More About Us
Dakota McMahand, M.A.
Founder & Executive Director
Dakota is a higher education professional, classical pianist, and a first-generation college graduate. She earned her Associate of Arts in Arts & Humanities from El Camino College, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Administration from California Baptist University and Master of Arts in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota. As a South East Los Angeles native, Dakota has a heart for cultivating the creative spirit within every child, especially in under-resourced areas. She has over 10 years of education experience as an instructor and administrator. Dakota has prior experience working in the nonprofit arts sector at institutions such as Inner-City Arts, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and as a Getty Marrow Intern for CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) at the Watts Towers Arts Center Campus. She currently sits on the South Gate Museum Advisory Group. During her rare moments of free time, you can find Dakota hunting for vinyl records, practicing tai chi, or exploring new hiking trails.
Sarah Tanberg, M.S.
Early Childhood Education Curriculum Specialist & Board Member
Sarah has worked in the education field for 10 years. She has experience working in special education classrooms and working closely with families of children with special needs. She has been a lead teacher and mentor in preschool classrooms, utilizing her expertise in pedagogy and developmentally appropriate practices while coaching new teachers. Her focus in the classroom has been to provide quality art experiences while fostering the developmental growth of children when they are given the opportunity to create. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Italian Language and Literature from the University of Arizona. Sarah has a Masters of Science degree in Early Childhood Education: Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction at Portland State University.
Katie Hermalik, B.A.
Lead Teaching Artist - Fine Arts, Studio Art: Photography
Katie is passionate about service. Over the past 15 years, she has had the opportunity to work in many different under-resourced communities all over the country. All of her volunteer initiatives, with programs including Americorps and StandUp for Kids, have been arts or youth oriented. She was able to combine these passions during her years as a Preschool Assistant Teacher at Alphonsus Academy & Center for the Arts in Chicago. In recent years, she has been pursuing animation as a form of storytelling in order to communicate the shared human experiences she has found across all communities and the unique individual stories that need to be told. Katie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from the University of Arizona. A lifelong artist and advocate for the arts, Katie spends her free time drawing and animating. She is currently illustrating her first children’s book. She also enjoys running, swimming, and playing board games with friends.
Stephanie Moreno, B.F.A
Teaching Artist - Fine Arts, Digital Media: Motion Graphics
Stephanie is a designer specialized in Motion Graphics. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media at Otis College of Art and Design. Stephanie has worked for studios such as Eyestorm Productions and LA Associates. She currently works at PLAY as an Art Facilitator for their Drop-In Messy Art program. Stephanie has strong interest in photography and painting. During her free time, she loves to try new foods and follows the Women’s World Cup destination every four years.
Danielle Lawson, B.F.A
Teaching Artist - Fine Arts, Digital Media: Entertainment Design
Danielle Lawson is a Concept Artist and Designer from Los Angeles, CA who finds passion in creating exceptional artistry from just a minute idea. Danielle’s talents (cultivated from studying at Otis College of Art & Design) have led her to work in the themed entertainment industry for over five years with companies like Cartoon Network, Discovery, Fashion Nova and many more. In addition to that, her creative and hustle mentality assisted her in developing personal projects such as - New Wave LA, a creative networking event and The Black Dollar Bank, a national campaign created to change the image and value of the black dollar. Danielle is more than an artist , she is a visionary and now CEO of Danielle Lawson Concept Artist and Designer Corp.
Kushal Mehta, Ph.D.
Kushal is a systems engineer working in the aerospace industry. He has a double bachelors in Physics and Mathematics from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Arizona. He loves problem-solving and has a strong desire to contribute back to society. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, visiting museums, and going to music and comedy shows. His favorite book to read is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and his favorite art style is impressionist paintings.
Sandra Gonzalez, Ph.D.
Sandra is a Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC where she is developing a Family Medicine residency program that addresses the needs of the diverse communities of East Los Angeles. Prior to USC, she served as Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education at the Charles R. Drew University, College of Medicine, who lead the effort to restore GME at the CDU COM which includes obtaining ACGME accreditation as a Sponsoring Institution, Psychiatry residency program, and Family Medicine residency program. She received a doctorate in clinical psychology from the George Washington University in Washington, DC and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research at the UCLA-Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Glenna Avila, M.A.
Visual Artist & Arts Administrator
Glenna is an artist, educator, and arts administrator, dedicated to the arts, young people, and communities. She received her BA in Art from UCLA and her MA in Art from the University of New Mexico. For twenty-eight years, she was the Wallis Annenberg Director of the California Institute of the Arts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) program. Before working at CalArts, she directed several community arts centers for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, for fourteen years. She has painted over 75 community murals throughout Los Angeles County, the majority of which are collaborations with youth and their communities. As a teaching artist, she has taught in public schools, in museums, in after-school mental health programs, and with incarcerated youth in juvenile detention centers and probation camps since 1985. She was commissioned by the Olympic Organizing Committee to paint a large mural on the freeway in downtown Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympic Arts festival. Glenna has exhibited her work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Laguna Art Museum, Anchorage Museum of Art and History, among other venues.
Nia Ujamaa, Ed.M.
Artist, Educator & Technology
Nia is a product of her environment, raised in Compton, California and surrounded by the arts. She is an advocate for educating the whole child and has spent the last 14 years serving to assist schools across the nation to leverage technology tools to enhance the experience of the whole student. She began teaching right out of graduate school and obtained her EdM in Technology in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2005. Nia received a BFA in Studio Arts/Multimedia from Loyola Marymount in 2003. She is a lover of children, the arts and education.
Financial Service Professional & Spoken Word Artist
Gloria is a South LA native. Growing up she was in awe of the natural world as she considered it to be the pinnacle of creative expression. This area of interest led her to study Biology at Amherst College. While there, she also cultivated a spirit of service and leadership through volunteering with programs including El Arco Iris Tutoring Inc., Boy & Girls Club, Project Sunshine, and Upward Bound. When Gloria is not sitting down with business owners or families coordinating financial strategies and investment options, you can find her performing original spoken word poetry at local open mics or volunteering. She is a proud mother who loves nature hikes.
Nature Education & Sustainability Content Creator
Sally is a born and raised South Central Angeleno. She has worked in the outdoor education and park access space for over 12 years. After graduating high school, she became an intern for L.A Audubon’s Kenneth Hann Education Program, in which 3rd and 6th grade students would come to the park to learn about the native plant garden and the surrounding areas in Los Angeles that have an impact on animals, birds and native plants alike. This helped ignite a fire in her to focus her energy in outdoor education and providing access to the outdoors to underserved communities, just like the one she grew up in.Sally currently works for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) as a Planning Assistant and as a Lead Naturalist for Community Nature Connection. Additionally, she builds creative content focused on ecological footprint reduction through mindful consumption on Instagram, amassing over 27k followers @callmeflowerchild. If she isn’t working or furthering her education, you can find her camping or trying out a new coffee shop.
Keysha Baynes, BS
Biologist, Nonprofit Executive & Dancer
Keysha Baynes is from Pittsburgh, PA and has 20+ years in Non-Profit Organization fund development, management, programming, and community liaison/coalition building experience. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in International Public Health from Clark Atlanta University. After graduation, she worked for the Atlanta Police Department initially as a community liaison but developed her position to include coalition building and community planning for the City of Atlanta and neighborhood communities. This was her entrance into the non-profit arena, with a focus on youth, that has spanned the United States and three additional countries. Since settling in Los Angeles in 2012, Keysha has continued her community and non-profit consulting in city and state government, private schools and community centers. She is currently the Executive Director of Pulse Arts.
Liz Coursey, BA
Liz is a Lynwood, CA native and is excited to join our mission as an advocate for children of all ages to have access to free art education. Her first art history class at Lynwood High School propelled her on the path to pursue a life full of art. While in college, she worked in multiple galleries and the Museum of Latin American Art (along with a few other jobs) to save up and realize her dream of living abroad in Florence, Italy. There she wrapped up her B.A. in Art History and since then has pursued her passion to work within the arts. She has also worked with the Downey Arts Coalition and helped organize art exhibitions, paint community murals in Downey and South Gate, and promote the value of community involvement in the arts. The last few years she worked as the Group Services Lead with the Denver Art Museum and helped coordinate the school field trips. Now, she is back on her home turf and ready to jumpstart the next phase of her life by working alongside us to bridge the gaps that exist between our communities and the arts.