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Arts Committee

Diana Pletts, MA
, since 2006 has directed and coordinated The Phoenix Project, which provides a time, space, and place for cult survivors to present their cult and recovery related artwork. Diana is working, herself, to regain and work out her own artistic vision, which was abandoned when she became a member of the Path, a charismatic End-Times group. Diana went to Wellspring for post-cult counseling help in 1999. She then returned to college to complete her cult interrupted undergraduate degree and a master's in communication, writing a thesis project for a cult education information campaign. Diana has spoken on cults at colleges and churches, on the radio, and at Chautauqua Institution in New York State. She also edits the Arts and Literary section of ICSA Today. She has worked as a writer and adjunct college professor. Diana has four adult children and enjoys photography, flowers, and her family and friends.

Christine Cole
is a visual artist who hails from Canada. A three-time Phoenix Project participant, she has created works that were not only well received, but also sought after for purchase. Christine’s artistic interest is lifelong: “I always loved drawing and painting from the time I could hold a crayon.” Discouraged from pursuing an art education, however, she got a degree in biochemistry, but found the work unsatisfying and began to take art courses, which she has continued to this day. Christine states that she did not “consciously draw or paint about my cult experience until the call for submissions came for the first Phoenix Project many years” after she left the Unification Church with the help of friends. While sketching my three rough pieces entitled Entry, In the Cult, and Exit, I tried to capture my feelings and experience in visual form. Although I was not impressed with the finished pieces, I found the process to be very healing and cathartic. It has been especially gratifying to find that others were touched by, and could relate to my works. Christine lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband, Jeff. She works as a teacher’s assistant and is the mother of two grown sons and a teenage daughter. She has appeared on television and in a film on ex-members, and has produced painting during church services and in exhibition.

Kristen Skedgell DeVoe, MDiv, LCSW, is a clinical social worker. After leaving The Way, she earned a master's in divinity from Yale Divinity School and an MS in social work from Columbia. She is the author of Losing the Way: A Memoir of Spiritual Longing, Manipulation, Abuse, and Escape (Bay Tree Publishing, 2008).

Carolyn Jervis
is an Art History Masters student at the University of British Columbia in the Critical and Curatorial Studies Program. Her research interests include the visual and material culture of cult and alternative religious groups, particularly of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as contemporary video art that explores the place of the everyday in a techno-global capitalist world. Professionally, Carolyn is a curator, creative consultant, and freelance art writer who has worked in the visual arts community in Edmonton, Alberta for many years. Her curatorial projects include a nationally-exhibited participatory art installation and her consulting work includes assisting the creation of exhibition space for an art therapy and creative arts-focused college.

Nori Muster, MS,
is the author of Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life Behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement (University of Illinois Press, 1997), Cult Survivors Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life (2000), and Child of the Cult (2010). She was an ISKCON member from 1978 – 1988, then earned her master's degree at Western Oregon University in 1992 doing art therapy with juvenile sex offenders. She is currently an adjunct professor at Mesa Community College, in Mesa, Arizona.

Joseph Szimhart
began research into cultic influence in 1980, after ending his two-year devotion to a New Age sect called Church Universal and Triumphant. He began to work professionally as an intervention specialist and exit counselor in 1986 on an international scale. From 1985 through 1992, he was chairman of an interdenominational, cult information organization in New Mexico. Since 1998 he has worked in the crisis department of a psychiatric emergency hospital in Pennsylvania. He continues to assist families with interventions and former members in recovery, including consultations via phone and Internet. He maintains a cult informational website, lectures, consults for the media, and has published articles, book reviews, and papers related to the cult problem. His first novel, Mushroom Satori: The Cult Diary, was released in 2013 through Aperture Press.