Abby Schoenborn

Executive Assistant

Abby provides administrative support to the Institute’s Chairman and senior consultants as well as assisting with the delivery of the Institute’s Capacity Building Programs. Prior to joining the staff at the Institute, she has worked for a variety of arts organizations as both an arts educator and as an administrator. Hailing from the upper Midwest, Abby received a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of North Dakota.

ajschoenborn (at)

Tanya Surtees

Institute Consultant & Director of Capacity Building Programs

Tanya is a South African-born arts manager and consultant with 18+ years’ experience in the cultural industries. With a background in contemporary dance and integration, she has worked with the likes of CandoCo’s Adam Benjamin and Remix Dance Project, and is co-founder of from the hip: khulumakahle (FTH:K)—a Cape-Town based Deaf/hearing company that pioneered visual theatre in South Africa, prioritizing non-verbal narratives as a means to cross linguistic divides. 

Under her executive leadership, and the creative vision of co-founder Rob Murray, the company won multiple awards for performance, education, inclusion, and innovation, and toured the country extensively, as well as abroad to Germany, Argentina, and the US. Together with Hearts and Eyes Theatre Collective, FTH:K established the first and longest-running collective venue at the National Arts Festival (NAF)—the largest arts festival on the African continent—to assist artists in overcoming the financial and logistical difficulties of producing festival work. The Cape Town Edge venue model of shared resources, cross-marketing, joint fundraising, and collaborative programming continues to be imitated across the South African festival circuit.

In 2008, Tanya became one of two South Africans to be awarded a three-year International Summer Arts Management Fellowship under Mr. Kaiser’s guidance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and in 2011, moved to the US permanently. She headed the production team for QuestFest—a two-week, international festival of visual performance—while setting up a cultural exchange between performers in South Africa and the US. 

She joined the Institute team in 2015 to coordinate its international and domestic capacity building programs, and has since advanced to her present role of Institute Consultant and Programs Director. There she oversees the Institute’s capacity building work with cultural organizations across the US and abroad, and serves as a consultant to program participants. She was a member of the Institute’s Interim Executive team for the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta and Boston Children’s Chorus, and is currently supporting multiple strategic planning and implementation processes with organizations in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC.

Tanya has two post-graduate degrees from Rhodes University, South Africa, and a resolute belief in the arts as a vehicle for change. Her work is informed by her background in dance, arts management, and arts integration, as well as her upbringing in apartheid South Africa. She has worked extensively within the field of arts and disability, and has served on the boards of numerous cultural non-profits and national networks. She has co-authored learner books for Maskew Miller Longman, and Oxford and Cambridge University Presses, and is fluent in English, French, and South African Sign Language.

tgsurtees (at)

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 410        Washington, DC 20004        P: 301.314.0963     

© 2015 University of Maryland. All rights reserved.