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. 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. Currently, Sarah has a Masters of Science degree in Early Childhood Education: Inclusive Education and Curriculum & Instruction at Portland State University.
Kathy Danko-McGhee, Ph.D.
Kathy is currently the Program Director of Art Education and Pre-Art Therapy at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Education at the Toledo Museum of Art and led the museum’s efforts to be at the forefront of teaching visual literacy. Kathy has conducted numerous research studies about young children and their aesthetic preferences, which resulted in the publication of national and international journal articles and a book,The Aesthetic Preferences of Young Children(2000). Her second book, The Impact of Early Art Experiences on Literacy Development (2007), has become the basis for early childhood art education programs both here and abroad. Kathy has served in editorial roles including, Early Childhood Education Journal, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, and International Art in Early Childhood Research Journal. She also served on the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Task Force for the National Art Education Association. A graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan University, Kathy earned her master’s degree from Indiana State University and her doctorate from Ohio 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.
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. She is currently the Wallis Annenberg Artistic Director of the California Institute of the Arts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) program and has been with CAP since 1991. Before CalArts, she directed community art centers for the City of LA, Dept. of Cultural Affairs for 14 years. She has painted over 75 community murals throughout LA, 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 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.