CNY Arts, Inc.



Steve butler

Stephen Butler

Executive Director

Stephen Butler is in his 14th year as Executive Director of CNY Arts. He has transformed the organization from a $700,000 three-county operation into a $4.3 million regional arts council serving six-plus counties. It is the largest geographic regional arts council in New York State.

Under his leadership, CNY Arts received notable awards such as Ovation TV/Charter Communication's National Stand for the Arts Award, Central New York Community Foundation’s "What Matters to You" Award, and CenterState CEO's Economic Engine Award.

Mr. Butler is a native of Onondaga County and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Oswego State University and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. Stephen spent many years in New York City in roles such as the Executive Director of Creative Alternatives of NY, the Executive Director of the Nyack Center, Director of Public Affairs at the Alliance of NY State Arts Councils, and the Director of Programs at the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York (A.R.T./New York). Stephen is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient in Strategic Planning and was an AEA stage manager.

Stephen has served on the boards of the Association of Teaching Artists and the Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights. He was an adjunct professor for several years at the inception of Le Moyne College's Arts Administration program and still guest lectures at colleges and universities today. Stephen is the president of the Advisory Board of the School of Communications, Cinema, Media, and the Arts at SUNY Oswego. He is the past President of Arts NYS, an arts advocacy organization and for several years served as the State Captain for Americans for the Arts National Arts Advocacy Day.

Most recently, Stephen has been awarded the Community Commitment Award by Joined Artists, Musicians & Singers, Inc. (JAMS), an arts organization committed to supporting artists of color in Central New York. He also is a recipient of a State University of Oswego Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award for his overall career and contributions to the arts including those in Central New York.


2 Hannah Frieser headshot BW2 839 med DennisPaul

Hannah Frieser

Director of Grants and Programs

Hannah Frieser is a curator, writer, and arts administrator with extensive knowledge of modern and contemporary art practices. Frieser has established herself with a passion for the arts, a collaborative spirit, and an unwavering commitment to diversity and equity. She is a frequent lecturer on photography and contemporary photographic practices, whose essays have been featured in publications such as Contact Sheet, exposure, Nueva Luz, and various monographs. Prior to her appointment as Director of Grants and Programs at CNY Arts, Frieser served in senior administrative positions, including Executive Director of the Center for Photography at Woodstock and Director of Light Work. She began her career in the arts working for the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) in a variety of positions, including serving on SPE’s national board of directors.

Frieser holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Studio Arts from Texas Woman’s University, where she graduated with a thesis exhibition on cross-cultural heritage, and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies including photography, photojournalism, and graphic design from the University of Texas at Arlington. She was born and raised in Germany to a German father from Dresden and a Mexican-American mother from Dallas.

liz lane

Elizabeth Lane


Elizabeth (Liz) Lane is a native of Madison County and a graduate of Purchase College with a degree in Arts Management. She has lead the grant programs at CNY Arts since 2013. Prior to CNY Arts, Liz had gained experience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City Ballet at the New York Choreographic Institute and George Balanchine Trust, and the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, as well as locally, at Syracuse City Ballet and the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. In Liz's spare time, she likes to attend arts events across the region and volunteer. She recently rolled off a two-year term as the Nominations Chair of the Junior League of Syracuse. 


Matthew De Bellas

Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Matthew is a native of Onondaga County and graduate of SUNY Oswego where he earned his degree in Public Relations and graduate certificate in Integrated Media Design. He is a veteran having served 4 years in the U.S. Army.

He serves on the board of the Syracuse Community Choir and the Center for Peace and Social Justice in Syracuse. Matthew is an avid traveler and has been to a dozen countries documenting and writing about arts and culture from the places he visits. 

Jon Wilson headshot bw

Jon Wilson

Finance Manager

Jon Wilson, a native of Buffalo, graduated from Binghamton University with a BA in Theatre. Jon’s professional career has ranged from working in NYC at Playwrights Horizons in the production office and Playwrights Horizons Theatre School as the registrar and bursar, to working locally as general manager of Syracuse Stage, artistic director of Appleseed Productions, adjunct professor for Syracuse University VPA, and administration manager at CNY Arts (before leaving and coming back as bookkeeper).

Jon has also produced, directed, designed, stage managed, and/or performed in over 175 productions in NYC, Minnesota, New Orleans, Ithaca, Binghamton, Buffalo, and locally with just about every community theatre company in the Syracuse area, including two high schools.

kara greene

Kara Greene

Administrative Manager

A native of Syracuse, NY, Kara graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor's degree in Speech Communication. She also earned graduate credits in Broadcasting at Montclair State College and an A. A. S. from OCC in Radio/TV.

She has worked extensively for the nonprofit sector in Central New York, with a focus on communications, media relations, program/event management, and fundraising. She also worked in research and patron services for the OCPL Central Library Local History and Genealogy Department.

Kara's avocation is theater, and she has acted with numerous area theater companies. She is a former member of Off the Cuff improv troupe, has performed for Full Cast Audio, recorded commercial spots, and currently acts with The ACME Mystery Co. in the New York State region.

5 Brian Lee 1 10 21 21 Photo BW cropped

Brian Lee

Regrants Program Manager

Brian Hyunsuk Lee is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Music and Neuroscience and an M.A. in Performance Curation. Before joining CNY Arts, he worked in nonprofit fundraising and arts administration in Chicago, IL. There, he produced and helped to curate dance and performance festivals that centered queer and Asian American artists. He is a passionate advocate for diversity and equity in the arts. In his free time, Brian is a professional and volunteer choral singer and an avid woodworker.

9E30DFE7 3424 4635 9BD8 98310B7AD9BA

Tony Filosi

Film Fund Program Officer

Tony is an Onondaga County native who graduated with a BFA in Film from Syracuse University and is currently working on his MFA in Film at Syracuse as well.

In addition to his work at CNY Arts Tony is also a local filmmaker who has directed and produced several short narrative films and is a part-time Instructor at Syracuse’s College of Visual and Performing Arts where he runs equipment demos and teaches all elements of narrative filmmaking.  

Ben Verdi 240x300 bxw photo

Ben Verdi

Regrants Program Officer

Ben is originally from Buffalo, NY and graduated from Le Moyne College with a BA in History with Honors. He  also earned his MS in Arts Administration from Le Moyne College, where he met Stephen Butler as a professor and assisted CNY Arts with school ticket sales for Dasher’s Magical Gift. From there, he joined Irish Classical Theatre, where he ran the box office and acted as the public face of the theatre. Ben was also a swim coach for multiple teams, both in Buffalo and Syracuse, working with athletes of all ages, serving as a certified meet director and doing development and fundraising projects. In his spare time, Ben enjoys running, reading and exploring Central New York. Starting in September 2022, Ben is also serving as the Assistant Men's and Women's Swimming & Diving Coach at Le Moyne College.  

IMG 3912

Thomas Pettitt

Arts Leadership Fellow

Thomas Pettitt was born and raised in Syracuse, where he was a student of the Syracuse City School District and graduated from Corcoran High School in 2016. From 2012-2016, he was also a student of the Downtown Writer’s Center’s Young Authors Academy (YAA), a weekly creative writing workshop for middle and high schoolers. Thomas then majored in creative writing and double-minored in Deaf studies and linguistics at Ithaca College. His work predominantly centers around comedic fiction and personal essays exploring topics such as his biracial/Korean-American identity, queerness, and religion.

He went on to earn his MS in Information and Library Science from SUNY Buffalo in 2022. Since finishing his master’s degree, Thomas splits his time between being an Arts Leadership Fellow for CNY Arts and a librarian for Northern Onondaga Public Library.