It takes a lot of manpower behind the scenes to accomplish all we do! From number crunchers and strategic planners to program managers and van drivers, we have a dedicated, passionate, fun staff that ensures kids are getting their arts programming everyday. Meet the team:
MATT D’ARRIGO – CEO/FOUNDER
What art medium makes you happy and why?
I have to cheat and pick two. I love painting, but listening to music – especially live music is a real passion of mine. The combination of painting and listening to music is probably what makes me the happiest. I’m not a music snob – on my iPod you can find the Grateful Dead, next to Jay Z, next to Green Day, next to Miles Davis, next to Lady Gaga. If it moves my mood, it’s on my iPod!
What’s your theme song?Depends on the day but overall I would narrow it down to 3:
Which 3 people have or currently HEAl, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you?
HEAL: My kids – make me forget all my troubles, be in the moment, and be a kid again.
INSPIRE: Bob Dylan, Dan Gilbert, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Jackson Pollock.
EMPOWER: My wife, family, and friends who all empower me to do the work I do.
What do you feel you bring to ARTS? I hope vision, inspiration and leadership.
Matt D’Arrigo was born in Boston, Massachusetts, graduated from Portsmouth Abbey School in 1990 and went on to study Fine Art from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, graduating in 1995 with a Major in Fine Arts and a Minor in Philosophy.
After his freshman year at Spring Hill, his mother and sister were both diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. Matt took the next year off from school and helped care for them. During that year, Matt relied heavily on his art and love of music to get him through the tough times. It was so healing and therapeutic to him, that he vowed to one day start an organization that would provide arts programs to children facing their own challenges in life.
Matt moved to San Diego in 1998 and worked for Pacific Event Productions; first as a scenic artist for the Super Bowl XXXII pre-game and half time shows and then full time being put in charge of creating a whole new scenic/design department, building it from the ground up. In 2001, with $5,000 and a book on how to start a nonprofit, he began the journey to start ARTS (A Reason To Survive).
Matt and ARTS have been featured in over 50 media stories both locally and nationally. He has been recognized as “One of San Diego’s brightest leaders under the age of 40″ by San Diego Metropolitan Magazine with their “Forty Under 40″ Award and featured in San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch″ issue. He has received the Channel 10 Leadership Award, the Safeco Insurance Community Hero Award, the Freedom Foundation’s National Community Award, Volvo for Life Award. He was also profiled in the recently published book by Darius Graham “Being the Difference: True Stories of Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things to Change the World.”
Always seeking to better himself as a leader, Matt has also been extensively involved with the Fieldstone Foundation’s leadership training program. He graduated from their Executive Leadership course and participated in their Leadership Network Coaching Program which provides mentorship and guidance from a peer nonprofit coach. He is now a leadership coach himself, giving back by coaching up-and-coming nonprofit leaders. In addition, Matt was selected as one of two San Diego nonprofit leaders for a fellowship to the prestigious Harvard Business School’s “Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management”.
He sits on the Advisory Board for the Boost Collaborative and Profac Committee for the NTC Foundation. Matt currently lives in Point Loma with his wife Hulya and kids Tessa and Andrew.
JONATHAN WEXLER - Director of Finance
What art medium makes you happy and why? Theatre and music. For me, there is nothing like the magic and energy that is created between actors on a stage and viewers in the audience. It is symbiotic. Sitting in a theatre with the performers a few feet away can draw you in emotionally and personally in a much deeper way than television or movies. It is true escapism. I have a similar experience with music. I know just what songs to play in the car or at home to enhance my mood or to completely change it.
What’s your theme song? There are so many, depending upon the day and my mood, but I’ll say “Steal Your Rock ‘N’ Roll” from the musical Memphis.
Which 3 people have or currently HEAl, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you?
My son does all three on a daily basis.
My middle school drama teacher who inspired and encouraged me.
My best friend Bill in Oklahoma who was also my mentor and role model.
What do you feel you bring to ARTS? Strong organizational and operational skills which are infused with humor and complemented with a background in the performing arts.
Jonathan has worked at various arts, cultural and social service organizations such as La Jolla Playhouse and Blue Man Group – Las Vegas. Most recently he worked as the Director of Finance and Human Resources at Stepping Stone of San Diego, an alcohol and drug recovery agency in City Heights. He attended the University of Oklahoma and received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism-Radio/TV/Film Production with a minor in Psychology. He has also received a certificate in Human Resources Management from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and recently completed the Fieldstone Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program.
KATHRYN STEPHENS – Director of Donor & Community Relations
What art medium makes you happy and why? When I can carve out some time, I enjoy painting, working with mosaics, ceramics and knitting. I especially like challenging myself to try something I’ve never done before. Currently I am experimenting with fiber art which is fun.
What’s your theme song? Who can possibly pick only one? Picking a single song is like picking a single favorite work of art … impossible. I really enjoy listening to my son play his music on guitar and piano (when I am not listening to Radiohead).
Which 3 people have or currently HEAl, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you? Definitely my two kids who bring such humor, intelligence and inspiration! And my husband of 28 years, who always encourages me and tolerates my on-going creative projects!
What do you feel you bring to ARTS? Fun-raising and event experience, design and marketing, and I truly enjoy getting to know the kids enrolled in our programs! One of these days, I still plan to teach a class or two.
Kathryn brings extensive philanthropic development, fundraising and event production experience to ARTS. In addition to chairing ARTRAGEOUS, the record-setting Las Patronas 2007 Jewel Ball, she has also chaired several successful fundraisers for the La Jolla High School Foundation and co-chaired the Burnham Institute for Medical Research “Power to Cure” Gala. Most recently she assisted the New Children’s Museum with their Gala – Party Animals.
Kathryn believes that fundraising is about appealing to people’s passions and their sense of social responsibility. As Director of Development, she is expanding ARTS’ reach in improving the lives of thousands of children through the healing power of creativity.
An accomplished artist and arts educator in her own right, Kathryn works in a variety of mediums. She has experience teaching art to children in grades K-5, including creating a structured curriculum in which each grade level focused on a single renowned artist. She was also recently awarded commissions to create custom mosaic wall murals for Bird Rock Elementary School in La Jolla.
Kathryn and her husband, John, live in La Jolla and have two children, Alexandra and Adam.
RUBEN RUIZ - Marketing & Development Coordinator
ASHLEIGH STARKE – Director of Programs
KAT BACA - Program Manager
ROB TOBIN - Artist-in-Residence
What art medium makes you happy and why? I guess you can call me a upcycler. I find a lot of my materials lying on the side of the road or tossed into an alley. I love the challenge of finding the beauty and worth in the discarded and ugly. Blown out tires have been a lot of fun to work with. It’s a kind of alchemy.
What’s your theme song? “Any Naked Eye” by The David Nelson Band and “The Wheel” by the Grateful Dead.
Which 3 people have or currently HEAl, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you? The two kids I mentor, Inocente and Kyle have been the most help to me. They amaze me every day with their trust, strength, resilience and generosity. The people that tie for 3rd are far too numerous to name.
What do you feel you bring to ARTS? I feel that I bring a deep understanding of how the magic of ARTS works in kids lives. Art and creativity have been saving graces in my life and I strive every day to pass along what I have learned.
From early childhood, Rob showed a great passion and talent for the visual arts. By the time he was in elementary school, he was already assisting his art instructors with their younger students. Rob went on to study art at Southern Connecticut State University. He has worked as a scenic artist with Pacific Event Productions since 1998. Rob also owns his own business performing extreme makeovers on store fronts in the Mission and Pacific Beach areas. Rob joined the ARTS team as one of its first volunteers in 2001, and over the years has become involved in many capacities. His shared vision and passion for A Reason To Survive makes him a valuable addition to our staff.
HULYA D’ARRIGO - Clinical Social Worker
What art medium makes you happy and why? Sculpting is my passion … anything three dimensional. I love to feel the medium I work with and get my hands messy.
What’s your theme song? These days my theme song is “Firework” by Katy Perry. I love the lyrics which are very inspirational and empowering. It reminds me of ARTS.
Which three people have or currently HEAL, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you? My mom Heals me, my kids Inspire me and my husband Empowers me.
What do you feel you bring to ARTS? I feel my clinical background, my passion for kids and art.
Hulya D’Arrigo was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey by her British mom and Turkish father. She studied Fine Arts/Painting in Istanbul. Hulya holds a BA in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work from San Diego State University, and most recently received her LCSW certification. Previously, she worked at Children’s Hospital and San Diego Hospice as a Pediatric Social Worker, working with terminally ill children and their families. She is trained in art and play therapy. Prior to hospice, Hulya was a supervisor at an after-school program for emotionally and physically challenged youth and children. Hulya is the proud mother of two children; five-year old Tessa and two-year old Andrew.
JONES VON JONESTEIN – Visual Arts Department Head
What art medium makes you happy and why? I use a lot of self portraiture in my work. Most often, these images are originally photographs that I transform into layered prints or objects through various printmaking techniques. I also have a home clay studio that I use daily and I play guitar as often as possible. I truly enjoy media that pose a challenge to me and gives me the ability to present my odd viewpoint.
What’s your theme song? I’m too complicated to have one so; “Art School” by The Jam & “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns and Roses.
Which three people have or currently HEAL, INSPIRE and EMPOWER you? My wife is my biggest inspiration, my best friends are my source of empowerment and my grandparents are my biggest healers.
What do you feel you bring to ARTS?I am a hyper-creative-friendly-knowledgeable-goofy fellow. I like being around others who are creating and feel that I bring an attitude of acceptance and the ability to foster the creative spirit.
I am a self trained artist who incorporates photography and printmaking techniques into my artistic practice. Born in 1974, on the east coast to a family of English immigrants. I started using photography in an attempt to document my life. From there I taught myself to silk-screen, running a little shop out of my bathroom darkroom – to the chagrin of my roommates. I would take all my designs, printed on t-shirts, and sell them on the streets off a blanket.I was making a few hundred dollars a weekend by this point and I realized not only could I earn a living through my creation of my artworks, but that people expressed an interest to see more. I became more serious, wanting to expand my capacity to use both appropriated images and my own photographs. In an attempt to create more complicated imagery, I taught myself Photoshop. I started to expand my printmaking experience and began showing my work in galleries. Eventually, I found the overlap between printmaking and ceramics and things started to come together. I have since shown my work in galleries across the country and have begun to teach a series of workshops and classes about the process of printmaking onto clay. In recent years I ahve also gone back to school to get a BA in Art History. This summer I was invited for a month long residency at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary where I will continue to create works for my current series, “The von Jonestein Heritage Foundation”.
DARCI MANZO – Artistic Coordinator
XAIME ACEVES-EQUIHUA – Volunteer Coordinator & Evaluation Support
JAKE DENNEY – Operations Associate