Board Members

Big Rapids Festival of the Arts Board Members


Mark Gifford, Big Rapids City Manager, is a founding board member and Chairperson of the Big Rapids Festival of the Arts. Mark’s skills in “table setting” adds a tremendous asset to the activities of the board. He is a Big Rapids native and has been involved with many local projects including River Days, the River Walk, and the gazebo in Mitchell Creek Park.


Dr. Ed Mallett is a life-long resident of Big Rapids.  He is the founder and artistic director of Tuba Bach Chamber Music Festival, held annually in Big Rapids, Michigan.  Dr. Mallett has performed as soloist and chamber musician across North America and has been a FOTA board member since its revival.


Jerena G. Keys worked at Ferris State University for 20 years as Director of Customer Support; assisting students, faculty and staff with how to use computers to enhance their work and personal life. She has four terrific children and five marvelous grandchildren. She retired in 2003 to work on a Masters of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary.  She works with STAGE-M, Tuba Bach, and GFWC to help people in the community work together.


Roxanne Cullen a Professor of English in the Language and Literature Department at Ferris State University, formally directed the Writing Center, served as Department Head of Language and Literature, served as the Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was appointed as Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs in 2005 and Associate Vice President for Operations and Assessment. She returned to faculty in 2007 and currently serves as program coordinator for Liberal arts and the Bachelor of Integrative Studies at Ferris. She is an avid collector of art herself


Karen Manoski is the Deputy Clerk for the City of Big Rapids and the Treasurer of Big Rapids Festival of the Arts. A native of Big Rapids, Karen is excited to be back in our community, and as a lover of the arts, excited to be involved in an event that enriches Big Rapids and the surrounding communities.


Richard Scott Cohen, D.M. is Professor of Music and Director of Instrumental Concert Ensembles at Ferris State University.  He also serves as Chair of the university’s Department of Humanities. A founding member of the Big Rapids Festival of the Arts, Cohen also serves the boards of many arts and civic organizations, including Artworks, Big Rapids Rotary Club, Mecosta County Community Giving Day, Tuba Bach Chamber Music Festival, and the IGEB International Society for the Research and promotion of Wind Music. A past Fulbright Scholar to Spain, Cohen earned bachelor’s degrees in Music Education and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and master’s and doctoral degrees in Conducting from Northwestern University.

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Amanda Johnson, a long-time city resident, is dedicated to uniting her community through accessible art and cultural enrichment. Her history of involvement in the Rotary Club demonstrates her commitment to supporting local and international causes, and her experience with Leadership Mecosta has deepened her commitment to creating a prosperous and inclusive community. In her current role on the Festival of the Arts board, she is dedicated to working to ensure that art and cultural enrichment benefit all residents.


Paul Kwant is the Director of the Music and Entertainment Business program at Ferris State University. In addition to teaching, Paul leads the Music and Entertainment Business Association (MEBA) Registered Student Organization as the primary faculty advisor. Assistant Professor Kwant also serves on the Grand Rapids Community College Recording Technology Advisory Board, the Michigan Music Alliance Board of Directors and the Big Rapids Area Junior Hockey Association Board. Paul is a Big Rapids native and has been employed at Ferris since 2003. When he isn’t involved with music or the music business, he enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, reading, and watching hockey.


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