Connecticut Arts Hero Awards

Meet the Class of 2023

Gabbie Barnes, Hartford
Gabbie is a Black
multicultural dreamer living, working, surviving, and sometimes thriving in the Hartbeat: Hartford, CT. She is a daughter, soul sister, plant doula, mentor, librarian, consultant, mentee, and hobby hoarder. In her spare time, she keeps her hands busy with fiber arts projects and other crafts. She nourishes her body through the practice of yoga, the sport of paddle boarding, and by communing with nature through hiking. She holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from University of Washington‘s iSchool where she received the 21st Century Librarian award. She graduated from Central Connecticut Statue University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication & Media Studies and a minor in Art History. In 2020, she co-founded The People’s Saturday School, a worker-owner cooperative of facilitators, coaches, consultants, and cultural organizers in Hartford.  In 2022, she founded FREE HART Closet, a free art supply trading post and art workshop space for creatives and organizers in collaboration with Mutual Aid Hartford.

Marcella Monk Flake
, New Haven
Marcella has over 37 years of teaching experience, with most of her career dedicated to students in New Haven’s Talented and Gifted Program.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of Monk Youth Jazz, which provides bi-weekly instruction in hip hop dance, ballet, pre-engineering, architecture and design, financial literacy, human anatomy and physiology, and music. 
Marcella has mentored and empowered countless individuals in the performing arts and STEAM and has been referred to as one of the most compassionate and genuine arts leaders of her generation.

Suzanne Wind Gaskell, Lyme

Suzanne has taught photography, drawing, printmaking and more as a member of the Daniel Hand High School Art Department in Madison for over twenty years.  She brings experiential opportunities that encourage her students to participate and communicate their passions, experiences and perspectives. She is a compassionate and selfless leader in the arts community who consistently finds creative opportunities to blend her passion for art with her compassion and dedication for advancements in the areas of mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities.  She strives for fairness and justice within a variety of disability and disenfranchised communities and uses art to express the celebration of diversity, to advocate for access and to create awareness around the impact of disabilities.  When Suzanne is not traveling, working or spending time with her family she can be found in the garden.


Amanda Hanzlik, Storrs

Amanda is the Director of Choral Activities at Edwin O. Smith High School in Storrs and will serve as President of the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Region from 2024-2026.  She was a semifinalist for the 2024 GRAMMY Music Educator Award and made her Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 2023, with the The E.O. Smith Chamber Singers.  2023-24 marks her 25th year as a music educator, teaching in K-12, early childhood, college, community, church and senior-citizen ensembles, in both urban and rural settings. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Teachers College, Columbia University. She resides in Storrs with her husband Louis and children, Grace and Ethan.


Stephanie Ingrassia, Washington
Stephanie founded Spring Hill Vineyards with her husband Tim in 2006.  Evolving from a modest wine-tasting venue, Spring Hill Vineyards became home to the Spring Hill Arts Gathering (SHAG), a 4-day festival dedicated to nature, creativity and collaboration.  She also graciously opens her property to the community as a center for community celebrations throughout the year.  She and her husband spend their time between Spring Hill in Washington, CT and Brooklyn, New York where she serves on the boards of Pioneer Works, a cultural center in Brooklyn, Creative Time, producer of public art in New York City and the Brooklyn Museum.


Deborah Tosun Kilday, Wolcott
Debbie is a new generation Beat Poet, published author, writer, nature photographer, illustrator and artist.  She is the owner/CEO of the National Beat Poetry Foundation and its festivals: National Beat Poetry Festival, International Beat Poetry Festival, Kerouac Cafe, Goddess Festival.  She holds events that create opportunities for other poetry enthusiasts to come, share their voice, and participate in a safe, nurturing environment.  She is the author of several books, has had her short stories and poetry published in magazines and several anthology books. Debbie is a past president (2014-2016) of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.

Philip Michalowski, New London
Phil is a municipal planner and development administrator who has lived in New London for over 50 years.  In 1990, he volunteered to assist the Garde Arts Center Board of Trustees in winning public and private funding for the development of the historic 1400-seat Garde Theater.  He has a deep understanding of the synergy of the arts with community linkages, economic development generation and civic pride.  By leading from behind the scene, Phil ensures that New London is a beacon of diverse programming, economic promise and cultural leadership for the region, state and nation.  He is one of New London’s most frequent arts patrons lending his support to artists, arts institutions and art events.

Duvian Montoya, Easton

Duvian is an artist, muralist, studio manager, curator and community organizer.  He is an indispensable contributor to the Norwalk art scene, promoting under-represented artists, contributing to placemaking via public murals and curating shows for emerging and established artists.  Born in Connecticut to Colombian immigrant parents, Duvian is a true champion of equity and inclusivity and works to ensure that others have the same experience and joy with art.  He is the Executive Director of The Norwalk Art Space where he fosters relationships between multi-generational artists who direct the exhibitions and inform the educational programming.  As an artist, his work is actively collected by both public and private institutions, including the city of Norwalk, the city of New Haven, the Mattatuck Museum, Disney and Gulfstream Worldwide.

Austin Scelzo, Danbury
Austin is a teacher, musician and Bluegrass community advocate.  He created and maintains the Bluegrass Coffeehouse performance venue and is the founder (and heart and soul) behind the Connecticut Bluegrass Music Association.  As a musician, he brings music to thousands of people every year playing in various bluegrass bands and hosting bluegrass jams around Connecticut and the US.  He actively records fiddle and vocals with the New England-based band, the Rock Hearts.