Jessica Vann is the Executive Director of Artists Giving Back. Jessica is super excited to combine her love of the arts and giving back for AGB. She is a youth advocate and change agent using the arts as her catalyst for change. She has worked for various non-profits in the city of Chicago providing programming, youth and leadership development. She serves the community of Chicago in hopes that equal education exists and that all young people and adults have access to the arts in the many facets that it provides. Jessica hopes that equality and inclusion of the arts for all people is a constant not only in her practice but for the misrepresented people in this community. Jessica holds a B.S in Theatre and Interpretation from Central Michigan University and a M.A in Training and Development from Roosevelt University. In addition to her many acts of love through her service to the city, she is also a working performer in Chicago.
Justin Callis is the founder and Artistic Director of Artists Giving Back. He directed their inaugural production of RENT in honor of World AIDS Day 2015, and oversees their continuing cabaret series, AGB Sings! As a composer and teaching artist, Justin has worked with hundreds of students around the Chicagoland area. He taught opera to elementary school students with Chicago Opera Theater, created original musicals with incarcerated youth with Storycatchers Theatre, and toured the country with Child’s Play Touring Theatre. A frequent liturgical soloist at Temple Chai and K.A.M. Isaiah Israel, he is the Music Director at Community Christian Church in Lincolnshire. Raised in fabulous West Hartford, CT, Justin attended Northwestern University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Theatre and English with a Certificate in Music Theatre.
Peter Ruger is one of the founders of Artists Giving Back and is now working as the Charity Coordinator where he gets to help find the wonderful organizations that AGB raises money for. Raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Peter received in B.A. in Fine Arts from Seattle University and then returned to Chicago to earn his Master's Degree in Music from Roosevelt University.
Colton Schied is the Resident Director for Artists Giving Back, but his journey with AGB all started when he was cast as the drunk, homeless guy in AGB’s inaugural production of RENT. When he saw how AGB was using the arts and the use of storytelling to give back to the community, he knew he needed to be more involved. Born and raised in rural Nebraska, Colton holds a BFA in Acting from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he directed and acted in a number of productions.
Larry Trice is the Director of Business for Artists Giving Back. He is very excited to combine his passion for the arts and philanthropy to help the Chicagoland area. He first became involved in Artists Giving Back when he was in their inaugural production of RENT. Larry’s experience in event planning has been used to help launch AGB Sings! and create new partnerships within the city. Outside of his AGB work, Larry is an active performer in Chicago.
Britain Gebhardt is the Casting director for Artists Giving Back and is thrilled to be a part of such an incredible organization. Having previously worked in casting in New York, Britain is excited to be back behind the table. She especially enjoys being introduced to new talent and providing artists with a platform to share their stories with others. She strives to provide an inclusive and non-judgemental environment for all artists in Chicago. Britain received her BA in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota and studied musical theater at CAP21 in New York City.
Kristin Leasia is proud to serve as the Corporation Counsel for Artists Giving Back. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area in California, Kristin received her B.A. in French and Art History from Northwestern University in 2011, and received her J.D. from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in 2014. Kristin is licensed to practice law in Illinois and California. Kristin has been with AGB since its inception. As a consummate theatre nerd/art lover, Kristin really believes in the restorative power of the arts, and is thrilled to assist AGB fulfill its philanthropic mission.
Meghan Shanahan is a Casting Director and Creative Consultant for Artists Giving Back. She is a Chicago based actor, vocalist, writer, and comedian who loves collaborating with other talented artists to produce quality and purposeful art. She first had the pleasure of working with AGB in their inaugural performance of RENT in 2015 and is very excited to start working on the other end of the table as well. In her role with AGB, Meghan strives to curate the best talent Chicago has to offer and put together conceptualized performances that will stay with you long after audiences have left the venue. She received her BFA in musical theatre performance from Western Michigan University. You can catch her on any given night of the week around town singing, telling jokes, or drinking cheap beers with her dog on a patio somewhere.