Melissa "Mel" Forkner Lesher

Mel holds a BFA in painting and drawing from The Penn State School of Visual Arts and an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  She serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Art Alliance of Central PA, is a volunteer and member on the Artist Registry of the Bellefonte Art Museum, helps facilitate, develop and organize art programs at The Rhoneymeade Sculpture Garden and Arboretum, and invests with dedication to the principles of the Jana Marie Foundation.  Currently, Mel works as an Art Instructor for Continuing Education at Penn State University.

Mel works in conceptual installation and sculpture while maintaining a dual practice in realist drawing and painting with emphasis on the figure.

Mel's Interest in Jana Marie Foundation's Stomper Project:

"I have had ongoing struggle with major depression disorder since I was thirteen. Luckily my father recognized the early stages and facilitated as well as openly encouraged me to seek help when I needed it. I know that without those tools, I would have taken a different path. I want to work on The Stompers Project because I'd like the opportunity to encourage others to acquire tools that can help generate positive outcomes for their lives."

Chris Bittner

Chris is a native of State College, PA and attended Penn State University.  His love of working with wood goes back to childhood when he was taught by his father and grandfather to use tools. Chris took a strong interest in sculpture after college and sought instruction from local carvers Bob Butler and Nelson Wood. He sculpts from hardwood blocks that he collects locally. He is a member of The Art Alliance of Central PA, enjoys studio space at C. Barton McCann School of Art and supports Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden.

Chris' Interest in Jana Marie Foundation's Stomper Project:

"I believe that many people struggle with mental or emotional difficulties that can cause limitations in achieving  their life's potential.  Oftentimes the roots of these  problems occur early in life. The Stompers Project will have a positive impact for a great many young people, using art, creativity and fun as a catalyst to bring important issues out into the open. I am so happy to help bring this project to fruition!"

Mark Pilato

Mark, an internationally renowned artist, was born and raised in State College, PA.  Ever since Mark finished his first sculpture at nine, he has been building a vocabulary in clay and form. Each of Mark’s sculptures represents a journey of exploration and discovery. As he develops a work of art, Mark continually modifies the form, often hundreds of times, sometimes by wiping the form almost completely away, leaving just a shadow of what was and then finding something more as the sculpture evolves.

As an internationally recognized artist, Mark’s works reside in private and public collections throughout the United States, as well as in Italy and Japan. A graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he has made a name for himself in the fine art world with his distinctive style and innovative techniques for creating bronze sculpture. Mark is currently an artist in residence at C. Barton McCann School of Art.

Mark's Interest in Jana Marie Foundation's Stompers Project:

"I am moved and inspired to be a part of this project...Working together as a team, finding our way with a variety of perspectives, facing challenges and overcoming the obstacles, and understanding ourselves and others can be a very healing process."

Annalisa Barron

Annalisa was born in Bellingham, WA, however she grew up in State College, PA where she is a proud graduate of the Delta Program.  When Annalisa was 18, she worked for an environmental non-profit in North Western WA, where she learned many skills that transferred over to her artwork.  Annalisa attended the Forerunner Music Academy in Kansas City and has a BFA in Painting and Drawing from Penn State University.  In the past three years, Annalisa's art and films have been shown at The Copper Union in NYC and in six different countries.  Annalisa will be attending the MFA in Fine Art Program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in Fall 2015.

Annalisa makes satirical life-size marionettes.  She is categorized as a multi-media artist, because some days she is a painter and others she is dragging eight foot marionettes through the woods or trying to blow throw a blade of grass in a recording studio.

Annalisa's Interest in Jana Marie Foundation's Stompers Project:

"I'm interested in the Stompers Project because it meets a need and it's ambitious. In my life, most of my biggest influences have been people who have overcome both internal and external circumstances.  I see the Stompers Project as an outlet for growth for all those involved and hope that this project will not only "Stomp out the Stigma" but celebrate the strength that it takes to overcome adversity."

The Artists: