Our Leadership Team & Staff

Leadership Team

Laurence Capo – Retired, past CEO, Young Audiences of NJ and Eastern PA

Maureen Heffernan – Master Teaching Artist

Wendy Liscow – Program Director, Education, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

Pam Marvin – Event and Meeting Planner

Elizabeth A. Murphy – Director, Creative New Jersey

Mary Reece – Director of Special Projects, Foundation for Educational Administration

Meet our Supporters & Collaborators.

Creative New Jersey Staff

Elizabeth Murphy

emurphy@creativenj.org  (Director, Creative New Jersey & Principal, The Murphy Group, Inc.) is a recognized strategic thinker and facilitator with over 25 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector (primarily in the arts, healthcare, philanthropy and disaster philanthropy).  As an Executive Director, Elizabeth successfully rebuilt two organizations which were nearly defunct, and led two others in achieving their greatest period of sustained financial growth and programmatic success.   Her consulting practice (The Murphy Group, Inc.) specializes in designing and facilitating dynamic stakeholder engagement meetings; creating innovative, original projects for philanthropy and nonprofits; program & resource development; and strategy retreats for optimizing missions and visions.

Since 2012, in a part-time position, Elizabeth has led the development and execution of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s statewide initiative Creative New Jersey which focuses on “building better communities through creativity, collaboration and inclusivity”.  She has developed and facilitated community engagement programs in 12 cities and towns resulting in innovative cross-sector solutions taking hold.  In January 2016, she launched The Disaster Philanthropy Playbook, a two-year joint project of the Council of NJ Grantmakers (CNJG) and the Washington DC-based Center for Disaster Philanthropy (www.disasterplaybook.org), which was co-conceived, managed, researched and written by Elizabeth.  This one-of-a-kind national resource highlights key strategies, innovative practices and lessons learned that philanthropies nationwide have developed and implemented in response to disaster preparedness and recovery.  Elizabeth also coordinated and helped to create the strategy for CNJG’s disaster response efforts to Superstorm Sandy, creating programming that educated funders on the major issues of NJ’s recovery.  In 2014/15, Elizabeth was retained by M. Brian Maher/Maher Charitable Foundation as part of the team responsible for launching Pre-K Our Way, a new statewide initiative focused on expanding pre-k to all 3 and 4 year olds in NJ. For Pre-K Our Way, she designed and implemented a statewide stakeholder engagement program fostering support for pre-k expansion while building a constituency database from the ground-up resulting in more than 7,000 entries and 30+ advocate partner organizations in the first year.  Pre-k expansion has now become a priority for NJ legislators and both the Assembly and Senate recently introduced bills for pre-k expansion.  In 2013, Elizabeth conducted and researched a comprehensive assessment of nine of NJ arts service organizations, and drafted a series of scenarios for reorganizing in order to leverage collective impact and provide for operational sustainability (the study was commissioned by the Dodge Foundation).  In February 2014, Elizabeth was invited to join the multi-year, tri-state (NY/NJ/CT) Committee on the Fourth Regional Plan—a group of 50 creative, civic and business leaders charged with guiding the development of the Plan which creates a road map for major decisions in urban design, housing, energy & environmental policies & investments.

Elizabeth has a history of developing programming for diverse populations and has created a multitude of arts initiatives, educational health programs, stakeholder engagement programs, special events and fund-raising galas; and has raised more than $10 million for a variety of projects and organizations in the USA, UK, and Ireland. She has worked with individuals from around the world which has exposed her to a variety of international viewpoints and opinions.  Much of Elizabeth’s career has been spent working in the theatre.  She has produced over 125 theatrical productions throughout New York City; New Jersey; Belfast & Dublin, Ireland; the UK (London, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow); and Sydney, Australia (primarily world premieres, but also as the assistant producer for Broadway shows and US National Tours including the Tony Award winning Falsettos, the Tommy Tune Production of Grease starring Rosie O’Donnell, and My Fair Lady starring Richard Chamberlain).

In 2004, Elizabeth was selected for and received full underwriting to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Education Program for Nonprofit Leaders in the Arts.  Elizabeth served for four years as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ; in addition to teaching as a Guest Instructor at Hofstra University’s School of Continuing Education, NY, and at the University of Nevada (Graduate School – Masters Playwriting Program).  An active nonprofit Board Member for almost twenty years, she presently serves as the Board Vice President of Passage Theatre (Trenton, NJ), and on the national Creative Economy Coalition – a group of thought-leaders dedicated to advocating for the creative industries as an economic stimulus that grows jobs and strengthens the fabric of our society.  Born and raised in New York City, Elizabeth holds dual citizenship – Irish and American (holding both USA and European Union passports—no visa required to work in any EU country), and from 2008 to 2012 she lived and worked in Ireland. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s College, University of Notre Dame.

Kacy O'Brien

kobrien@creativenj.org  (Director of Programming) has led cross-sector teams in Camden, Asbury Park, Trenton, Highlands, Elizabeth, Atlantic City, the Skylands region (tri-county), and Hammonton through CNJ’s engagement process, including planning and facilitating large-scale public engagement events for each community, and for three statewide engagement events focused on regional collaboration. She helps communities to leverage their own creativity and innovation through coaching and network building beyond public engagement events. As a facilitator for retreats, panels and conferences, she has conducted workshops on creative decision-making, community engagement, leadership, and time management for groups such as the Environmental Leadership Program, Geraldine R. Dodge Emerging Leaders, Citizens Campaign, and creative placemaking initiatives.

As a theatre producer, she spent the majority of her career developing and producing new plays.  She joined Passage in 2007 from Manhattan Theatre Club where she worked on original, award-winning Broadway and off-Broadway productions with artists including Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Daniels, David Lindsey-Abaire, Michael Cerveris, and Donna Murphy.  At Passage, she oversaw producing, technical, and administrative activities.

She also managed and produced Passage’s environmental collaborations – an unprecedented collaboration between Passage and New Jersey-based environmental organizations to bring environmental justice-themed shows to the stage, as well as lectures, workshops and classes on environmental issues to local schools and universities.  Artists included Climbing PoeTreePeter Donaldson, and Kaiulani Lee.  Passage’s environmental project culminated in Dancescapes New Jersey – a collaboration between a youth jazz trio, DanceSpora Dance Company, Passage and D&R Greenway Land Trust in two outdoor parks, one rural and one urban, preceded by nature walks with local experts, poetry readings, and a touring photographic exhibition of the process.  See the video of Dancescapes from CivicStory here.

In addition, she is a member of the Geraldine R. Dodge Emerging Leaders, and volunteered for six years at the Mercer County Wildlife Center where she helped to rehabilitate all manner of wildlife.  She is a 2015 Fellow of Lead NJ, a competitive statewide leadership program.

Diana Mendez

dmendez@creativenj.org (Communications and Program Manager) has over 10 years of work experience empowering communities to solve specific social issues from the non-profit, public and private sector. As a Project Manager for the government program “Live Colombia, Travel Youth” she reached more than 4,000 businesses all around the country to get special discounts for young travelers. As a Legislative Advisor and Social Media Coordinator at the National Colombian Congress, she impacted government decision making and informed the public by using her expertise in communications and social media. As an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Policies Coordinator, she organized and developed more than 25 participatory meetings around Colombia with government, business and academic representatives in order to include their proposals in the ICT National Plan. Currently, she is a co-organizer of a Meetup Group for families in New Jersey, where she helps local parents to engage in community development activities.