Feed & Soothe Your Soul with the Arts at Great Conversations

The arts have the power to enlighten, comfort, connect, heal and entertain. Choose one of these talented conversationalists to sit with and be moved by their artistic inspiration and insights!

Arts, Music & Entertainment

Santiago Cohen, Stacey Harcum, Maria Kowroski

  • SANTIAGO COHEN, Cartoonist, illustrator, fine artist and children’s book author | Watch personal invite

Santiago Cohen is a Mexican/American artist and author who has worked as a designer, illustrator and animator for HBO, the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and PBS. He designed the original logo for Comedy Central and 24 episodes of the Troubles the Cat for the Cartoon Network. Santiago has also written and illustrated more than 20 children’s books and graphic novels. Reflecting a mixture of Mexican, American, and Sephardic cultures he has made a successful career in Fine Art as well, with shows in galleries and museums in New York, New Jersey and Mexico. In 2014 he had a solo show at the Hunterdon Art Museum with his Exvida project installation, with 1,150 oil paintings in the exvoto style. He painted a temporary mural in South Orange and has been the Artistic Director for the Day of the Dead Parade in Jersey City since 2014. His solo show at the Barret Art Center in Poughkeepsie, NY in 2018 was a National Juried competition curated by Natalie Bell from the New Museum. He was chosen as an artist in residency at UCROSS in Wyoming in the fall of 2019.

Check out Santiago’s work at www.santiagocohen.com.

  • STACEY HARCUM, Soul and jazz musician, recording artist and music educator
Stacey Harcum, a multi-talented musician, songwriter, recording artist and music educator has recorded and shared the stage with a wide range of musical artists from the legendary saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., to Stevie Wonder and Patti Labelle. As a professional musician, he is a member of the Philadelphia Chapter for NARAS (the National Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences). With over three decades of experience teaching, saxophone, piano and vocal arrangements, Stacey was part of a local group which became seven-time winners on the highly acclaimed TV show, Star Search. As the founder and creator of Missionz In Music (MIM), Stacey is passionate about working with underserved inner city youth and young adults to teach them about music. MIM is very excited about the partnerships that have been developed over the years to grow their network of musicians including Ad Prima Charter School in Philadelphia, PA and Christina Cultural Arts Center and Kuumba Academy Charter School, both in Wilmington, DE.
  • MARIA KOWROSKI, Acting Artistic Director of the New Jersey Ballet Company; former Principal Ballerina with the New York City Ballet
Maria Kowroski is a former principal ballerina with New York City Ballet. As well as gracing the stage at Lincoln Center for more than 25 years, Maria has also traveled globally, making principal guest appearances with world-class ballet companies along the way. In addition, she has worked with many of the dance world’s leading choreographers, received the prestigious Princess Grace Award, and has been honored by the Jerome Robbins foundation for her excellence in performing his works. Maria has recently taken over as Acting Artistic Director of the New Jersey Ballet and hopes to bring her expertise to the table in order to help shape the arts scene in New Jersey. With her vast knowledge and wonderful connections, she plans to bring new exciting repertory to the company and make NJB the premier dance company of New Jersey. On top of her obvious penchant for the performing arts, Maria also loves to travel, with Europe being of particular interest. Her British husband mirrors her taste for good food and fine wine. Their six year-old son, Dylan, naturally takes center stage these days and is luckily a very happy traveler even if his palate hasn’t yet extended past a chicken nugget. Maria is thrilled to be a part of Great Conversations 2022 and looks forward to connecting with others passionate about the arts.

Listen and watch here as Maria performs George Balanchine’s Mozartiana and narrates her experience.


Authors & Media

Dr. Ed Adams, Susan Shapiro Barash, Lucy Antek Johnson, Joseph Lee

  • DR. ED ADAMS, Psy.D. – Psychologist with expertise in the challenges facing men
Dr. Ed Adams is a psychologist who specializes in working with men impacted by life transitions such as divorce, loss, illness and career changes. His passion for expanding the lives of men began almost 30 years ago when he founded Men Mentoring Men, a non-profit providing peer coaching. Over the years, he has led over 1,000 men’s groups, workshops, and intensive retreats helping men live happier lives. In 2013, Ed received the Practitioner of the Year Award from Division 51 of the American Psychological Association. He has written two books about the male experience: Reinventing Masculinity: The Liberating Power of Compassion and Connection and Becoming a Happier Man: A Man’s Guide to Living a Full and Happier Life.  Additionally, Ed is a professional visual artist with an art gallery of his paintings and sculpture, many of which have been placed in many private and public collections including Steven Spielberg’s art collection, Hebrew University in Israel, Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. Ed earned his Doctor of Psychology degree from Rutgers University and is currently in private practice in Lambertville (www.dredadams.net) where he lives with his wife, Marilee, and two dogs, Bodhi and Abby. Ed’s son, Zak, is a federal prosecutor living in Washington, DC.

Watch Dr. Adams here  in an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America.

Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of thirteen nonfiction books on women’s issues, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends, and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping. Her fiction, Between the Tides, A Palm Beach Wife, and A Palm Beach Scandal are published under her pseudonym, Susannah Marren. Featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Elle and Marie Claire, she has also appeared on Today, Good Morning America, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC, and been a guest on NPR and Sirius Radio. She holds degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and New York University and has taught for over twenty years in the Writing Department at Marymount Manhattan College focusing on gender studies, and guest taught at the Writing Institute/ Sarah Lawrence College. She has served as a literary panelist for the NYS Council on the Arts, as a judge for the International Emmys, and as Vice Chair of the Mentoring Committee of the Women’s Leadership Board at the JFK School of Government, Harvard.  
  • LUCY ANTEK JOHNSON, CBS & NBC TV Executive; Author of This Was Toscanini: The Maestro, My Father, and Me | Watch personal Invite
Lucy Antek Johnson, daughter of co-author Samuel Antek, was born and raised in New York City. After studying music, fine art and ballet, she was drawn to the world of television production and spent her entire career in the entertainment industry, working with such award-winning producers as Martin Charnin (“Annie”), Harry Belafonte and Dick Clark. She moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and produced movies for television, then joined the ranks of NBC as a network programming executive. She soon worked her way up to senior vice president of daytime and children’s programs for CBS – the #1 schedule — a position she held for fourteen years. This Was Toscanini: The Maestro, My Father, and Me, Lucy’s first publication, is a father/daughter memoir chronicling the 17 years Sam Antek (virtuoso violinist and conductor) played first violin under the legendary baton of Arturo Toscanini for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the lasting impact that the Maestro had on her family. Lucy and her husband, Bill Klein, live in Connecticut, where she was President, Friends of the Westport Library and served on the Westport Library’s Board of Trustees. She paints, writes, and—every so often—gets up the nerve to sit at the piano and play a favorite Bach or Chopin prelude.
    • JOSEPH LEE, NJ PBS – General Manager; experienced public media leader and pioneer in community engagement
Joseph (Joe) Lee, General Manager of NJ PBS is an experienced public media leader, an accomplished fundraiser and a pioneer in community engagement. A Baltimore native, Lee ran non-commercial radio station WAER-FM and its digital platforms at Syracuse University for 28 years, first as Program Director and then Director & General Manager. Prior to that, he led content development and management for Morgan State University public radio WEAA FM in Baltimore. Under his leadership WAER transformed from a music-oriented radio station to a public media organization focused on multi-media journalism, storytelling and community impact. Lee also served as Executive Producer of Syracuse Speaks, WAER’s public affairs show focusing on issues of concern to Central New Yorkers, and as producer of WAER’s Afro Futures and Pop Life podcasts. Follow @jblee883.

Meet Joe in this short video clip, shortly after he was appointed GM of NJ PBS, and learn a little more about his background.