Introducing: New Board Members Valerie Garlick & Margaret Roleke

ECoCA sat down with our two new board members, Valerie Garlick and Margaret Roleke, to talk shop: their art practices, their inspirations, and all things New Haven arts scene.

ECoCA: Tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from, website, any arts training/experience you want to mention?

 Valerie Garlick: I have an MFA and an MA in Art History from Uconn. I will be teaching art at Capital Community College in the fall and organizing exhibits for their gallery. I joined the ECOCA board in February this year, and I live in Westville. 

 Margaret Roleke:  I grew up in Long Island, NY. I always wanted to be an artist and started taking art lessons at age 12 from a Pratt student. I ended up  taking art classes at the School of Visual Arts and Art Students League and getting a BA from Marymount Manhattan College and MFA from Long Island University CW Post. I currently live in Easton, Ct and have lived in New York, London, and CT in the past. I love to travel when I can and made it to Morocco this year and hiked to the top of Mt Toubkal. I have 4 kids.

 ECoCA: What kind of art do you make and how would you describe your practice?

 VG: I make paintings of visual anomalies that I’ve researched online. I would describe my practice as meditative. 

 MR: My work explores sensationalism, consumerism and the crazy contradictions and relationships that develop when popular culture mixes with war and religion. The Trump presidency has pushed me to be further involved as a political activist and artist. Many new pieces deal with protest  and resistance. But my major theme which I have been exploring for several years is gun violence. I use spent shotgun shells and brass as well as paper targets in much of my work. To this end a percentage of all my sales are donated to organizations that work for gun control. I create sculptures, installations, prints, videos, and mail art.

 ECoCA: How did you become involved in the arts community of New Haven? 

VG: Five years ago I moved to New Haven with a circle of artist friends and thought New Haven was unlike anywhere else I’d lived in the state. Job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and the people seemed to be in touch with the arts in open and inviting ways. On any given weekend there was something to see or do, whether visiting a museum, or going to an opening. I became involved with the arts community of New Haven in various professional and volunteer roles: as a Graphic Design adjunct at Gateway, a Curatorial Advisory Board member at Artspace, the Executive Director of the Institute Library (following my work at the Carriage Barn Arts Center, where I met many New Haven-based artists and learned about City Gallery), a co-organizer of the 2017 Nasty Women exhibition, a board member with Elm City Dance Collective, and ECOCA. 

MR: I have known Debbie Hesse for over 20 years and in that time she put my work into exhibits at ArtSpace's Outdoor Lot, the original John Slade Ely House and the Whitney Center. I helped Debbie curate Unload:PIck Up the Pieces at ECOCA which helped me see what a dynamic and vital arts center exists at ECOCA and how people from all parts of the New Haven community seem to be welcome. I have also participated in exhibits at Artspace New Haven, been part of the open studios event and exhibited at The Institute Library. In the past few years I have also gotten to know Jeanne Criscola who I like and respect.

ECoCA: What’s your experience been with ECOCA thus far? What do you want to bring to ECOCA as a new board member?

VG: ECOCA is a unique incubator that I’ve been watching transform over the past few years while holding its integrity as one of the most storied and significant spaces for contemporary art in New Haven. I want to bring my experience to support its mission and activities because I really enjoy showing up for and being a part of them. Even just recently at our annual meeting, I was delighted that we could throw an open-door garden party with delicious community food, musical and vocal performances heartily applauded, participatory art demos, and really great conversations. This is what ECOCA is - a place where all of these things are usually happening all at once, happening in, but also creating, a really unique space for everyone. 

MR: I want to aide Debbie and Jeanne  in keeping the ECOCA growing and thriving in New Haven. I will assist with whatever needs to be done. I have many connections with artists, curators and others who I want to bring into the center. With the Unload Show I was able to reach out to politicians, gun violence groups, and other organizations that were also working for gun control and we were able to dialogue. I hope to do a similar thing with other art shows coming up.

ECoCA: If you could have a dinner date with any creative, who would it be, and what kind of food would be served?

VG: Grace Taylor Ely. We’d probably eat a light lunch and chat about her dogs and calisthenics. 

MR: Although she is no longer with us, I would like to sit down for a meal with Louise Bourgeois who had a summer home in Easton, CT where I now live and had 3 sons which I also have. Louise did not have success until she was in her 50's so I am hoping for the same. She lived a long life and kept creating work through old age. It doesn't really matter what we eat as long as it’s tasty.

ECoCA: Who or what is inspiring you lately?

VG: Teaching art history at Sacred Heart University this past semester granted me the opportunity to spend a good amount of my summer taking yoga classes on campus over the past few months. I’m also venturing to the Mediterranean this summer and have been reading about the Dead Sea scrolls. And Tilton St. Book Club. Never underestimate the power of starting your own book club. We (a group of historians, librarians, and artists) read edgy women’s nonfiction that we wouldn’t otherwise want to read alone. Nurturing community is so, so important.

MR: Although there are many creative people that I look up to I am more interested right now in politicians. I am inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who rocks and speaks truth to power. I am also inspired by many of the Democratic hopefuls, mostly Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg who I feel give us hope that our nation will survive Trump’s presidency.


Meet Our ECOCA Summer ’19 Team!


Jeanne Criscola

Board President

Jeanne Criscola is the founder and board President of ECoCA, She served as curator of the John Slade Ely House Galleries prior to establishing ECoCA. She is a professor of design at Central Connecticut State University, and is the Principal and Creative Director of Criscola Design (


Deborah Hesse

Board Vice President

Debbie Hesse is a multidisciplinary artist and Gallery Director at ECOCA who has served as a major initiator and activator in the New Haven arts community. During her tenure at the New Haven Arts Council she developed community programs and curated over 200 exhibitions.


Maxim Schmidt

Gallery Coordinator

A recent graduate of Albertus Magnus College, Maxim creates multimedia artworks in addition to his interest in curation. He looks forward to pursue a career in the arts, either in working in geriatric art therapy or as a gallery curator.

Jacqueline Blaska

Yale President's Public Service Fellow

Jacqueline is a director, performer, and experimental theatre artist, completing her final year double-majoring in Theatre Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University.


Briana Williams

ECOCA CT Office of the Arts/Arts Workforce Initiative Intern, Performance Curator

Briana has served as a performance curator for Make Music Day and the primary organizer of Resistance & Resilience program.

Nicole Hooks

ECOCA CT Office of the Arts/Arts Workforce Initiative Intern

Nicole is a Newcastle University graduate who has worked in art galleries both here in Connecticut and out in the UK!


Katie Elkins

Summer Intern

Katie Elkins, born in Newtown, CT, currently studies sculpture at Virginia Commonwealth University, and is looking to pursue a career in the arts. She studied at Educational Center for the Arts (ECA) and has exhibited her artwork at the Ely Center.


Sam Mann

Cedarhurst High School Summer Intern

Sam Mann  is a student at Cedarhurst High School, engaged in aiding the Ely Center in its data collection & organization.

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