Kirsten Collins
Executive Director

Kirsten was involved with the Circus Project for several years as a board member and grant writer before becoming Managing Director in 2016.  A lifelong love of performing arts and a fascination with the world behind-the-scenes led to dual degrees in Theatre and Psychology from Lewis & Clark College, and a career in arts administration.

As a development consultant she received a Crystal Award from Willamette Valley Development Officers in recognition of her contributions to The Circus Project.

Amaya Alvarado
Youth Classes Manager, and Coach

Amaya Alvarado is a circus artist with a passion for art, social justice, and human connection through movement. After completing the Professional track program at the Circus Warehouse in NYC, she went on to graduate from the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA), where she also completed their teacher workshops. Amaya is Co-creator of the Contemporary Circus show "Tinder and Ash" which was born through a TOHU arts residency in Montreal at the national circus school. As a performer and choreographer, Amaya seeks to make art that matters in the world and inspires people. As a teacher, she seeks to uplift, empower, and facilitate experiences of joyful spontaneity and growth.

Kari Hunter
Brio Training Company Manager, Membership Coordinator, and Coach

Drawing from a background in dance, gymnastics, theater, and music, Kari has been training, performing and coaching circus arts since 2001. Her coaching credits include the Circus Guild, Versatile Arts, Emerald City Trapeze, Le Cirque Centre, the Circus Center (San Francisco), New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA), and the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) where she served as lead aerial coach for the Professional Preparatory Program. Deemed an “aerialist par excellence” by the Seattle Times, Kari has graced the stage in over 30 major U.S. cities and internationally with the Seattle Opera, Pallazo Variety, Freidrichsbau Variety (Germany), Festival Burlesco (Portugal), and Teatro Zinzanni (Seattle), among others.

Nicolo Kehrwald
Education and Elements Training Company Manager, and Coach

Nicolo Kehrwald is excited to be back at the Circus Project after touring with the esteemed contemporary circus company The Acrobatic Conundrum, traveling through Europe as one of the highlighted circus artists on AIDA Cruises, and most recently performing under the largest Big Top in the world with Cavalia. Nicolo is delighted to be returning to his roots in Portland, where he grew up studying dance, theater, and acrobatics. Nicolo spent 12 years as a company member of the critically-acclaimed DoJump Extremely Physical Theater. From there, his love of the circus arts took him around the world to study under such masters as Yury Bozyan in Montreal, Yanjibileg and Bud Tumurbaatar in Mongolia, and Claude Victoria in France. Nicolo is the author of The Little Handbalancing Book, the first modern book about the art of handbalancing. He is also well versed in a wide variety of circus disciplines, having performed trapeze, rope, Chinese pole, group acrobatics, duo straps, and duo hoop, as well as featured solos in capoeira, net, straps, hoop, and handbalancing.

Josie Marks-McQuade
Voice Project Coordinator and Coach

Josie is a contemporary circus artist and bilingual arts educator specializing in club juggling and object manipulation. Her circus career began in 2011, after attending a Phare Ponleu Selpak social circus performance in Battambang, Cambodia, after which Josie chose to dedicate her life to the pursuit of youth empowerment through circus arts. Her passion for this work utilizes community organization, trauma-informed practices, and a holistic and intersectional educational lens. Her work with the Voice Project emphasizes a youth-led participatory action research methodology, consent culture, and safe risk-taking.
In 2016, Josie earned her B.A in Spanish Language and Culture and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Southern Oregon University. Josie’s coaching credits include: Circo de los Niños (MX), Clowns Without Borders (USA), Flow Arts Institute, and Camp Winnarainbow. She has served on the board of directors for The International Jugglers Association, and is the current World Juggling Day program director.

Rhen Miles, MSW

Pathways Manager and Coach

Rhen's passion is her work at the intersection of circus arts and community-based practice, program development, and equity-driven systemic improvement. Rhen brings over 10 years of experience in non-profit youth development programming, community-driven program improvement, evaluation, and research. In each of these arenas she has incorporated participatory and inclusive practices to elevate marginalized voices and change systems and organizations to be relevant, equitable, and socially just. When she is not training in circus arts or coaching, she is usually teaching in the Social Work program at Portland State University, or working on her doctoral dissertation on youth voice and participatory practice in a school-based youth development organization.

Rachel Miller-Howard
Development Associate

Rachel joins the Circus Project with experience in arts administration and media production. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in anthropology, which shaped her belief that storytelling can effect change and bring people together. After living in New Mexico, Alaska, and Antarctica, she's now dedicated to building community and supporting the arts in the Pacific Northwest. Her favorite food group is bread, and she loves all things nonfiction.

Erica Rubinstein
Education Director and Coach

Erica first discovered circus while studying neuroscience and dance at Oberlin College. She trained in her specialty of basing acrobatics at Circus Center in San Francisco, Australia’s National Institute of Circus Arts, and the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) in Seattle. Erica has taught students of all ages and levels in workshops across the country, and served as Director of Youth Companies at SANCA. Passionate about connecting people and resources, Erica has helped organize multiple national circus conferences through Circus Now and the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO). Erica past performances include Flynn Creek Circus, the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, Teatro Zinzanni’s Mezzo Lunatico, and the Backstreet Festival in Alexandria,

Linda Sheeley
Office Manager

Linda brings more than 15 years of office management, finance and nonprofit experience to the Circus Project. After transitioning to nonprofit work from investment banking, Linda worked as an Office Manager for an environmental trade association and as a Development Specialist for a child abuse assessment program. A transplant from the mid-west, Linda has made Portland her home for over 20 years and believes that “Keeping Portland Weird” is a mantra we should all live by.

Jacki Ward Kehrwald
Communications and Events Manager, and Coach

Jacki has over a decade of experience as a professional circus artist, including contracts with AIDA Cruises, the Acrobatic Conundrum, and Cavalia's Odysseo, touring in the biggest Big Top in the world. Throughout her performing experiences, she became a primary spokesperson for these artistic companies and nurtured a professional interest in communications. Jacki holds a Bachelor's of Arts from the University of Puget Sound where she studied Anthropology of the Performing Arts and Gender Studies and founded the on-campus Circus Club, which is still thriving. She was a 2011-2012 recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, through which she traveled to Mongolia, China, India, France and Canada to study local performance traditions and training methods in contortion and the circus arts. She is delighted to return to her hometown of Portland, Oregon after years of living on tour.


The Circus Project board of directors is a small, working board, comprised of individuals who are passionate about circus arts as a vehicle for transformation. We believe that the spirit with which our board of directors operates has a direct and tangible effect on our programs and participants, and therefore we strive to create an atmosphere of creativity, diversity, collaboration, and inspiration

Jenn Cohen, Founder, The Circus Project, Process Worker
Linda McGeady, RACC Board, Randall Children’s Hospital Art Committee
Caroline Petrich, Principal, CKP & Associates
Nelda Reyes, Principal, AB Cultural Drivers & Performer
Hertsel Shadian, Attorney at Law
Nel Taylor, Annual Funds Manager, Artists Repertory Theatre

Resource Council

The Circus Project Resource Council is a comprised of highly esteemed donors and volunteers who provide outstanding service to the organization on a project-by-project basis.

Pippa Arend, Program Director, p:ear
Jennifer Bouman, Attorney, Red Kite Employment Law Representative
Margaret Doherty, Oregon State Legislature
Ann Edlen, Philanthropist
City Commissioner Nick Fish, Arts & Culture Council
Teresa Koberstein, Arts Facility Planning Specialist
Lisa Lovullo, Claim Professional, Travelers Insurance
Phelim McDermott, Director, Improbable Theatre, UK & Broadway, New York
Jordan Schnitzer, President, Harsch Investment Properties
Kate Sokoloff, Creative Director, Kate Sokoloff Creative
George Thorn, Arts Action Research
Julie Vigeland, Oregon Arts Commission, Jackson Foundation & arts advocate