About Us

The Blue River Arts Council will work to independently encourage, accept, solicit and receive contributions, grants and donations from individuals, foundations, associations, governmental entities or public or private corporations and will administer and invest such assets and expenditures for the exclusive purposes of promoting fine and performing arts and entertainment in Southeast Nebraska.

Shaylene Smith


Shaylene has been an attorney and philanthropist in Crete for 26 years and has worked successfully with the City on numerous projects including the passage of an LB 840 Economic Development Program and a sales tax increase that funded a new swimming pool. Shaylene serves on the Board of Directors and the Steering Committee.

Jennifer Robison


Jennifer is a Senior Editor at Gallup and ghostwrites books in her spare time. As she is also a member of the Crete Planning Commission, Jennifer’s focus is on the economic impact of arts in rural communities and on the broader business outcomes of Blue River Arts Council programming in our community. Jennifer serves as Vice-President and she is on the Isis Steering Committee.

Julie Fahrlander


Julie is a professional artist with a BFA in Graphic Art. She has worked in the industry for over 30 years and currently works with IdeaBank Marketing in graphic design and project management. Julie lives in Crete with her husband, Eric, who is the Crete High School Band Director. Julie chairs visual arts events.

Rhonda Lake

Board Member

Rhonda worked as an actor and Director in New York City before starting a career in academia and acting instruction in 1981. She now teaches at Doane University and  specifically works in student advisement for the theater department. She previously served the Lincoln Community Playhouse as Education Director and Managing Director. Rhonda enjoys helping with community engagement and fund raising.

Crystal Alarcon

Board Member

Crystal and her mother, Luz Chavez, own and operate Crystal’s Bakery in downtown Crete. She is actively involved in business efforts that support the Latino population and she has provided invaluable translation for BRAC as we provide brochures and poster in both English and Spanish.  Crystal’s children are involved in the arts and music in Crete and she hopes to see the efforts of BRAC continue to bridge cultural gaps.

Dr. Kate Hesser

Board Member

Dr. Kate Hesser works tirelessly to organize volunteer work events and move the Isis Movie Theatre reopening forward.  She serves on the Board of Directors and the Steering Committee. Together with her husband, Dr. Jason Hesser, Kate has provided strong financial support for the Arts Council.

Kristi Capek

Steering Committee Chair

Kristi is a professional graphic artist and the master of social media content and web development for the Blue River Arts Council. She is employed by the Nebraska State Education Association as Assistant Director of Visual Communication & Digital Engagement. A graduate of Doane University and past Isis Theatre employee, Kristi is Chairperson of the Steering Committee and a non-voting member of the Board

Lacey Franzen

Steering Committee Member

Lacey has a degree in Vocal Music/Performance and is the lead instructor of vocal music, the high school musical director, and the show choir coach at Crete High School. Lacey served as the incorporating Vice-President and has continued to serve on the Steering Committee since the end of her term.

Valerie Andelt

Steering Committee Member

Valerie is an interior decorator, busy mom of three daughters, and creates many of the displays at Arts Council events, including the award-winning scarecrows at the Crete’s Great Pumpkin Festival. She is a member of the Steering Committee.

Miriam Weber

Steering Committee Member

Miriam has been an arts activist for years and cheered as her children sang, played an instrument or acted throughout their years at Crete High. But more than anything, we love her positive attitude and her infectious sense of fun. From our very first event, we knew that Miriam (and husband Darren) would bring the party to life.

Nancy Tellez

Steering Committee Member

Nancy is BRAC’s liaison between the City of Crete and the Arts Council. She has a Master of Arts in Management from Doane University. As the Director of Crete’s Community Assistance Office, she provide BRAC with key cultural insights and translations.

Marilea Thiem

Steering Committee Member

Marilea has a passion for all things Crete – living here for almost 30 years and raising three children in the Crete schools. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for many years and she is especially adept at fundraising and event planning. Her passions include spending time with Troy, her spouse; being Mimi to her five grandchildren; and working to make life better for those around her.

Katie Judkins

Steering Committee Member

Russ Cowan


Russ was appointed to serve as an independent Treasurer.  He is a non-voting member of the Board of Directors and currently volunteers accounting and tax preparation services.

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