Meet the Arts Council Staff

Statement of Non-Discrimination
The Arts Council’s Board and Staff are committed to supporting and advancing the arts in Santa Cruz County without regard to ethnicity, color, creed, religion, age, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, military status, marital status, political opinion, national origin, familial status, mental and physical disability, or source of income.

Our dedicated team gets the job done for you – every day.

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Michelle Williams

Executive Director

Michelle has been our fearless leader since 2009. Raised in the arts, she studied cello, piano, bass and voice before earning a BFA in Musical Theater. She has worked in theaters and recording studios across the U.S. and around the globe. In addition to her duties with us, she sits on the board of Visit Santa Cruz.

Previously, as Executive Director for Arts Council Napa Valley, Michelle spearheaded the first significant public funding for the arts in the county and oversaw the creation of a 3-year Community Cultural Plan. She has served on panels for the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts and has presented at forums across California and nationally on topics such as arts funding and advocacy, program development, public art, and building partnerships. A woman of diverse experience, she has also worked as a writer, EMT, Emergency Responder in disaster relief, and in wine education and hospitality.

Michelle’s passions for radical partnerships, workplace culture, and harnessing the power of the arts to ignite community change are what drive her work.

That’s not all. Michelle keeps busy with three-year-old Alex and five-year-old Andrew – the two coolest guys she knows (besides her husband Jon). She is also a little obsessed with knitting and yoga and is not afraid to admit she loves books and movies with dragons in them.

Read more about her thoughts on the arts in Santa Cruz County on The Work of Art Blog.

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Sarah Brothers

Arts Education Manager

Focused on outreach efforts to underserved communities, Sarah manages the Arts Council’s Arts Education program, including SPECTRA, Mariposa’s Art, Artist Teacher Partnership, and the Santa Cruz County Alliance for Arts Education. Most of her work has been with youth from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. She develops and provides engaging, enriching, and supportive art programs that meet educational, social/emotional, and artistic needs.An education enthusiast, she holds a Masters in Arts Management and a BA in Fine Art and Graphic Design, along with minors in both anthropology and music.

Her background in program management, strategic planning, curriculum development, and arts program delivery makes her the ideal Arts Education Manager. For the past 4 years, as Arts Education Manager for Arts Council Santa Cruz County, she has led local and state wide arts education advocacy through her work with the California Alliance for Arts Education local advocacy networks.

In her free time, she enjoys immersing herself in the creative process, painting and crafting, yoga, and spending time in the great outdoors.

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Emmanuel Garcia

Mariposa's Art Coordinator

Emmanuel Garcia is a painter, dancer, poet, lyricist, and facilitator. They are passionate about community transformation through the arts and embody the intersectionality of artist and activist. They studied Developmental Psychology at UCSC, have over 8 years of experience working in student-centered educational settings, and are certified in both creative facilitation as well as curriculum development for a wide range of learning styles. When they are not coordinating the Mariposa's Art after-school programs and events or teaching, you will likely find them engaged in collaborative community arts projects focusing on youth empowerment and social justice issues. In their free time, Emmanuel loves to work in the garden or go hiking.

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Ann Ostermann

Open Studios & Events Manager

Ann manages the complex production of our annual Open Studios Art Tour with an unflappable attitude. She is the liaison for several hundred Open Studios artists, event sponsors and volunteers. Her attention to detail and keen ability to predict the unpredictable make Ann the ideal person to run the show at our Spring Fundraiser and other major events.

Ann’s own art is practiced in the garden where she grows Dahlias, Roses and Zinnias. When there are no more weeds to pull, she explores the Japanese art form, Kimekomi.

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Deanna Zachary

Development and Communications Coordinator

Ms. Zachary will assist in grant writing and external communications. Her broad experience includes over 14 years of grant writing and program evaluation,. She has nearly a decade of experience in hosting public radio and television shows for KUSP radio, the NPR station for the Central Coast, and Community Television of Santa Cruz County. She is passionate about politics and has worked for Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Senator Paul Wellstone, and the Minnesota Legislature. When she’s not in the office, she likes to study Non Violent Communication, attend silent Buddhist retreats, and sing made-up songs to her cat. Every summer, she goes on vacation with 26 friends.

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Claudia Stefani

Finance & Operations Manager

Claudia monitors the overall agency budget for compliance, acts as liaison with auditors, lenders and investment brokers, oversees internal financial and office systems, and develops and implements fiscal and administrative policy. It’s a tough job that she does with aplomb. She’s been with us since 2003, bringing over 25 years of experience in financial and administrative management.

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Crystal Birns

Grants & Technical Assistance Manager

Crystal oversees the Council’s grantmaking programs, technical assistance initiatives, and fiscal sponsorship program. She has over a decade of program management experience, a dozen years working within the Santa Cruz arts ecosystem, and a lifetime of active engagement with the arts.

Her creative pursuits include strumming on the ukelele, singing cover songs, cultivating a happy marriage, running around in the wilderness, and taking pictures. She carries a sketchpad with her wherever she goes.

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Susan Wishon

Development & Communications Director

Susan’s background ranges from developing early intervention programs to education reform research analyst to fundraising consultant. Susan is drawn to the Arts Council because she sees the meaningful role arts play in inspiring us all to create meaningful change, and in igniting our creative spirit and reminding us that our involvement matters. Art adds to the Santa Cruz sparkle, beyond the crest of the waves to the streets and schools and community spaces.

She first fell in love with this town when touring college campuses and knew immediately that UCSC was where she wanted to study Psychology. During that time, she fell in love with her now husband. After college, they moved to Seattle and she earned a MPA at UW, albeit a fun city for a time, they are happy to be back in Santa Cruz and thrilled to be raising 3.5 year-old twins amidst the beautiful ocean and enchanting redwoods and wonderful people.

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Kim Luke

Administrative Associate

Kim brings a diverse professional background to her role with the Arts Council, with years spent in music publishing and copyright, event production and promotion, local sports organizations, and a fierce passion for community building. She will be applying her administrative super powers to all of the programs the Arts Council spearheads.

Her creative energies are directed toward original musical endeavors, cabaret performances, and public speaking engagements.