(d) innovators (2018)

Jack Forinash –  Blue Sky Center

Jack Forinash is a rural housing pioneer and was the co-founder of Epicenter, a citizen-focused non-profit organization in Green River, Utah, serving as the Principal of Housing until mid-2017. As a leader in conscientious design/build ethos, he brings empathy and consideration to the practice of applied arts, architecture, and good old-fashioned fun.

Ashley Hanson – PlaceBase Productions

Ashley Hanson holds an MA degree in Applied Theater from the University of Manchester, with emphasis on the role of theater in the sustainable development of rural communities. She calls herself a Freelance Arts Enabler, working with artists, city departments, organizations and communities to bring abstract visions into concrete realities. She is the co-founder of PlaceBase Productions, whose site-specific work is focused on uniting communities and strengthening sense of place through exploring collective narratives in accessible performances. She is also a musician whose recent album, The Kirkbride Sessions, explores the ‘under-belly of ruralness’ and was written and recorded as a part of a Hinge Arts Residency through Springboard  for the Arts in Fergus Falls. Her place- and issue-based work strives to reconnect individuals with their shared values to inspire stewardship of their community; combining shared knowledge with collective action to move a community from “where they are” to “where they want to be.”

Corbin LaMont – The Office of Virtue

Corbin LaMont is an artist, designer, and mystic making publications, site specific works, and moments of introspection as part of a mobile practice that hopes to connect humanity. She is the Principal and Creative Director at the Office of Virtue and runs a nomadic place-based newspaper called The Changing Times.

Doron Serban – Woodshed Collaborative

Doron Serban is a designer and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, he has lived in the United States since 1987. He received his graduate degree in architecture from Syracuse University’s School of Architecture and his undergraduate degree in music from the University of California, Riverside.

He is a full-time faculty member and the Emerging Technologies Coordinator at the Academy of Art University School of Architecture in San Francisco, CA, where he oversees the B.Arch digital curriculum, teaches a design studio focused on homelessness and social equity and seminars in 2D / 3D media, fabrication, and storytelling.

His design and research practice integrates digital technologies as storytelling devices with respect to architecture and sound design, visual media and architectural visualization. He is a founding partner at the Woodshed Collaborative; an open collection of designers developing experimental architectural propositions as a means to hone craft, and a co-creator of Pink Coffee; a think-tank born and built to address the needs of the homeless population in urban settings from an educational perspective.

Mary Welcome

Mary Welcome is a citizen artist with an emphasis on cultural empowerment in rural and under-recognized communities. Her work is conversational and research-based, in response to the social, built, and natural environments we situate ourselves within. She collaborates with local schools, city councils, civic groups, arts organizations, youth groups, summer camps, libraries, neighbors, and friends to build cooperative environments that encourage civic engagement, radical education, and community progress.

(d) innovators  (2017) 

Namakau Muyangana
Namakau Muyangana CEO, Nas Industries, Livingstone, Zambia

Featured (d) innovator guest –  Namakau Siyanga is a strong business woman who is pioneering new ways of doing business in a predominantly male dominated environment. She is the proprietor of NAS glass and Aluminum, a leading firm which she started from humble beginnings. From a young age Namakau has always being business oriented with a robust competitive drive.

Defying the common Zambian notion of women being at home while men are the bread winners, she got in the business of supplying thatch. Not only was she faced with the challenge of finding customers and clients, she also was hands on in collecting the thatch in mostly remote areas. Her will to make a better life for her family saw her grow the thatch business into a prominent glass and aluminum company. Running on the success of the glass and aluminum business, Namakau led her company to diversify into construction. Her determination and leadership qualities have seen the construction company grow exponentially into a leading firm in the industry.
Her hard work and determination got the attention of the business fraternity. It is this recognition that led her to be voted the Zambian chamber of commerce business woman of the year in 2014, an award presented to her by the then acting republican president.

In 2016 Namakau was among the individuals chosen to represent the country as a fellow of the Nelson Mandela Washington foundation, a project supported by President Barak Obama. Through her own experience and challenges she faced getting into business; Namakau started a foundation called Naleli initiative. This initiative focuses on encouraging, training and mentoring women in business. From its inception of just having a few women, Naleli initiative has grown into a nationwide recognized organization.
Being a keynote speaker, Namakau has been invited to several countries and events to inspire people to rethink how to do business in difficult environments. She has been to the USA, Holland, a number of African countries including South Africa and Ghana. Her upbeat and energetic characteristic captures audiences whenever she is given a platform. It’s this charismatic personality that has helped her excel in leadership positions.
Most recently Namakau became the first ever female president of the Livingstone Chamber of commerce after going up against formidable male opponents. Such inspirations have helped gain more followers for her foundation.

For further information and video clips, visit:

Dr. Geoff Marietta Executive Director, Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

You will find Geoff Marietta traversing the wild and beautiful Appalachian Mountains in Eastern Kentucky, tackling the most significant economic transition in rural America since the second industrial revolution.  His formal professional role is Executive Director of Pine Mountain Settlement School, an 800-acre National Historic Landmark community nonprofit that has miles of trails, an operating organic farm, and 26 stone and timber constructed buildings.  Geoff is also the co-founder and lead investor of Mountain Tech Media, a diversified front-end digital media company based in Eastern Kentucky, and Trillium Ventures, a community development real estate company that invests and restores historic main street buildings in the region.  Geoff is proud to say that Mountain Tech is organized as a cooperative and co-owned by Appalshop, a place-based media, arts and education nonprofit in Eastern Kentucky.  Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Iron Range, Geoff went to the University of Montana where he studied forestry.  He then lived on the Navajo Nation in rural New Mexico, advancing in leadership from teacher and department head, to assistant principal, to district-level coordinator. He went on to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School and a doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education.  During his time in Cambridge, Geoff co-founded and served as CEO of Giant Otter Technologies, which makes AI-enhanced 3D virtual simulations.  Geoff has coauthored two books—Improving Education Together and Achieving Coherence in District Improvement—and more than 20 case studies, articles, and reports on educational policies and practices.  He currently lives at Pine Mountain Settlement School in Harlan County with his wife, Sky, and their sons, Harlan and Perry.

Lindsay Nissen Co-Founder and Co-Owner, Reliable Street, Ames, IA

I was raised on the outskirts of Ames and attended grade and high school in the town of Gilbert.  After graduating high school I lived in Madison, Wisconsin for several years working and taking art classes.  I then moved to Santa Cruz, California where I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of California Santa Cruz.  In 2009 I returned to Ames after my father suffered a severe stroke.  Here I began integrating into the Ames art community and playing music.  In 2015 I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from Iowa State University with a focus on community engaged arts.  As a student I developed and managed the Iowa State gallery Design on Main.  Currently I am the owner of Reliable Street, working as an artist, and setting things on fire.

I will be speaking about Reliable Street in general but with a focus on creating a design based entrepreneurial ecosystem.  This concept is similar to applying the farming system of permaculture to small business and art.  Reliable Street is our test plot.

James Spiller Design and Development Manager, Blackbird Investments, Des Moines, IA

James Spiller is an architect who lives and works in Des Moines, IA. As the Design and Development Manager at Blackbird Investments, a central Iowa commercial real estate development firm, James works with architects and design professionals to execute projects built on the principles of excellent design, sustainable growth, and responsible urban environments. Previously, James practiced at Knowles Blunck Architecture, where he designed and managed a variety of adaptive reuse projects across Iowa. Additionally, he served as a Lecturer in Architecture and Interdisciplinary Design at Iowa State University for six years, where his research primarily addressed adaptive reuse structures, design representation, and beginning design education. He is originally from north Texas, received a B.A. at Washington University in St. Louis and a M.Arch from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Adrienne Gentry Principal, Gentry Interiors, Chicago, IL

Adrienne Gentry moved from Des Moines, Iowa to Chicago, Illinois January 2, 1992 to pursue a career in Interior Design and attend Interior Design school. She graduated from the International Academy of Design in 1996.

While attending school she also discovered the world of fashion and worked in several prestigious boutiques (The Wolford Boutique, St. John, Pratesi and Gianni Versace to name a few) on the highly esteemed Oak Street in sales and ultimately in management positions.

Upon deciding to leave the fashion world Adrienne joined up with two separate design firms (Once Upon A Design and Gregory Jordan Interiors). She worked with them for them for several years and then decided to venture out on her own in the Fall of 1996, thus creating Gentry Design Studio (GDS Interior Design). During the economic recession, she took advantage of the opportunity to work in the Interior Design mecca Merchandise Mart for the showrooms Ebanista and LALIQUE. During she continued to cultivate her personal interior design business and once the real estate market got back on its feet again she ventured back out on her own again and has been working for herself for over 3 years now.

The new economy has presented many new and interesting projects for GDS Interior Design to utilize its creativity and she has excited to venture into commercial projects in addition to the residential projects that she typically takes on.