Leslie Neal – ArtSpring Founder, Artistic Director and Board President
Leslie Neal, a nationally recognized choreographer and arts educator now residing in Vero Beach, Florida, was an active member of the Miami dance community since 1981. She received a B.S.Ed. in Dance from the University of Georgia and a M.F.A. in Dance from Florida State University. She also was the founder and artistic director of Leslie Neal Dance, a modern dance company that performed throughout Florida and the Southeast. Ms. Neal was an Associate Professor of Dance at Florida International University (FIU) from 1988 to 2007.
In 1994 Ms. Neal began teaching Inside Out, an interdisciplinary arts program for incarcerated women at Broward Correctional Institution in Florida. Since that time, she has implemented arts programs through ArtSpring at five other correctional facilities for women and female juveniles in Florida, and taught at correctional facilities for women in California and Michigan. In 1997, Ms. Neal was chosen to serve as an artist-in-residence for the National Endowment of the Arts at the Federal Correctional Institution for Women in Tallahassee, Florida. She left her tenured position at FIU in 2007 to devote all of her efforts to ArtSpring. In 2008 – 2009 she was given a courtesy appointment at the University of Florida as Project Director for Arts in Corrections at the Center for the Arts in Healthcare Research and Education (CAHRE).
Ms. Neal has won many awards for her teaching and her work in community arts. She was the recipient of the Dade Cultural Alliance Unsung Hero Award in 2006 and the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Florida Department of Corrections in 2012. Also in 2012, she was one of only 20 honorees nationally recognized for the Finding Fearless award by the Case Foundation, who in partnership with Microsoft, REI and the Goldhirsh Foundation honored non-profit leaders for their experimental approaches to tackle the nation’s most challenging problems. In 2014, Leslie was selected to receive an award of appreciation from Images and Voices of Hope – Media for Positive Change in upstate New York. Ms. Neal is a featured artist and essayist in The Citizen Artist by Linda Burnham and Steve Durland, Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women – A Portable Memoir by Gail McKeegin, and Teaching the Arts Behind Bars, by Rachel Williams.
Nicole K. Patten – ArtSpring Executive Director
Nicole Patten is a Florida-licensed Certified Public Accountant and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator. She started her professional career working with a sole practitioner CPA for nine years before moving on to Big 4 public accounting firm Ernst & Young, where she specialized primarily in tax services for nonprofit exempt organizations for close to eight years. Nicole left the corporate sector in 2005 when she was appointed as ArtSpring’s first full-time executive director. Nicole also runs her own business offering tax, bookkeeping, payroll and mediation services.
She is a member of the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA) and the Florida Academy of Professional Mediators. She was an FICPA Sailfish Chapter Officer and Director from 2006 to 2013, serving as Chapter President in 2009-2010. Nicole holds bachelor degrees in accounting and dance and a master of science in taxation from Florida International University, as well as a certificate in nonprofit management from Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations/Barry University.
Nicole has worked with Leslie Neal since 1989 and was one of the original company members of ArtSpring when it was founded in 1992 as Leslie Neal Dance. She began to assist in the Inside Out program in 1995 at Broward Correctional Institution (BCI). She continued to facilitate classes at BCI until its closure in 2012 and has taught Homestead Correctional Institution and Broward Outreach Center in South Florida, as well as at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala. Nicole currently holds ArtSpring’s executive director position, formerly serving as treasurer and member of the organization’s board of directors.
Janice Billie – Vice President of the Board
Janice Billie is a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, one of two federally recognized Native American tribes in Florida. She was incarcerated for twelve years at Broward Correctional and three years at Jefferson Correctional and is a former participant of the Inside Out workshop at both institutions.
Since her release from prison, Janice has committed to keeping her life on a positive journey. Janice worked as the editor for the Seminole Tribune until she ventured into her own business. She is currently owner/manager of Big Cypress Landing and continues to serve as a representative and ambassador for the women ArtSpring serves. ArtSpring board membership began in 2006.
Olivia Thompson – Treasurer of the Board
Olivia Thompson joined the board of ArtSpring in 2017 with the desire to be a part of a successful organization with a focus on positive change in women. Olivia is a social work graduate of Ohio State University and brings a diverse range of methodologies from her years of involvement in different settings.
Throughout her 20 years of experience, Olivia has always had a strong passion to be involved with those seeking continued growth. She believes that providing consistent support with love will help transform the lives of those that are served. She emphasizes healing from the inside out by understanding their behaviors and empowering them with specific tools to move forward in a more positive way.
Shirley Julien-Bolden –Secretary of the Board
Shirley Julien-Bolden (Massage Practitioner, Stress Management Consultant, Environmentalist, Community Artist, Educator) received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance from Florida International University in 1996 and her Masters of Science in Interdisciplinary Arts Education from NOVA Southeastern University in 2004. From 1994 to 2005, she worked with several Dance and Music artists and groups in the Miami community, facilitating ArtSpring workshops and implementing the Breaking Free program for girls.
Shirley was also a dance educator in the public school system and artistic director of her own dance company for several years. In 2005, she studied African Holistic Health with Dr. Llaila Africa and later received her degree in Massage Therapy from Rising Spirit Institute of Natural Health in Atlanta. Shirley is now a Spa Director at a Spa in Savannah, Ga. Shirley first served on ArtSpring board in 2002 and was reappointed in 2017 as Secretary.