a B.A. in Arts Management from Eastern Michigan University and graduated from the Americans for the Arts Arts Leadership Institute in 2012.
Program Director, Extended Learning Time at Urban Assembly Applied Math & Science
As Program Director, Jeff is responsible for managing the arts enrichment and extended learning time of all 600+ students who attend The Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science. Jeff began his career with Wingspan as a Teaching Artist in 2013, when Wingspan was in its second year of partnering with AMS through Summer Quest. That Fall, he stepped into the role of Site Director and since has worked at nearly a dozen Wingspan schools. Jeff is also a stepper, performing at World of Dance, Comedy Central and many other venues. He holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University at Albany.
Director of Theatre Programs
As the Director of Theatre Programs, Marissa is responsible for designing curriculum and programming for all Wingspan Conservatory programs. She also consults on creative and curricular matters for all theatre residencies. Marissa has been working for Wingspan in some capacity since 2007 when she began as an intern! Over the years, she has held a few different titles and has directed several of our shows as well as taught many classes in the Conservatory programs. Prior to working with Wingspan, Marissa spent her time studying theatre and performing—which she still does on occasion. She holds a B.S. in Theatre from Skidmore College and an M.Ed. in Educational Theatre from The City College of New York. She is also a certified theatre teacher in the State of New York.
Education Program Manager
Nicole is responsible for overseeing several afterschool programs and acts as a liaison between our partner schools and the Education Team. She visits our partner schools often to offer support and help keep the programs continuously improving and growing. Nicole has been part of our team for six years, having started as a Site Director. Prior to working with Wingspan, Nicole taught preschool, directed theatre at a summer camp program and worked as a stage manager. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from Montclair State University.
Laura Lee Williams
Associate Education Director
As the Associate Education Director, Laura Lee works with the Teaching Artist roster on curriculum and classroom support. Before joining the education team, Laura Lee worked as both an in-school and after school teaching artist for Wingspan Arts and several community-based organizations throughout New York City. Her residencies have ranged from elementary school theatre arts classes and middle school social studies drama integration to leadership training facilitation and forum theatre workshops. Laura Lee holds a B.A. in Performing Arts from Iowa State University and an M.A. in Educational Theatre from New York University.