Executive Director

Xavier Verna

photo by Crescent Rose Photography LLC

Executive Director, Xavier Verna, has increased partnerships with the Manistee community, local and regional business leaders and corporations, and institutions to support the performing and visual arts programs at the RRCA. Through creative partnership and strategic planning, Xavier has transformed these programs by diversifying its content and increasing accessibility. He’s also completed major capital projects (Hardy Hall gallery upgrade, sound system upgrade) through his fundraising efforts while preserving Manistee’s historic Ramsdell Theatre.

Xavier arrived at the Ramsdell Regional Center for the Arts (RRCA) in 2017 after having served for five years as Director of Education for the Sphinx Organization in Detroit, MI. Xavier is also involved as a board member and advisor in state-wide efforts and nationally recognized groups. He serves on the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce board as well as the internationally acclaimed percussion quartet, So Percussion. He’s past president for the Michigan Presenters Network and served on the governor-appointed council for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (now the Michigan Arts and Culture Council). 

Xavier brings collaborative energy from his time at Sphinx. At Sphinx, Xavier expanded its educational programming profile to a national level, which received one of the highest honors at the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, hosted by former First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. He oversaw the development of local and national programming. In Detroit and Flint, Xavier worked with 12-15 schools annually to provide free after-school programming on violin. He led summer programs while working with major institutions such as Roosevelt University, Oberlin Conservatory, and Cleveland Institute of Music. in 2013, Xavier launched the annual conference on diversity in the arts, SphinxConnect (formerly known as SphinxCon), inviting 30 speakers from the national and international sector.

Facilities/Operations Manager

Michael “Mik” Mikula

photo by Chris Wucherer

Prior to joining the RRCA, Mik had a long and successful career in the theatre. After moving away from Manistee 28 years ago, Mik studied at the Royal National Theater in London, England, and received his BFA in Theatre Arts, both in design and performance, from Stephens College for Women. He studied at the Royal Shakespeare Company with Antony Sher, Fiona Shaw, Richard Eyre, John Barton, Patrick Stewart, Janet McTyre, and others. Mik also served as Technical Director for the Medora Musical in Medora, North Dakota. After returning to Michigan, Mik worked at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and as Director of Theatre at West Shore Community College.

Mik has been a professional theatre artist for more than 25 years, throughout the United States, primarily Midwest. He is a director, has worked in education, repertory summer theatre, all aspects of technical theatre, touring management, fundraising, grant writing, film television, voice-over, print, industrials, and others. He is versed in all areas of technical theatre including design, technical direction, production management, lighting design and master electrician, sound design and technician, prop master and design, stage management, special effects, and construction.

He has worked in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul for more than 20 years, working on over 50 professional productions at that time. For 7 years Mik worked for Troupe America as Company Manager, Production Manager and Technical Director for the four of the five different Church Basement Ladies National Tours, having logged more than 200,000 miles touring,  in more than 250 different venues, and as Technical Director for the Medora Musical in Medora, North Dakota.  In addition, Mik has been a director for the Lakeshore Players Summer Youth Program, for 10 years. He has worked as an improvisational actor for Who-Done-It, and also works as a director and theatre technician, in addition to working in film, television, industrials, print, and voice-overs.

Marketing/Events Manager

Sherri Protasiewicz

photo by Sue Brown

Sherri brings a wealth of passion, knowledge, and excitement with her as she joins her favorite hometown theatre as the Marketing & Events Manager. 

Before moving back to Manistee in 2017, she spent four years booking and servicing large scale events and conferences for the Kalamazoo County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She also facilitated the Kalamazoo Tourism Ambassador Program where she trained front-line hospitality workers on how to promote local assets. While in Kalamazoo, Sherri served on several committees and panels including Kalamazoo Downtown Retail and Restaurant Association, Western Michigan University (WMU) Public Relations Organization, and also regularly spoke at WMU student admitted events. She was highly involved in Event Services Professional Association where she collaborated with other event service professionals across the U.S.

After returning to Manistee, Sherri joined Munson Healthcare Foundations as the Charitable Giving Officer. She developed a successful mid-level giving program and organized several fundraising campaigns and events, raising funds for necessary healthcare programs and equipment for Manistee Hospital. 

Most recently, Sherri served as the Marketing Coordinator for the Manistee County Visitors Bureau where she developed and executed marketing and social campaigns to boost economic impact through tourism. During this time, she served on the Michigan Association of CVB’s Marketing Committee to increase travel throughout the state of Michigan. 

Sherri is a board member of the Miss Mid-Michigan Scholarship Competition, an active member of the Manistee Area Jaycees and serves on several event committees throughout the county. In her spare time, you can find her enjoying live music, kayaking, or spending time with her family and pets.  

Visual Arts/Education Manager

Aimé Merizon

Following a bachelor’s of art degree in psychology, and an associate’s degree in mental health technology, Aimé Merizon worked in many avenues of the publishing world for over 18 years.

Because of her attention to detail and creativity, she was asked to work on the production of print and marketing materials, which organically instigated the study of graphic design. Always a lifelong student, it made sense, at this point, to acquire another bachelor’s degree, but this time in art.

“My inquiry into art was fueled by growing up with a professional fine artist as a father, and it is a world I understand and know intimately as a daily lifestyle. My first educational instinct was studying psychology and art. Later in life, I took time to research and determine if I wanted to pursue a fine arts graduate degree or something more unconventional, in a sense of inner research and exploration. When I discovered a college where the programs subscribe to ‘self-design, allowing you to create courses through mentored study to focus on your passions,’ I knew I had found my path. Expressive arts is a discipline that focuses on the process of art as a basis for discovery and change. This degree allowed me to bring together my passions for art, the natural world, and human nature.”

Aimé received her master’s degree in Humanities/Expressive Art in 2014. Previous to joining the Ramsdell crew, she worked for ten years as a Communications & Outreach Specialist for the Benzie Conservation District in Beulah, Michigan. At t his venue she was able to facilitate educational programming to learn about natural resources, work with volunteers for community projects, and integrate the study of nature’s designs through workshops and local events.

She has served on the educational committee for the Michigan Legacy Art Park; and as a board member for Homeward Bound Animal Shelter, and the Benzie County Community Chest.

Aimé spends her free time with her fur companions, Ollie (Treeing Walker Coonhound), and Pip (Jack Russell). She enjoys exploring the outdoors, making art, reading, and fine chocolate.

Events Coordinator

Johnnie Moreno

Events Coordinator, Johnnie Moreno, has joined the team at the historic Ramsdell Theatre with the goals of promoting all rental spaces as unique venue opportunities and partnering with community members and organizations to improve accessibility to the theatre, art exhibits, and venue facilities. Her passion for the community will be felt in her attention to detail and devotion to immaculate event execution.

Manistee’s magnetic pull has been a driving force felt throughout Johnnie’s life and personal journey. After graduating from Manistee High School in 2006 she made the move to East Lansing away from her beloved lakeshore with great apprehension that it might be forever. While completing her bachelor of arts in History from Michigan State, Johnnie made trips home every summer but always a ‘guest’ because her family had retired down south. She came ‘home’ for her own wedding and up until now has returned every summer she could find a place to lay her head.  Over the next decade, Johnnie used every opportunity back home to photograph another family, senior, or beautiful dancer along the shores of Lake Michigan leading to the growth of her successful photography business.

In Indiana, Johnnie worked for five years to oversee and budget for thematic programs hosted by the University Notre Dame’s Mathematics Department. Her commitment to service was recognized by international participants and her role in the department grew.
After living briefly on both the west and east coast her family has happily landed back in Manistee Michigan. She is a ‘guest’ no more. She is once again a proud resident of Manistee and her love for the community will be felt from start to finish at every event booked.
In her spare time, Johnnie can be found collecting sea glass with her family at Magoon Creek, trekking the riverwalk, playing soccer for fun, capturing personal history through photographs, playing board games, catching movies at the Vogue, swimming at Fifth Avenue Beach, and cuddling her three cats.