Elaine Grisanti - Board President

Founder Elaine Grisanti is a professional artist and a retired alternate education teacher with a Master’s in Art Education from Buffalo State College with over 32 years of art experience, with a concentration in oil painting, acrylics, and pottery. Elaine is passionate about sharing her knowledge and love for art with others, and she believes in the power of art to inspire creativity and bring communities together. Since founding Community Canvases, Elaine has facilitated the creation of over 35 murals, painted signal boxes and public art installations throughout WNY. Elaine serves as President of the Wests Side Taxpayers and Business Association and is a Board member of the Italian Cultural Festival. For 13 years, Elaine volunteered with Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts.

Ian Ko - Treasurer

Ian is a graduate of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Management. Ian specializes in corporate accounting and management systems, accounts payable, accounts receivable, contract dissemination, and data analytics. Ian enjoys volunteering for our local community because of his belief that everyone can make it better.

Alisha Collins - Member

Alisha is a brand and digital design strategist. She started Be Femme Fitness, an organization that educates, promotes, inspires and creates oppHERtunities for diverse female entrepreneurs. She manages the Lish Agency and the brand Cafe+CZEN.

Lourdes Vera - Member

Dr. Lourdes Vera is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Environment & Sustainability at SUNY University at Buffalo. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Northeastern University and is a former high school science teacher. As an environmental sociologist and civic scientist, she works with communities near industrial activity such as fracking to monitor their air for contaminants. She also serves on the Coordinating Committee of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, envisioning and building digital tools and research infrastructures for environmental data justice. Her interdisciplinary work spans environmental health, social science, and critical theory.

Julianna Casella - Member

Julianna is a PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo in School and Counseling Psychology. She is the president of the Counseling, School and Educational Psychology Graduate Student Association and a coordinator for the Future Faculty Interest Group for the National Association of School Psychologists.  Julianna is a Long Island native living in Amherst, NY. Julianna is passionate about Community Canvases' work to foster community engagement and feelings of belonging through the arts especially with youth. In her free time, she enjoys reading books, listening to Taylor Swift, and going for walks by the water.

Matt Jackson - Member

As a 2023 graduate of UB's School Psychology Program, Matt works as a School Psychologist at Amherst Central School. Matt lives in the city of Buffalo and enjoys spending time with his loving family and friends. Matt enjoys working with Community Canvases, its volunteers, and partnering with community members to promote engagement through the arts. When he isn't at school or volunteering, you can find him trying new restaurants, walking or riding his bike around new neighborhoods, or enjoying a picnic in Delaware Park.

Mark Talley - Member

Mark Talley, an accomplished author and advocate, is deeply committed to enhancing his community. He is the founder of Agents For Advocacy, a nonprofit organization that tackles systemic inequalities. Mark's book, "5/14 - The Day the Devil Came to Buffalo," illuminates their personal journey following their mother's experience as a victim of a terrorist attack. Through unwavering resilience, determination, and a strong dedication to social justice, Mark's efforts have a profound and enduring impact in the ongoing fight against injustice and inequality.

Marshall Bertram - Member

Marshall earned his JD at UB and has worked extensively in labor law and with union contracts. He is a member of the NYS Bar and of the National Lawyers Guild. Marshall serves as a Board member of the WNY Law Center, to assure that all members of our community receive the full range of legal services.

Community Canvases Staff

Katherine Pessecow - Executive Director

Katherine teaches Social Studies in the Buffalo Public Schools. With 13 years of volunteer coordination and event planning experience, she chairs the Community Engagement Committee on the Board of the Buffalo Maritime Center.

Hy Carrel - Director of Operations

Hy is a social worker who has brought Faithful Fools training to Buffalo. Previously, he built community through developing REI circles and housing unhoused neighbors at BestSelf Behavioral Health.