Jamaine Smith

Born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, Jamaine Smith is a graduate of Eastern University's (Pennsylvania) Master of Arts in Urban Studies, (Community Arts concentration). Jamaine earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Nyack College (New York). It was during his time at Eastern University where Mr. Smith learned to how to effectively merge his passion for the Arts with social justice, education and human development. Mr. Smith has been a trained BuildaBridge Artist on Call for the past two years, is a registered BuildaBridge Trainer and was the Artology summer program Education Director for the summer of 2012. In 2012, Smith led a team of trainers to Haiti for a BuildaBridge project with UNICEF training 90 community leaders in three cities.  He joined BuildaBridge as Director of Community Programs upon his return in November, 2013.  He is a firm believer in the transformative power of the arts and is passionate about educating others on incorporating arts into education, community work and youth development.


Kelly Finlaw

Kelly Finlaw is a 2006 graduate of Grace College with a degree in Art Education. Currently she is pursuing her M. A. in Urban Studies through Eastern University. Kelly is an art teacher, artist, sister, daughter, friend, and a generally perky person. She lives in NYC, where she walks to work everyday and loves her community, job, and neighborhood. She is also a professional visual artist that frequently paints murals, publishes prints, and doodles incessantly. Her heart is to see the renewal of all things and play her role in that through the arts. A registered Artist-on-Call with BuildaBridge, Kelly has completed volunteer projects in Philadelphia (2013), The Dominican Republic (2012 and Bogota, Colombia (2012).

George Washington Bridge, New York City

A community in Bogota was concerned with open dumping at the end of a paved road that leads into the hills and the homes of the working class. Finlaw, as part of an Arts for Hope project assisted the children and families of the community in a "place-making" experience to clean up the area and paint a mural of hope they designed and painted.


Leah Samuelson

Leah is a community-based arts and participation facilitator from Oak Park, Illinois. A mural painter by trade, Leah translated her practice into writing curricula for community-based arts and art education with Philadelphia’s BuildaBridge organization. Prioritizing celebrating the possible in images leads her to a perpetually open definition of beauty and wholeness. She’s been with the Wheaton College Art Department for four years, building participation in their Community Arts and Missions program. Her international work with the Philadelphia-based BuildaBridge is community murals and mural training for building hope and community cooperation, especially among the world's most vulnerable children.

Designing a mural in a maximum security prison in Guatemala

Mural with children in Mathare Valley, Nairobi, Kenya

Mural in the Turks and Caicos Islands after a hurricane


Amy Tuttle

Amy Tuttle is a "placemaking" artist and arts-based community development specialist who resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a Master of Arts degree from Eastern University in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation. Amy specializes in the field of "arts-based placemaking." Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations and represent them through the arts. Amy has engaged her passion for community art in many settings including: Haiti, Philadelphia, India, and Cincinnati. In 2012, she received an Ohio Arts Council grant to continue the development of her Trail Art project, an environmental placemaking
project, at Grailville Program & Retreat Center. In fall 2012, Tuttle served as a “trainer” for a pilot
program with BuildaBridge International and UNICEF in Haiti. She provided “Community Arts
for Children” training and certification to over 100 Haitian community leaders. Tuttle has worked
with BuildaBridge International for 3 years.


Julia Crawford

Julia Crawford is a dance educator and therapeutic movement practitioner based in Philadelphia, PA. She has a Master of Arts Degree from Eastern University in Urban Studies: Arts in Transformation where she received an Outstanding Thesis award. She graduated cum laude from Temple University with a BFA in dance where she received the BFA outstanding dance performance award. She is currently an adjunct faculty member in the Dance Department at Eastern University, teaching the practice and history of dance as a form of sacred expression, as well as holistic development teaching methods. She is also currently in her sixth year of directing the dance program at Westtown School, a Quaker boarding high school. She is a teaching artist and trainer for BuildaBridge International, working with Bhutanese refugee children in South Philadelphia, as well as children in underserved communities in Northeast Philadelphia. She also currently works with children of migrant workers in the outlying Philadelphia area using dance to develop a sense of belonging and purpose. She has also worked as a teaching artist in an arts-integrated early-childhood program using dance to support academic learning and has worked with older adults using dance to support and build community. She has worked with survivors of sexual violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangkok, Thailand using the power of the arts and specifically movement for fostering hope and healing.


Natalie Hoffman

Natalie Hoffmann is a board certified Art Therapist and a lifelong Philadelphia resident and artist. In 2008 she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with a concentration in painting from the University of Delaware. Although Natalie loved creating art of her own–taking a particular interest in oil and acrylic painting–she always knew that she wanted to use her love for art-making in order to help other people. To accomplish this goal, Natalie earned her Master of Arts in Art Therapy degree in 2010 from Drexel University. Natalie fell in love with using Art Therapy to help heal children and adults suffering from trauma. In 2011, Natalie began working full time as an Art Therapist at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, working with adults suffering from mental illness, addictions, and trauma. In addition to running Art Therapy groups at Friends, Natalie has piloted the use of community mural projects and patient art shows to engage patients in their Recoveries. Natalie also contributes to the field of Art Therapy by providing clinical supervision to Drexel University and Pratt University Art Therapy students, editing and sitting on the committee of students’ theses, and providing guest lectures for students. Natalie’s experiences with BuildaBridge began in 2010 and have included working with children experiencing trauma and homelessness at the NPIHN and the Women Against Abuse shelters. Additionally, Natalie helped to pilot BaB’s Refugee Mental Health Project providing Art Therapy to Iraqi women and children in 2011, and currently is running an Art Therapy group with Burmese children in South Philadelphia.


Kathryn Pannepacker

Kathryn Pannepacker is a textile artist and painter creating visual art pieces and projects with the mission of “art-for-all” and “peace-for-all”. Whether she is working directly with individuals or groups, or creating projects for the larger community, her work stems from the common desire to celebrate diversity and to resource expression and empowerment.  Kathryn has worked with a large variety of communities—people with and without physical disabilities, veterans, middle class and poor, homeless and with home, in addiction and recovery, in prison and re-entry programs, seniors and young people. Kathryn's recent art-for-all textile work can be seen on chain-link fences on abandoned lots. She was a recipient of the Leeway Transformation Award in 2011.


Joanna Ginsberg

Joanna Ginsberg received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture, summa cum laude, from Purchase College, State University of New York in May 2012. She has been making art in a variety of mediums since she was a child, and found a focus pursuing woodworking at her alma mater as well as in craft schools around the country. Joanna has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Powermatic Student Scholarship from the Furniture Society, for which she is featured in the August 2012 issue of Woodworker Journal magazine. She has fostered her passion for teaching by assisting college classes, developing and instructing classes at Philadelphia Woodworks, and most recently with BuildaBridge. She plans to pursue a career in arts education.


Magira Ross


Charlene Melhorn

Charlene Melhorn is an artist, educator, and community programs director. Charlene received her undergraduate degree in Fine Art – Sculpture from Biola University (Los Angeles area) in 2003. After graduating she moved to San Bernardino, CA to live and work at Art Haus, a residency for emerging female artists. There she created sculptural installation work for a solo show, “Mind Frame,” and several group shows. In 2005, she moved to Philadelphia to become a program director for BuildaBridge, where she created and developed Artology, an interdisciplinary arts and science summer learning program. In 2010 she was granted an Assistantship at Tyler School of Art where she went on to receive her Masters in Education - Major in Art. She has collaborated internationally with local artists in Penang, Malaysia and Guatemala City. Most recently she worked with PBS Art 21 artist, Pepon Osorio, to create a large installation for a 2012 show at the Painted Bride Arts Center. She has been awarded several teaching artist residencies by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mural Arts. She now teaches art in the challenged classrooms of Philadelphia public schools.

My work explores the accumulated textures of human experience, the complexities instead of the oversimplified generalities, simultaneity instead of compartmentalization. Organic and synthetic, past and present, universal and specific, beauty and repulsion are always negotiating coexistence, sometimes overlapping slightly, sometimes converging to the point of being indistinguishable. As humans, our minds require us to synthesize, categorize, and generalize. We are constant suckers for the ease of polarities; the laziness of stereotypes. Our systems of language and institutional structures are responsible for artistic magnificence and civic order but all too often fail to represent the lived experience of all people. Increasingly I am interested in giving voice to the experiences of those who are most ignored or mistreated by our government, schools, and communities.

GTown Ave. Textile


Julie Rosen

Julie Rosen has been creating, managing and serving as teaching artist in Philadelphia community and outreach programs for 15 years. She developed and ran the teen programs at The Village of Arts and Humanities for many years and was a professor at Temple University helping education students learn how to use the arts effectively in their teaching. She is now focussing her energy on direct teaching in schools and community settings using art as a tool for personal, social and spiritual growth and healing,. She is a visual artist who works in a various painting media. She paints in her studio in Germantown and is otherwise hard at work parenting two children.

Rosen-Mother and Daughter


Pedro Nel Ospina

My aesthetic principals are based on rituals and craftsmanship. I believe that the very act of creating empowers the works with meaning and life. Dedication to the work results in a deep profound experience between the artist and its creation. The workk is part of a healing ritual that brings me in-touch with my present situation and myself. As an artist, my life has been significantly marked by authentic contact with diverse cultures, and a vast range ofartistic and academic experiences. My work is a reflection of those experiences and a personal need to maintain my cultural roots. 


Christine Byma, MA, ATR-BC. Assistant Creative Arts Therapist

Christine is a registered and board-certified Art Therapist. She received her graduate degree in Art Therapy from Marywood University in 2008 and completed her thesis on the role of rituals in Art Therapy. Since then, Christine has been living and working in Philadelphia, PA. She is a visual artist, preferably working with paint and mixed media. Christine is working at the Assistant Art Teacher at Buildabridge for the Bhutanese refugee project. She has experience working with adults suffering from addictions, mental health diagnoses, trauma, and homelessness. She also has experience working with at-risk children, adolescents, and young adults. She specializes in addictions, trauma, and issues relating to HIV. It has been her passion to work with the underserved, bringing hope into communities of despair. Christine is extremely grateful for the experiences life has taught her and the people she has learned from in doing this kind of work and she believes that everyone deserve to have a voice and a means to express themselves. She hopes to begin traveling internationally with BuildaBridge in the future.


Celeste Wade

Celeste grew up in Williamsport, PA and traveled to Philadelphia to attain her degree in Art History and Psychology from La Salle University. Through her love of psychology and the arts, as well as her experience in working at the La Salle University Art Museum, as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art education department, Celeste followed her passion in utilizing the arts as a healing power to creatively engage children and adults, and went on to attain her Masters in Art Therapy at Drexel University.

As an art therapist, Celeste interned at the Bryn Mawr Hospital Psychiatric Unit running art therapy groups with an adult population, at Pennsylvania Clinical schools running individual art therapy sessions as well as art therapy groups with adolescent male offenders, and finally at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia running individual and group art therapy sessions. Currently, Celeste is a Therapist in the Philadelphia area for a Transition and Stabilization program working with youth and families involved in adoption and foster care, and continues to serve as a Family Program Workshop facilitator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Celeste was introduced to BuildaBridge through a close friend and colleague, and immediately fell in love with their slogan “...engaging creative people and the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to children, families, and communities in the tough places of the world.” Celeste began her work for BuildaBridge in 2010 as a volunteer teaching artist for a children’s Poetry In Motion class at Woman Organized Against Abuse (WOAR). Celeste continued her work with BAB volunteering as an assistant to a preschool Music Therapy group also held at BAB. In addition, Celeste was integral in piloting BuildaBridge Art Therapy children’s groups with the Philadelphia Mental Health Collaborative; she served as Assistant Clinician for the Bhutanese refugee Art Therapy group funded by the Collaborative, then transitioned into the Lead Clinician role, and currently serves as a volunteer for the group.


J. Nathan Corbitt

Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt is the co-founder and President of BuildaBridge International. This community service organization was born out of a vision to bring hope and healing to vulnerable children in tough places of the world as well as to train and engage artists and community workers in the power of the arts to transform lives. In 2000, BuildaBridge was incorporated as an arts education and intervention organization, receiving 501(c)3 designation in 2001. Since its inception, BuildaBridge has provided various arts experiences and programs to over 10,000 children and family members in 25 countries including Philadelphia, Salish and Kootenai Native Americans, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Thailand, and Egypt. Through the Institute, BuildaBridge has also trained over 700 artists, community workers, social workers, and educators.

Dr. J. Nathan Corbitt is also Professor of Cross-Cultural Studies and Coordinator of the Community Arts Concentration in the M.A. in Urban Studies Program of the Campolo College of Graduate Professional Studies at Eastern University in Philadelphia. With an interdisciplinary approach to life-long education, he has broad global experience in teaching, consulting and training in the areas of cultural competence and the arts for education and community development. Dr. Corbitt has served as a professor at Eastern since 1992 as well as in administrative roles such as the undergraduate department chair and graduate associate dean. His notable contributions at Eastern include re-instituting the university’s wind ensemble in 1992, contributing to growth of the undergraduate department of communications, developing a graduate research program, providing leadership in the development of the M.A. in Urban Studies, Community Arts Concentration in partnership with BuildaBridge, serving as the first chair of the Institutional Review Board, and serving as the principal investigator for the Teagle Collaboration Grant that assisted in the founding of Nueva Esperanza College.

Dr. Corbitt lived in Africa from 1982-1992, which had a significant influence on his life, research, service, and teaching. During his time in Africa, Corbitt researched the origins and cultural contexts of African Spiritual Music which included the collection, archiving, and transcription of several hundreds of spiritual songs from the 1980’s in Kenya, along with numerous interviews, participant observations, and training of local musicians. His general findings were published, in part, in The Sound of the Harvest: Music's Mission in Church and Culture (Baker, 1998), upon his return to the United States.  He is also co-author, with Dr. Vivian Nix-Early, of Taking it to the Streets:  Using the Arts to Transform Your Community (Baker 2003) among many articles and compositions.  He has numerous published musical compositions.

He is an avid photographer and has worked tirelessly for over 10 years restoring the Caroline Karsner Mansion where BuildaBridge offices are located and where he also resides with his wife of 43 years.

Maximum Security from Inside
The BuildaBridge House


Gina Ferrera

Gina Ferrera is a visionary with a passion for folkloric drum and dance music and its expression in electronic music. Gina is a DJ, a seasoned drummer & percussionist, an educator, a specialist in African music and a budding producer both in the studio and as a live performer. Gina’s foundation is rooted in traditional West African polyrhythm and her specialty is the ancient balaphone/xylophone, called the gyil (Jeel). Gina is currently based in the NYC/NJ/Philadelphia area and performs with a variety of music projects, juggling different styles of electronic, African, Afro-Cuban/ folkloric drum & dance music. Her craft is production and controllerism, utilizing the trapKAT (a midi drum), malletKAT- (a MIDI 4-octave marimba), live percussion, APC40, traktor, ableton and her voice. Gina has produced and recorded 5 of her own albums including "The Philadelphia Gyil Fusion Project"- (with Ropeadope). She produces, records and performs as Foxy la Tigre, Polysonic and with Leana Song, Hennessey Bonfire, Alokli (W.African Drum Ensemble), Dunya Performing Arts, The Voices of Africa and Kokolo Afrobeat. Her experience has led to numerous collaborations with The Philadelphia Experiment, King Britt, Subsector/Press Play, Alo Brasil, Venissa Santi, Archedream for Humankind, World Town, Baby Loves Disco & NYC Silent Disco. Gina Ferrera began studying rudimentary drumming at the age of ten. While pursuing a degree in video/audio production, she was introduced to ancient African music. Gina has made two independent research trips to Ghana to study Gyil (xylophone) with Kakraba Lobi, Bernard Woma, and Valerie Naranjo. Gina is an American delving into the music of far removed cultures. In addition to researching and performing gyil music, Ferrera studies ancient Cuban, Nigerian, Ghanaian and Zimbabwean music, playing Batá drums, shekere, congas, Shona mbira (thumb piano) and traditional Ewe drums. Gina has received awards and grants that celebrate her work in the community, sharing her wealth of experience. Gina has taught multi-cultural music and drum programs as a resident and teaching artists at schools throughout the Philadelphia and New York City since 2001 (Build-a-Bridge, Appel Farms, Swarthmore College & Rutgers University- Cultural Arts Programming)