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  Meet the Members of Our Creative Community

One of our goals at The CREO Institute is to expose you to the many ways in which you can apply your creativity towards enhancing your personal and professional life. We are fortunate to have as our colleagues and friends many creative individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds who, through their creativity, are living and making a difference on a completely different level.

A Conversation With...

Steve Hickner, Director, DreamWorks Animation, SKG

Steve Hickner has spent the past thirty years working at some of the most fabled studios in animation including DreamWorks, Disney, Amblimation, Aardman, Hanna-Barbera, and Filmation. He has worked on both the production and artistic side of the process, serving as Producer on such films as: American Tail II: Fievel Goes West; We're Back! A Dinosaur Story; and Balto. His director credits include: Bee Movie and The Prince of Egypt. In addition, he has contributed to such films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, The Great Mouse Detective, Antz, Shark Tale, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, and others.

His television credits include such favorites as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Fat Albert, and The Cosby Show. He is proud that he has been able to work alongside such illuminaries as: Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seifled, Bob Zemeckis, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Richard Williams, Peter Lord, Eric Larson, and Ward Kimball.

Al Konetzni, Disney Legend

In 1953, Al Konetzni joined Walt Disney Productions as an artist and idea man for the character merchandising division, then headquartered on Madison Avenue in New York. Over the next 28 years, he developed ideas for toys, clothing, stationery, greeting cards, jewelry and more, featuring beloved Disney characters, which were licensed for production by major U.S. corporations. Among Al's most famous creations was a popular lunch box set featuring a host of Disney characters on board a school bus. The lunch box, which sold its 9 millionth unit in 1976, is now a prized collector's item among Disney fans. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1999.

Al loved designing and developing Disney merchandise. He said, "One of the biggest thrills in my work was to see an item begin with my rough design, then develop into a prototype and become a product that reaches the sales counters and, eventually, people's homes."

Rokardy, Hand Balancer and Cirque du Soleil Performer

Carlos Rodriguez Diaz was born in Havana, Cuba. While in school, he developed an interest in gymnastics. At the age of seventeen, Carlos attended the National Circus School of Cuba where he fell in love with hand balancing. After four short years of practice, Carlos became one of the most talented and well-known circus artists in Cuba.

During the next few years, Carlos participated in several international circus festivals, notably in Korea, France, Vietnam, and Russia where he won prestigious awards. In 2001, he was awarded the Grand Prix at the Festival de Massy in France. At one point in his career, he adopted the stage name Rokardy, which is a combination of his given birth names.

Kathy Altieri, Production Designer, DreamWorks Animation, SKG

Kathy Altieri has worked for over twenty five years as a production designer, art director, and painter in the animation industry. Her most recent position was Production Designer on DreamWorks' latest feature How to Train your Dragon. Her other DreamWorks credits include Over the Hedge (Production Designer), Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, (Production Designer), and The Prince of Egypt (Art Director). Kathy was the first artist hired at the studio.

Prior to DreamWorks, Kathy worked as a background painter and supervisor at Disney Feature Animation on The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Marie-Josée Lareau, Artistic Coach of Specific Training, Cirque du Soleil

Marie-Josée Lareau was born in Montreal, Canada. Since she was a child, Marie-Josée loved art, photography, figure skating, synchronized swimming, and dance. In 2002, Marie-Josée completed her university degree in Dance and started her own company called Création à l'ENDROIT where she worked as a choreographer and the artistic and founding Director. Through Création à l'ENDROIT, she created and produced five different shows combining dance, theater, and circus.

In 2003, she was recruited by Cirque du Soleil to be the Assistant Choreographer on the show KOOZA where she worked for four years. Currently, she is the Artistic Coach of Specific Training at Cirque du Soleil and works to transform acrobats into circus artists within a very short timeframe. Marie-Josée also teaches yoga and is completing her EMBA McGill and HEC through which she is developing artistic workshops for managers and businesspeople to improve their leadership, communication, and teamwork skills.

Kate Alexander, Associate Director, Florida Studio Theater

Ms. Alexander is the Associate Director of Florida Studio Theater. In this capacity, she ministers to the artistic needs of the theatre and its many community and state educational programs. Ms. Alexander has created a vast Education Program, the FST Theatre School. Ms. Alexander has also pioneered an acting training method for children which serves as the foundation for the FST School, serving 600 children yearly. She has co-created the award-winning WRITE A PLAY program touching the lives of over 55,000 children annually and serving as a model for theatres throughout the nation and serving schools in China, Israel, Scotland and The United Federation of Russia. Ms. Alexander has also been a resident actress with Florida Studio Theatre for the past 20 years. Some of her leading roles were seen in the plays: The Goat, Filumena, Master Class, Three Tall Women, The Play About the Baby, and Golda's Balcony. Also a director, Ms. Alexander has directed numerous productions and premieres on the FST stages including I Love You You're Perfect Now Change, Shirley Valentine, Shotgun, The Miamians, Brooklyn Boy, The Exonerated, Wit, Proof, Lobby Hero, and Ten Unknowns.

Wellington Lima, Acrobat and Cirque du Soleil Performer

Wellington Lima was born in Recife, Brazil. He started studying acrobatics and capoiera when he was 11 years old. Three years later, he began participating in gymnastics competitions in the Northwest of Brazil and soon discovered his passion for the trampoline and being up in the air. He went on to travel and train throughout Brazil and, after four years, won the Trampoline Nationals in Brazil.

In 1996, Wellington began teaching acrobatics to at-risk youth in a circus school in Recife. Being involved in the program gave him a sense of his roots and a belief in his ability to inspire young people to believe in themselves and to contribute to their success.

Karl Gnass, Author, Spirit of the Pose

Karl Gnass has been teaching drawing for over 35 years and in the early days worked for Sid and Marty Krofft in story and character development. Karl started with their landmark children’s 1969 television series H. R. Pufnstuf, followed by The Bugaloos (1970), Lidsville, (1971), and Sigmund and the Sea Monster (1973).

Karl has storyboarded for Coca Cola, Saban and Fox Entertainment's Peter Pan and the Pirates. He worked on story development at Disney Television Animation and storyboarded for Gargoyles, Aladdin, Darkwing Duck and The Little Mermaid, as well as some storyboarding freelance for Direct To Video (DTV) for Disney. He later developed character expressions with anatomical breakdowns for Stuart in the feature Stuart Little. Other Sony Imageworks projects include Hollow Man and Harry Potter, with consulting on the Sci-fi Thriller I Am Legend starring Will Smith and Watchmen with Billy Crudup.

Kushil Gunasekera, Founder/Trustee, Foundation of Goodness

Kushil Gunasekera established the Foundation of Goodness in 1999 in Sri Lanka. As a young boy Kushil felt compassion for the people of his ancestral village in Seenigama, who lacked the facilities to realize their potential despite innate talent and ability. Having become a successful businessman, he faithfully returned to his hometown and with true altruism donated his family property in Seenigama to the establishment of the Foundation of Goodness. The Foundation is based on providing a holistic response to a community's needs and works to uplift the lives of rural communities through learning and Empowerment. In May 2008, being the philanthropist he is, he decided to dispose of his lucrative business and dedicate his resources and time to the organization. He currently donates his time full-time to its furtherance on a purely voluntary basis.

Shawn Seipler, Executive Director / Co-Founder, Clean the World

As a social entrepreneur, Shawn is committed to focusing his business, management and leadership skills on advancing humanitarian causes through philanthropic efforts. His passion for excellence and embrace of corporate social responsibility led to the creation of Clean the World.

Clean the World, an Orlando, Fla.-based non-profit organization, recycles hotel soaps and bottled amenities (shampoos, conditioners and lotions) for people in need. In less than two years Clean the World has enlisted more than 550 hotel partners in North America in its ambitious and environmentally friendly soap recycling program. More than six million soap bars (390 tons) have been collected, recycled and distributed throughout the United States and more than 40 countries.

Bill Pullen, Founder / Director, Joseph T. Neary Memorial Charity

Born in England, Bill Pullen came to the United States in 1961 following his graduation from Hotel School in London and various training positions at 5-star hotels in London and Paris. He has spent his 50-year career in management positions at premium hotels and resorts in the U.S. and South America and was Director of Operations for two privately owned award-winning Holiday Inn properties in Florida for 15 years prior to his recent retirement.

Bill first joined SKAL, the International Association of Travel and Tourism Professionals, 42 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona and served as the club's president before relocating to Florida in 1976, where he was a founding member of the Palm Beach club and served as the club's second president. He was a member of the United States National SKAL Committee for 11 years and served as National President in 1989/90 prior to representing the U.S. as International Councillor for two terms.

Georgina Melone, VP of Innovation, Hasbro

Georgina grew up in a Portuguese-Italian-American home filled with cardboard boxes, steak knives, bungee cords, and siblings. Her mom's head was always busy with ideas, and her Dad's hands were always busy building. In the Melone home, playing with food, dirt or any other found object was never discouraged.

As Georgina grew up, she could not abandon play. So, she attended the Rhode Island School of Design and became a puppeteer and, later, a toy designer. She is currently the VP of Innovation for Hasbro, where her quest to create has permitted her, over the past 25 years, to play with many innovative ideas, throughout many lands, with very interesting peoples.

Larry Littlebird, Founding Director, Hamaatsa

Larry Littlebird, founding director of Hamaatsa, is a Pueblo Indian from Laguna/Santo Domingo Pueblos in New Mexico. Larry Littlebird celebrates an indigenous holistic way of life. Over the past 35 years, Larry has worked extensively as a corporate trainer and executive coach, education specialist and national speaker perpetuating the living oral tradition of his Pueblo Indian culture. Larry personally trains and equips people in the areas of generative leadership development, teambuilding, communications, holistic health and community building. His inspired programs have had a profound impact on many lives working with individuals, business organizations, management teams, foundations, schools and community groups.

His experiential learning curriculum model, Learning to Listen©, has been implemented across the nation in classrooms, boardrooms, university auditoriums, theaters in D.C. to San Francisco and around lodge fires where people gather. Providing spiritual guidance and sharing tribal traditions, Larry facilitates remedial results through his work with healing and grief circles, wilderness solos and mountain pilgrimages. Through Littlebird's methods, his clients are able to realize a cathartic process within their own lives, families, business relationships and communities.

Susan Loeffler, Director, PAL Sailor Circus

As a child, Susan was a student performer in the Sailor Circus for 10 years. She went on to study at Florida State University and received a BS in Family, Child and Consumer Science. During her college years, Susan participated in the FSU Flying High Circus. After College, she directed many summer camp programs and then become a Preschool Director. She began to volunteer as a coach at Sailor Circus and after a year became the circus Director. She has been working with PAL Sailor Circus for 11 years.

Sailor Circus, now in its sixth decade of operation, has grown from a small high school gymnastics class in 1949 to the present spectacular 4 ring youth circus production known world wide as the Greatest "Little" Show on Earth. Students from the 4th through 12th grades in Sarasota and surrounding counties have an opportunity to experience the performing arts in a circus atmosphere. Their dedicated students practice 20 - 30 hours a week and are trained by volunteer coaches who are retired circus performers, sailor circus alumni and enthusiastic parents. The more than 200 volunteers donating over 25,000 hours of their time each season to PAL Sailor Circus demonstrate strong community involvement.

Kyu Yamamoto, Gifted Sculptor and Painter

Kyu Yamamoto began studying sculpture in a fine arts high school in Nagoya, Japan, under the tutelage of Kozo Shibata. After attending Aichi Fine Arts University, he worked for several years with the commercial Rui Kobo Studios. In 1985, Yamamoto moved to Nashville, TN, serving as Assistant Sculptor for completion of the 42'Athena Parthenos, the world's tallest indoor sculpture outside Japan, located in Nashville's century-old replica of the Greek Parthenon. Kyu moved his studio to St. Petersburg. FL in 1992. Known for his contributions to public art, Kyu has been faculty/instructor for the Morean Arts Center, the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and the Penland School of Craft.

Alex Terry, Advertising Designer

Alex began his college experience in the heart of school pride at Texas A&M, a school enriched with tradition and largely into football. However, after just two and a half semesters at Texas A&M, he moved to a sleepy town on the west coast of Florida and transferred to the prestigious Ringling College of Art and Design. Upon arrival, he found that the aforementioned characteristics of Texas A&M were lacking, so, out of necessity, he looked for a sport that could rally the same camaraderie that college football in the south could. Through Facebook, he heard about the endeavors of the Howarth sisters at Texas A&M, who were starting a crazy sport called Quidditch. His problem had been solved. What greater impact could the magical sport of Quidditch have on an artistic college where imaginations fly around on a regular basis? Alex is proud to be at the forefront of this great sport and working with the Ringling administration in exploring the possibility of building the first official Quidditch pitch.

Dominic Avant, Painter / Animation Faculty, Ringling College of Art and Design

Dominic Avant received a Bachelor's of Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design in 1991. Upon completion at RISD he worked as a free-lance illustrator and teacher. In 1996, he was recruited by Walt Disney Feature Animation and worked on films such as Mulan, Tarzan, The Emperor's New Groove, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear and numerous shorts. This creative community introduced him to plein air painting. Shortly after, he began showing in galleries. His passion for painting plein air has grown to include studio works and remarkable portraiture that catches a person as they are in their real world.

Dominic's work is a fusion of realism and impressionism. Each painting shows a strong sense of light, vivid color, fluid brushwork and deep emotional content. He strives to evoke in his viewers the same emotions that compel him to paint from the first brushstroke.

James Corwin Johnson, Director of Photography, Yosemite National Park

James Corwin Johnson's career has spanned the gamut of photographic specialties and taken him to Canada, Mexico and Europe. His work has appeared in Eastman Kodak, Paramount Pictures, Textbook and other consumer and industrial publications. In addition to owning his own photography firm where he concentrated on commercial, industrial and portrait photography. James worked as the Director of Photography for Yosemite National Park for more than 12 years. During that time he specialized in teaching students how to appreciate and photograph the natural wonders and wildlife of Yosemite. This led to his establishment of the now famous "Camera Walks". He ran the photography studio and lab at the park, lectured at Workshops held in conjunction with the Ansel Adams Gallery and published the Yosemite Photographer's Guide; Official Camera Walk Handbook.

Our upcoming video interviews will feature:

David Grad, Senior Producer, MTV

David has spent the last 17 years working in many different capacities within the television and film industries. After graduating from Florida State University with Bachelor's degrees in Theatre and Communications, he has developed dynamic creative and business skills working on both sides of the camera.

He has made a living as an actor and writer in television programming and promotion, written two feature length screenplays, and has been actively involved in low budget filmmaking, documentary production, and commercial art direction. He has also worked as a cameraman, editor, photographer, creator and producer for multiple formats from linear TV to web creation.

In his sixth year as a Senior Producer for On Air Promotion at MTV, he has helped create and develop an award winning body of Branding and Program Promotion for several of the company's networks.

Jade Kindar and Karine Mauffrey, Former Cirque du Soleil Performers

High wire walker Jade Kindar, and gymnast/stunt woman Karine Mauffrey welcome us this summer to their artist retreat in the South of France.

Jade started performing on the wire at the age of 14 with the acclaimed Circus Smirkus Youth Circus. He went on to study under renowned high-wire walker Rudy Omankowsky Jr. in France and has since performed in countless shows and festivals around the world. He has done skywalks throughout Europe, the U.S., Russia, and Oman. For four years, he also starred in the high wire act in Cirque du Soleil's show, La Nouba.

Marcos de Jesus, Flatland BMX champion and Cirque du Soleil Performer

Marcos Paulo de Jesus was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil and started riding when he was 15 years old. His love of Flatland BMX led him to perfect his sport and travel around Europe, South America, Brazil, and the U.S. appearing in and winning many BMX competitions including the X Games in 2002. Marcos's exciting and successful career continued to evolve when he was recruited by Cirque du Soleil in 2004 to star in La Nouba in Orlando, FL. Marcos continues to train, learn new tricks, and ride both on stage and off. Recently, Marcos has started his own company and designed, and will soon manufacture and sell, his own personalized BMX bike called Sampa.

Richard Stone, StoryAnalytics Master, i·d·e·a·s

Richard has developed several successful programs for teaching patients, their families and medical professionals how to bring the practical applications of storytelling into their therapeutic work. In addition, he has developed training programs for team building, leadership development, and diversity for a variety of healthcare institutions, as well as assisted organizations such as the Red Cross and the YMCA more clearly articulate their stories to enhance fundraising effectiveness. He has been a key member of the i·d·e·a·s Innovation team since 2003, and is now their StoryAnalytics Master. He is the author of The Healing Art of Storytelling, Stories: The Family Legacy, and The Kingdom of Nowt, and created the award winning board game, Pitch-A-Story. He has also authored several collections of stories for healthcare clients as diverse as hospitals and pediatric practices. In addition, he has written a number of entertainment products including On the Spot, a feature romantic comedy, and Sprinkles, a sitcom.

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