Steering Committee members get to decide the direction that RALSD takes in its efforts to provide new and valuable programming and resources to its members. Becoming a member of the RALSD Steering Committee is a two year commitment and you will be expected to lead a subcommittee and attend monthly Steering Committee meetings. You are granted a yearly professional development stipend as well as numerous opportunities to attend conferences and networking events, both in San Diego and across the U.S. The work is not always easy but the opportunity to meet and be met by some of the biggest players in the San Diego Arts Community as well as the leadership opportunities pay dividends.
“Being on the RAL Steering Committee was an opportunity for me to expand volunteer management skills, strategic planning, and connect with incredibly people through the Hewlett Foundation and Americans for the Arts. The past 3 years participating on the Mentorship Program, Programming Committee, and as Chair have been the best thing for my career.”
-Angela Venuti, Chair 2016
2018 Chair, 2017 Vice-Chair, 2016 Marketing/Communications Chair, RALSD
Arts Advocate and Public Art Consultant
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 www.SanDiegoisAwesome.com 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.
2018 Vice Chair, 2017 Communications Chair, RALSD
Marketing Production Specialist, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership
Stephania Villar is Marketing Production Specialist for the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, and joined the Partnership to assist with Maker Faire San Diego, the Explorer Annual Pass, and other Cultural Partnership events and programs. Most recently she’s begun working for Park-wide Communications. 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 several years. She’s a big lover of stories, food, travel, and memes. All the memes.
2018 Treasurer, RALSD
Corey Dunlap (b. 1990) received his BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2013 and is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California, San Diego. Recent solo exhibitions of his work have taken place at Helmuth Projects, San Diego (2017), How’s Howard?, Boston (2016), In The Pines Gallery, Jackson, WY (2015) and Howard Art Project, Boston (2014). He has participated in shows at the San Diego Art Institute, The Chazen Museum of Art, Embassy Galley, and The New Art Center. Corey is a recipient of the 2016 SMFA Traveling Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to Reykjavik, Iceland to attend the SIM International Artist Residency.
Working with the strategies of sculpture and photography, Corey constructs images using digital modeling software. These arrangements are lit, photographed, and manipulated as if real, incorporating a lexicon of bodily and geometric forms. The resulting images depict moments of encounter between objects, often using misrecognition of form as a means of seduction. These effects are produced in an attempt to build believability in the visual universe and to further blur the distinction between object and body.
2018 Secretary, 2017 Membership Chair, RALSD
Laura Lover is the Development and Volunteer Coordinator at the Mingei International Museum. She has an MA in Museum Studies from Marist College at Istituto Lorenzo de’Medici, in Florence, Italy. Laura also holds an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of York in England, a BA from Fordham University, and spent a year studying at Oxford University. It was her love of history and culture which inspired her career, and she has worked in museums in New York, Miami and San Diego. You should also give her tacos.
2017 – Present, Administrative Director, RALSD
Studio Manager, Joyce Cutler-Shaw Studio
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.
2017 – 2018 Advocacy Chair, Steering Committee, RALSD
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.
2018 Communications Co-Chair, RALSD
Creative and Communications Manager, Save Starlight
Co-organizer, Femme Forme
Diana Benavidez is a visual artist, community organizer and an active supporter of female creatives across San Diego. She is currently the Creative and Communications Manager for Save Starlight; a grassroots nonprofit initiative working on reinventing and repurposing Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park. As part of her efforts to support and empower female creatives across San Diego, Benavidez co-organizes Femme Forme; a face-to-face networking event that encourages female identifying creatives to meet and collaborate. Previously, she was the Executive Production Assistant for Parkeology and Design Forward as well as an undergraduate researcher for UC San Diego’s The DesignLab. As a visual artist, her work adopts the Mexican craft of piñata making as a medium to create sculptures that are a reflection of the artist’s own hybrid identity as a Mexican-American growing up near the San Diego/Tijuana border. Artworks have been exhibited in a variety of spaces including UC San Diego’s Adam D. Kamil Gallery and The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. Benavidez earned a Visual Arts Degree from UC San Diego. http://www.dbenavidez.
2018 Diversity Equity Inclusion Task Force Chair
Art has always been a passion of Gini Mann-Deibert but only recently has she has become a teaching artist at Solana Ranch Elementary, a K-6 school in Carmel Valley. Artistically, Gini is an installation artist who spends most of her time creating elaborate displays for children’s artwork. When not teaching and creating for kids, Gini also owns a small business creating whimsical designs in felt and paper.
Gini graduated from UNLV and The University of Texas at Austin. She holds a doctoral degree in Sociology which she employs in her role as the Task Force Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in RALSD. She lives with her wife, tween, and two cats (TacocaT and Nacho).
2018 Advocacy Co-Chair
Lara Bullock is a writer, contemporary art historian, and curator. She earned her Ph.D. in Contemporary Art History at the University of California,San Diego in 2015. She received her B.A. in Art History with Honours from the University of British Columbia, with an English Minor (2005) and her M.A. in Art History, Theory, and Criticism with scholarships from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2007). As a critic, she has published for a variety of print and online media. She has composed various catalogue essays for both galleries and museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s catalogue for the exhibition Viva la Revolucion: Dialogue with the Urban Landscape. As both a curator and scholar, Lara is interested in cultural criticism, DIY aesthetics, and “art” as a malleable and ever changing term, especially as it is accepted in the world of galleries, museums, and the academy.
2018 Membership Chair, 2017 Communications Vice Chair, RALSD
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.
2018 Membership Co-Chair, Steering Committee, RALSD
Assistant Production Manager, San Diego Symphony
Nicole Houghton has a Bachelor if Fine Arts and a Masters of Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently the Assistant Production Manager of the San Diego Symphony and has held previous positions in orchestra management with the Maryland Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony and completed the Essentials of Orchestra Management seminar through the League of American Orchestras. With over 5 years of management experience, she is new to the San Diego area and enjoys exploring the area in her spare time along with hiking, biking, and going to the various beaches.
2017 – 2018 Programming Chair, RALSD
Executive Assistant to Director and Grants Coordinator, New Americans Museum
Community Engagement Coordinator, Art Career Café
Polly Toledo is the Executive Assistant to Director and Grants Coordinator at the New Americans Museum. 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.
2018 Programming Co-Chair
Samantha Watkins is the Interim Special Event Manager at La Jolla Playhouse and is thrilled to be serving on RAL this year. She received her B.A. in Theatre and Broadcast Journalism from Point Loma Nazarene University and has a strong passion for the arts. Specifically, Samantha is excited about creating events to bring together the art community, from providing educational information to showcasing artists work. In her spare time she teaches yoga, runs marathons, and goes line dancing.
2018 Rise Up Task Force Chair
Shayla James balances her time as a Music Teaching Artist and Researcher in the non-profit sector. She teaches music programs for Villa Musica, Arts for Learning SD, and volunteers at the San Diego Symphony. She is completing the Teaching Artist Institute program at A4LSD as a Current Teaching Artist. She has also worked with local theater companies Blindspot Collective and Bocón to promote community engagement, empowerment and collaboration in the arts, through the play Safa’s Story.
She is a multi-instrumentalist who believes in being an advocate for arts/music education for all ages. Her research interests include arts accessibility, education and cultural policy. She is excited to be involved in citywide arts advocacy efforts with the Rise Up for Arts and Culture Coalition. She aims to interweave these interests into her teaching and performance practice. She received a B.M. degree in Piano Performance and a B.A. degree in Political Science from Coe College. She attended UC-San Diego for a M.A. degree in Music with an emphasis in Integrative Studies (Ethnomusicology and Critical Studies).
2018 Communications Chair, RALSD
Outreach and Communications Coordinator, Malashock Dance
Communications Chair, Advocacy Committee, AERO
Thom has danced with Milwaukee Ballet II, Grand Rapids Ballet, The Big Muddy Dance Company (under Artistic Director Brian Enos), and The Muny, the nation’s largest regional equity theater. Thom has also worked as an audition assistant for both The Muny and The Big Muddy. He has had the pleasure of dancing soloist roles in works by Robert Moses, Brian Enos, Kate Skarpetowska, Stephanie Martinez, Harrison McEldowney, Penny Saunders, Olivier Wevers, Gerald Arpino, and George Balanchine.
As an administrator, Thom has assisted in Big Muddy’s growth over the past three years, working as the company’s Social Media Coordinator and serving on its Marketing Committee. He was a part of the team responsible for the grant earning Joshua Manculich the Princess Grace Award in 2015 and most recently headed the inaugural performance collaboration between The Big Muddy and Webster University’s Dance Department. Thom is also the former director of his own Milwaukee-based dance project, NomadicLIMBS. Thom is currently the Communications Chair for AERO San Diego’s Advocacy Committee and is on the Steering Committee for Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego.
Thom has emerged as a choreographer in recent years, having won awards at The McCallum Dance Under The Stars Choreography Competition, Youth America Grand Prix, and the World Ballet Competition. He has presented contemporary works on The Big Muddy, Grand Rapids Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet II, Danceworks Chicago, Ballet Nebraska, Convergence Ballet, San Diego Ballet’s “Dance Gallery,” Webster University, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. His work has been seen at the Spring To Dance Festival in St. Louis and in GRB’s “Best of Movemedia.”
2017 – Present Membership Chair, RALSD
2018 Chair Emeritus, 2017 Chair, 2016 Advancement Chair, RALSD
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.