Board of Directors
“Who are we?”
Kara Dirkson, Executive Director
Sonia Hernandez, Communications and Program Coordinator
2016 Board of Directors
Sandra Pay, President
Daniel Edmonds, Vice President
Alex Hagen, Secretary
Joy Schroeder, Treasurer
Molly McCarthy, Past President
Charlotte Carver, Emeritus Board Member
Randell Beck, Emeritus Board Member
Anita Kealey Brannian
Sandra Pay has a B.A. and M.A. from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Before moving to Sioux Falls in 2000, she lived in San Diego with her husband and twin children. During her time in San Diego, Sandra was President of the San Diego Opera board of directors, served on the fundraising committee to redesign the First Ladies’ exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., Chairman of the San Diego Arts Commission with a budget of $12 million and the responsibility of funding 90 arts organizations with city money, Chair of the mayor’s task force to bring the San Diego Symphony out of bankruptcy, President of the board of directors of the newly reconstituted symphony, board member of San Diego Downtown Rotary and board member of San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Since her move to Sioux Falls, Sandra has been a member of the South Dakota Symphony board of directors, served on the search committee to hire Delta David Gier, Chairman of the Trustees of the Washington Pavilion, Chairman of the Park and Recreation Board, Treasurer of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, and board member of Downtown Sioux Falls Rotary.
Dan Edmonds is Senior Vice President – Design Director and a partner at Lawrence and Schiller, Inc., the Dakota’s largest advertising and marketing communications firm. An Iowa native, he is a graduate of Iowa State University and resides in Sioux Falls with his wife Barbara.
Alex Hagen is an attorney at Cadwell Sanford Deibert & Garry LLP. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in English Literature. While teaching high school, he obtained an M.Ed from Montana State University and then attended law school at the University of South Dakota. Alex’s interest in the arts is wide-ranging. He has edited and contributed to poetry anthologies published by Scurfpea Press and has been published in webzines such as the Awl and the Classical. He is a South Dakota native and currently lives in Sioux Falls with his wife and daughter.
Joy Schroeder graduated from Northwestern College in Orange City, IA with a degree in accounting. She has previously worked as an accountant at POET and the Sioux Falls Catholic Schools and is currently working as a credit analyst at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, sewing, reading, bowling, swimming and playing volleyball.
Molly McCarthy joined the Arts Council board in 2010, serving as Vice President. During her 2 years as President, she was privileged to serve on the Design Team for the Meldrum Park mural project and participate in the cultural planning process. She is Secretary of the LifeScape board of directors, transitioning from the Children’s Care Hospital and School board. Married to Ken Berger, she is mother of two and represents the audience sector of the community.
Charlotte Carver’s interest and service to the arts at the community, state, and regional level began with the local symphony. Appointed executive director of the South Dakota Arts Council from 1967 to 1988, she currently serves as emeritus board member of the Sioux Falls Arts Council.
Randell Beck retired in September 2013 after a 34-year journalism career. He served for 12 years as executive editor, then publisher, of Argus Leader Media. In early 2014, he began an encore career as director of community relations for Avera McKennan. Beck is an active member of the Pulitzer Prize Board, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, Al Neuharth Media Center Advisory Board, and Lutheran Social Services Foundation Board.
Clara Hart was born in Mozambique in southeast Africa during the period of Portuguese Colonialism. Her family moved to several countries as refugees, and moved to San Diego in 1988. In 1989, she made Sioux Falls her home. Clara studied Social Work at Augustana University and Political Science, History & International Relations at the University of Sioux Falls. She has worked for Sioux Falls Housing and Redevelopment and served refugee and immigrant families. Clara worked in the Minnehaha County Resources Department, served on the board of directors for Lutheran Social Services, Board of Trustees for Killian Community College, League of Women Voters, The Banquet, LSS Refugee and Resettlement and was President for the National Board of Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Network based in Atlanta, Georgia. She also co-founded the Refugee Women’s Association here in Sioux Falls. Currently, Clara works for LifeScape, formerly Children’s Care Hospital and was elected to serve as an advocate through Refugee Congress. Clara is working towards her Masters in Social Work.
Anita Kealey is president of The Design Studio, Inc., an entrepreneur, and multi-disciplined designer in contract design and product branding. She is also Creative Director for the fashion and interior design studies at the Institute of Design & Technology of SD. Her 30+ years’ of business experience includes employment as a development professional, as well an advocate and volunteer board positions in arts, cultural heritage, and preservation. She has received recognition for her achievements for creative design solutions. Her work featured in many publications such as House Beautiful, Midwest Living, kitchen & bath publications along with her historic loft and studio as featured on HG-TV. As a preservationist and passion for the environment, is apparent in her innovative use of sustainable textiles. She is a master tailor and the designer behind multiple apparel lines.
Michelle Lavallee is a Principal for The Lavallee Group, a firm which focuses on business strategy, branding, marketing and growth strategies. Prior to leading her own firm, Lavallee was President and Chief Operating Officer for Cornerstone Financial, a wealth management firm, ranked #1 in South Dakota by Barron’s, with offices in Sioux Falls and Huron. Prior to Cornerstone, she led global sales and marketing for Raven Industries, served as senior vice president of marketing, strategy and innovation for Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center and led the University of South Dakota’s rebranding efforts as vice president of student services and chief marketing officer. A fourth generation South Dakotan, Ms. Lavallee returned to her home state after twenty years to lead customer strategies for NorthWestern Energy. She holds an MBA from Kellogg and a BS from Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. Ms. Lavallee has held extensive leadership positions throughout the community and currently serves as the President of the Downtown Rotary, one of the largest Rotary Clubs in the US. She currently serves on the boards of the South Dakota Hall of Fame, Co-Chairs the Avera Rural Cancer Board and the Avera Center for Precision Oncology Steering Committee. Lavallee also serves as a board member for the South Dakota Symphony, the Sioux Falls Arts Council and State Theatre, and past member of the Sioux Falls Chamber Business Leadership Council and the Chamber Appeals Board. Ms. Lavallee is past Chairman of the Board of the SD Symphony, board member of the Washington Pavilion, the University of SD Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House.
Tom Simmons is the Senior Vice President of Public Policy of Midco, managing the public affairs, public relations, government and industry relations and is the general spokesperson for the company. He is also the chairman of the Midco Foundation, a benevolent organization that has provided over $3,000,000 to non-profit organizations in communities served by Midco. In addition to his work activities, Tom has been a board member for over 34 local charitable and civic organizations, served on national industry boards for three communications industries and testifies often before state regulatory and legislative bodies and both houses of the US Congress and the FCC.
Sharon Hunt is currently the Executive Director of Cancer Services at Sanford Health. She was previously Executive Director of Women’s Services and Director of Clinic Services at Sanford Clinic. Sharon has served as a Board Member of SurviveIt, and been member to the Medical Group Managers Association, the American College of Medical Practice Executives, and the South Dakta MGMA. In 2005, she was awarded the Sioux Valley Clinic Service Excellence Sound-Off Award.
Kira Dylla is the training manager at DocuTAP. She graduated from Augustana University with B.A.s in Mathematics and Secondary Education. During her time as a math teacher, she was the South Dakota recipient of a national teaching award and received her M.A. in Educational Technology from the University of Michigan. In college, Kira sang with the Augustana Choir and Chamber Choir for four years, and as a teacher, she advised student groups associated with the arts. Kira is an active member and past President of Sioux Falls Rotary – South, and she and her husband enjoy volunteering with the club.