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Rena Henderson Mason leads Bold Agenda and is a trusted advisor to mission-driven board and staff leaders, helping them shape their boards for high performance and tell their unique stories. She trains and coaches boards and leaders on high performance teams, governance, fundraising, recruitment & retention, diversity and inclusion, and succession planning. Her specialty is empowering board and staff leaders to embrace change, push bold ideas and build great teams. She has coached Board Chairs and Executive Directors/CEOs through a range of organizational challenges including growth, leadership transitions, strategic alliances, restructuring, turnaround and crisis.

Rena serves on the Board Development Committee for the Arts Alliance Illinois and National Association of Women Business Owners – Chicago Chapter. She brings broad knowledge of housing, social services and community development through her 10 years of board service with a leading supportive housing provider. Prior to launching Bold Agenda, Rena spent over 20 years helping scale businesses through new product development, 

strategic planning and capital raising in the food, commercial real estate, publishing and investment banking industries. She has an MBA from Harvard University and Bachelor’s in Finance and International Management from Georgetown University. She is a ICF-Certified Coach and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer with extensive experience in high performance coaching, board development and group process facilitation. An alumna of Second City’s Comedy Writing program, she is also a gifted writer and storyteller.

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Brian Loevner, President + Founder, BLVE

Brian (he/him) is an executive leader, consultant & producer.  Most recently, he was the Managing Producer of The Second City from 2015-2017, managing all theatrical production in Chicago with a yearly budget of over $12 million dollars. From 2004-2013, Brian served as the Managing Director of Chicago Dramatists.  As a fundraiser, Brian has raised over $3 million dollars for organizations and productions in the last 10 years.  In addition, Brian successfully pitched the MacArthur Foundation, ending in the creation of a $750k program to provide cashflow loans to arts organizations during the 2008 recession. Brian has also produced over 150 theatrical productions with companies such as The Kennedy Center, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance, LaJolla Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Famous Door Theatre and Timeline Theatre.  Further, his work as a consultant has been in assisting non profits, such as Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, LOVE Ontario, Adventure Stage Chicago and many others in building strong teams of professionals, creating systems for success and planning for the future.



Nick Rabkin is Principal at reMaking Culture, a consulting, research, evaluation, and planning practice focused on arts education; cultural philanthropy and policy; and innovation and engagement in the arts. Nick brings rigorous analysis and broad strategic and historical perspective to questions about how the arts serve the public good and enrich individual lives, and how the arts ecosystem can be more sustainable.


Nick’s consulting and research focuses on helping artists, arts organizations and their supporters make the arts more relevant, meaningful, and inclusive – and a vital and practical force for developing community and building democracy. He has been Executive Director of the Organic Theater Company; Chicago’s Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Harold Washington, and Senior Program Officer for the arts and culture at the MacArthur Foundation. He directed the Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College Chicago and was a senior research scientist at NORC at the University of Chicago. He is a fellow with 

Slover Linett Audience Strategies. He was on the teams that developed Chicago’s first cultural plan (1986) and its second (2012), and recently led a team that helped Cornell University develop a plan for the arts. Another recent project developed a music program for immigrant children in a Chicago church. His writing includes Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing education in the 21st Century (2005); Teaching Artists and the Future of Education (2011); and studies and reports for clients including the Irvine Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. Nick brings extensive experience in strategic planning; program planning and development; and program evaluation and assessment.

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Allison Shurilla, MPP (she/they), founder and Lead Consultant of AS Community Consulting, has over 13 years of experience consulting nonprofits, schools, and public agencies on their evaluation and research goals. In addition to her consulting experience, she has 20 years of experience working in the education and nonprofit sector as a staff member, volunteer, educator, and board member. She has backgrounds in education, youth work, public health, community engagement, and the arts in a local, national, and international capacity. 


Allison’s approach to research and evaluation uses a combination of traditional evaluation consulting, social justice-based research methodologies, community organizing principles, and coaching techniques.

Allison regularly leads workshops and trainings on community-based and equity-focused evaluation methods for nonprofit organizations. She developed The Power of Evaluation Culture Workshop Series, supporting materials, and process, which guides community-based organizations in developing evaluation systems that are based in community and equity, and integrated into their everyday work and processes. 

Allison founded AS Community Consulting, Inc. with the mission of using her evaluation and research expertise to contribute to social change through honoring and uplifting the expertise of communities that are often disenfranchised, especially in the research, evaluation, and nonprofit worlds.

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Mary Beth Sova, Development Consultant,  brings more than 25 years of highly successful experience as a non-profit director of development, interim director and fundraising consultant to a wide variety of clients. Drawing from a deep and broad base of experience, resources, contacts and expertise in all facets of non-profit fundraising, she customizes her work to both the realities and aspirations of each organization, applying best practices to increase and enhance outcomes.


Working with each organization to evaluate and address their particular needs and wants, Mary Beth tailors her scope of services and timeline to fit their requirements and abilities. Through a thoughtful assessment and evaluation process, Mary Beth meets not for profit clients where they are and helps them to discover where they can feasibly and innovatively go in order to meet their goals for sustainability, growth and impact. She aligns creative possibilities with the identity, mission, vision and work of the organization and works with its

staff, board members, volunteers, audiences, service population and area as well as other identified key stakeholders.

Mary Beth began her fundraising career as a political fundraiser and campaign finance director raising millions of dollars for candidates and campaigns.  She then took her considerable talents and resources to the non-profit sector, creating and leading a wide array of fundraising committees; planning and executing a multitude of fundraising, cultivation and recognition events; and developing and guiding major gift strategies, among many other responsibilities. She has worked as Director of Development at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Friends of the Chicago River and has consulted with dozens of other not for profit organizations whose missions she enthusiastically supports. She received her BA in Economics and Psychology and pursued a Masters of Sociology/Demography from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. More information can be found at

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Allison Trimarco is the founder of Creative Capacity, LLC, which provides creative solutions to the challenges faced by nonprofit organizations. Since 2002, she has been collaborating with nonprofits on strategic planning, fundraising, board development, and community engagement projects.


Allison is based in New Jersey with a nationwide clientele. Regionally, she has collaborated with statewide organizations to increase the capacity of the arts, culture, and history sector through partnerships with ArtPride NJ, ArtsEd NJ, the New Jersey Historical Commission, the New Jersey Historic Trust, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She also works frequently with small and mid-sized organizations to increase their program impact and organizational stability. Recent clients include NonProfitConnect, the Alice Paul Institute, Grounds for Sculpture, CASA of New Jersey, Music for All, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, Rise Community Services, the El Sistema New Jersey Alliance, and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. She earned her BA in Theatre from Smith College and her Master’s in Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Since the start of the pandemic, Allison has been coaching nonprofits across the sector in how to meet their immediate challenges and plan for the future in spite of the many unknowns we all face. Working together with clients, she looks forward to seeing how new models of service and sustainability will emerge from this difficult time.

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Nello McDaniel, Founder and Director

Nello McDaniel founded ARTS Action Research in 1991 and supervises all project activity and publication development from AAR’s office in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to ARTS Action Research, Nello was Executive Director of the Foundation for the Extension and Development of the American Professional Theatre, an arts consulting company based in New York City.  From 1978 to 1982, he managed the Presentation and Touring Programs for the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Program. Prior to that, he was Chief Operating Officer and Performing Arts Director for the Western States Arts Foundation, Denver, CO. In 1993, he was named Fulbright International Scholar.

Photo by Gerri Hernandez

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George Thorn is the co-founder of Arts Action Research, a national arts-consulting group. As a consultant, he works in all aspects of organizational development as well as making presentations to conferences and workshops.  In parallel with his consulting activities, for eighteen years he directed the graduate program in Arts Administration at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. He was the Associate Director of FEDAPT. Prior to these activities, he was the Executive Vice-President of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. George spent sixteen years in New York where he had a general management firm that managed Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring companies. He began his career as a stage manager of Broadway productions.


In 1996, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, to open the West Coast office of Arts Action Research. In Portland, he has consulted with over two hundred arts and cultural organizations and artists. The focus of his consulting is the Regional Arts and Cultural

Council’s Cultural Leadership Program where he co-leads RACC’s Art of Leadership six-part board training program.

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