Our team

  • Emily Gillespie


    Emily Gillespie is an author, disability activist and professional daydreamer. Her work explores the themes of memory, identity and mental health journeys. Emily enjoys working in community spaces and examining individual and collective experiences. She views storytelling as a tool for resisting predominant social narratives.

    Emily has a BA in English, and an MA in Critical Disability Studies from York University. Dancing with Ghosts (Leaping Lion Books, 2017) is her first novel. In 2018, she won a contest for her short-story “D is for Despair,” sponsored by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. Her poetry was recently featured in the Inkwell Anthology, I Am a Lake. “No Room at the Inn,” a short-story adapted from her second novel is part of the Nothing without Us, anthology by Renaissance Press fall 2019. She is currently drafting her second grant funded novel, teaching creative writing, and experimenting with zines as well as performance art.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Allison Carroll


    Allison is a business and creative writing professional, editor, and a self-proclaimed bibliophile. Her experience includes grant, proposal, and content writing for various consulting firms and nonprofits, and freelance editing for novelists and individuals. When she’s not working, she’s reading!

    She obtained a BA in English Lit. from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2012, and the Writing For A Publication certificate from Mohawk College in 2013. She is an avid writer of poetry, book reviews, and political and observational musings on her blog (which no one reads).

    As a Niagara native, she enjoys hiking in the gorge and visiting local wineries, but is equally happy at home reading, playing video games, drinking too much coffee, and neglecting household chores.</span>

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List



    Ashley has been teaching yoga for over 10 years in Toronto and the Niagara Region. She has had her own struggles with anxiety and depression over the years, and as much as she loved yoga, it was a different type of practice that helped her through her most challenging times. She used movement not to achieve a pose, but to feel and let go of stuck emotions. Writing and meditation or visualization also became tools she relied on when she was feeling overwhelmed. Just as this last year has brought many changes, she is mostly leaving her regular yoga practice behind and using this time to share the tools that has the most meaning to her in hopes she can help others.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Jenn Judson


    Jenn Judson is a lovable character, a serious artist and a big time collaborator. Jenn is a graduate of the Brock University Visual Arts Program and is currently living and working in St Catharines, Ontario. The artist is part of two visual art collectives, The Pepsi Girls and Permanent Vacation, both of which are made up of local residents/artists.

    While primarily a collage artist, her practice is dynamic and includes a range of media including, textile, installation and painting. Her approach to art is usually with humour and often underlined with a touch of the subversive! Jenn often finds herself running collage workshops and events and loves helping others find their inner collage artist!!

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Maggie Forgeron


    Movement-Based Expressive Arts practice has enabled Maggie to enjoy a more than 20 year career with the National Ballet of Canada (Toronto), Ballet British Columbia (Vancouver) and Nationaltheatre Mannheim (Germany).  As a graduate of the Tamalpa Institute and a Masters Candidate in the Expressive Arts program at the European Graduate School in Switzerland, she has continued to develop a deep love of psychology, science and the therapeutic aspects of physical exploration and creativity.  Her current “time-out” from performing is really “time-in”.  She has learned that when a person can get out of their head and more fully into their body’s experience, positive and revolutionary change can take place for all involved, as well as for the beautiful art of dance itself.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Jana Simms-Bergsma


    Jana Simms-Bergsma is a St. Catharines based artist and educator. After graduating from McMaster’s Studio Art program in 2008, she worked as a scenic artist painting sets for theatre, events, and film. Her work has been enjoyed by audiences at the Shaw Festival, Theatre Calgary, and the Banff Centre.

    She has had the pleasure of working for many Canadian designers and alongside talented craftspeople in IATSE 828. She began teaching in 2009 and has had the privilege of sharing her ability with a variety of age groups and skill levels at Rodman Hall, the Parkway Artist Guild, and most recently the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre. Her passion for self-expression is infectious. She has successfully convinced the public to help her with large scale paintings, sidewalk art, garden flags, and sharing their secret wishes

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Katherine Sunita


    Katherine has practiced art in many forms since she was a child. Art has been her escape, her medicine, her saviour. Having experienced the power of creative expression through trauma and tumult, she feels the need to pass on the messages of the creative muse, to reach through every barrier to the safe expression of emotion, thoughts, dreams, desires.

    Katherine has taught art for more than 20 years, all the while practicing my craft as a muralist, painter, writer, sculptor. Her arts education at The Art Centre in Toronto has inspired her methods of both instruction and art making, having learned in many media from bronze casting to life drawing, Katherine’s ultimate goal is to inspire others to create, to look, to feel, to open their minds to the inner child’s calling to play.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Joel Smith

    Joel Smith

    A Niagara based photographer since 1996, Joel Smith captures and creates landscapes that show the emotion and respect of his Niagara environment.

    His first exposure to photography was in 1993 when hiking through New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. It sparked his love for landscape and shooting in nature. While Joel’s commercial practice has been diverse, including portrait & wedding photography, Joel has always loved landscape photography and has returned to his first love.

    His landscapes now include cities, urban landscapes and captured moments in time. Joel has explored the unique and variant landscapes offered up by the Niagara Region, from the large green forest to the waterfalls that meander through it all, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Having been born and raised in Niagara, his art works are about discovering and shooting the unseen areas of the region in his own unique way.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Shauna MacLeodFounder, Executive Director


    Founder, Executive Director

    Shauna MacLeod brings a lifelong relationship with the arts and mental health to her role as Founder and Director of Willow Arts Community. She is the proud mother of her teenage son Colin, and a passionate believer in the power of community. Shauna grew up in rural Niagara and spent much of her youth seeking sanctuary in her willow tree, writing poetry and dreaming of a better future. Moving to St. Catharines in 2009 to pursue post secondary education, she graduated top of her class in the Liberal Arts University Transfer program at Niagara College and pursued History and Canadian Studies at Brock University.  

    In 2010, Shauna lost her brother, an avid musician, to a lifelong battle with addictions and mental illness. Shauna also uses her own recovery story to advocate for support and stigma reduction. Driven by her first-hand experience of the need for a supportive and creative community, Shauna spearheaded a grassroots movement within the arts and mental health community in Niagara. That movement would grow into what is now Willow Arts Community. In 2019 alone, the Willow supported more than two hundred Member Artists with lived experience of mental health and substance use through access to free programs and partnerships.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List

  • Michelle NichollsPresident - Programming and Special Events

    Michelle Nicholls

    President – Programming and Special Events

    Michelle Nicholls is a local Arts Administrator, Educator and Artist. Michelle believes that through learning, creating and interacting that the arts have transformative capabilities and can become significant to our community – and to us as individuals.

    She is a practicing visual artist who explores various forms of painting, printmaking and book-binding in her work. She also enjoys participating in dance and collecting vinyl.

    Michelle is passionate about developing creative communities. She is responsible for outreach, special events and marketing for the City of St. Catharines Cultural Services Office. In her previous role at Rodman Hall Art Centre, she managed and delivered arts education and outreach programs for the community. Michelle has worked in museums and galleries across Niagara, as a Collections Manager, Archivist, Exhibition Designer and Educator.

    Michelle holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Brock University and has obtained her OCT (Teaching License). She is also a graduate of the Visual Arts Honours Program at Brock and has received a Diploma in Graphic Design from Niagara College.

    Stay Connected. Join Our E-Mail List