Meet the Arts Council Staff

We’re a dedicated team of creatives, educators, and organizers here to make Santa Cruz County a stronger community where creative expression thrives. Reach out to any of us directly!

Crystal Birns

Communications Director

Crystal has over a decade of program management experience, a dozen years working within the Santa Cruz County arts ecosystem, and a lifetime of active engagement with the arts.

Her creative pursuits include strumming on the ukelele, 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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Sarah Brothers

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.

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Jim Brown

Executive 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 Grants Program Manager in 2012. He left in 2015 for a position as Program Officer and Grants Manager at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, but returned to the Arts Council in 2017, as Deputy and Tannery Director, to work more closely with community and the arts.

As Tannery Director, Jim worked with his team to strengthen the Tannery community, create exceptional programming, and increase awareness of everything happening on this campus. As Deputy Director, Jim worked with the Program Directors to execute our new strategic plan. Now, as Executive Director, Jim works with the entire Arts Council team to advance our mission.

On a personal note, Jim has three children (Serenity, Andrew, and Nate) that he adopted through the foster system. They came to him in 2011. In addition to parenting, Jim loves to dance, hike, and read fantasy/science fiction novels.

Yesenia Camacho-Bautista

Program & Administrative Coordinator, Communications Associate

Yesenia is a Watsonville-native, currently living in Santa Cruz. As the Program and Administrative Coordinator, she provides support to Senderos, a partner non-profit organization, and closely assists the Art Council’s Watsonville arts expansion work and Grants Program. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, live music, and playing with her corgis, Quin and Neko.

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Jessica Carmen Evanjelista

Development Manager

As the Development Manager, Jessica's focus is to steward community and relationships. Having been born and raised between Watsonville’s strawberry fields and Santa Cruz’s beaches, she is especially passionate about the role and bringing the arts to her home county. Jessica graduated from Hartnell College with dual Associate of Arts degrees in World History and Developmental Psychology. She is currently attending California State University, Monterey Bay where her capstone involves writing the history of Chicano Muralismo and its positive influence within the tri-county area of Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey.

Jessica and her partner have been creating and sharing their art as a duo since they met in 2011; With several First Friday and private gallery shows, community art and family events and murals throughout the tri-county area under their belts. Aside from creating art in its various forms, Jessica enjoys spending time with her enormous family, being a community organizer, traveling near and far and making new friends.

Edie Garcia-Flores

Teaching Artist

Edie Flores is a Guitar Teaching Artist with Mariposa Arts. Mr. Flores has worked for programs such as AVID and Migrant Ed as soon as he graduated from Watsonville High in 2015. In those 3 years he has worked with Elementary-High School age groups. He has just received three A.A. degrees in Theatre Arts, Music, & Liberal Arts and is looking to transfer to CSU Fullerton next year for his Theatre B.A. He has accompanied several local artists and been part of orchestra bands for musicals. Aside from his music endeavors he also is a stage/film actor. His favorite acting jobs are musicals due to it’s heavy music involvement. Recent on stage productions include The Little Mermaid @ Pacific Repertory Theatre (Prince Eric), La Pastorela @ El Teatro Campesino (Bato), & RENT @ Cabrillo Stage (Steve). Working for Mariposa’s Art has been a perfect way to share his love for music with younger students and is honored to be here.


Mireya Gomez-Contreras

Deputy Director

Born in Watsonville and raised in Mexico and the San Joaquin Valley with her farmworker parents, Mireya 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, one daughter and one son. 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.

Sally Green

Development Strategist

Sally is fired up about helping people and organizations get what they need to thrive. In nonprofit leadership roles and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa, she dedicates herself to just that. Talking through ideas with teams, writing, and development strategy are her sweet spots. Sally is a graduate of Leadership Santa Cruz and Focus Ag, and she holds a Masters in Nonprofit Management and a Bachelor's in Business.

When she’s not hunched over her laptop, Sally likes to travel, grow things, paint, share belly laughs, and hang out with her seven-year-old girl Sadie.

Nessa Ledesma

Teaching Artist

Venessa Ledesma is a bilingual Art Teaching Artist with Mariposa Arts. Ms. Ledesma has worked with the program for a year and is passionate about inspiring youth in the community to utilize art as an outlet. Since 2009 she has been involved with several community organizations; such as the Watsonville Brown Berets, Community Bridges, Community Life Services, Community Mural Project and Watsonville Paint night, where she participated/co-facilitated all age art workshops and events. Although creating art has always been apart of Ms. Ledesma life, she began showing her work professionally in 2014. Her paintings and jewelry have since been exhibited at the the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery, Second Street Cafe and Local craft fairs. Ms. Ledesma has painted Murals for non-profits, such as Creative Young Artists and Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes.

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Mercedes Lewis

Program Manager, Tannery Arts Center

Raised in the South of England, born in South Africa, the middle of five siblings, Mercedes has been living in America for nearly 25 years. Along with the love for her two young sons - flowers, food, music, art and wide open spaces hold a special place in her heart.

Mercedes works across departments with both Arts Council staff and board and the multiple organizations, tenants and partners on the Tannery campus. Supporting and leading artist teams within Ebb & Flow River Arts, a six year cross-sector celebration of intersections between artists and environmentalists. The goal of this creative placekeeping initiative to cultivate relationships in the business, residential and wider Santa Cruz community with the San Lorenzo River and the Tannery Arts Center. She supports the Tannery arts community through communications and events as well as the management of the tri-fold programs: grants, Ebb & Flow, and professional development for artists. Intentionally weaving equity into event design & programming, she believes passionately in the potential of the arts to innovate sustainable, social & environmental healing with new, just, and equitable ways of being.

Tamara Liu

Grants Program Manager

Tamara joined Arts Council Santa Cruz County from a dynamic background in the arts. A trained flutist, she received her Bachelor of Music in musicology and a Minor in business from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; while in school she worked for Krannert Center for the Performing Arts as a production assistant and development intern. Returning to Santa Cruz in 2016 after two decades away, she continued working in arts administration with Opera Cultura, a LatinX opera company in San Jose (2016-2021) and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in downtown Santa Cruz (2018-2022), additionally joining the board of Santa Cruz Chamber Players in 2019. Tamara’s wide array of skills and experience in the arts, combined with her deeply-seated values of equity and community, form the perfect foundation for her to serve and support artists and organizations countywide as the Arts Council’s Grants Program Manager. In addition to her work, Tamara loves dancing to live music, practicing yoga and meditation, dabbling in painting and rollerskating, taking walks on the beach or in the forest, and playing with her three cats.

Yesenia Molina

Facilities Associate

Raised in community, Yesenia is happy to facilitate a space where artists can gather and share their knowledge. She is passionate about creating more spaces for the arts in her community where folks can gather, share and organize with all generations.

Yesenia has dedicated her life to youth development, and has recently pivoted her life journey to be able to adapt into motherhood. She is excited to raise her daughter in the same community that she gained so much from as a child. Yesenia is an artist at heart and can't wait to collaborate with the artists that come through the Watsonville Center for the Arts.

Andres Ortiz

Arts Education Manager & Teaching Artist

Andres Ortiz is a theater teaching artist with the Mariposa Arts and SPECTRA arts education programs. He was born in Pomona, CA and raised in San Antonio, TX. He started performing in talent shows and school plays at the age of 10. Andres attended high school at a magnet school in San Antonio called the North East School of the Arts where he majored in musical theater. Also during high school, Andres received additional acting training at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center on the Westside of San Antonio.

He attended college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX where he graduated with a BFA in Acting in 2010. During his time in Texas, Andres performed with many different professional companies such as the Dallas Theater Center, Kitchen Dog Theater, Dallas Children’s Theater, and Amphibian Stage Productions. After graduation, Andres began teaching and working with inner-city youth as a means of supporting his acting career. He has also worked as a substitute teacher, basketball coach, and an after-school arts and activities instructor.

Since moving back to California in 2012, Andres has worked with Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino on their recent production of “Valley of the Heart,” where he played the role of Benjamin.

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Ann Ostermann

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 for Open Studios and other events.

Ann’s own art is practiced in the garden where she enjoys growing dahlias and roses. When there are no more weeds to pull, she spends time making fabric crafts in her sewing room.

Luis Sanchez

Teaching Artist

Luis Sanchez is a bilingual Dance Teaching Artist with the Mariposa Arts and SPECTRA arts education programs. Mr. Sanchez has worked with the program for 2 years, but has been teaching in the school district and at local community centers for over 10 years working with students of all ages, learning styles, and abilities. He has been dancing professionally since 2004, and although largely self-taught he also studied dance at Cabrillo College and with various Hip Hop dance organizations including Hip Hop Craze, Jabbawockeez, and Dance Street Rockers. His performances have been featured in World of Dance, San Francisco Hip Hop Festival, and Enroute, as well as music videos for rappers Chris Rene and Cypress Hill. He has also been granted the Cesar Chavez Award and Proclamation from the City of Watsonville for his service to our community.

Katie Simpson

Teaching Artist

Katie is an artist and educator from Santa Cruz, with an MFA from the City College of New York, in Studio Art, and a BA from Portland State University, in Drawing, Painting and Printmaking. She loves combining drawing, painting, printmaking, and other media – and her work focuses on nature in various ways. She loves teaching art to people from kindergarten through college, and her teaching has focused on drawing, painting, printmaking, and bookbinding. In the classroom she fosters fun communities with teachers and students alike. She is super excited about art and nature, and ready to get her students excited, too!

Maria Walsh

Operations & Grants Associate

Maria has been involved in the arts community in Santa Cruz for many years, most recently at the Museum of Art & History and as a dance teacher for the Dance for Parkinson's program at Motion Pacific Dance. She received her BA in Sociology, Gender Studies, and Dance from Hampshire College, focusing her studies on identity formation through social dance and the gendering of movement. As a dancer, she has performed at the National Queer Arts Festival, the Tannery Arts Center, Motion Pacific Dance, as well as around the Bay Area as a musician. Maria loves the immediacy that art provides us to find our expression, senses, imagination, humanity, and connection to ourselves and each other. She also enjoys being in the ocean, playing chess, and physical comedy.

Josefina Rocha

Teaching Artist

Josefina Rocha is an artist from Watsonville, California who received her BFA degree in Fine Arts Practice at California State University, East Bay. Her work stems from her compassion for others and takes an interest in themes such as vulnerability, wonder, empathy, and kindness - all the while exploring their interconnectivity. As a long-time and continuous participating member of community-oriented organizations, she creates paintings that strives to weave these concepts by portraying them as an act of selfless giving through her art practice.

Chelsea Otterness

Teaching Artist

Chelsea comes alive in moments that require creativity. She has found that children are very connected to that 'source' creative impulse. Working in spaces where children are meant to be free from the rigor and chaos of other realms of life -- and are able to unleash hidden talents and embodied expression -- is her cup of tea. She is the Program Director of Performing Arts and Creative Expression Instructor at Mount Madonna School in Watsonville. She welcomes you to come play with us!

Emily Estanquero

Arts Education Associate

Emily Is the Arts Education Associate and assists with all Arts Education programming offered by the Arts Council Santa Cruz County. She was born and raised in Watsonville, CA. She grew up playing soccer and learning how to draw. She loves drawing on her IPad and playing with her dog.