Oliver Ragsdale Jr.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Oliver Ragsdale, Jr. has unwaveringly led this organization since the inception of the Arts League of Michigan / the Carr Center in 1991.His main focus over the years has been for the organization to provide world class arts programming and educational opportunities to the Detroit community.
In addition to CEO, Oliver served as the organization’s artistic director until 2016, when the baton was passed to the late legendary jazz pianist, Geri Allen. However, it should be noted, he remains a very hands-on CEO who still loves to ideate with the Carr Center’s current co-artistic directors, artistic collaborators and resident artists.
Oliver Ragsdale, Jr. is also a highly prolific producer and musician. Over the span of his 45 year career he has presented and/or produced literally hundreds of arts and culture performances and exhibitions. Highlights include recordings, tours and shows for the Rudy Hawkins Singers, the Michigan Jazz Masters and Tony-award winning director, George Faison and the Rock My Soul visual art exhibition. An accomplished percussionist, Oliver also has an extensive professional background as a performer. He has performed with the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet and the Michigan Opera Theatre, as well as numerous bands, musicals, touring companies and road shows including Dionne Warwick, Earl “Fatha” Hines and Steve Allen.
Arts Academy Coordinator
A native Detroiter, Gina danced on the commercial and concert stages in NYC for 18 years. She had the pleasure of working and assisting choreographer’s such as Tony Award Winning Choreographer George Faison, Louis Johnson, Donny McKayle and Otis Sallid to name a few. Ms. Ellis has appeared in the Broadway and National Companies of The Wiz and Purlie. She also appeared in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and the HBO’s Josephine Baker Story. Gina was also the assistant stage manager of the national company of Five Guys Named Moe. She recently retired after 20 years of teaching dance at Detroit’s Renaissance High School and she has taught at Legacy Dance Studio for 6 years. Ms. Ellis feels honored to be working for the Carr Center to help develop and enrich the lives of the young people of Detroit through the fine and performing arts.
Erin Falker Obichigha
Curator and Senior Creative Director
Erin Falker is a practicing visual artist and this position marks a return to her working for the Carr Center having worked from here in 2014 as an Emergent Artist Fellow and in 2015 as our Assistant Creative Director.
After receiving her undergraduate degrees from Stanford University in Art History and Art Practice, Erin went on to receive her M.F.A. from the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis. She has curated several highly regarded exhibitions in the city of Detroit and has worked on projects such as 30 Americans, Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion, and Oh, You Fancy! She is currently working towards a second master’s degree with a concentration in Art History.
Marketing and Production Manager
After 30 years as an Emmy award winning broadcast television executive, Sarah Norat-Phillips returns to her roots. A trained singer, actress and producer, Sarah has over 25 years working in professional theater. She is very excited to be back and engaged full time at her passion, presenting exceptional arts programming for her community.
In addition to her career in television marketing and management, Sarah Norat-Phillips is a co-founder of Ujima Company, a professional theatre collective in Buffalo, New York whose primary purpose is the preservation, perpetuation and performance of African American theatre. Ujima just celebrated their 40th Anniversary.
Before taking on the fund development role for the Carr Center, Brenda had a varied career: academician, clinician, NIH funded researcher, executive with the nation’s largest chamber of commerce, and independent consultant with experience in strategic planning, fundraising, and project management. This talented and diverse background helps with the several hats Brenda wears here at the Carr Center.