Board of Directors

Becky Butler

Founder

Becky’s belief in people making a difference in the world came early in her life. While a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, she established and headed the first national chapter of the women’s sorority Phi Sigma Sigma. She graduated with a BFA in Communication, Arts and Design.

Becky worked in two nonprofits in Virginia before moving to Connecticut in 1994. She worked at Main Street Ballet and Main Street Community Theatre, both in Woodbury. She developed a summer theater program for children and teens that continued to run after she moved on to become Community Life Director at the Pomperaug Woods retirement community. Becky has served on the Arts and Culture Collaborative Board of Directors and is now a corporator on the Union Savings Bank Board.

Becky founded Arts Escape in 2012 with the vision that learning through the arts brings adults together and gives them purpose and friendship. Although Becky is retiring as Executive Director after 10 years, she plans to stay involved by serving on Arts Escape’s Board of Directors and now has time to take art classes.


Debbie Gatto

Board Chair

Debbie Gatto recently retired from her position as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Oxford where she served for 16 years. While in that position, she focused on serving The Town with high quality and affordable programs and activities for residents of all ages while also maintaining and updating the town’s recreational facilities. Starting as a part time director with one seasonal maintenance supervisor, she eventually built the department to as many as 45 employees in the summer.

In 2008, Debbie received the “Young Professional” of the year award from the Connecticut Recreation and Parks Association. In 2010, the CRPA named the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department as the “Rec’r of the Year”. She was very active with the state organization and served on a number of committees eventually being elected to its Executive Board of Directors.

Before working for the Town of Oxford, Debbie and her husband, Joe lived in London, UK where she was the Athletic Director for The American School in London. Prior to her move to London, Debbie lived in Ohio and spent 8 years working as a licensed insurance agent and as an Account Manager for Municipal Lines and High-Risk Commercial accounts.


Betsy Demeyer

Treasurer

Betsy is a businesswoman and art enthusiast. Betsy and her husband owned seven Lawn Doctor Franchises that serviced 3500 households in southwestern Connecticut for 33 years. Betsy served as Operations Manager and was responsible for all finances and marketing. She was on the Lawn Doctor Incorporated National Marketing Panel and was a mentor to new franchisees in the Lawn Doctor system.

Betsy, a native of Ridgefield, CT, holds a BA in Business Administration from the University of Delaware, a certificate in Women’s Studies from Hartford Seminary, and several financial security licenses. She has worked as a registered client associate for Merrill Lynch, and was a personal assistant to an author/lecturer, traveling with her throughout the US. Betsy coached youth soccer for years in Southbury and played both indoor and outdoor soccer in her adult years.

Recently retired, Betsy is now shifting her focus to playing tennis, creating art (specializing in paper cutting), becoming proficient on piano and traveling with her husband in their RV.  Betsy began taking classes at Arts Escape in 2018 and has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn, improve her skills and take part in the community established there.

Betsy and her husband have lived in Southbury for 27 years. They have two children and four grandchildren, all of whom live locally.


Sandra Daignault

Secretary

Sandra spent 37 years in Information Technology working for Fortune 100 companies, such as, Kodak, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Clairol and General Electric. She has a MS in statistics with accreditations across the field of computer science. In 2011 she retired from Kodak corporation as the Director of Information Technology for their Graphics Communication Division and then continued as a consultant in the NY metro area.

After moving to Litchfield County in 2014, she made a decision to refocus her energy to the arts – a dream since college. Her first experience at Arts Escape was in 2018 when she enrolled in art and writing classes. She quickly became a regular taking up to three classes per week.  Each year since then she has been a member of the Threads program and taken part in the juried shows, reading events and contributed to the Threads book published each February. She has published two poetry/sketch books, Poetry Expression I and Poetry Expression II. She is currently writing a novel and her artwork can be viewed on her website.


Mark Franklin

Board Member

Mark Franklin is a resident of Southbury and a semi-retired attorney. He has lived in Southbury about ten years and came to know and love Arts Escape over the past three years through its art and photography courses. He has been an amateur photographer for most of his life and was introduced to the magical world of painting and sketching through Arts Escape and other arts organizations.

Mark spent most of his professional career as an attorney, specializing in insurance regulatory law and commercial litigation in corporate, private practice and government settings. Mark became an attorney in a mid-career move; prior to law school, he worked for nine years as a newspaper reporter in Hartford. Mark’s legal career is now confined to pro bono representation of refugee clients who are referred by the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigration (“CIRI”) in Bridgeport.

Mark’s community activities include his work with CIRI representing refugee clients, and volunteering with the Audubon Society at the Bent of the River in nature education and citizen scientist work.


Lynne Gingras

Gallery Director

Lynne is retired from the medical field after forty-two years and was a previous member of the American Radiological Society, and Registered Radiological Technologist.

In 2005 Lynne and her husband retired to North Carolina and this is where Lynne’s interest in the arts materialized. Her son Dana and husband Dana, a building contractor, built “Andre Christine Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Mooresville, North Carolina for Lynne. Lynne was the owner, and sole operating manager for the gallery.  Its success grew and the gallery ultimately represented over 100 artists with an extensive customer following. Patrons enjoyed four-five theme-based shows and openings each year.  Artists taught a variety of classes in different mediums including sculpture.

Andre Christine Gallery hosted the yearly Lake Norman High School annual Student Art show.  Students were allowed a hands-on experience in all aspects of an art show exhibit including advertising, hanging the show, and organizing and hosting the opening reception for guests which included selling their work.

Lynne was a member of the Mooresville, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Davidson, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of the Business Resource Group.

Lynne is the grandmother of six and recently moved back to Southbury, Connecticut.  She immediately embraced the Arts Escape classes and programs. Lynne spends her free time enjoying the arts, travel, writing, gardening, and walking.


Bobbi Knezek

Board Member

Bobbi is a co-founder of WD Communications, an international training company that focuses on developing and presenting seminars, webinars, and coaching sessions to develop employees, managers, and executives.

During her career Bobbi specialized in providing communication skills training for the pharmaceutical industry, developing  seminars that trained physicians to communicate more effectively with patients, and helping women communicate more successfully in the corporate environment. As an executive coach, Bobbi helped high-level managers prepare for major presentations and strengthen their leadership images.

Before founding WD Communications, Bobbi developed her love for the written word as a newspaper reporter and her passion for using innovative teaching strategies as a college writing professor.

When she moved to Connecticut from New Jersey she took advantage of her new lifestyle to investigate the arts.  She was delighted to find Arts Escape where she has had the opportunity to experience the organization as a volunteer, a student, and an instructor.

Bobbi has a BA from Wilkes University and an MA from Rutgers University.


Barbara Phillips

Vice Chair

Barbara Phillips is currently a Senior Vice President of Learning Dynamics, a management consulting firm in Wallingford, Ct. Previous to that, she was the Director of Human Resources for People’s Bank.
Early in her career, she was a special education teacher in New York City.

Barbara graduated from Skidmore College with a BA in Education and from Columbia University with an MS in Special Education. She did post graduate work in Human Resources at Fairfield University.

She and her family lived in Newtown for 35 years and then moved to Southbury 11 years ago. She has been involved in many organizations and commissions including but not limited to Newtown Legislative Council, Newtown Library Board (President), Danbury Child Advocacy Center (President), League of Women Voters, Governor’s Rehabilitation Advisory Commission, Society for Creative Arts, and B’Nai Israel Board of Directors.

Barbara is married to her husband, Arthur, a retired Endodontist. They have 3 children and six grandchildren. Her hobbies include reading, painting, golf, singing, classical music, traveling and political activism.


Anne Marie Quinson

Board Member

Anne-Marie Quinson-Franklin has been living in Southbury since 2011 and started attending classes at Arts Escape in 2018. She has always been interested in photography and sketching and has a passion for street photography and “pen and ink” sketching. She also plays classical guitar and loves to cook. Enrolling at Arts Escape was a way for her to discover new techniques (acrylic painting) and new challenges (color and abstract).

On the professional side, Anne-Marie is an M.D. and worked for several years as a treating physician in an Infectious Diseases department specialized in HIV in Marseille (France). She left clinical practice and joined the pharmaceutical industry 20 years ago and now works in Clinical Development for a major international company based in Connecticut. Anne-Marie is fluent in French and Spanish.


Wendy Mitchell

Executive Director

Wendy Mitchell is an award-winning writer, musician, and educator who has been an active promoter of the arts in the greater Danbury area for the past two decades. She graduated from Post University in July of 2021 with a BS in Child Studies. She received her head teacher certification in early childhood education in 2009 from the state of Connecticut. For the last five years, she taught writing workshops, scriptwriting, musical theater, cultural music and movement, and other arts-based classes through her art school, the Arts & Nature School of Ridgefield. In 2017, the school received the Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Arts & Music School” from Ridgefield’s Townvibe Magazine. She has worked as a nationally published journalist for seven years at Patch.com, Hearst Media, and CT Buzz News. She taught musical theater for the last seven years at the Greater Danbury Irish Cultural Center in Danbury, a 501(c)3 where she and her husband are members and officers. Wendy was named the 2022 Lady Hibernian of the Year from the Danbury Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-Catholic charitable organization, for her volunteer work and fundraising efforts.

Wendy was the founding executive director of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Sandy Hook Arts Center for Kids (The SHACK) and helped hundreds heal after the tragedy of 12/14 through free art, music, theater, and pet therapy classes and workshops. Along with a dedicated team of volunteers, she provided a safe haven for children and families to heal through the power of the arts during those difficult times. In January of 2014, Wendy received the “Top 10 Most Fascinating People of 2013” award from Hearst Media for volunteer work she did at The SHACK. Wendy lives in Brookfield with her husband of 27 years, Chris, a drummer, one of their three young adult children, Ruby, a Social Work major at WCSU, and their 8-year-old rescue dog, Sadie, a black lab mix. Their middle son Cullen is also a drummer and oldest son Dillon is a SAG/AFTRA actor in NYC.

“Arts Escape – where creativity and
learning promote well-being.


Priscilla Watson
"Arts Escape provides a calm, supportive environment. Age doesn’t matter. I can see what I’ve taught a 7th grader the same as a senior. It’s an environment where a student is able to do the best thing. They work on projects that vary – they learn concept and ideas. They learn the essentials and are able to use their imagination."