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 Screw, The Miracle Man and Dustbowl Joan, 937, As You Like It and The Iliad, Lysistrata, Beowulf, The Crucible, Jerome, Our 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).
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.
Janette Hubka (she/her)
In June of 2021, I packed my family up and moved cross country to a farm just outside of Wolfville. After years of city living, I’m thrilled to return to a rural lifestyle; it’s an opportunity to invest time, attention, and care into everything I do.
I’m super excited to join the Ross Creek team, and contribute to a thriving arts community, where it’s possible to combine my passion for the arts and for nature. I can’t wait to see how I can help Ross Creek grow and thrive. My formal training is in archaeology, but I have a numbers-geek side too, that quickly lead me into operational management for several organizations over the years – I still love numbers and a detailed gantt chart! I have worked in Museums, Galleries, Hospitality, and Education and even ran a small urban CSA … and that’s what’s brought me here, to you.
Monique Silver (she/her)
Interim Program Director
I am a visual artist practicing in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia). My recent work involves relief printing and drawing explorations. I completed a BFA at Mount Allison University in 2020 and participated in the VANS New Grad Program. Over the last few years, I held management positions at local art galleries, was involved in youth programming at Laing House Halifax and am currently volunteering as a peer mentor at Eating Disorder Nova Scotia. My dream is to one day be a practicing art therapist in the Annapolis Valley.
Growing up in Canning, I have fond memories here at Ross Creek, participating in drawing courses, community art days and watching Two Planks summer performances. I am proud to be home and eager to give back to this community, as it offered years of support and guidance. I am thrilled to be a member of this team and look forward to including you in our programming.
Ian Funke-McKay (he/him)
Program Director - on parental leave till summer 2023
I am a visual artist based here in Nova Scotia. My practice involves painting, sculpture, digital fabrications, and virtual realms. With a background in alternative learning and education (unschooling), I graduated from NSCAD University with a BFA in 2014.
Ross Creek has played an absolutely pivotal role in creating space for me to grow both as an artist and individual. Being involved with the camps since 2003, I have participated in the youth-leadership programs and since 2013 I have facilitated a number of the summer and march-break workshops. Now I am humbled and completely enthused that I have the chance to direct my energy towards growing our community and ideas together, as Arts Programming Director.
Recently I’ve been involved in a number of curatorial projects, residencies, and programs, both close to home and further afield. I am currently preparing an exhibition of my works ‘Serpentine Signs’ for the Confederation Centre, in Charlottetown PEI. Last year I was a Media Arts Scholar at CFAT (Centre for Art Tapes), where I looked to the format of medieval display and how it could be translated to newer technologies and contemporary exhibition. Local and international residencies include the Visual + Digital Arts program at The Banff Centre (2018), The Vermont Studio Center (2017), and the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution, NY (2014).
Jennifer Manuel (she/her)
Director of Development
I am so happy to have found a home here at Ross Creek and I’m excited to take on this role and see what I can contribute to the Centre and the community! I feel lucky to be a part of an organisation that will stretch my imagination while supporting the arts and growing in new ways. I’ve always been a giver and a helper and I value my personal and professional relationships beyond measure.
I became a mom in 2015 and now have two boys who I hope will love camp! My oldest attended his first camp ever at Ross Creek this past March and he’s also returning this summer for even more camp fun. The entire experience sparked my curiosity of the organisation and I fell in love with the magic of it all.
My favourite crossroads are those of arts and science, and I nurture that with my side hustle, a small business making upcycled clothing for children. I also have an Environmental Science degree from Acadia University (’09) and two years of Arts College where I studied everything from fine arts to design.
I love meeting new people and I hope you’ll reach out and get in touch!
Gemma Leslie (they/them)
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
I am 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 deeply in love with the Maritimes.
Although I primarily work in drawing, I enjoy exploring various mediums, including watercolour, charcoal, animation, needle felting, and photography. I’m always open to experimenting with new materials that capture my interest.
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. For fun, I enjoy biking, swimming, and hiking with friends. You can also find me playing with a keyboard and a looping pedal, making mysterious soundscapes and songs for hours on end. I’m looking forward to spending time on the North Mountain, and connecting with the vibrant creative community here!
Ted Morris (he/him)
Environmental Property Manager and Eco-Educator
Hi! I’m an admirer of people and the earth, which is why I’m so honoured and privileged to have this position with Ross Creek. I love gardening, the outdoors, and playing music. I grew up in Ottawa and moved to the Annapolis Valley for my undergrad at Acadia, which is in Community Development with Environmental and Sustainability Studies (‘21). It was at Acadia that I fell in love with working outdoors with Nova Scotia’s native ecosystem.
I worked as a Conservation Horticulturist with the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens for two seasons and got to connect with the plants from our native Acadian Forest Region. I’m especially passionate about these plants because the forest region is endangered. I work to protect these plants so they can continue to nourish us and all other beings in the region.
When I’m not at Ross Creek, I’ll be hiking on a trail, riding my bike, or playing my drums and guitar!
Mary-Grace Koile (she/her)
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!
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!