Meet the FoSPO Staff
Ana Eloísa Soto-Canino
Director/Chief Instructor/Chief Safety Officer
Ana began her life in studio at age 9, to become an award-winning, classically-trained visual artist, as well as a studio and field instructor. She has served as officer, as well as judge, for various community-based arts events in Middlesex County, NJ. Ana has taught thousands of practitioners through the apprentice studio she founded in 1998, the Academy of Art of Highland Park, where the staff teach the deep craft practice of over 30 media and numerous art forms. Her young protégés routinely garner topmost awards in local, regional, and national competitions, and her teen Portfolio Prep students place in the nation’s top art colleges, schools of architecture, science and engineering, and liberal arts campuses. Many of her adult students have gone on to exhibit their works and realize many of their aspirations as artists.
Besides her long-term tenure at various apprentice studios and art schools in Puerto Rico, the USA and Italy, Ana has toured and taught in Puerto Rico, China and Botswana, while cultivating her interest in comparative cultural studies. Ana holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Princeton University in Psychology (1985), with a concentration in Visual Perception, and a transcript thick with art history studies. She holds a Masters degree from the New School in Urban Policy and Planning (1991), and incomplete PhD studies at the New School in Political Theory. Having served as an award-winning news journalist in NJ, Ana now writes on inquiry, exploration, creativity and artistic practice for the AAHP, in addition to directing all business and studio operations. Ana enjoys sport flying, swimming, fishing, dance, travel, and map collecting.
Assistant Director/Senior Instructor/Studio and Staff Manager
Aaron Balavram was born in Sayreville, New Jersey, but grew up in the great town of Highland Park, where he has spent most of his life. He now resides in beautiful East Brunswick with his lovely wife and fellow artist Jasmine. Having always had an adoration for the arts and sciences, he found a second home at the Academy of Art of Highland Park, where he learned to explore the craft of fine art as a science. Aaron began his training at the Academy at the age of fourteen, and by the following year, he was eager to expand his knowledge by aiding in the teaching of his peers, which he has continued to do for the past fourteen years. He is now a senior instructor, as well as the head of the sculpture department and “The Sky’s the Limit” program for Artists with special needs.
Aaron has also branched out to serve the community with other art programs, such as “Bridges”, an Edison Township program for “at risk” youths, and is also heading the Veterans Housing Project donor-wall mural through the Highland Park Reform Church. He has also served as an after-school art teacher at Montesory Netivot, as well as the middle school and high school art teacher for the Pre-Collegiate Learning Center in East Brunswick.
Aaron has also been working with Ana on developing the Aii Field Studio, organizing field trips and outings for all you wonderful artists that just can’t wait to get outside! He’s always been somewhat of an outdoorsman himself, having been going camping and hiking with his friends and family for longer than he can remember.
Just know that when you give him a smile, you’re making his day!