Val McCarthy, Executive Director

Valeri McCarthy is the Executive Director of Arts for All of Northern Michigan. With over twenty years of experience in various capacities, she has developed a strong understanding of the organization’s operations and fundraising. She can effectively manage multiple aspects of the organization’s business, including fundraising and staff development. In addition to being an artist, Valeri has a background in human resource management, graphic & web design, writing, and illustration.

As the Executive Director of Arts for All, she can oversee the organization’s various programs and activities, which are designed to provide individuals with the necessary skills to experience the joy of arts and cultural experiences, with an emphasis on creating a sense of belonging, for and among all, in her community.

Valeri is driven by her passion for helping others and her ability to follow her mission and inspire the people around her. She believes that she is well-positioned to lead and is committed to building strong relationships with community members. In her free time, she enjoys being active in the outdoors and writing children’s books.

Brenda Waraniak, Assistant Programs Director

Brenda is a Graphic Designer, former Catholic School Art Teacher, Gallery Artist, Commission Artist ( and ETSY Shop Owner (bethelovedesigns).

“ I am proud to be a part of the Arts For All Community. I believe that art instruction is crucial to the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making, risk-taking and inventiveness. Arts For All is helping everyone have access to improve their skills.”

Brenda and her husband are new to the area and are thrilled to call Traverse City their new home. They enjoy all of the natural beauty and outdoor activities this area offers.

Caroline Simaz —Board Co-Chair, Traverse City, MI

Cherryland Electric Cooperative

Caroline is employed at Cherryland Electric Cooperative as a GIS Technician. She has been on the Arts for All board for six years.

Elizabeth Clarke—Board Secretary, Traverse City, MI.

West Shore Bank

Liz is a branch manager with West Shore Bank and sits on the Finance and Governance committee for Arts for All. She has been on the board for eight years.

Nick & Lois Edson —Board Member, Traverse City, MI.

Cherryland Electric Cooperative (retired)

Nick was an editor of the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 25 years and Country Lines Magazine for 15 years. He has been on the A4A board for four years. Nick has served several local boards: the YMCA board for nine years, with two as board chair; the NMC Scholarship Committee board for six years, with three as board chair; the TC Rotary Club board for two years; Communities In Schools board for three years (and running), taking over as board chair this fall.

Chris Wendel – Board Member, Traverse City

Business Advisor, Northern Initiatives

Chris Wendel works for Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides financing and technical assistance to small businesses throughout Michigan. He graduated from University of Colorado, before settling in northern Michigan in 1988. Chris resides in Traverse City where he enjoys running, swimming and walking the family dog Pancake (pictured left).

Robin Smillie – Board Member, Traverse City

School Liaison, Big Brothers Big Sisters

Robin Smillie is the School Liaison for Big Brothers Big Sisters and has a passion for creating and nurturing meaningful, lasting relationships and hopes to do this as a board member for Arts for All. She has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood, the HIV/Aids Wellness Network and the Traverse City West Band Parent Organization. As a twenty-year TCAPS volunteer she created connections and friendships that remain today. “I am thrilled to join the Arts for All board. I believe that the arts add enrichment, provide an avenue for self-expression and improve the quality of our lives. Everyone is entitled to access to the arts.”

Robin and her husband Dave have called Traverse City their home since 1991 and raised their children here. Kendall is a kindergarten teacher at Traverse Heights Elementary and Bryce is an architect for a firm based in the Corktown area of Detroit.

Coco Stephenson – Board Member, Traverse City

CEO, Grand Traverse Resource Center

Coco Stephenson is an accomplished leader with a strong track record of advocating for individuals of all abilities to achieve community and social inclusion. As the current CEO of Grand Traverse Resource Center, Coco draws on her extensive experience as a former Program Manager and Community Employment Specialist at Grand Traverse Industries. She demonstrated a keen ability to empower individuals to achieve their goals and dreams. Alongside her professional work, Coco is an active volunteer with Arts for All, dedicating her time and resources to help others in the community. Her unwavering commitment to serving others and her passion for making a difference in people’s lives makes her an exceptional leader and an inspiration to many.