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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


 Merryl Goldberg


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. 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

Martha Barnette


Martha Barnette (Honorary Mmeber)  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.


Pauline Crooks


Pauline Crooks is the visual and performing arts coordinator for the San Diego County Office of Education and has been a music educator for 23 years. She was recently named the California Music Educators Association’s Middle School Music Teacher of the Year. Pauline received a bachelor’s degree in music education from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree in teaching from National University, and a master’s degree in educational administration from Concordia University. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher in early and middle childhood music. She is active in many arts organizations as a clinician, conference presenter, honor band conductor, and board member including CMEA, CBDA, SCSBOA, TCAP, and is the immediate past president of the CMEA-SBS. Pauline is the leader of Arts Empower San Diego, a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and a coalition of nonprofit arts education organizations and school districts to champion arts education in San Diego Schools. She is also a member of the Art = Opportunity Leadership Team.


Matt D'Arrigo


Matt D’Arrigo is Founder and CEO of A Reason To Survive (ARTS), a nationally recognized creative youth development organization dedicated to changing the life trajectory of youth facing adversity through the arts and creativity. D’Arrigo’s work through ARTS has been the subject of the Academy Award winning documentary “Inocente”, featured on the TODAY Show, profiled in the New York Times best selling book “Decisive” by Chip and Dan Heath, and in Darius Graham’s book “Being the Difference: True Stories of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things to Change the World”. He is Chair for the Arts Education Advisory Council for American’s for the Arts, sits on the Creative Youth Development Working Group for the National Guild for Community Arts Education, and sits on the Pomegranate Center’s National Advisory Board. D’Arrigo is a sought after speaker, advocate, and advisor on the importance of arts education, creative youth development, the transformative power of the arts on children and communities, starting and leading non-profits, and pursuing one’s passion and purpose in life. D’Arrigo lives in San Diego with his wife, Hulya, and children Tessa and Andrew.


Leah Goodwin


Leah believes that the arts are a universal tool for healing. She is the owner of Leah Goodwin Creations; “Where Art and Soul Meet”. Leah has a diverse background that includes strategic planning, fund raising, event, festival and conference coordination, art and culture projects, gallery exhibits and art Master plans. 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 held many important leadership roles in the Arts, including Education Director for the Museum of Children's Art in Oakland, President and COO of VSA Arts of California, Director of Art Programs and Fundraising Strategies at Aesthetics, Inc., and Director of Visual and Performing Arts at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in San Diego. Currently, she is the Director of Museum and Education for the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Leah serves as a Commissioner on the Status of Women and Girls for the County of San Diego.


Tara Graviss


Tara Graviss is the Executive Director at Arts for Learning San Diego, an affiliate of Young Audiences. A passionate and dedicated professional with outstanding experience to lead and contribute to the development and growth of organizational performance. Tara has worked and volunteered in arts education around the globe for over 20 years. A life long devotion to the arts and education combined with a proven background in business make Tara a dynamic leader. Having volunteered in San Diego County for over 15 years prepared Tara well for the leadership and advocacy roll Arts for Learning San Diego plays in our community. Tara holds a B.S. in Business Administration and an M.A. in Expressive Arts Therapy from the European Graduate School and Expressive Arts Institute. Tara is a visual artist and poet and in her spare time dedicates her private practice to supporting women in crisis.


Brenda Hall


Brenda Hall serves as the Director of the North County Professional Development Federation (NCPDF). The mission of the NCPDF is to meet the needs of teachers and faculty in the areas of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and leadership in order to ensure student success. NCPDF consists of 27 San Diego and Riverside county districts, 5 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.


Tomoko Kuta


Tomoko Kuta, Deputy Museum Director at The New Children’s Museum, directs the content of the museum and develops the museum’s strategic vision. Hired in 2011, Tomoko is responsible for executing the museum’s exhibitions, studio program, arts education initiatives, community outreach, and the daily visitor experience. She has worked in museums and other non-profit organizations since 1992, working with artists, curators, educators, and other professionals to develop exhibitions, build permanent collections, design user-centered education programs, and train staff. As a leader, she emphasizes empowering her team to realize their potential and best serve audiences. Her projects have received funding from nationally-acclaimed agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts. She is currently a co-chair for the Association of Children’s Museum’s annual conference and an arts commissioner with the city of Encinitas. Tomoko earned a BS from Cornell University and an MA from the University of Chicago. The New Children’s Museum is a new model of children’s museum whose mission is to stimulate imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children and families through inventive and engaging experiences with contemporary art.


Joe Landon

Joe Landon

Joe Landon is the 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.


Steve McCormick


Steve McCormick has been the Director of Education & Outreach at La Jolla Playhouse since 2006 developing programs and partnerships that serve over 35,000 patrons annually. During his time at the Playhouse, he has commissioned world premiere productions for youth from playwrights such as BD Wong, Karen Zacaras, Juan Felipe Herrera (current Poet Laureate of the United States) and Ernie Nolan (selected for participation in the 2012 New Visions/New Voices program at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts). Steve has also worked as an educator, dramaturg and/or performer for First Stage Children’s Theater, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Childsplay and Native Voices at the Autry. He has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and on Arts Education strategic planning committees for both the San Diego Unified and the Chula Vista Elementary School Districts. He received his MFA in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University in 2001 and currently serves on the national board of TYA/USA.


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 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.


Lauren Shelton


Lauren Shelton is the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for the Chula Vista Elementary School District.  Mrs. Shelton has a strong background in arts education and arts management.   She has taught fourth grade, was a music director for the San Diego Children’s Choir, led the Centennial Celebration Choir for the Girl Scouts of San Diego, and began the Community Opus Project with the San Diego Youth Symphony in 2010. In June 2015 she was a recipient of the Yale School of Music Distinguished Educator of the Year Award. Mrs. Shelton is implementing the return of the visual and performing arts to the Chula Vista Elementary School District using the districts investment of $18 million dollars over the next three years for VAPA teacher salaries.   Currently, the district employs 75 visual and performing arts teachers in the 45 schools.   Lauren holds a California Teaching Credential, California Administrative Credential, and completed her Masters in Educational Leadership with a focus on Arts Integration and Common Core Standards Implementation with honors.   In May of 2017 she will begin the doctoral program in Organizational Change and Leadership through the Rossier School of Education at The University of Southern California.


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.


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.


Kristin Moss

Professor Kristin Moss
Dr. Kristin Moss (BA, Art/Art History; MA/PhD Intercultural Communication) is an Associate Professor of Art, Media, & Design at CSUSM, and former Director/Curator of the CSUSM Off Campus Gallery. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on art, cultural identity, and social change. Her research considers murals, international street art, and visual culture, and her coursework emphasizes experiential learning with community partners including museums, non-profit organizations, and arts education.

Lisa DeMarco

 Lisa Demarco

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 audienc