Our Staff


Contact Nat

Nat Akin

Director of story booth

Nat grew up in Germantown, TN. After attending the University of Tennessee, he worked at Square Books and studied creative writing with Barry Hannah in Oxford, MS.  After grad school Nat worked as a freelance book editor and taught English at LeMoyne-Owen College and high school English and creative writing. He has lived and worked as a writer in Memphis for the past 18 years, where he continues to marvel at Memphians’ long-standing disregard for crosswalks and the fact that TOPS bbq has now planted palm trees at several locations.

Nat has published several short stories and is still working on a novel that will not behave while raising two children with his wife, Molly.  He would kindly ask that before labeling something a “game changer” we all ask ourselves, “what game?” and, “is there a concession stand?”

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Contact Hamlett

Hamlett Dobbins

Exhibitions Support

Hamlett was born in Maryville (aka: Merrvull) Tennessee, and grew up in Memphis. He received a BFA from the University of Memphis, and an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa. For the last fifteen years Hamlett has been a centerpiece of the art community in Memphis working as a curator, writer, and teacher, as well as the Director of the Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College for over ten years.

Hamlett’s work in the studio is mostly abstract painting, with a long exhibition and publication history that includes Art in General in New York, NP40 in Amsterdam, Dogmatic in Chicago, New Art Examiner, Art Papers, and The American Academy in Rome where Hamlett was awarded the Rome Prize in 2013.

Somehow, while teaching and working as an artist, Hamlett found time to own and operate Material for ten years, a non-commercial alternative space in Memphis providing exhibition opportunities for hundreds of artists. When asked how he manages to accomplish so much in one lifetime, Hamlett replies, “Well, I do start working in my studio time at 4am, if that relates.”

When not at work, Hamlett spends as much time as humanly possibly playing UNO, Bananagrams and drawing with his two children, Milla and Ives.

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Contact Tom

Tom Edwards

Director of Operations

Tom is a life-long Memphian where he received dual degrees in Architecture and Facilities Management.  Having lived what appears to his friends and co-workers as an impressive multitude of lives, Toms’ diverse background in small business, finance and facilities was ideal preparation for managing all things “people, buildings and accounting-related” for Crosstown Arts’ non-profit operation.

Tom’s work experience has culminated into a vast, invaluable repository of knowledge and information, informed by everything from managing Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Tennessee’s buildings, to learning that you don’t wear shorts to a summer construction job in a frozen food warehouse building.

Tom is an accomplished maker with anything wood or metal and is an innovative creator and problem-solver, where other staff members have come to expect his lovingly-made CAD drawings to continue to make complicated projects seem like child’s play.   When asked directly “how do you know so much about so many different things?” Tom replies, “Survival in many forms has been an important force.  You can learn a lot if you just pay attention.”

Tom lives nearby with his wife, artist Valerie Berlin in an old birding sanctuary, where he enjoys a well-made martini while bird-watching after work.

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Contact Courtney

Courtney Fly

Production Assistant

Courtney (she’s so) Fly was born and raised in Memphis. She received her BA in Film and Video Production from the University of Memphis (where she was an active member of the Harry Potter fan club), but received the bulk of her creative inspiration from repeated rentals of “Pink Flamingos” from Black Lodge Video.

Courtney’s long-standing interest in combining martial arts with the creative community of Memphis began at the tender age of 8, where she was named the youngest female (alongside her sister) to kickbox on stage at the New Daisy Theater. She currently holds the title as the only Crosstown Arts’ staff member with a black belt in karate, covertly keeping her fellow co-workers safe and sound with her “mad bo staff skills”.

Before coming to Crosstown Arts, Courtney worked as a barista at an independent coffee shop in Cooper Young and lived/worked in London for a summer before returning to Memphis. Her creative interests include collage, art journals, illustrations and watercolor, in addition to film and video,

When not at work, Courtney can be found satisfying her film cravings with frequent trips to the Time Warp Drive-In on Summer Ave or binging on horror films and exploitation films from the 60s and 70s. She lives with her two cats, Minnie and Jojo, and dog, Ellie.

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Contact Rich

Rich Forrest

Facilities Support

Rich grew up in Memphis. After studying drafting in high school for four years (while also playing saxophone in the classical orchestra) he attended State Tech/Southwest College where he studied architectural engineering.

Following the lead of his two uncles Jack and Kaster Dale, Rich has always been self-motivated, and made a name for himself in the Memphis food world at Cozy Corner BBQ as the pit boss for 10 years. Known around town as a master of BBQ, Rich’s interest in food came early while watching his grandfather (“the BBQ man” in Munford, TN) slow-cook BBQ in a food stand in his front yard for years.

Rich currently owns and operates “Hi-Que”, where he serves BBQ, wings and other food from the grill to bar-goers and music lovers at the Hi Tone, a well-known music venue in Crosstown. Rich’s BBQ skills have earned him accolades both locally and nationally, with press that ranges from The Food Network, Dr. BBQ’s Cook Book, Craig Meeks’ “Memphis Barbecue: A Succulent History of Smoke, Sauce and Soul” and multiple articles in the Commercial Appeal.

Rich is well-loved for his unworldly kindness and generosity.  When asked his secret for always being happy, he says “I have to be learning new things, that’s how I feel alive.” When not behind the grill, Rich can probably be found at one of his secret bream fishing lakes, or hanging out with his kids, RJ, Amir, Kianna and Amaria.

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Contact Emily

Emily Harris Halpern

Assistant Director

Emily was born in New Orleans and grew up in Memphis before receiving a BA in Art History and Business from Tulane University and an MA in Visual Culture at NYU.

Inspired, in part, by her strong-willed grandmother Ann Barham (Lousiana’s former first woman pharmacist) and her former art teachers (Kathleen McElroy, Nancy Prillaman & Joyce Gingold) Emily has worked for several art galleries and organizations before coming to Crosstown Arts, including: Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery in New York, Heriard Cimino Gallery in New Orleans, and the Dixon Gallery & Gardens and David Lusk Gallery in Memphis.

Emily has always been intrigued by moments where art, design, the environment, and people intersect–an interest that can be traced back to her early years as a pianist and ballet dancer, and later, her brief career as third-string center on the Jr. High girls’ basketball team.

Emily lives with her husband, Joel Halpern, and sons Rowan and Jackson. When not at work she can probably be found outdoors with her children, organizing multiple Google calendars, cooking, “gardening,” watching bizarre how-to videos on YouTube, or working on the concept for her 70’s-themed-Elvis & New Orleans-inspired-tiki-lounge-karaoke-dance hall.

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Contact Mary Jo

Mary Jo Karimnia

Programming Consultant

Mary Jo was born and raised in Detroit, MI, and lived in Red Wing, MN, Dallas and Lufkin, TX, before settling in Memphis. A quientessential do-it-your-selfer, Mary Jo is considered to be a wellspring of energy and goodwill with most anyone she meets and is known in the Memphis art community for her volunteer spirit and commitment to grassroots philosophy of getting things done.

With a lifelong belief that you don’t have to be taught in order to learn, Mary Jo homeschooled all three of her children and enjoys learning and helping others learn in non-conventional ways outside of official academic institutions. She has led art classes for Flicker Street Studio, Five-In-One, Crosstown Arts, as well as out of her home, studio, in craft stores, and most recently at Page Robbins Adult Daycare Center for adults with Alzhemeirs.

Mary Jo’s studio practice incorporates a wide range of skills and interests related to painting, beading, print making, quilting, sewing, knitting, tiling and pretty much anything to exercise her killer Exacto knife skills. Her interest in supporting other Memphis artists includes organizing and curating shows (such as Unchained and Belongings) that typically involve deliberate ways of making new connections among artists.

Mary Jo also enjoys working with artists from Bolivia and has spent the past 10 years curating and showing those artists work in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, New York and Bogota, Colombia. She claims that her husband Omid Karimnia, as well as her three kids, are the source of all her powers.

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Contact Christopher

Christopher Miner

Co-Founder and Managing Director

Chris grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. He studied photography and creative writing at the University of Tennessee and received an MFA at the Yale University School of Art in 2000.

A working video artist, he is represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash Gallery in New York and has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art New York, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, and the New Museum in New York, and at Tate Britain in London, among other institutions.

If not at work, Chris will more than likely be spending time with his wife Amanda Sparks and two sons Charlie & Pinkney, or fishing, or at a karaoke bar (or wishing he was fishing or at a karaoke bar.)


Contact Todd

Todd Richardson

Co-Founder, Crosstown Arts // Managing Director, Crosstown Concourse

Todd grew up in Tupelo, MS and received his B.A. at the University of Mississippi.  After three years in Berkeley, CA, where he earned a M.A. in the history of art and religion, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands, where he completed a Ph.D. in Art History.

Todd enjoys the often near-impossible-to-believe dual identity as Associate Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History at the University of Memphis, as well as Managing Director of the Crosstown Development Project, the renovation of the 1.5 million square foot former Sears & Roebuck distribution center and retail store in Memphis. He is known to draw inspiring connections between both identities (see his TEDx talk here on that topic).

Though Todd’s inspiration for combining disparate worlds with a dual identity began as a child with unlimited access to He-man cartoons, this real life practice didn’t come to fruition for him until college where he holds the honor of being the rare (only?) philosophy major to ever play football at Ole Miss.

When not working (which his co-workers do not believe ever happens) he enjoys writing art reviews for artists he knows nothing about, watching Marvel movies with his daughter Ava, and having breakfast at CK’s in Memphis.

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Contact Amanda

Amanda Sparks

Director of Residency & Retail

Amanda grew up in Norcross, Ga, which she lovingly refers to as the armpit of Atlanta.   She received a B.A. from Agnes Scott College and a M.F.A. in printmaking from Hunter College in New York. After sweating it out in NYC for six years (where she met her pathologically under-estimating, high-haired husband, Christopher Miner) she returned to the South, where she is currently suffering the slow defeat of her high ideals at the hands of two merciless young children.

Amanda’s studio practice as a visual artist consists primarily of digitally altered images taken from her ever-growing collection of vintage travel books, plant & food classification guides and home magazines. Her work typically takes the form of quietly mysterious and disjointed tableaus constructed of hundreds of intricately hand-cut prints collaged into 3-dimensional displays. These complex scenes often reference contradictory and conflicting versions of the American dream.

Amanda finds solace from the chaos of daily life with vegan/vegetarian cooking, late-night internet searches for all things mid-century, and by making inappropriate comments at staff meetings.

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Contact Justin

Justin Elliott Thompson

Video Producer

Justin was born and raised in Memphis. After graduating from Christian Brothers High School, he received a B.A. in Film & Video from the University of Memphis and lived in Denver for 6 months which was long enough to confirm that he was not equipped or interested in living any other place in the world other than Memphis. He has worked as a professional videographer and video producer for the past 20 years, while also working for Mayor A C Wharton Jr’s cable access phenomenon ACTV.

Justin has played saxophone in the surf/r&b/garage/instrumental band Impala since college and is also involved in several other music projects including Horns Of The Goat, a black metal saxophone quartet; The Palmer Woodrow Experience, an experimental noise duo; and The Christian Brothers High School Alumni Band.

When not at work or making music, he can probably be found at home building guitars, amplifiers, synthesizers, or in the small house in his back yard which is under “construction” as a “playhouse” for his children, but will inevitably be the site for him to drink bourbon while enjoying some of his favorite foods which include: steak, salt, pork, salt pork, white bread, Pancho’s hot dip, Pancho’s cheese dip, Brim’s Corn Chips, Brims Hot Chips, Turner Dairy French Onion Dip, Gibson’s Donuts, and the loaded baked potato from Mortimer’s.

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Contact Dan

Dan Woodliff

Manager of the Cleveland Street Flea Market

Dan was born in Jackson, MS, home of beloved weatherman Woodie Assaf. He studied psychology at the University of Mississippi, and later released himself under his own recognizance from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. After several years working in Refugee Resettlement in Chapel Hill, and then for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans and Jackson, Dan moved to Memphis where he continues to be inspired by the always remarkable drive down North Parkway from the river out to Summer Avenue.

Dan is still on the lookout for a Golden Corral in Memphis to make amends for once eating 17 servings of banana pudding (at a Golden Corral somewhere in Texas) and aspires to unpack his apartment by the end of 2016. He believes anyone making donuts at 3 am has pretty much figured out the meaning of life.

When not at work, Dan returns to his mysterious ways of non-stop camping, with frequent trips to the lost corners of the Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi woodlands with his canoe and German Shepherd, Prince.

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Contact Stacy

Stacy Wright

Director of Events

Stacy was born in Memphis and lived in several cities around the country while growing up: Wilmington, Nashville, New Orleans, Houma, Atlanta and Lexington, where she mastered feathering hair, airbrushing t-shirts (for cash), and consuming onion rings and slushies while roller skating during her very first job at Sonic. Stacy returned to her hometown for college, where she studied photography, and then worked at the Brooks Museum of Art for 22 years as the Director of Special Events, before coming to work at Crosstown Arts.

Years of experience managing all the moving parts of events of any size and scale have turned Stacy into an event-managing machine, bestowing her with an uncanny ability to coordinate everything from solo artists shows to outdoor events with thousands of people, all with a light-hearted and unfazed, cheery disposition.

When not at work, Stacy can be found making wacky cocktails for her friends (i.e the Puck-a-boo) enjoying random image searches on the internet (ie: “unicorn monkey”, “glitter cat rainbow”), collecting old photographs and making up stories about strangers’ lives or leading her dogs in howling contests. Most weekends include time spent with the neighborhood wildlife in her backyard, where she enjoys watching the barred owls and bats, while dreaming of one day having the chance to be Super Grizz. Stacy lives with her audiowizard husband, Jim, and their animals, Nico, Jack, Emma, and Monkey.

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Contact Sadie

Sadie Yanckello

Assistant to the Managing Director

Sadie was born in hard hittin’ New Britain, CT, before being relocated at age 10 to Oviedo, Florida, where she was shocked that people said hello to each other on the street (#NewEngland) and the changes in season moved from hot, hotter, to humid-hot, then back to hot.  She cut/froze her teeth in the working world at Twistee Treat’s ice cream cone-shaped ice cream store before moving to Memphis in 2011 where she studied Art History, Anthropology and Sociology at Rhodes and fell in love with the 901. That love ran so deep that after finishing her first college internship at Crosstown Arts in the summer of 2014, she took her first full-time job after college at Crosstown Arts in the summer of 2015.

Sadie currently hones her ukelele skills from youtube videos and runs (a lot) for exercise (she won 4 All-American honors in NCAA Track and Field) while also holding the prized honor of being the only Crosstown Arts staff member to lift weights regularly while sustaining a sincere disdain for ketchup. Also, while the octopus is her spirit animal, she has met more dogs than people that share her name.

Illustrations by the fantastic Eric C.

Board of Directors

Barbara L. Deans

Jay Gorney

Richard Lou

Derwin Sisnett

Ken Steorts

McLean Wilson

Crosstown Arts

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