Marie Justice was born in California, raised in Illinois, and is now enjoying life in Wisconsin’s capital city and loves her adopted home. When she’s not with her four children or working on social justice films with her husband Johnny, she's in front of the camera as a host with the Discover Wisconsin crew or, can be found on stage acting or directing in Madison’s local theater scene. But her passion is social justice and producing films that focus on changing the way people interact and care for one. Marie is also the owner of a commercial cleaning service that intentionally hires people of color who are paid a living wage. Her production company is Justice&Justice Productions.
Who we Are
Cultural Connections founder and Ex. Director Pat Dillon, is a social justice writer and fine artist who first began creating enrichment programs when she noticed low income youth were seldom engaged in the advanced academic opportunities offered to her daughters. Over the following years she ran book clubs and creative writing clubs for kids with all intellectual abilities and income levels.
When her grandson's father was incarcerated in 2012, Pat directed her focus to the 2,000 plus children in Dane County who live without a parent because of incarceration. She now works to support youth in building a stronger sense of self and purpose through cultural engagement, while also training youth to serve as youth allies for the many kids affected by the social structures that create barriers to academic and cultural opportunity.
Jerry Butler, Vice President
Jerry Butler received a MS Degree in Art Education form Jackson State University. He moved to Madison as a middle school teacher and attended the University of Wisconsin where he received a MFA, MSLA and PhD Degrees. Butler also attended Harvard University’s Summer Institute for Transformational Leadership in Education. Butler served as a K12 art teacher for the Madison Metropolitan School District for many years before becoming an Associate Dean at Madison College in Madison Wisconsin. He served on the Kennedy Center Arts Alliance Network Board and was on the faculty at Central Connecticut State University where he created public art works in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas and Connecticut. Butler is the owner of Arts and Design Works LLC., of Madison.
Alexis Dean, Secretary
Alexis is an educator and a hip hop artist who has devoted his life to children. He is proud of his work as a black educator in a system where black faces are not typically leading classrooms. Through his production company, #dreamsstartyoung, Alexis composes music with strong messages for children of color and leads workshops in which he tackles hard conversations about racism and other hard to navigate issues for the young. He began his work at UW-Milwaukee's childcare center as a college freshman and went on to become an award-winning MMSD Americorp member. He worked in the Madison schools until Covid19 forced him to begin a new career path.
Rachel Owen-Erickson, Treasurer
Rachel Erickson has worked with nonprofits for over 15 years, focusing her efforts on social justice, racial equity, and education. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology at B.Y.U., where she developed a love of world cultures. She has coached refugees, military veterans, and recent immigrants in beginning new careers. After moving to Wisconsin in 2013, she joined the Boys and Girls’ Club of Dane County on their education team. She tutors under-represented high school students in core subjects, as well as managing a program budget and tracking the metrics necessary for grant funding. Rachel considers it a privilege to be in the high school, listening to Black, Asian, and Latino youth discuss racial trauma and restorative justice. Rachel has developed a deep appreciation for how art can help people cope with stress, heal from trauma, and construct an identity. She also loves getting messy doing art projects or going to the playground with her two children, Owen and Adelle.
Nicole Wetzel, Curriculum
Nicole Wetzel is a teacher at the Goodman Community Center serving both the preschool and after school programs as support staff. Nicole has taught theater basic classes to 1st through 5th graders and also teaches knitting to several groups at Goodman. She believes that building strong community is the basis for strong teaching and is passionate about seeking out resources that celebrate the diversity of our world and incorporating those resources into her teaching. Nicole participated in The Neighborhood Organizing Institute sponsored by the Madison City Council which provided tools and training for grassroots organizing in her neighborhood and larger community. Nicole holds a BA in teaching from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI.