Director & Founder: Theodore Richards

Pronouns: he/him

Theodore Richards is a poet, novelist, and religious philosopher. He has received degrees from various institutions, including the University of Chicago and The California Institute of Integral Studies. He is the author of numerous books, including Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto. His literary awards the Independent Publisher Awards Gold Medal in religion and religious fiction and the Nautilus Book Awards Gold Medal. He has worked with youth on the south side of Chicago, the Bronx and Harlem, and in Oakland. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters. You can find more information on his website,

Camp Director: Arianne Richards

Pronouns: She/her

Arianne Richards is a stay-home-mother of three, Rites of Passage Director at the Chicago Wisdom Project and a lover of Africana Studies and genealogy. She holds a degree from Laney College in Oakland, CA in African American Studies and is certified in Rites of Passage facilitation by Rites of Passage Journeys. Ari was born and raised on the south side of Chicago and was heavily involved in Chicago’s 90s Hip Hop sub culture. During these years she hosted a local television show focusing on Chicago Hip Hop, as well as a Hip Hop radio show on WKKC. She credits this with her love of working with youth and helping them to find their voice. She began her work with youth in Chicago and went on to work with youth in Asheville, NC; Harlem, New York; and Oakland, CA. She saw that many youth, having lost a connection to their traditions and ancestors, lack guidance when it comes to making the transition from child to young adult and she wanted to provide a safe, loving space for them to do so. In addition, she is her family historian and is currently working to bring a genealogy research component to Chicago Wisdom Project in the spirit of Sankofa – looking into ones past and learning from it in order to move forward.

Gabriel Pickus
Baltimore Wisdom Project

Pronouns: He/him

A visionary nonprofit leader, founded, co-directs, and serves as the co-lead teaching artist for the Baltimore Wisdom Project, Gabriel is also one of the three Co-Directors (with tree turtle and Theodore Richards) of Wisdom Projects, Inc. A Healing Touch™ Certified Practitioner (HTCP), Gabriel has been dedicated to transformative education for over 15 years. Gabriel is trained in Systema (a Russian martial art), Capoeira Angola, Ghanaian drum and dance, and conflict management. Gabriel Pickus is the recipient of the Emerging Leaders commemoration through the Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST) and the Open Society Institute (OSI). A Chicago-native, he is an alumni of Habonim Dror, an international youth movement that values social justice, collaboration, and positive identity formation. Gabriel earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Goucher College and spent a year in Israel/Palestine designing and facilitating conflict resolution curricula for Muslim-Israeli, Christian-Israeli, and Jewish-Israeli youth. Gabriel also completed Dr. Theodore Richards’ Wisdom Teacher Certification course before founding the BWP. Gabriel is a founding member of the acclaimed Baltimore-based band, J Pope and the HearNow.

Upāsikā tree turtle
Baltimore Wisdom Project
Pronouns: tree (1st choice) or she/her (2nd choice)

Upāsikā tree turtle is a veteran nonprofit manager who helped found the Baltimore Wisdom Project. (tree’s name is spelled lowercase even at the beginning of a sentence.) tree now co-directs the organization and serves as the co-lead teaching artist. tree is also one of the three Co-Directors (with Gabriel Pickus and Theodore Richards) of Wisdom ProjectsInc. ​For the last 25-plus years, tree has helped guide the vision, operations, communications, fundraising, and educational initiatives of several nonprofit organizations. tree is an ordained Thai Theravada Buddhist upāsikā in the 33rd year of contemplative practice. tree possesses extensive, multifaceted training in mindfulness, meditation, and mindful movement. ​As an adjunct professor or a teaching fellow in higher education, tree taught at ten colleges and universities in the United States. For the last 30-plus years, tree has taught widely as an arts instructor, mindfulness educator, and restorative practitioner at recreation centers, arts centers, after school programs, and incarcerated facilities across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. tree is a widely published writer (under the name Cleis Abeni as well as tree turtle); a longtime professional editor and grant-writer; and a grassroots journalist for alternative publications. tree earned an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Arts Education from The Ohio State University with four specializations in early education, secondary education, movement analysis, and choreography studies. Lastly, tree was a former movement theatre artist, vocalist, backup/session singer, and child entertainer. For more information about tree, visit