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Leadership Profiles


 Above is our Constellation of Impact. Every funder, entity and organization as well as every individual behind this movement contribute everyday to the hard work and progress of ART=OPPORTUNITY. A contact list of our team will be available soon for your inquiry needs.  Download our Constellation of Impact

Martha Barnette


Martha Barnette (Honorary Member and Founding Leader)  is co-host of the public-radio show A Way with Words, heard each week by listeners in 300  cities across North America, and worldwide  by podcast. The show’s  about words and how we use them — word and phrase origins, slang, regional dialects, writing well, books and reading, and that weird thing Grandma used to say. Martha  holds an undergraduate degree  in English  from  Vassar College, and did graduate work in classical languages at the University of Kentucky. She studied Spanish in Costa Rica at the ILISA Language Institute. Before her work in radio, Martha was a reporter for the Washington Post and an editorial writer for the Louisville Courier-Journal. She’s the author of three books on word origins: A Garden of Words, Ladyfingers & Nun’s Tummies: A Lighthearted Look at How Foods Got Their Names, and Dog Days & Dandelions.

 Matt D'Arrigo


Matt D’Arrigo is the Director of Creative Youth Development (CYD) for the Clare Rose Foundation in San Diego, CA. His role is to make direct investments and to increase awareness, resources, and opportunities for the field of CYD. The Clare Rose Foundation is the lead funder and driver of the San Diego CYD Network, helping to strengthen the field of CYD locally, regionally, and nationally by building the capacity of organizations and their leaders, coalition building, advocacy, grant- making, and hands-on technical support.Prior to joining Clare Rose Foundation, D’Arrigo was the Founder and CEO of A Reason To Survive (ARTS), a nationally recognized CYD organization based in National City, CA. His work with ARTS was the subject of the 2013 Academy Award winning documentary-short “Inocente”, featured on the Today Show, was a case study in the New York Times best selling book "Decisive" by Chip and Dan Heath, and profiled in Darius Graham’s book “Being the Difference: True Stories of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things to Change the World”. He holds leadership positions on the National Partnership for Creative Youth Development, Create Justice, and Art=Opportunity. He is co-founder of Arts Amplifying Youth (AAY!) and sits on the Arts Ed Impact Group for Grant Makers for Education.

Lisa DeMarco

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Lisa DeMarco is the creative mind behind DeMarco Design, a boutique graphic design studio. She is an award-winning graphic designer committed to developing results-driven creative in both print and electronic platforms. Her project history spans a wide range of sectors including education, healthcare, non-profit, arts & culture, energy efficiency, new construction, multifamily & affordable housing, destination, hospitality and food & beverage. Lisa’s work has been recognized with a Gold Hermes Creative Award and multiple honors from the National Apartment Association and the San Diego Press Club.

In addition to her own clientele, Lisa frequently collaborates with small boutique public relations and advertising agencies, serving as a “behind-the-scenes” extension of their own service offerings. As the Creative and Editorial Director for Living in Style Magazine for seven years, Lisa was responsible for the corporate brand as well as the content, layout, design, and production of a full-color, glossy magazine and corresponding website. She credits this editorial design experience with fostering her ability to distill complicated information into a clear and concise message combined with compelling visuals to tell a story targeted to a specific audience. 


Merryl Goldberg

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Merryl Goldberg is a Professor of Music at California State University San Marcos and Director of Center ARTES, a university center dedicated to restoring arts to education, in 2018 she received The Wang Family Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Teaching . Her publications include Arts Integration: Teaching Subject Matter Through the Arts in Multicultural Settings 5th edition (2017) as well as other books, articles, chapters, editorials, and blogs. She has been the Principal Investigator (or Co-PI) of numerous grants including Federal Department of Education Arts in Education Program grants, a joint Spencer and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur grant, Fulbright-Hays Foundation grants, National Endowment for the Arts grant, and California Arts Council grants. Merryl’s undergraduate degree is from New England Conservatory of Music, and her doctorate is from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to entering academia, she recorded numerous CDs and was on the road for 13 years playing the saxophone with the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Merryl’s hometown is Boston. Go Red Sox!

  • Office: Arts Building 306
  • Phone: (760) 750-4322

Leah Goodwin


Leah Goodwin believes that the arts are a universal tool for healing. Leah is the owner of Leah Goodwin Creations, where art and soul meet. Her exemplary career in the arts encompasses everything from public arts management to visual and performing arts program development and consultation, to creation and implementation of award-winning arts in education and arts in hospital programs. Leah has been a member of the Art=Opportunity Leadership Team since its inception.  Currently Leah serves on the Faculty for the RISE Urban Leadership program in partnership with USD and is Vice-Chair for the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Recently she curated two Museum exhibitions; The 1619 Celebration of Black Women at the Women's Museum of California and from the Afro to the Crown Act for the San Bernardino Museum of Art. She is a  writer and a poet; selected publications and works by Leah Goodwin include Teaching ESL Through the Arts: A SUAVE Experience, Ally & Bacon, chapter contribution: “Loving the Logistics: an arts administrator’s thoughts on collaboration,” Summer 2003; Pain Passion Poetry with co-author Leroy Brady, 2009; Collectively Creatin’ – Words and Images from African American Writers & Artists, 1997; and From the Soul of a Poet, with Co-Author Leroy Brady, A Collection of Poetry, 1995.

Brenda Hall


Brenda Hall serves as the Director of the Southern California Professional Development Federation (SCPDF). The mission of the SCPDF is to meet the needs of teachers and faculty in the areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership in order to ensure student success. SCPDF consists of 27 San Diego and Riverside county districts, 6 charter schools, Palomar and MiraCosta Colleges, the College of Education at California State University San Marcos, and the Education Studies Department at UCSD. Previously, Brenda served as a Curriculum Coordinator for the Vista Unified School District and as an AVID Coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education. She has worked in collaboration with Merryl Goldberg on multiple projects including the Federal AEMDD DREAM grant focusing on arts integration.

Ron Jesse

Ron Jesse

Ron Jessee is the former Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts for the San Diego County Office of Education. In this capacity, he served the arts needs of the 42 school districts in San Diego County. Mr. Jessee was also the California Region 9 Arts Lead. He served is the Principal Facilitator of the Art Assessment Resource Guide and Compendium of Arts Assessment Examples. He has received Administrator of the Year Awards from CMEA , CAEA , CETA and California State University, San Marcos Center Artes . In 2012 he received the PTA District 9 Honorary Service Award and the Educator of the Year Award from Young Audiences. In 2013, Mr. Jessee was awarded the Profiles in Music Education Award by the San Diego Youth Symphony. Mr. Jessee is currently working with California State University, San Marcos as an Arts Consultant, Lecturer and Director of Professional Development of Arts=Opportunity. He also serves as the Organist and Music Director at Pacific Beach United Methodist Church.

Dairrick Khalil Hodges

Dairrick Khali Hodges is an artist and social activist from Southeast San Diego. A playwright,  Poet and Performer. Dairrick has graced stages across California, while using his artistry and a tool for healing and advocacy throughout an eleven year career in social services working with foster youth as well as youth experiencing homelessness . He is passionate about educating youth around mental health and healthy relationships, as well as contibuting to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. He is the founder of a grassroots organization called the Soulcial Workers; a thearte arts agency dedicated to the social education and emotional development of youth in vulnerable populations. His organization serves to amplify the stories and experiences of marginalized bodies, and to raise community consciousness around trauma and relationships, working to prevent suicide through creative youth development. 


Joe Landon

Joe Landon

Joe Landon (Honorary Member and Founding Leader)  is the recently retired Executive Director of the California Alliance for Arts Education, a nonprofit organization that advances visual and performing arts education in K-12 public schools. Prior to joining the Alliance in 2006 as its Policy Director, his varied pathway touched on education, as a preschool teacher and K-8 music and theatre specialist, on the arts as a playwright and television writer, and on public policy and advocacy, as a speechwriter and senior consultant for the California State Assembly. He’s brought that experience to the work of the Alliance, helping to establish a statewide local advocacy network, sponsoring legislation to advance arts education interests including the establishment of Dance and Theatre credentials for California teachers, and promoting the advancement of Title I funding for arts education strategies that support Title I goals both in California and across the nation. He lives in Davis with his wife Laura, and the comings and goings of three fully grown children.

Emy Medina

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Emy Medina is currently enrolled at California State University San Marcos, she specializes in Visual and Performing Arts with a Dance and Theater Minor and is the Executive Assistant to the
AVP of SASS. Emy has had the amazing opportunity to work with influential artist such as; Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Michelle Boulé, and Melecio Estrella. While working with Melecio during the spring of 2019 she was also able to contribute to his work with the students at A Step Beyond in Escondido, CA. There she was able to gain more knowledge on working with young artist and the processes of creating a dance piece in a very short time frame.


Nancy Meza

Nancy Meza Is a graduate student from California State University of San Marcos. She majored in liberal studies and is now in the multi subject teaching credential program. During her time at California State University of San Marcos she was a part of the ACE Scholars services, a program that supports former foster youth; her experience as a foster youth and her love  of the arts and teaching has led her to become a passionate arts advocate. Currently Nancy is the campaign assistant and an Arts Ambassador for Art=Opportunity where she is fully able to advocate for the arts and provide full support to the efforts of Art=Opportunity and its Arts Ambassadors.


Kodie Gerritsen 

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Kodie Gerritsen has a BS in Physics and a BA in Art & Technology, as well as a passion for human geography. She has worked on hands-on projects out in the brush, in the physics laboratory and in the art studio, with exhibitions integrating art and science. During her time as a student, she was invited by her mentor to work as an Art=Opportunity STEAM Ambassador, helping to develop and disseminate interdisciplinary lessons and projects for children in the K-12 range. She loved her time as a STEAM Ambassador so much that she returned after graduation to work as an assistant with Art=Opportunity STEAM is her dream!

Kristin Moss

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Kristin Moss is a scholar, educator, and curator whose work focuses on art, identity, and social change. Her work engages different communities and explores ways that visual culture contributes to discourses of cultural identity, offers creative conceptualizations of contemporary society, and can serve as a model for democratic participation and citizenship. Her research highlights public art, including murals and street art, and their role in promoting dialogues of peace and social justice in diverse communities. Her interdisciplinary approach integrates theory from intercultural communication, visual culture studies, critical/cultural studies, and art history. Dr. Moss has published research on intercultural dialogue and mural art in national journals, served as Curator/Director of CSUSM’s Off Campus Gallery, and received the President’s Faculty Award for Teaching Innovation and Excellence. She holds MA and PHD degrees in International & Intercultural Communication from the University of Denver, and a BA in Art/Art History from Kalamazoo College.

Dr. Rajnandini “Raj” Pillai

Dr. Rajnandini “Raj”

Dr. Rajnandini “Raj” Pillai is a Professor of Management and Leadership at CSUSM’s College of Business Administration (CoBA). Her areas of teaching and research interest are leadership and cross-cultural management. Dr. Pillai has held management positions in the banking industry in India. She has published several research articles on charismatic and transformational leadership and cross-cultural management in the leading journals in the field and edited books on leadership. She has consulted with several service organizations in the U.S. on leadership effectiveness and has received awards for excellence in teaching and research including the CoBA Outstanding Professor Award and University’s highest honor, the Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award. She has conducted leadership workshops for local organizations. Dr. Pillai is also Director and founding member of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) at CSUSM, which co-hosted an Arts Education and Business Success event in 2016 and offers the signature “In the Executive’s Chair” course on campus. She believes that arts education can lead to success in other disciplines.

Toni Robin


Toni Robin (Honorary Member and Founding Leader) combines her NY sensibilities with a California style to create a unique approach to PR and Marketing. After graduating from George Washington University (BA Journalism degree), she served as Communications Director for the Cincinnati Fine Arts Fund. She was responsible for media relations and crisis communications related to Robert Mapplethorpe's controversial exhibition, "The Perfect Moment." In San Diego, she served as Marketing Director for the San Diego Performing Arts League, where she created and expanded a wide range of successful marketing and promotion programs. Since opening TR/PR Public Relations and Marketing in 2008, Toni has worked developing branding and communications for ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station and continues to spearhead their publicity. She has worked closely developing media, public relations and branding for San Diego Dance Theater, Cygnet Theatre, Art of Elan, The New Children’s Museum, The Hausmann Quartet, The New Americans Museum, and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. In addition to supporting arts and culture organization, Toni works area nonprofits to provide strategic communications, branding, marketing and public relations.

Laura Smyth 


Laura Smyth has spent more than two decades working in the arts and education field as a teacher, researcher, and consultant. She is interested in the intersection of in-school and out-of-school time, partnership between community and youth organizations, Title I and education equity, and making research and policy information accessible to a general audience. Laura helped design the nation's first master's degree in arts management with a focus on community and youth development at Columbia College Chicago and has developed and led projects at National Arts Strategies, the Arts Education Partnership and most recently at the California Alliance for Arts Education.  She holds a BA from the University of North Carolina and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. She currently lives with her family in Quito, Ecuador.


Lucy HG Solomon

lucy solomon

A member of the Center ARTES visual research team, artist Lucy HG Solomon translates research on arts education into visuals through data visualization. Lucy HG Solomon serves on the faculty of CSUSM School of Arts in the department of Art, Media, & Design, where she specializes on the intersections of art, technology, science and society. In her classes, especially in Data Visualization, she guides students as they seek alternative methods to convey research-rich stories through mediated experiences. Lucy HG Solomon was awarded an MFA in Art from Claremont Graduate University and received a teaching fellowship from the Armory Center for the Arts. She has worked in collaboration with scientists in the Synthetic Biology laboratory at MIT, with engineering students at Bradley University, and in between chemistry, dance, and architecture in New York City. She initiated the art and science collective, The League of Imaginary Scientists (LOIS), whose creative output has been anthologized in a book by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles: Social Practice at MOCA 2008-2012. The League and HG Solomon have exhibited widely, including in Ireland (and on Mars) with a project created in collaboration with NASA (part of the Lovely Weather residency program). Her work has exhibited throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America. In Bogotá, Colombia, her artwork was featured in the country’s celebration of the World Year of Physics.

Laurie Stowell


Laurie Stowell has been a professor of literacy at California State University San Marcos since 1992. She received her Ph.D. at The Ohio State University in language, literature and reading.   Prior to that, she taught middle school for eleven years in Columbus, Ohio. She teaches literacy courses in the middle level and elementary credential program, children's literature, as well as writing and assessment courses in the master’s program.   In 2001, Dr Stowell also founded and directs the San Marcos Writing Project.  Her research interests include writing, children’s and adolescent literature, and middle level literacy.   Publications include practitioner’s journals, teacher education journals, a co-authored book and book chapters for practicing teachers and she has presented at numerous state, regional and national conferences. She has also worked with elementary, middle and high school teachers in San Diego and Riverside County to plan and implement reading strategies and the teaching of writing. She was selected as the Outstanding Professor of the year at Cal State San Marcos in 1997, received the CSU Wang Family Excellence Award in 2005 and the California Teachers of English Classroom Excellence Award in 2008.

Christiane Wood

Dr. Christiane Wood is an Associate Professor of Literacy Education at CSUSM’s School of Education (SoE). She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology and Business Innovation from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Wood earned her B.A. in elementary education and French, and M.A. in Educational Policy and Leadership and Literacy Studies from Marquette University. She taught kindergarten, early elementary grades, and middle school and was a reading specialist (PK-12). Wood currently teaches literacy courses in the multiple subject teaching credential and M.A. Reading, Language, and Literacy programs at CSUSM. Her instruction mirrors contemporary trends in the field of literacy. It aims to foster teacher candidates’ understanding of innovations in literacy teaching and learning through technology integration and student-centered practices. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on the intersection of multimodal literacies, play, imagination, design thinking, making, and the arts in classroom contexts. She examines pedagogical practices, theories, and models that open the doors of exploration into new and complex literacies through the arts, makerspaces, and STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) in formal and informal learning environments. Her research seeks to understand new perspectives and new approaches to literacy instruction and educating socially, culturally, and linguistically diverse children. She argues that there is a need to include fostering the generation and development of ideas, creativity, imagination, play, and collaboration in literacy learning environments. She has been engaged in research projects in New Orleans, LA., the San Marcos Unified School District and the Oceanside Unified School District in California. Her work with these districts and schools focuses on how schools provide innovative opportunities and design makerspaces to enhance student learning. She has authored and co-authored research papers and made several presentations. Her most recent work includes the book, The Literacy of Play and Innovation: Children as Makers (2019), and co-author of Imagination and the Semiotic Process of Creativity and Design (Chapter 7). In Gee, E. & Serafini, F (Eds.), Re-Mixing Multiliteracies: Theory and Practice from New London to New Times. She was honored with the College of Education, Health and Human Services 2017-18 Outstanding Faulty Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity.