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More About Us

Dakota McMahand-Owens, 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 a Master of Arts in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota. Dakota holds a Teaching Artist Certificate from California State University, Los Angeles. She is also a trained Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring Facilitator from UCLArts & Healing. 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.

 

Angela Nzegwu, M.A.

Writer + Board Member

Angela is a social justice educator, writer, mystic, and South LA native. She earned her Bachelors of Art in English and Religion from Amherst College and her Masters in Theological Studies with an emphasis in Black Theology and Ethics from Duke University. She is a trained facilitator and uses dialogue and dialogic tools to explore social difference and power and build community across difference. Angela has served as a college chaplain and DEI professional at colleges and universities across New England. She is a consummate teacher who loves creating opportunities for imagination and creativity to thrive.

 

Bryan Arellano, B.A.

Teaching Artist - Fine Arts, Illustration

 

Bryan is an illustrator and storyteller based in Southeast Los Angeles. He graduated from California State University of Fullerton in May 2021 with a BFA in Illustration.Bryan is passionate about storytelling and enjoys sharing stories with others through art. He believes stories help create a better world; the act of sharing thoughts, emotions, experiences, and observations allows us to understand others. Bryan mostly works digitally through Photoshop and Illustrator but also enjoys working with ink, colored pencil, and oil paint. He is currently working on a project, designing a set of postcards highlighting different cities in Southern California and their unique names. During his spare time I enjoy exercising, reading, trying new foods, and spending quality time with friends and family.

 

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.

Systems Engineer + Board Member

 

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.

Clinical Psychologist + Board Member

 

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 + Board Member

 

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 + Board Member

 

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.

Gloria Martinez

Financial Service Professional & Spoken Word Artist + Board Member

 

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.

Sally Garcia

Nature Education & Sustainability Content Creator + Board Member

 

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. 

Liz Coursey, BA

Art History + Board Member

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. 

Carolina Huerto, M.A.

Teaching Artist + Curriculum Specialist, Art Education

Carolina is an LA-based Art & Mindfulness Educator with experience working in schools and different cultural institutions in Europe and Los Angeles. Her passion for Arts Education sparked when she began to study for a Bachelor's in Art History in Madrid! She later studied a Master in Art & Design in Education at the University College of London. Some of the museums Carolina has worked at are the V&A Museum, The Getty Villa, and the Skirball Cultural Center. Carolina loves designing and facilitating bilingual art projects for children and multigenerational audiences. In her free time, she loves visiting exhibition spaces across Los Angeles, traveling to new cities, and exploring their architectural design.

Dakota
Angela
Katie
Kushal
Sandra
Glenna
Nia
Gloria
Sally G
Danielle
Liz Coursey
Carolina
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