Meet the Arts Council Staff
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.
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. Michelle 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 new funding models, 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, 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 four-year- old Alex and six-year- old Andrew – the two coolest guys she knows (along with her husband Jon). She is also obsessed with kickboxing and knitting and is not afraid to admit she loves books and movies with dragons in them.
Director of Arts Education
Focused on outreach efforts to underserved communities, Sarah manages the Arts Council’s Arts Education program, including SPECTRA, Mariposa Arts, 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 Director of of Arts Education. For the past four years she has led local and statewide arts education advocacy efforts through her work with the Arts Council and 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 with her little boy in the great outdoors.
Deputy & Tannery Director
Since 2003 Jim has followed his dedication to building communities that support authentic self-expression. A recovering software engineer for the semiconductor industry, he served as the Executive Director of both the Diversity Center and the 418 Project before joining the Arts Council as Grant Program Manager in 2012. He left us in 2015 for a position as Program Officer and Grants Manager at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, but returns to the Arts Council to work more closely with community and the arts.
As Tannery Director, Jim will strengthen the Tannery Community, create exceptional programming, and increase awareness of everything happening on this campus. In his other role as Deputy Director, Jim will be working with the Program Directors to execute our new strategic plan.
In 2015, Jim adopted three children that he'd been fostering for a number of years. They are now 11, 12, and 13 years old! When parenting isn’t all-consuming Jim loves to dance, hike, and read fantasy/science fiction novels.
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 Arts 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.
Open Studios & Events Director
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.
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.
Crystal oversees the Arts Council’s communications. 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.
Grants Program Manager
Hannah manages the Arts Council's grants, poet laureate, and fiscal sponsorship programs. She has nearly a decade of non-profit program development and management experience with a passionate focus on community engagement, social justice, and racial equity. Hannah believes that a strong arts community empowers all of us to harness our unique power and creativity - providing a platform for authentic expression, shared dialogue, and social transformation. She is deeply inspired by the artistic diversity throughout Santa Cruz County and seeks to support the many voices and art forms throughout our multicultural community.
Outside of the Arts Council, Hannah enjoys living at the Tannery, exploring a variety of dance classes in Santa Cruz, building a small jewelry business, nature hikes, raw probiotic food creations, and developing a mindfulness meditation practice.
Mercedes will be assisting in the production of events through the Arts Council including Open Studios, Ebb and Flow and the Children's Art Exhibition as well as coordinating events at the Tannery Art Center.
Inspired by the potential of the arts to transform and grow vibrant communities, her career spans her role as a visual merchandiser for a corporate brand, working in numerous venues in the Monterrey Bay within the wedding industry and the production of multiple community events in between.
She spends her free time with her sons and husband hiking in the redwoods, at the beach and on the soccer pitch. She loves family, community, travel, simple fresh food and flowers.
(831) 728-8102 Ext. 3579
Mariposa's Art Program Assistant
Shaadi is the Mariposa Arts Program Assistant supporting our Teaching Artists and the creativity of our community. She draws, raps, and performs poetic justice as well as cultivates agricultural knowledge to strengthen her ties to her family, friends, and planet.
On her days off, she loves to spend time cruising on her skateboard, writing verses and poetry, drawing in her sketchpad, and lifting weights.
As a former business owner, sales manager, development director and fundraising consultant, Tim brings a donor-centered approach to fundraising by focusing on what inspires each individual to engage with the Arts Council and each of it’s life-changing programs. He combines for-profit client cultivation techniques with proven non-profit development strategies to encourage highly personalized and targeted interactions. In his spare time, his interests include traveling to far-off places, jogging through the east side, banging away at the piano and backpacking in the wild.
As Operations Coordinator, Liz gets to do a little bit of everything while supporting our Executive Director, Development Director, and Finance & Operations Manager. Her background in everything from communications and marketing to community management and customer/tech support help her in her role as liaison and go-to person for Arts Council or Tannery inquiries. She holds down the fort at our front desk and helps keep the office running smoothly, wearing other hats like graphic designer, translator or IT person as needed.
When she's not at the front desk, you'll find her reading, painting, drawing comics, camping, playing ukulele, climbing aerial silks, or doing acrobatic circus tricks with her husband.
Mireya Gomez-Contreras is the Program Associate for the Arts Council Santa Cruz County. She was born in Watsonville and raised in Mexico and the San Joaquin Valley with her farmworker parents. She moved to the Pajaro Valley, to stay, at the age of 13 and has since been deeply engaged in social justice and community building work. She has three sisters, five nieces/nephews and one daughter. She loves to garden, drink wine, camp and play with arts and crafts. Her first memory of art is from when she was in elementary school and her teacher took the class outside to the playground to sit around a tree. She and her classmates were instructed to draw the same tree. The memory of her first work of art remained in her mind and she has never stopped combining art with nature; now she enjoys art most with her daughter.
(831) 475-9600 Ext. 24
Ami Davis is the Development Specialist at the Arts Council, where she supports fundraising and donor relations. Her career in the arts began early, as a comic book illustrator for her junior high newspaper. In the 1990s she worked as an educator for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. She has served other arts institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Monterey Museum of Art, the Orange County Museum of Art, and the San Jose Museum of Art. She has been an instructor for courses in contemporary art at UCLA Extension, and has been a panelist and presenter at numerous national museum and arts conferences. She serves on the board of the Santa Cruz Art League where she is currently co-chair. Ami feels deeply connected to Santa Cruz’s natural splendor, rich history, and diverse culture, and is at home whether in the redwoods, at the beach, or in an art gallery.