Meet Our Team


Board Members

Joseph DeMasi - Board President

Joseph DeMasi has been President of the Bridges Arts Council for several years. He works as a professional musician playing guitar and singing and is very involved in promoting the Arts in Valley City and Barnes County. Originally from the New York City area, he spent his life on the road playing in a number of musical groups. He currently plays solo or with his twin brother John doing folk music concerts throughout the country. He has released a number of CD's as well. He was instrumental in helping to renovate the Amphitheater in Pioneer Park and looks forward to expanding the work of the Bridges Arts Council to further enhance the quality of life in our community.

Hilde van Gijssel - Board Treasurer/Secretary

Hilde van Gijssel joined the Bridges Arts Council in 2008 and has served as Treasurer and on the occasion as Secretary since 2011. Hilde grew up in the Netherlands and earned master and doctoral degree from Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. In 2002 she moved to Valley City to start her faculty position in the Science Department of Valley City State University. In 2015 she earned a Master of Education degree from VCSU. Hilde firmly believes that being involved and volunteering in the community is essential for a healthy community. She also believes that being involved in the arts makes the world a better place. Therefore, she enjoys going to concerts, exhibits and performances and being a supporter of everything Art. In her spare time, she dabbles in photography, playing the violin and singing together with other people.

Maggie Oakland - Board Member

Maggie (Gassmann) Oakland was born and raised on her family farm just outside Valley City, North Dakota, where she was introduced to the arts early in life by watching her mother, visual artist Sharon Linnehan, create still lifes, landscapes, and portraits at home.  After high school, Maggie moved to Grand Forks, ND, attended college at the University of North Dakota, and began her career with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.  She was a case manager, American Red Cross volunteer, and civil mediator in Grand Forks, also moonlighting as a keyboardist in the band FIRE until her son was born in 2011.  Maggie obtained her Master of Arts in Counseling in 2014 and returned with her husband and son to Valley City to serve the Department of Human Services as a therapist in her home region.  In 2018, she collaborated on behalf of South Central Human Service Center in Jamestown with The North Dakota Council on the Arts and the Jamestown Arts Center to develop the Coping Skills Through Art program for individuals with chronic addictions and/ or serious mental illness.  She joined the Bridges Arts Council the following year to continue her efforts to integrate the arts with recovery and mental health.  Maggie is a co-author of the 2011 Psychology Journal Publication "The Association Between Social Adjustment and Satisfaction in Individuals having Schizophrenia." She is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), serving the people of North Dakota through the Department of Human Services, and a National Certified Guardian, providing professional guardianship services through Lighthouse Associates, Inc.

Jenni Lou Russi - Board Member

Jenni Lou Russi began serving on the Bridges Arts Council when she was the Director of Theatre at Valley City State University. After the Theatre program (all classes, productions, and activities) closed at the university she remained on the board in commitment to a future for the Arts in Valley City. Russi is a professional standup comedian who performs in festivals and venues around the country. She is also a professional actress, writer, and speaker who continues to teach as a professor in Communication Arts at VCSU. In 1987 she was part of the team that created the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre in Denali National Park as the first entertainment venue in the area. Based on her work in tourism in remote locations and metropolitan areas, Russi believes the Arts will not only serve future generations in Valley City, but can also create opportunities in business and the visitor industry.

Gratia Brown - Board Member

Gratia loves to make things, break things, and create pieces that celebrate fragments and debris's poetic nature. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and her Bachelor of Arts in the History of Art & Architecture and Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Valley City State University (ND), where she teaches ceramics, sculpture, art methods, and art history. She will participate in the Studio Paducah artist residency program in the summer of 2021.

Exhibitions and honors include Ancient Alchemy at the Washington Pavilion (SD),  Part and Parcel, a 2010 NCECA Conference Concurrent Exhibition, and the 4th UNICUM Ceramics Triennial at the National Museum of Slovenia where her work received a Recognition Award. Her work recently received 2nd place in the Visions in Clay exhibit at the LH Horton Jr Gallery (CA).


She has been awarded scholarships and assistantships at Haystack Mountain School of Craft (ME), Penland School of Craft (NC), and Arrowmont School of Art and Craft (TN). Residencies include The Hungarian Multicultural Center, Budapest, Hungary, I-Park (CT), Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts (ME), The Ceramics Center (IA), University of North Dakota (ND), and Northern State University (SD).

George Dutton - Board Member

George Dutton is owner of Dutton’s Valley Gallery of Photography and Dutton’s Parlour (along with his wife Bonnie).  George earned a Bachelor of Professional Arts degree from Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, CA in 1972 and as worked in professional photography ever since. In 1984, George came to Valley City. George and his wife, Bonnie, are both constant advocates for downtown Valley City and local business in the area. George works tirelessly to give back to his community and served as Scoutmaster for the local boy scout troop for 10 years, active with the Valley City Chamber of Commerce for many years, served 10 years as a city commissioner for the city of Valley City. George is a strong believer in the value of both Music and Art and that they can both play a strong role in creating a positive community image.

Diane Sommerfeld - Board Member

Diane grew up on a farm in the Kathryn/Litchville area. Music was always a part of her family, church & school when she grew up. She worked for 2 summers at the local newspaper and was encouraged to attend NDSCS for Graphic Arts. She attended 1 year and then got her M.R.S. degree. They moved to Valley City where she worked with the Times-Record as the Graphic Arts manager and did layout & design of various publications/jobs for over 20 years. After moving to Valley City, she became very active with the VC Community Theatre and served on the board for about 6 years. She was always active with her families school and community activities and with her church. She has been with the Park District for over 20 years and with the Bridges Arts Council for the past 2-3 years. She enjoys attending plays, musicals and most kinds of music.

Abigail Ingstad - Board Member

Abigail (Abby) Ingstad is a student at Valley City State University majoring in History Education and Music. Abigail Ingstad is a Music and History Education major from Valley City. She currently attends VCSU and is very active on campus with the music department, participating in many ensembles. When she is not in school, she is the Assistant Coach for both the Valley City High School Student Congress and Speech teams. Abby has been involved in music and public speaking for much of her life and is very passionate about the importance of the arts in all communities. She looks forward to working towards the goals of the Bridges Arts Council to continue building the quality of life in our community through art.

Jerrold Heide - Board Member

Jerrold Heide is the Chair of the Department of Music at Valley City State University, where serves as Director of Bands and teaches percussion studio and instrumental music methods. Prior to this appointment, he served four years as Director of Instrumental Music at Alliance High School in Alliance, NE. Additional teaching service includes instrumental and vocal music in Osmond, NE and Buffalo, SD at the K-12 level. His marching bands have performed recently in Chicago, IL and Washington D.C., and his instrumental ensembles have consistently received superior ratings at District Music Contest and regional marching competitions. Jerrold holds a Master of Music in Education degree from the University of South Dakota and a Bachelor of Science in K-12 Instrumental Music Education from Dickinson State University (ND). He is active as a clinician and adjudicator throughout the Northern Plains region. Jerrold is a member of the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association, North Dakota Music Educators' Association, College Band Directors National Association, International Tuba-Euphonium Association, and the National Association for Music Education. Personal interests include motorcycles/cars, hunting, and spending time at the family ranch in Eastern Montana. He currently resides in Valley City, ND with his wife Erin and two daughters, Della and Claire.

Staff Members

Nick Lee - Arts Administrator

Nick began serving the Bridges Arts Council in the role of arts administrator in February of 2020 and works closely with the board of directors to help fulfill the mission of the Bridges Arts Council by providing advocacy and resources for the arts in the Valley City and Barnes County area. All of his life, Nick has been involved with the arts and feels a deep obligation to providing arts opportunities to as many as possible. Nick graduated with a degree in Health Science with a minor in Biology from VCSU in 2016 and is on track to complete his Master of Arts in Teaching in December 2021 from VCSU. Through his involvement with the Communication Speech and Theater Association of North Dakota, Nick works to promote speech, debate, and theater opportunities around the state of North Dakota firmly believing that ALL students deserve access to the Arts. Besides in his capacity as the Arts Administrator for the Bridges Arts Council, Nick also works for Valley City Public Schools as their Head Speech Coach and Student Congress Coach.

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Posted on 10-21-2020