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Introducing Our Artist in Residence and Curators for 2018

Mar 05, 2018 By Rebecca Testrake

We here at Spark+Echo Arts are pleased to introduce the two wonderful groups of artists joining our team this year. We are excited to work in 2018 with these active, high-quality artists as our Artist in Residence and Curators. Our Artist in Residence will create a work throughout the year and provide updates on progress made, while curators generously donate their time to select the artists that we feature each week of the year.

Artist in Residence


Elias Popa was born April 7, 1987 to Romanian immigrants in California. After traveling between his home in Romania and throughout the United States, he continued his travels into his adulthood by moving to China, traveling Southeast Asia, South America and working with refugees. During his travels around the world, his worldview in art was deeply impacted.

“My art expresses the struggle of identity and hope, worship and expressions of life. It explores common world views and challenges them. My work shines a light on the temporal solutions we put in place to replace what we really need deep inside”.

As an installation artist, Elias uses conventional materials such as paper, wire, thread, and clothing to evoke a deeper understanding about social structures. His aim is to solidify abstract ideas about the nuances that make up sociological structures. By doing so, he retrains the eye to build a visual literacy again and treats the art as a fundamental language. He also studied dark room photography for 10 years, as well as writes poetry.

Through his art, Elias started The Human Rights Network, a non for profit organization aimed at “telling stories that change lives”. The organization aims to build narratives through art that can impact social issues and generate activism. He currently works as a curator and manager of the esteemed Waterfall Mansion and Gallery on the Upper East Side, as well as the founder of the Human Rights Network. He resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where he works out of his home. He was the recipient of CFW’s artist vocational intensive, held at Princeton University. He also was selected on an Interfaith and Arts Panel at Columbia University, as well as regular participates in speaking engagements.



Aaron Beaumont (Multidisciplinary) makes music for stage, for screen, and for practically any other thing, whenever possible. As a writer and performer, he’s shared his work in wide-ranging venues from the Sziget Festival in Budapest to KCRW Santa Monica to Theatre 80 in the East Village to the main stage of the West Hollywood Carnaval. L.A. Weekly wrote that Aaron’s music brings “a new life to the ancient music-hall/pop piano-man tradition, with clear-headed songs of genuinely witty lyrical oomph and, most of all, a historically informed musical depth – all delivered with style, grace, wit and elan, of course.”

Recently, he was a finalist as a composer and lyricist for the Fred Ebb Award, co-wrote / arranged music for the film Permission (Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis), and premiered a new song cycle, Midtown Antoinette, with Parisian soprano Lorelei Zarifian for Florida Tech / Foosaner Museum / WFIT. He’s currently developing musicals with playwrights Meghan Brown and Drew Crabtree in LA and NYC, where he also occasionally helps produce outrageous bingo raves (Rebel Bingo), most recently at L.A.’s Globe Theatre for Night on Broadway.

Aaron also works as a composer and producer for the Gregory Brothers, whose original music has earned them a gold and platinum record and nearly one billion views on YouTube. He co-founded SongLab and currently serves as co-chair of the Carnegie Hill concert series in New York, featuring leading interpreters of classical and New Music from around the globe. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys playing the piano, eating, making coffee, drinking coffee, going for brisk walks, being near coffee, and writing brief autobiographical sketches in the third person.

He was also an Artist in Residence for Spark+Echo Arts in 2017.


Marlanda Dekine (Spoken Word) is Sapient Soul, an award-winning Poet and social transformation worker, currently residing in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Furman University and her Master of Social Work from the University of South Carolina. Marlanda has served as a therapist, consultant, group facilitator, and forensic evaluator for individuals, children, and families across South Carolina.

Marlanda’s poetry can be found in Flycatcher Journal, Wake Magazine, Spark & Echo, and The New Social Worker.  In 2012, she released her second album, SOULidifying Borrowed Concepts.  She is the Founder of Furman University’s Poetry Club, Poetic Noise, as well as the Co-Founder of Spoken Word Spartanburg (, a nonprofit organization bringing awareness to the spoken word art form across the Upstate of South Carolina.  Currently, Marlanda is the Founder and Executive Director of Speaking Down Barriers, a nonprofit that transforms our life together across our differences.  She is working on a poetry project entitled “A Punch & A Kiss”, naming the ongoing trauma and psychic abuse caused by racism and racial injustice in the United States.

Marlanda is true to the meaning of her stage name, Sapient Soul. She believes that every word she shares with others has been dipped in the wisdom and truth given to her.  She believes that art holds the healing power of transforming both people and spaces.


Laurel Justice (Visual Arts) lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she works from her historic loft studio as a psychotherapist, artist and art consultant. She recently served two terms as a Public Art Commissioner for the Pikes Peak Region and juries everything from latte art competitions and poetry slams, to large scale public sculptures and outdoor arts festivals. She has consulted on various digital art experiences (apps and blogs) for companies based in New York and London. Laurel also writes an occasional arts and culture feature for the local newspaper.

As a visual artist, Laurel works in soft pastels, creating abstract and landscape paintings primarily inspired by the Lowcountry of SC, Colorado and New Mexico. Her commissions hail from coast to coast in the US, and her work has been exhibited widely in Colorado Springs. She is also quite proud of her part in a collaborative film project: Stranger Moments. People describe Laurel’s work as energetic, whimsical, mysterious, topographical and inspiring.

A graduate of Agnes Scott College with a BA in Art, she went on to earn an MA in Counseling from Webster University in Myrtle Beach, SC. She is passionate about helping clients restore wholeness around whatever it is they feel they are meant to be in the world. Not surprisingly, many of those clients happen to be artists, writers, musicians, playwrights, dancers, etc. She designs workshops and retreats that support the personal and professional growth of creative people.

She is married to Steve and has 4 children.

Find out more about Stranger Moments:
And on instagram: @thestrangermoments


Michael Markham (Film and Theater) is an actor/filmmaker/photographer based out of New York City.  As an actor his favorite roles in New York include Platonov in The Spectacular Demise of Platonov at Shapiro Theater; Frizer in Christopher Marlowe’s Chloroform Dream at The Red Room, Giant in Giants at HERE; and The Singing Soldier in Mother Courage and Her Children at The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park.  Film and television include Law and Order; Coda, Terminal Legacy, Black Card, Fumes, Blind Date, and Last Girl Left. Regionally he has performed in A Little Night Music, Hamlet, the title role in Julius Caesar, and The Ibsen Project: A Lonely Light. His photography has been featured in Skating Magazine, online at, and the international The InsideOut Project from artist JR. As a filmmaker he has directed and produced videos for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, MPowerd, Operation Exodus, Tootelage, ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty) and Project CREO. He has also helped produce 3 films for Spark and Echo Arts and produced videos for Spark and Echo Band for their third album. Michael graduated from the Juilliard School Drama Division, and has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Acting from Washington University in St. Louis. Michael grew up in Montpelier, VT but has lived in New York for over 13 years.  He currently resides in Harlem with his wife, Karen, daughter, Claire, and their 2 cats.


Darryl Ratcliff (Poetry)  is an artist and poet based in Dallas, TX  and is the founder of the North Texas poetry label Pink Drum. As an artist his work focuses on the topic of cultural equity, and his projects include Ash Studios, Creating Our Future, and Michelada Think Tank. Ratcliff is a recent recipient of artist awards from the Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas. His project, Ash Studios, was awarded Best Gallery or Art Space by D Magazine in 2016.


Katie Reimer (Music) is a New York City based concert pianist with broad interests as both a soloist and collaborative musician, acclaimed by the New York Times for her “meditative” playing .  She has performed extensively across the United States, and internationally in Austria, Lithuania, and Sweden.

Her debut solo piano CD, Mirrors, was released in September, 2016 on Arabesque Records, featuring works by J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Philip Glass and the debut recording of Mohammed Fairouz’s Piano Sonata No. 2, “The Last Resistance.”

She was the Artistic Director for the Mimesis Ensemble’s debut CD on Bridge Records, featuring Mohammed Fairouz’s opera, Sumeida’s Song for 4 singers and orchestra.  She collaborated with the Grammy award winning producer David Starobin, and Scott Dunn, Associate Conductor of the LA Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, for this project.  Opera News selected this CD for their Dazzling Dozen best releases of 2013, calling the Mimesis Ensemble’s performance ‘very impressive.’

Her first commercial recording was released in November 2011, a disc by Sono Luminus  featuring solo and chamber music by Mohammed Fairouz. She is both the pianist and the Executive Producer for the disc, and she engaged artists including the Lydian String Quartet, and James Orleans, double bass player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The disc was selected by New York’s WQXR as their Q2 Music Album of the Week, was called ‘winningly cosmopolitan’ by the San Francisco Chronicle, and noted for its ‘versatility’ by Chicago’s WFMT.

Ms. Reimer is a passionate advocate for contemporary music.  She was awarded a grant by the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania to perform a series of concerts by American composers in June, 2014.  She curated and performed on a concert in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in April, 2011, as a celebration concert for Pulitzer Prize winning composer Gunther Schuller’s  85th birthday, a performance that was reviewed by the New York Times. She commissioned composer Daniel Bernard Roumain to write a solo piano piece for her in 2013, titled Nine Soul Settings of a Bach Chorale, a piece she has performed extensively.

She has been invited several times to curate and perform on concerts by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center.  She also performed by invitation with The German Forum, by Steve Drury to perform at The Stone, by Musicians for Harmony on their series in Merkin Hall, and by the New York City based ensemble, counter)induction to perform at Merkin Hall.

Ms. Reimer is a passionate educator with a private piano studio in New York City, and she has been invited to perform and lecture at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and the Northeastern Wisconsin Piano Teachers’ Association.  She holds degrees from the Boston Conservatory, and Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music (Magna Cum Laude), and spent a semester studying in Vienna, Austria through IES Abroad.

Reimer is currently working on a M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.