Our Board and Staff

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts Center, Inc.

Board of Directors & Staff

John Basinger, President Emeritus

John Bell, President

Sheila McKinley Bell, Secretary

Rashaan L. Baskerville, Treasurer

Barry Chernoff

Lloyd Duggan

Anne-Marie Cannata McEwen, Executive Director


Haley Armstead

2020 Summer Interns

Zoe Genden

Drew Hart

Aliyah Hayes

Jenny Henneberry

Kiersten Keating

Sophia Rodrigues


John Basinger

John has been with The Buttonwood Tree since its inception in 1989. He is a Retired Professor, Actor, and Board Member for The National Theatre of the Deaf.
Institutions John has associated with over the years:  Bluffton University, University of Chicago, United States Army, Kakamega Secondary School, Kakamega Kenya, Wesleyan University, Yale University, The National Theater of the Deaf. National Storytelling Association, The Omega Institute, Paramount Pictures, Long Wharf Theater, The Hartford Stage Company, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Three Rivers Community College, NEAR, Inc., Degrees, BSc, MAT, MA (Theater).

Awards:  Distinguished Alumnus Award,  Distinguished Faculty Award.  Middletown Arts Council Award;  Connecticut Humanities Council Award

Activities:  Write Plays, Write Poetry, Memorized and Perform John Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Conceived of and Perform THE KING, a one-character adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

Sheila McKinley-Bell

Ms. McKinley-Bell has been a homeowner, real estate investor and member of the community in the City of Middletown since 2003. She has served as a volunteer with The Buttonwood Tree since 2012 and joined the Board of Directors as Board Secretary in 2014.                                                                                                               She is the Principal Consultant for Shoreline HR Consulting and has been a HR Executive and Entrepreneur for over 30 years. She achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from SUNY Plattsburgh and holds a Master’s in Business Administration and an Advanced Certificate in Not-for-Profit Management from UCONN. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and is a SHRM Senior Certified Professional. Ms. McKinley-Bell is also certified by the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Rashaan L. Baskerville

Rashaan Baskerville, Director of Angus Finance, has nearly a decade of experience in the financial services and energy services fields.

He has several years of experience in the industrial business services field, working with small and middle market companies, across multiple industries, to structure and finance capital projects based upon underwriting reviews utilizing the companies’ financial statements and industry metrics. Rashaan earned both his BS in Business Management and his MBA from Florida A&M University.

Away from the office, Rashaan enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and a good Thai meal.

Barry Chernoff

Professor Barry Chernoff joined the Wesleyan Faculty in 2003 where he holds the Robert K. Schumann Chair of Environmental Studies. He is currently chairs the Environmental Studies Program and is Director of the College of the Environment. He teaches courses in Environmental Studies, Tropical Ecology, Aquatic Ecosystem Conservation, Quantitative Analysis and Evolutionary Biology for the departments of Biology and Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Chernoff’s research centers on the freshwater fishes of the Neotropical region, primarily those in South America in the Amazon. His research includes, ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation. Chernoff has published 91 peer-reviewed scientific works, including 6 books and edited volumes. He has led international teams on expeditions designed to conserve large watersheds of the world, having made more than 33 expeditions in 13 countries. Recently, Professor Chernoff and his students have been working on aquatic ecology and conservation genetics of fishes in Connecticut watersheds. In the past he has held professorial and curatorial positions at the Field Museum, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He holds visiting positions at Universidad Central de Venezuela and the Museu Zoologia de Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brasil. Chernoff has received a number of awards including the Caleb T. Winchester Outstanding Scholar and Teacher Award, 1 May 2006, awarded by Xi of Psi Upsilon, Wesleyan University and a Commendation for Excellence in Teaching, University of Chicago, 2000. Chernoff was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Sciences and Engineering in 2005, where he chaired the Environmental Science and Technology Board until 2010.

From 1993-1999, he served on the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Biological Sciences elected by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council, and served as Vice-Chairman from 1995-1997 and Chairman from 1997-1999. He serves on the Inland Fish Commission’s Endangered and Threatened Fishes Panel for the CT Department of Environmental Protection. Chernoff co-wrote the script for a short documentary film entitled “Understanding Biodiversity” that was awarded finalist status at a number of film festivals, including Cannes, Toronto and Sundance, and received the Silver Apple Award from the American Educational Network.

He has served on the boards of a number of community-oriented foundations, including the Confluence Greenway Project of St. Louis, Mo., and as President of the Sustainable Aquatic Research Center. A co-founder, Chernoff served as President of The Jonah Center for Earth and Art, from 2004-2014 in Middletown, CT. Chernoff performs with two musical groups: the electric rock band, The Smokin’ Lillies, and the acoustic string band, Mattabesset String Collective.


Lloyd Duggan, father, grandfather and long time resident of Middletown, is an accomplished and goal-oriented MARKETING EXECUTIVE skilled in digital marketing, brand management, market research, and strategic planning. He has established capabilities in transforming concepts into tangible business solutions to achieve and exceed sales goals. He possesses a proven track record of generating revenue and boosting company performance. As a forward-thinker with exceptional business acumen, Lloyd visualizes, expands, and generates ideas to increase the awareness and visibility of the company brand.

Staff: Anne-Marie Cannata McEwen, Executive Director

Anne-Marie first became acquainted with TBT in 2003 when she learned members of her favorite band, Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams, were performing at The Buttonwood Tree. When her daughter learned about the appearance there, she made the request of her mother who was in the Parent Leadership Training Institute program at the time. The trio performed at Middletown High School for 300 music students. Little did she know it was only the beginning of her “Booking” career.

She retired from a career in Dental Hygiene and her 21 year marriage in 2003 and laughs (gratefully) at how a new job teaching a Dental Assisting course at Middlesex Community College literally knocked on her door. She also then focused on her food business, running a booth at the Durham Fair and other fairs around the State, which she did for over a decade. She opened a “Good Food” cart in downtown Middletown in 2004 and late night at Wesleyan, until retiring in 2006.

In February 2007, Anne-Marie responded to The Buttonwood Tree’s newspaper ad looking for help with grant writing. A few months later Kunle Mwanga invited her to join the board. A year later, she followed her instinct and volunteered to serve as ED. She’s been thoroughly enjoying the music, the people, the community and all the good that comes from it ever since. For three years she also worked the overnight shift at the Warming Center when it first opened, during the cold months.

She enjoys the outdoors (especially at sunrise and sunset), hiking, swimming, running … tennis and ping-pong, discussing spirituality, reading and helping people to become their best Selves. She has three children, two grandchildren and through her marriage in 2015, three children, two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter born in May 2018! She met her husband, Mike McEwen at Laughter Yoga at The Buttonwood Tree and is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking. She is in the Celebration Singers choir and a member of First Church, Middletown, on Court Street. She is blessed to be one of more than a dozen marriages that have come out of The Buttonwood Tree, and often says, “Love is in the air at The Buttonwood Tree.”  Pictured here with John Basinger, 2018.

2020 Summer Intern Bios

Zoe Genden — Marketing

Zoe Genden is a marketing intern from Cromwell, Connecticut. She is a rising sophomore at Wesleyan University, studying a double major in Psychology and Government.

Drew Hart — Communications

Drew is heading into his senior year at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. He is majoring in Communications and Media Studies. He writes for the sports section in the school newspaper and also hosts a sports podcast. Drew is also a member of the basketball team. This summer, Drew will be working with The Buttonwood’s website.

Aliyah Hayes — Marketing

Aliyah is a marketing intern from Middletown, Connecticut. She is a rising junior at the University of Connecticut, where she is studying Accounting and minoring in both Africana Studies and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.

Jenny Henneberry — Administrative Assistant

Jenny Henneberry is an administrative assistant intern from Avon, Connecticut. She is a rising senior at St. Lawrence University, studying a major in Sociology and a double minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Art & Art History.

Kiersten Keating — Marketing

Kiersten is a rising senior at Sacred Heart University. Kiersten lives in Orange, Connecticut. She is studying Marketing and will be working with The Buttonwood’s Facebook this summer. Kiersten’s dream job is to do marketing for the arts and The Buttonwood Tree is a great place to start to help make that dream come true. Kiersten worked at Walt Disney World in Florida on the Disney College Program for four months in Fall 2019. Kiersten is a nationally ranked intercollegiate figure skater. For pets, Kiersten has 10 goats and a mini pet pig name Elsa.

Sophia Rodrigues — Communications

Sophia is from Bridgeport, Connecticut and is a rising senior at Sacred Heart University. She is double majoring in Communications with a focus in Advertising and Public Relations and Media Studies with a focus in Film and Television Production. This summer she will be helping to produce and create content for the website as well as all social media pages. “I am so grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see all the amazing things that we accomplish this summer!”