Four distinguished art professionals were appointed to select the works included in the 49th Annual Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. We thank them for their time and thoughtful consideration of each and every artist application.
Kessanda Abel serves as the Community Engagement Manager at the Tampa Museum of Art. In this role she co-head the Education division, overseeing studio and teen programs as well as outreach initiatives for the Museum. Recently, she co-presented Homeless Healing through Art Work Inspired by Museum Visits at the American Art Therapy Association annual conference. Ms. Abel received a Master of Letters in Fine and Decorative Art at Christie’s Education and University of Glasgow. She holds a Bachelor of Art in Art History from the University of South Florida.
Katie Deits is an award-winning artist, Master Photographer, writer and a certified fund raising executive (CFRE) whose expertise includes public relations and organizational leadership. She currently serves as the executive director of Florida CraftArt, a statewide nonprofit headquartered in St. Petersburg representing Florida’s fine craft artists. From 2009 to 2015, she served as the executive director of the Lighthouse Art Center Museum & School of Art.
She has served on the faculties of Barry University, Palm Beach State College and The Society of the Four Arts, and lectures on art, fundraising and organizational leadership.
In 2007, she was a recipient of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Palm Beach County. Her art has been exhibited widely.
Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is from the University of South Florida, and she holds the Florida Degree of Photographic Excellence, as well as a Master of Photography from Professional Photographers of America. She also writes about art for newspapers and magazines and is a member of the International Association of Art Critics.
Michael Bennett, Ph.D
Michael Bennett received his doctorate in Fine Arts (Art History) from Harvard University in 1994. He served as Keeper of the Coins (Curator of Ancient Coins) in the Department of Ancient Art, Harvard University, from 1989-1994. From 1995-1998 he was Curator of Classical Art at the Tampa Museum of Art. For most of the next two decades (1998-2018) he was Curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and has now been appointed Senior Curator of Early Western Art, a newly established position at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg. He co-curated the exhibition, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome (2013-2014). Among his many publications are the monographs, Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo, Cleveland Masterwork Series 2 (2013), and Belted Heroes and Bound Women: The Myth of the Homeric Warrior-King (1997). His research interests include the arts of the western Greeks, Greek and Roman bronzes, Greek art of the Geometric period, and the classical tradition.
Michael Killoren is an independent arts consultant based in St. Petersburg, FL. He is the former CEO / Executive Director of the Morean Arts Center, a community-based arts organization in St. Petersburg, Florida, offering classes and training in painting, drawing, jewelry making, sculpture, ceramics, glass blowing, sculpture, photography and printmaking in four facilities, as well as exhibition space and the Chihuly Collection.
From 2010 – 2017, he served as Director for Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America at the National Endowment for the Arts, in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for the grantmaking processes for Local Arts Agencies (LAA’s), developing partnerships to advance the LAA field as a whole, as well as directing the Challenge America program, and Arts Engagement in American Communities.
Mr. Killoren also served as director of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, a cabinet-level position, from 2002 through 2010, where he led the city department’s funding and public art programs, developed policy initiatives to increase public access to arts and culture, and established a groundbreaking partnership to restore arts education in Seattle Public Schools. He secured a dedicated revenue stream to strengthen the agency’s work, and launched several initiatives to broaden the city’s support for arts and culture, including the smART ventures program.
He was Seattle’s first director of cultural tourism for Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he launched an initiative to promote the region’s cultural assets. He also served as an arts program coordinator and later executive director of the King County Arts Commission, where he worked to increase access and participation in arts and culture, with a focus on rural and suburban communities. He also served as managing director of the Alice B. Theatre, all three organizations based in Seattle. For three and a half years prior to coming to Seattle in 1993, Mr. Killoren was part of the programming staff at the Sheldon Arts Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mr. Killoren served as president and vice-president of the U.S. Urban Arts Federation of Americans for the Arts. He was awarded the Ray Hanley Award for Innovation from the USUAF at the AFTA annual conference in June, 2017.
In 2019, Mr. Killoren was appointed to the board of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, and the Public Art Committee for the Historic Kenwood Neighborhood Association in St. Petersburg.