Meet Artolution’s Co-Founders 

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Max Frieder

Co-Founder, Co-Director

Max Frieder is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the international community-based public arts organization Artolution. He is a public artist and community arts educator from Denver, Colorado who is based out of New York City. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with honors and a degree in Painting and received his Education Masters (Ed.M) in “Community Arts” in Art and Art Education from the Teachers College, Columbia University where he teaches courses and is building a body of research through his Education Doctorate (Ed.D). He has worked with hundreds of communities in different contexts across the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, Australasia, Europe, North America and Asia. His work ranges from community building in refugee camps, art education in emergencies, hospital workshops, abuse and addiction support through art, trauma relief, reconciliation and conflict resolution. He is a trans-disciplinary artist, sculptor, puppeteer, teacher and facilitates collaborative mural programs that address critical local issues with children, youth and families. He created the“Foundstrument Soundstrument Project”, building large-scale interactive percussive sculptures out of trash and recycled materials around the world. 

His projects have taken him from Syrian, South Sudanese, Palestinian, and Greek refugee camps to conflict zones, traumatized communities, and across borders to over 26 countries globally. He has received recognition from the New York Times, CBS and the Associated Press. He started the first ongoing public arts program for Rohingya artists in the largest refugee camp in the world, in Bangladesh on the border of Myanmar. He has collaborated with globally renowned artists including Vik Muniz and JR in the favelas of Brazil, and Katie Holmes in the Greek Refugee Camps.  He is a published author in“Art Making with Refugees and Survivors: Transformative Responses to trauma after Natural Disasters, War and Other Crises”,as well as publishing with Global Citizen.For his global work, he was awarded the International Crisis Award from World of Children and UNICEF in 2018. His ranging work focuses on cultivating ongoing programs by educating local artists globally on how to transform communities through public engagement, creative facilitation and inspired participation as the next phase in the history of the arts.

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Joel Bergner

Co-Founder, Co-Director

Joel Bergner (aka Joel Artista) is an artist, educator and organizer of community-based public art initiatives with vulnerable communities around the world. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the organization Artolution (

Joel works in acrylic and aerosol, creating elaborate public murals that explore social topics and reflect a wide array of artistic influences, adorning walls from New York to the Syrian refugee camps of Jordan; London to the favelas of Brazil. He specializes in community projects in which local youth who have experienced trauma, conflict and displacement participate in the design and creation of their own murals that tell their unique stories to the world. These projects have taken him to 26 countries across Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region, along the way developing his unique approach to public art in partnership with dozens of institutions, community groups and local artists. Joel has a background as a youth counselor and received his BA in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Joel’s work addresses critical global issues, including the Syrian refugee crisis, mass incarceration in the US, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the plight of street youth, gaining attention from international media outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and Reuters. He has also worked with brands such as Amazon Studios, Microsoft and Radisson Hotels.

Joel has a passion for connecting and sharing with people through collaborative art-making, and is currently focused on training local artists in some of the world’s most traumatized environments to lead their own sustainable art programs through Artolution. Joel’s community and personal work can be seen at

The Artolution Team


Josey Mikulyuk-Belitsky

Operations Director

Josey spent 15 years in New York City’s public school system in a leadership role in Brooklyn's East New York neighborhood. She brings expertise in operations, communication and instructional capacities and is charged with building Artolution’s homebase in her hometown, New York City. Josey earned her first masters degree in Education from Brooklyn college and her second in School Building Leadership and Organization from Columbia’s Teachers College. Josey also holds an undergraduate degree in Communication from Villanova University. Josey’s passion for helping children is further fueled by Artolution’s mission of providing a means for resilience in children all over the world who are displaced or marginalized due to their ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual-orientation - bringing color, joy, and hope where there is little. She will support the team by expanding the capacity of the non-profit organization and supporting project work and coordination and hopes her role will give every opportunity to empower children to create positive change in their communities. Josey has run New York City’s internationally renowned marathon twice, and plans to run with Team Artolution in 2019.


Suza Uddin

Country Manager, Bangladesh (Artolution Rohingya Program) and PR Manager

Suza Uddin is a journalist and humanitarian specialist from Dhaka, Bangladesh. His work focuses issues of refugees and vulnerable minority communities. Since 2014, Suza has worked passionately on the plight of the Rohingya, bringing the crisis to the world's attention through fearless journalism and direct humanitarian support. In 2017, Suza risked his life to enter Rakhine State in Myanmar during the height of the genocide against the Rohingya, during which he was shot. His experience was featured on SKYTG TV and the documentary "Rohingya Untold Story."  Suza speaks Rohingya, Bengali and English fluently. He has a bachelor degree in Journalism and Media Studies from Stamford University, Bangladesh, and co-founded a school for social entrepreneurship. His experience includes work with many international media companies as a fixer and freelance producer, including the BBC, AP, Denmark TV2, SKYTG, Discovery Channel and the Italian and Polish press. Suza is the Deputy News editor of He spent two years as the Country Director of IMCHF. Suza participated in the Model United Nations in India and other important conferences internationally, and has worked as a volunteer counselor with the organization Bidyanondo. Suza manages and coordinates Artolution's Rohingya Artist Team and their year-round arts programming with youth in the Rohingya refugee camps. He also organizes PR and communications for this program.


Atwine Swizen

Program Coordinator, Artolution South Sudanese Program, Bidibidi Refugee Settlement Uganda

Atwine Swizen has a passion for engaging with children, youth and vulnerable communities through arts programming. He has extensive experience in theater, both as an actor and theater director, and has organized performance programs with refugee youth. Swizen also has experience in the humanitarian aid field, as he works for Windle International and previously consulted for the German agency GIZ. As the Artolution Program Coordinator in Uganda, Swizen is responsible for a team of local teaching artists in the Bidibidi Refugee Settlement who lead projects throughout the year with refugee children, including murals, community sculptures and performance.


CJ Thomas

Head of Performance Programming

Karla-Jayne Thomas, also known as CJ and Karlinha do Tamborim, is a Jamaican-English artist and educator in the areas of dance, improv comedy, theatre, percussion, singing and creative writing. She has a talent for combining the arts with her passion for working with young people who have experienced trauma, and has developed Artolution’s performance-based methodology while leading projects in India, Lebanon, Colombia, Uganda, Jordan and the United States. CJ guides participants in the creation of theatrical and dance performances that address critical issues in their lives. Karla specializes in samba dancing and is a prominent member of the London School of Samba and Samba New York, both of which crowned her Queen of the Drums, the highest honor for a samba dancer. In 2014, she paraded at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval as a passista in one of the world’s premier samba schools, Vila Isabel. Karla has performed in Hong Kong, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Finland, New York and her hometown of London, where she had the honor of performing for the Royal Family and at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. She also has a passion for comedy and has studied improv, acting and writing comedy at the prominent UCB and The PIT, both in New York City, where she has also performed. She earned a BA in English Literature and Language from the University of Manchester, England and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York.


Camilo Echeverri

Coordinator of Colombia Programming, NYC / Colombia

Camilo is the driving force behind Artolution’s Colombia projects, organizing arts programming that engages youth affected by extreme violence, social exclusion and displacement. He has also developed his professional portfolio in documentary photography and arts education. Using the camera as a research tool, Camilo discovered essential cultural elements of underserved communities in Colombia. He continued his professional career at a Human Rights Institution in Cali, Colombia as the Creative Director where he lead grassroots campaigns, community programming and public art projects. From there, Camilo headed to New York City to pursue a M.P.S in Arts and Cultural Management at Pratt Institute where he found new creative outlets in public art and arts education. In addition to his work with Artolution, Camilo is a Program Director at Brooklyn College Community Partnership for an after-school arts enrichment.

Meet Artolution’s International Artist Teams

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Bidi Bidi Artist Team

Refugee Artist Team in the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement of Uganda

Team Bidi Bidi brings brings extraordinary energy to each Artolution project that they lead in Uganda’s Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement for South Sudanese. The team was formed in January 2019 and it is anticipated that they will affect the lives of thousands of youth each year. In just a short time from January to June they have reached more than 1000 youth. The Bidi Bidi team includes two specialty teams: large scale muralists and film crew. Our team of muralists brings their passion for education and visual art to refugee youth who have endured severe trauma. Our 4-person film team tell the stories of South Sudanese refugee children through film and will showcase this work at outdoor community film screenings. Our work in the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement is made possible through partner organizations UNHCR, Education Above All,  and Windle International. Follow Team Bidi Bidi on Instagram @bidibidi_artolution.


Rohingya Artist Team

Refugee Artist Team in the Rohingya Camps of Bangladesh

These passionate and talented artists are survivors of a genocide in Myanmar. Despite their trauma and challenges living in the world’s largest refugee camp, they are committed to leading Artolution programs to children in the camp, directly affecting the lives of thousands of youth each year. They facilitate pubic murals, dance workshops a variety of educational and creative programs, bringing joy to children who have experienced conflict and displacement. Through this work, the Artolution Rohingya Artist Team has partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR, the International Federation of the Red Cross/ Red Crescent, Save the Children, the World Food Program and many other organizations. Follow Team Rohingya on Instagram @rohingya_artolution.

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Syrian Artist Team

Syrian artist teams in the Azraq refugee camp and other refugee communities in Jordan

In the Azraq Syrian refugee camp of Jordan, Artolution has led capacity-building workshops with Syrian artists living in the camps, who have now led dozens of community-based public art programs with children and adolescents. Our Syrian artists are inspiring, resilient community leaders who have survived armed conflict, loss and displacement, but continue to work tirelessly to provide a platform for young Syrians to tell their stories through the arts. Their dozens of murals with local youth now shine brightly across the camp, bringing life and creativity to one of the most challenging environments on earth. Our teams in Jordan have worked with the International Refugee Committee, Care International, the German Development Agency, the Norwegian Refugee Council and others. Artolution is supporting the process of setting up ongoing, sustainable arts-based programming in Syrian refugee camps and host communities across the region led by these talented individuals.

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Richard Gomez

Artist and Professor, Central Valley, California

Richard Gomez is a Chicano artist and professor who follows in the tradition of the Great Masters, specifically those of the 19th century Realists. His philosophy on art reflects his many influences; he teaches that painting is very much a science whose precepts must be understood to make it an art.  Gomez is deeply indebted to those who came before him, and feels a special connection to the European and American masters of the mid- to late 19th century, whose loose strokes and sound drawing are prevalent in his own work. His academic training is balanced by his roots in Mexican and Chicano art, which allow his own work a certain freedom in its conception and a radical purpose at its core.  

Gomez received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his M.F.A. from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. He spent the summer of 2006 studying at the Ateliers du Carrousel les Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Gomez has been teaching a wide range of art classes through the Global Arts Studies Program (GASP) at UC Merced since 2010.

Artist Statement: My current work explores the many dynamics of Public Art and how community engagement dictates the experience and models the outcome.  It is my intent for the subject matter to promote cultural traditions reflective of the community, resulting in a sense of ownership and unified identity.  My work aims to address and change rooted stereotypes and visual clichés of culture and identity of the traditionally marginalized and challenge the canon of American Art

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Emma Altman

Fashion Designer/ Costume Design Workshops with Youth

Emma Altman is a fashion designer born and raised in New York, NY. She has been working in the fashion industry for the past eight years for major brands including Betsey Johnson, Victoria’s Secret and her brand Emma Altman Apparel. Her work includes clothing design, pre-production, print development, and CAD design, and she has worked on numerous NYC Fashion Week runway shows. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Apparel Design. Emma’s mission as a designer is to help bring out the inner confidence of others through self-image and self-expression. All her designs are vegan and cruelty free. She has fascilitated fashion & costume making workshops in New York & Lebanon with girls ranging from 10-16 years old. She has also given private lessons in fashion illustration and sewing to middle school students and has helped advise high school and college students on how to build their portfolio of work. Her apparel designs and styling have been featured in both national and international magazines, such as Vanity Hype (London), Gisele Magazine (Tokyo), Inked Magazine (New York), and Surreal Beauty (Germany). She has had NYFW runway shows for FW18 and SS19 at the Cipriani and the Manhattan Center for Style Fashion Week. 

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Sharon Virtue

Visual Artist, Dancer and Community Facilitator: US/ UK

Sharon Virtue is a ceramicist, mosaic artist, painter and dancer, with a BA in Fine Art from Sheffied Halam University, and Masters in Community Arts, from Goldsmiths University, UK. She has a strong social practice, which includes a background in sustainable architecture and community gardening projects that include art in environmental learning, allowing her to collaborate and contribute from a rich, varied, multi-skilled perspective.

Sharon started working in the field of community development in 2001 in Mozambique, where she worked with a group of homeless youth on a ceramic project. The project grew when the youth decided they wanted to build their own creative space to gather and make art in the town of Quelimane. Since then she has worked internationally on projects in various countries in Africa, Brazil, Haiti, USA and UK, with organizations such as Save the Children, Spectaculu, SWOPA, In Movement: Art for Social Change, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Trust for Public Land, Ruby’s Clay Studio and The De Young Museum.  She has worked both independently and with arts organisations as a professional artist and project manager for the past 22 years.

She believes artists are agents of transformation. Her mission is to inspire, encourage and provide access to the greater community in the creation of art. For more details on her community development and creative projects visit


Suhaib Attar

Street Artist/ Muralist, Illustrator and Digital Artist

Suhaib Attar is one of Jordan’s most prominent and prolific urban artists. His giant, colorful murals grace dozens of walls across the country and in Lebanon and the United States. Suhaib is also a gifted educator, inspiring youth to tap into their creativity and explore their experiences through art-making. His community-based mural work has brought him to Syrian refugee camps like Za’atari and Azraq, as well as host communities, where he has brought together Syrian and Jordanian children. Suhaib is currently studying Fine Arts in Amman. He has worked with various organizations, such as the World Bank, GIZ, aptART, the UN, Mercy Corps, Action Aid and ACTED, as well as brands like Toyota, Red Bull and and Amstel. Artolution began partnering with Suhaib in 2018 in Zarqa, Jordan, and is excited to welcome this talented and inspiring teaching artist to our team!

Ivan Asin

Artist And Educator, Chile/ NYC

Iván Asin is an NYC-based art educator from Santiago, Chile. His work focuses on organic art processes and community engagement through art. He studied Visual Arts at Montclair State University, earned a Masters Degree in Art & Design Education from Pratt Institute and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Art Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Since 2010, he has taught visual arts in the New York City public school system and community-based art programs in Amsterdam and New York. In 2015 he founded the Center for Art Education and Sustainability (CAES), an itinerant project that has carried out community-based organic art processes workshops in United States, Peru and Argentina, as well as professional development for art educators at conferences and higher education institutions. He has collaborated with Artolution on youth projects in Queens, New York and Lima, Peru.