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Staff

Permanent Staff

Freya Milliken

Arts Administration and Programming Assistant

I am a musician, songwriter, and performer based in the Annapolis Valley and have been
working in music full-time for the last two years. I grew up on the Tantramar Marshlands of New
Brunswick in a small, historic village called Dorchester, where my love of music began. Choir
and musical theatre were my calling through secondary school, and when not in school, I wrote
songs and played guitar at home. In May 2023, I received my Bachelor of Music degree at
Acadia University and released my debut EP, “Wholeheartedly,” the following November. I have
played at many music festivals across the East Coast, including Paddlefest, Lunenburg Folk
Harbour Festival, and Deep Roots Music Festival, among others. When not performing, I work
for Music In Communities, where I have developed skills in workshop facilitation, public
speaking, live sound, event management, collaboration, and leadership. I am excited to join the
fabulous team at Ross Creek and continue to strengthen communities through artistic
experiences!
Awards: Song of the Year at the 2023 Music New Brunswick Awards for “Wholeheartedly”

Contact Freya

Yifan Liu (she/they)

Program Coordinator

Originating from China, my artistic journey started at LAFA (Luxun Academy of Fine
Arts), where I gained my BA in cinematography in 2016, followed by a background
in documentaries and commercials for a few years. In 2021, I moved to Nova Scotia
for a master’s program at NSCAD University to extend my creative experiences and
immediately fell in love with the beautiful nature and loving community. After
school, I decided to settle down and see my life unfold here.

I am a visual artist swinging between media art or any form of digital-based art,
photography, and drawing while stumbling through various mediums for curiosity
and reflection. Otherwise, you will find me folding paper, wandering in nature with
my film camera, bouldering, or just napping on grass.

Ross Creek is such a magical platform for creative programming while nurturing my
creative life. I am so excited to be a part of it and contribute to the magic! I am
looking forward to connecting with the vibrant community!

Contact Yifan

Lucy Forrester Wendt

Programming Assistant

Hello! I’m very excited to be joining the wonderful Ross Creek and Two Planks team. I enjoy
connecting with others and am thrilled to be a part of such an arts-focused environment. I feel
like I’ve found my new home here, and I can’t wait to help contribute to creating a healthy,
inclusive arts community by implementing programming that encourages learning and
growth.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and education, and I will continue to
advocate for the role that the arts can play in strengthening our bonds with our community.
In 2022, I graduated from Mount Allison University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art
History and a double minor in Visual and Material Studies as well as Museum and Curatorial
Studies. In addition to earning a Certificate in Visual Literacy and Culture.
It is my first time living in the Annapolis Valley. I’m looking forward to learning more about
the land’s culture and experiencing the magic I’ve heard about! In my spare time, I enjoy
reading and journaling, and you can always find me drawing or doodling. Also, my lovely
black cat Mina will always be by my side!
I can’t wait to meet everyone and start this incredible journey!

Contact Lucy

Mayra Aceves (she/her)

Visitor Services/Administrator

I was born in Mexico City and lived there all my life until 2021 when I relocated to the Annapolis Valley with my husband and two sons. I feel so grateful for being able to live in such a beautiful place, where every day -and every season- I am amazed by the beauty of the land.

I have graduate studies in Psychology and a background working in Education in Mexico City. My love for organizing processes and creating systems that make life easier has led me to work on the administrative side of things. I am thrilled to be able to help make the magic happen at Ross Creek!

Contact Mayra

Mary-Grace Koile (she/her)

Centre Chef

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, I started my baking and cooking career in Halifax, NS at Big Life Whole Foods and Local Source Bakery before moving to Montreal, QC where I worked in a variety of kitchens. I gained a wide range of experience from working in vegan kitchens perfecting alternative comfort foods to working as a grill chef being trained to cook the perfect steak. After gaining the confidence to work independently, I took seasonal jobs in BC as a Camp Cook in remote tree planting camps creating my own menus of home cooking for calorie hungry crews. After returning to Montreal and while working on a BFA in Music (Vocal Performace) I started my own business as a personal chef where I catered to families with food sensitivities. I recently returned to my home province and am excited to start this new chapter of my cooking career as Head Chef at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts where I worked many moons ago as the Gardener. I look forward to making many great meals for you!

Contact Mary-Grace

Gemma Leslie (they/them)

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Hi! I’m an interdisciplinary artist based in the Annapolis Valley, and I am thrilled to be a part of the talented team at Ross Creek and Two Planks. Originally from Ottawa, I was fortunate to attend an arts-focused high school, where I specialized in visual art. Afterward, I headed out east to attend NSCAD University where I fell in love with the Maritimes.

In 2019 I earned a BFA Interdisciplinary and a Minor in Art History, after which I spent a few years in Montréal before returning to Nova Scotia, where I feel most at home.
I love spending time here on the North Mountain, in nature and connecting with the vibrant, creative community in the Valley!

Contact Gemma

Ken Schwartz (he/him)

Artistic DIrector (Two Planks) - Co-Founder

I co-founded Two Planks and a Passion Theatre in 1992 after graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada in both Technical-Production and Directing and doing a year of apprenticeships with theatres in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I have directed over forty productions for Two Planks and a Passion including The Odyssey, Our Town, Rockbound, As You Like It, Dustbowl Joan, and The Tempest. Recently I directed the critically-acclaimed Willpower Theatre production of Macbeth in Halifax. I participated in the Stratford Festival’s Michael Langham Workshop for Classical Text in 2010 and 2013 where I won the Elliot Hayes Award (Guthries) in 2013. I have also developed a  program of theatrical outreach which I have used to work with marginalised communities and to assist with social problems in rural communities and schools.  I teach many of the theatre and writing programs at Ross Creek, including Shakespeare workshops and the writing academy.  

Awards: three Merritt awards for Outstanding Director (09,10,16) and four for Outstanding Production (08,09,10,16). The Established Artist Recognition Award from the Province of Nova Scotia (08), and the Queen’s Golden (02) and Diamond (12) Jubilee Medals. Also nominated for Merritt awards for Outstanding Director (08, 13, 14 (twice), 15,) and Playwright (05,14,15,16). Ken was a finalist for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award (as director) in 2010 for Rockbound.

Contact Ken

Chris O’Neill (she/her)

Executive Director / Co-Founder

I am an actor and playwright and I  co-founded Two Planks and a Passion Theatre with Ken Schwartz in 1992, developing it with the board from a small two person operation to a national touring company. I have acted in many productions including national tours, and written four plays with Ken Schwartz, since 1992. Selected Two Planks: Schoolhouse, Macbeth, Nothing Less, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Liberation Days, The Tempest and Turn of the ScrewThe Miracle Man and Dustbowl Joan, 937, As You Like It and The IliadLysistrata, Beowulf, The Crucible, JeromeOur Town, and The Odyssey.

​In 2000, I turned my attention to making the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, and have helped shepherd it from a cattle farm to an international arts centre. I teach acting and improvisation and in various artist programs and have developed arts programs and outreach for schools, galleries and communities such as recently arrived refugee families. I was the artistic co-director of the National Artist Program of the 2011 Canada Games. 

Awards:  The Queen’s Diamond and Golden  Jubilee Medals for contribution to  community and Canada, and the Valley Arts Award, Merritt Award for Best Ensemble for Schoolhouse (2022).

Contact Chris

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