Art Connection Studio Staff

The team within this program has a wide range of experience and skills, which include masters level art therapy training, art and design education, teaching skills, job development, and diversified artistic expertise. Artists will also receive support and guidance from highly skilled, onsite job coaches.

  • IMG_0345Katie Akin, MAAT, ATR-BC, LPCHead of Aesthetics and Design, Art TherapistKatie joined Art Connection Studio in 2012. She has a Bachelors in Studio Art with a concentration in painting from Trinity College and a Masters in Art Therapy from Albertus Magnus College. At Art Connection Studio, Katie oversees aesthetic quality of materials, products, and design elements.
  • taraTara A.J. Burke, MAAT, ATRHead of Clinical Support, Art Therapist, Art FacilitatorTara Burke has been with Art Connection Studio since 2011. She received her Bachelors from UCONN with a focus on Elementary Education and Psychology and her Masters in Art Therapy from Albertus Magnus College. Tara has over seven years of prior experience as a Teacher’s Assistant in a public school working with students with developmental and behavioral disabilities; with a focus on supporting those on the Autism Spectrum. Tara has coached various sports programs and has volunteered for Special Olympic events and Unified Sports. She is currently a health and wellness coach as well. Within the studio, Tara dabbles in most mediums – from acrylic and watercolor painting to fire and sculptural design. She is also known for initiating impromptu dance and paint sessions.
  • IMG_0368Michael Galaburri, MAAT, ATR, LPCProgram Specialist, Artist, Art TherapistMike has been a self-taught artist for many years, often creating surreal and abstract works out of haphazard applications. He has been pioneering collaborative painting methods for wellness, self-exploration, and group dynamics.He received his Masters degree in Art Therapy from Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT. He has been combining his aesthetic sense, creative intuition, and background in therapy with Art Connection Studio since its inception. He promotes the artists of the program individually and Art Connection Studio as a whole. He also has developed partnerships with organizations and businesses in and around Hartford.
  • larayLaray JohnsonLead StaffLaray Johnson has worked in the human services field for the past 5 years. Previous experiences include working in residential group homes and a stint as manager of a behavioral day program. Laray has been with Vinfen for over 3 years, first in a residential setting, and currently at Art Connection Studio. At Art Connection Studio, Laray assists facilitators with program implementation, helps to maintain a safe and fun working environment, and motivates and supports artists to create beautiful artwork. Outside of work, Laray’s interests include TV production and political activism.
  • MM PhotoMarita McDermott, MS, ATR-BC, LCATSenior Program DirectorMarita is a member of the original team that shaped and launched Art Connection Studio. She also oversees all day programming for Vinfen Connecticut and is a member of the interdisciplinary clinical team. She has worked in the field of psychotherapy and expressive arts for over 15 years with children, adolescents, and adults in a variety of environments including hospital, educational, residential, and community settings. Marita holds a Bachelors degree in psychology and a Masters in clinical psychology/expressive psychotherapy. She is a licensed psychotherapist and a board certified art therapist.
  • Ben Website PortraitBenjamin ReyesArt Facilitator, Job CoachHailing from Hartford, Benjamin Reyes, Vinfen Job Coach, joined Art Connection Studio in January 2014. A mostly self-taught artist, Ben specializes in cartooning, sculpture, and puppeteering – as well as more traditional media like acrylic and watercolor painting.
  • lataviaLatavia WalkerAssistant Program DirectorLatavia has been a part of Vinfen CT since 2008. She was a job coach for two years and then became the lead staff of Art Connection Studio in 2011. She started at Art Connection Studio in 2011 as a weaving assistant in textile design and is currently the Assistant Program Director. She has previously studied Psychology at Bay Path College. She loves to dance and have fun at work. The artists teach her new things everyday that help her grow. She loves what she does!
  • Amanda YoungJob CoachAmanda joined the Art Connection Studio team in 2016 after working for Vinfen for more than two years. She has over seven years of direct care experience. Amanda is interested in all forms of visual art (and has a great eye for it) and is also very musical. She has played 7 different instruments! When Amanda isn’t working with the artists in the studio, she enjoys cooking, reading, and traveling.