Twelve Literary Arts 

Where tradition meets innovation

Twelve Literary and Performative Arts Incubator Teaching Artists

Our teaching artists have a combined 85 years of experience working as poets, writers, educators, and researchers. Here's who we are:

Daniel Gray-Kontar

Twelve Executive Artistic Director, Teaching Artist | Hip Hop Culture for MC's, Playwriting for Social Change, Poetry for Publication, Literary Theory

Daniel Gray-Kontar is a poet, teacher, youth mentor, rapper, journalist, and education activist. He has worked as an advocate for social transformation in the city of Cleveland for more than 25 years. Gray-Kontar is an education consultant for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the former chair of the Literary Arts Department at the Cleveland School of the Arts; and a former graduate school fellow at UC Berkeley's College of Education. His work in arts education has been showcased on PBS Newshour. Gray-Kontar has lectured at universities, public schools, arts organizations and scholarly conferences across the US. His Ted Talk discussing youth leadership in public school education has affected the ways public school administrators think about the inclusion of youth and their families in the process of re-making school cultures and curricula.

Kisha Nicole Foster

Teaching Artist | Introduction to Poetry, Poetry & Performance, Advanced Poetry  

A nominee of the Cleveland Arts Prize, Kisha Nicole Foster is a poet, educator, and youth mentor. Kisha has represented Cleveland several times nationally – competing at National Poetry Slam 2003, Individual World Poetry Slam 2008, and Women of the World 2009. The Poets and Writers League of Greater Cleveland (now The Lit Center), awarded Kisha as one of the Top 25 Writers of Greater Cleveland in 2006. In 2010, KNF produced her first one – woman show, “Remember Rebirth WeLive” at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Her first full-length collection of poems, titled “Poems: 1999-2014” was published in 2015 (GTK Press). She has read and lectured at colleges and universities across Northeast Ohio and she is currently coaching Cleveland’s national youth poetry slam team that will compete at Brave New Voices, in Washington D.C. in July 2016. Kisha Nicole Foster guides poets young and old to find their voices and focus on their craft. 

Eric M. Odum

Director of One Mic Open, Teaching Artist | Poetry & Performance

Eric M. Odum is a graduate of Cleveland School of the Arts, where he double majored in Creative Writing and Theater. Odum is the current president of the Youth Poetry Slam team in Cleveland (One Mic Open), and has been an active part of the youth performance poetry scene as performer, coach, and administrator for nearly a decade. He has taught at various schools, ranging from Orange to Lakewood, as well as Cleveland School of the arts. He actively engages youth in conversations about their art as it relates to the world around them, in hopes of fostering confidence in their artistic, and individual voice.

James Brandon Irby

Coach, One Mic Open, Teaching Artist | Introduction to Poetry, Poetry & Performance

James Brandon Irby is a graduate of the Literary Arts Department at Cleveland School of the Arts. He is a former member of the Cleveland Youth Poetry Slam Team, and is the present coach of the Slam Team representing the city of Cleveland at the annual Brave New Voices competition.

Eva Barrett

Teaching Artist | Introduction to Poetry, Playwriting for Social Change, Literary Theory

Eva Barrett is a poet and playwright from Cleveland, OH. She is a 2014 graduate of the Cleveland School of the Arts and is currently studying History and German at Case Western Reserve University. Eva’s primary artistic focus is studying discourse as power in dialogue and public space, and translating the nuances of human interactions into written and spoken word. She has facilitated classes and workshops in playwriting, poetry, and the historical analysis of poetry, centered around the intersections of postcolonial studies and erotic subjectivity. Eva was the 2016 recipient of the Rocks Experiential Learning Fellowship, with which she travelled to participate in the James Madison University Undergraduate Writing Conference. She is currently an artist in residence at the Cleveland School of the Arts.

Alana Belle

Administrator, One Mic Open, Teaching Artist | Poetry & Performance

Alana Belle is a well-regarded poet on-the-verge. She is a current administrator for the Cleveland Youth Poetry Slam Team, and community activist. Belle is also a former coach and member of the Youth Poetry Slam Team; and a graduate of Cleveland School of the Arts' Literary Arts Department.

Teaching Interns

Each fall, spring and summer, Twelve hires paid interns to support our education programming. These youth are an indelible part of facilitating writing workshops, co-constructing our curriculum, managing our website, and capturing, editing and posting video to social media. 

Here is our roster of interns for summer of 2016:

Mary Barrett

Poetry, website development, education

Mary Barrett was born August 2, 1999 in Cleveland, Ohio. Now 16 years old, she attends the Cleveland School of the Arts as a senior in the Literary Arts department. Her writing is best known for its womanist outlook on life as well as its repetitive use of symbolism using the sun and ocean. Her greatest piece of work, a womanist choreopoem titled "Henosis", was her first real breakthrough in finding her voice as a young poet.

Taylor Benford

Poetry, performance, education

Is a 17 year old student, attending New Tech at Collinwood where they’re senior year. Taylor has only recently  started writing poetry , but has found it a therapeutic way to connect to others while speaking their own truth. Taylors main focus is writing poetry that connects to their experiences as a nerdy queer person of color. Taylor is a current member of One Mic Open youth program slam team representing the city of Cleveland at the Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Festival and Competition.

Nick Vitello

Poetry, performance, website management, online marketing

Amber Kenney is 17 years old, and is a senior at the Cleveland school of the Arts. Having a passion and focus for short fiction, it's not surprising she’s in the literary arts department. Amber was born in Opelika, Alabama, and was raised in Montgomery. She moved to Ohio five years ago. She is interested in fantastical ideas and mythological settings for the stories she writes and reads.

Raja Freeman

Poetry, Short Fiction, Education

Raja Freeman is a Cleveland’s current youth poetry grand slam champion.Freeman will represent the city of Cleveland at the Annual Brave New Voices Festival and Competition in San Francisco this summer. She is a poet, musician, and visual artist, who has also placed second in the Ohio poetry Association’s student contest. Freeman was also a Lieutenant Governor for Key Club International. She will attend Cleveland State University this Fall.

Deija Vinson

Poetry, performance, Education

Deija Vinson is an 18-year-old senior in the Literary Arts Department at Cleveland School of the Arts with a strong focus in poetry. She was born in  West Virginia and raised in Detroit only to move to Ohio recently. Deija has an unhealthy obsession with books and writing, which is probably why this summer she is attending at the university of two poetry/writing residences at the university of Pennsylvania and as one of the ten American youth selected to attend at the university of Iowa. She has a love of all things odd and tries to incorporate that into her writing. She is part of a performance group called six of twelve that has performances every other places.

Tiana Wilson 

Poetry, Videography, Video editing

Tiana Wilson is an 18-year-old student who graduated from Cleveland School of the Arts in May of 2017. A literary arts major at CSA, Tiana`s main focus was poetry and screenwriting. Her short film ”Dance Of  The Night” debuted at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival in the Fall of 2016. Tiana enjoys weaving classic mythology stories into her own vision of the contemporary world. She has been admitted into Cleveland State University, where she will major in film/cinema and minor as a creative writer. Tiana has performed at several venues, including Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland Public Theatre, Karamu Theatre. Tiana hopes to one day be able to help youth in her city get the same opportunities she had while she was growing up.