Steering Committee

Become a Member of the 2018-2020 Steering Committee. Practice Leadership, Build your Network and Contribute to San Diego becoming an innovative, inspiring world-class arts leader.

Download the Steering Committee Member One Sheet 
Want to join the Steering Committee? Submit a one page letter about why you're interested and what you hope to get out of the experience, along with a resume to by December 1, 2017.


Sheena Ghanbari

Chair, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Formerly Advancement Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Arts Administrator and Educator, University of California San Diego

Dr. Sheena Ghanbari is an arts administrator and educator at the University of California, San Diego. The synergy between creativity and logic has been ever present in her life and reflected in her academic and professional pursuits. Sheena is currently the Program Promotion Manager at the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego where she manages all of the department’s marketing and communication efforts and gets to work with dynamic and talented artists and art historians. She studied Visual Arts and Communications at UC San Diego and earned her Master’s in Arts Management from the Heinz College of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Sheena completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC San Diego where her dissertation explores leadership and learning in interdisciplinary university programs that integrate the arts with STEM. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, swimming, running, and painting.

Taylor Ward

Taylor Ward

Vice-Chair, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego

Taylor Ward has a degree from UCSD in Art History and Criticism and has worked in the San Diego museum world since graduating in 2009. He is the owner and operator of a website that aims to encourage locals and tourists to take part in the cultural scene of San Diego including the more than 90 museums in our county. Though he considers himself devoid of creativity he is a champion and advocate for those who exercise theirs, continually striving to make the arts a sustainable career destination. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, tow truck driver, lifeguard, community liaison, freelance writer of clickbait, golf caddy, museum sales associate, museum advocate, social media campaign coordinator, janitor, mall Santa, creative director for an internet startup, hearing aid salesman and bartender to name a few. In his spare time Taylor enjoys gardening as a Master Gardener, ballroom dancing with his grandmother and losing arguments to his dog Zen.

Alexandra Kritchevsky

Secretary, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Formerly Programming Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Grants Manager, La Jolla Playhouse

Alexandra has always been a lover of arts and culture, whether at home or abroad. She earned a B.A. in History from Boston College and an M.A. in Eighteenth-Century Studies from Kings College London. She then fell into nonprofit work in London and found her passion! After working in arts and program administration for two and a half years, she returned to San Diego and began working at La Jolla Playhouse in 2012. She is now the Grants Manager, handling all corporate, foundation and government grants and reporting. She also participates in arts advocacy efforts and the interdepartmental Green Team. Outside of work, she is (somewhat) obsessed with travel, books, films, writing and cooking.

Matt Carney

Matt Carney

Treasurer, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego (Second Year)
Executive Director, Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theatre

After 15 years of performing professionally, Matt is dancing his way from the studio to the office. Matt was drawn into the world of dance as another way to convey his interests in equality, social activism, and general malarkey. The rich history that is bestowed upon all dancers was received by Matt with reverence and has guided his life since his first dance class. After the recession in 2008 something shifted in his perspective and he began to dig deeper into dance on a systemic level. Questions on how to sustain this art form and preserve its legacy filled his head, and led to a path of synergy between both his artistic and pragmatic sides.

Matt has his BFA in Dance from the U. of MO-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance and his Master in Public Administration from SDSU's School of Public Affairs, Southern California's premier urban research university, focusing on organizational development, fiscal analysis, and flow of communication. Matt hit the ground running as Executive Director in December 2014, after serving as Operations Manager for over a year. Now, he has the pleasure of working hand in hand with Ms. Jean Isaacs and is enjoying the ride.

Dia Basset

Dia Bassett

Advocacy Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
School of the Arts Director, La Jolla Anthenaeum Arts & Music Library

Dia Bassett is the School of the Arts Director at La Jolla Athenaeum Arts & Music Library. In 2017 Dia founded The Artists Advocacy Group (TAAG) to support local emerging artists directly through art collecting and studio visits. Previously, she was the Executive Assistant and a Teaching Artist at CoTA (Collaborations: Teachers and Artists). As a visual and performing artist, she has taught at City Tree Christian School, San Diego Art Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego State University, and Eveoke Dance Theatre, and lectured at University of San Diego, California State University San Marcos, and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California. Dia has curated 10 art exhibitions since 2014 at institutions such as A Ship In The Woods, Planet Rooth Design Haus, and Gallery D. She is the recipient of a Green Public Art Grant, the Isabel Craft Scholarship, and a Rising Arts Leaders Quick Grant. Currently, she chairs the Advocacy Committee for the Rising Arts Leaders San Diego Steering Committee and is Treasurer for the Emerging Museum Professionals San Diego. She earned her MFA in Sculpture from San Diego State University in 2011 and her B.A. in Art and Romance Languages from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2003.

Natasha Anderson

Advocacy Vice Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Formerly Advocacy Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego

Natasha Anderson lives by the motto "Art is Life is Art". The Brooklyn, New York native loves calling San Diego and utilizes every opportunity to submerge in the local art culture. Her background in News Editorial Journalism showcased her penchant for writing, while her career transitioned into creating marketing and public relation campaigns for various non profit organizations. She has worked with ArtSanDiego, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, and Jonathan Tarr Foundation to name a few. Natasha finds fulfillment in fusing passion with purpose. The RALSD's Steering Committee member looks forward to working with the Advocacy Committee as well as pursuing her goal of becoming an Art Marketing Director.

Stephania Villar

Communications Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego

Stephania Villar is Marketing Specialist for the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, and joined the Partnership to assist with Maker Faire San Diego, the Explorer Annual Pass, and other BPCP events and programs. Having earned a BA in History from Pitzer College and an MA in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she has previously worked for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and Coronado Historical Association and has been an active member of Rising Arts Leaders San Diego for the last four years. She’s a big lover of stories, food, travel, and memes.

Mandy Shefman

Mandy Shefman

Vice Chair of Communications Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Engagement Manager, Arts for Learning San Diego (A4LSD)

Mandy is a big believer in following her passion and being unstoppable and loves helping others, especially children, get that for themselves. After graduating as a 5-year Mary Roby awarded, student-athlete from the University of Arizona with a BA in art history and a minor in studio art, Mandy worked to support children’s confidence through coaching gymnastics and teaching visual arts as a means to inspire children to be unstoppable by believing in themselves and that practice pays off with success. 

Mandy got her first non-profit experience at City ArtWorks in Houston, an after school visual arts program that served 3,000 students a year where she started as the Office & Registration Manager and was promoted to Assistant Director. After being there for more than 3 years, Mandy moved to San Diego, and found a new way to encourage herself to be unstoppable. Mandy was hired be the fundraiser as the Engagement Manager with Arts for Learning San Diego where her role helps the Arts for Learning San Diego team provide quality arts education to more than 66,000 students and others in the community! Working in her dream job with an amazing staff in an amazing city, Mandy has found her happy place where she plays sports with friends, rollerblades the beach path, does her own art, and has a job where she takes on being unstoppable to make sure students have access to all types of arts education.

Polly Ral Head Shot

Polly Toledo

Programming Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Operations and Programs Manager, San Diego Model Railroad Museum
Community Engagement Coordinator, Art Career Café

Polly Toledo is the Operations and Programs Manager at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. She also moonlights as the Community Engagement Coordinator for Art Career Café. Polly received her M.A. in Art Galleries and Museum Studies from the University Leeds and her B.A. in Art History from Dominican University of California. As a San Diego native she is excited about the unique opportunities the San Diego Arts and Culture community has in terms of its diversity, bi-nationality and distinctive cultures which make it unlike any other city. As an arts professional she seeks to cultivate accessibility and inclusion in the arts to empower individuals and their communities. Polly balances her work life with her interests in traveling, Krav Maga, jewelry making, gardening, and smashing the patriarchy.

Jessica Amaya

Programming Vice Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego

Bio coming soon.  

Laura Lover

Membership Chair, Steering Committee, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego

Bio coming soon.

Nicole Gonzalez

Administrative Director, Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego
Founder, Inca Colors

Nicole has always been fascinated by fashion and art, and especially the combination of the two. Nicole taught sewing classes to pre-teen and teenage girls at Camp Diva, a youth empowerment camp in Richmond, VA. She also organized her first “slow fashion” show through her community college. In San Diego, Nicole apprenticed with muralist Mario Torero and volunteered at the Centro Cultural de la Raza. While earning her BA in Studio Art from UCSD, Nicole founded Inca Colors, a fun, fair trade clothing and accessories company. Humor, fashion, art, sustainability, and activism all play large roles in Nicole’s life. Nicole also enjoys making zines, dancing, and hiking.

Emeritus Steering Committee Members

Angela Venuti*

AJ Knox
Kait Sewell
Christa Lynn Browning
Virgil Yalong
Whitney Roux*
Donnie Matsuda
Malesha Taylor
Shaun Spalding
Kristen Fogle
Alex Goodman
Chelsea Whitmore*
Van Tran
Dennis-Michael Broussard
Adriana Abrams
Gemma Brown
Amanda Buzzell
Erin Decker*
Karla Duarte
Matthew Henry
Tyler Hewes
Justin Hudnall
Erika Malone
Josh Martinez-Nelson
JR Melchor
Paloma Patterson
Jacqueline Penhos
Johanna Pope
Alex Scollon
Melanie Seales
Molly Terbovich-Ridenhour*
Matthew Williams

*Indicates former Chair