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:


An artist from a young age, Matt D’Arrigo used the arts to change his own life trajectory away from self destructive behaviors and to pull himself through the illness of his sister and subsequent death of his mother. He was inspired to make it his life’s work to use the arts to transform the lives of children and youth facing their own struggles.

D’Arrigo sits on the American’s For the Arts National Arts Education Advisory Council, the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture’s Grants Committee, The Pomegranate Center’s Advisory Board, and the BOOST Collaborative Advisory Board.

He has been extensively involved with the Fieldstone Foundation’s leadership training program. He graduated from their Executive Leadership course and participates 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. He 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”, is a guest teacher/lecturer at UCSD’s course on Public Service, and is also a TEDx speaker.

In addition to leading ARTS, D’Arrigo now speaks, advocates, and advises on the use of the arts as a prevention, intervention, and celebration vehicle for at risk youth, the power and importance of the arts & creativity, starting and leading non-profits, and pursuing one’s passion and purpose in life.

He currently lives in San Diego, CA with his wife Hulya, and children Tessa and Andrew.

What are your artistic passions? Music and Painting

What do you like most about working at ARTS? The people – staff, kids, teachers, volunteers. Its a great team of fun and dedicated individuals!


 WENDY ENDSLEY - Director of Development

Wendy Endsley joins A Reason To Survive (ARTS) as Director of Development, bringing 15 years’ experience in successful fundraising for nonprofit organizations, including arts and culture, health and human services, and education—all areas that touch upon the breadth of ARTS programs.

Wendy’s experience as a successful grant writer-turned-Development Director grew from two decades as an award-winning journalist, including recognitions from the San Diego Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists.  She has helped to secure some $17M during her career, including gifts and grants ranging from hundreds of dollars to $7M.



RUBEN RUIZ - Development & Marketing Coordinator

Ruben is an Orange County, CA native and a graduate of Social Welfare and Global Poverty & Practice from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ruben has an expertise and experience in social media marketing, event planning, public relations, and media relations.

What are your artistic passions? I love photography, graphic design, typography, and music. I love creating cool, modern, innovated designs on Photoshop and InDesign. Music has been something always apart of my life and I love it so much. I have been classically trained to play the piano, violin, and clarinet.

What do you like most about working at ARTS? My favorite thing about working at ARTS is that I get to help make an impact on kid’s lives. I get to do what I love while helping amazing people.


ASHLEIGH STARKE – Director of Programs


Kat - BabyKAT BACA - Youth Development and Program Manager

Kat moved to San Diego in 2005 to attend UCSD for her BA in Critical Gender Studies and International Migration Studies. After graduating in 2009, she worked at the Monarch School as the After School Program Director (a school for youth affected by homelessness). She left her position in 2012 to pursue her Masters in Education with a concentration in multicultural counseling through the Community Based Block Program at SDSU. She currently works as a visiting lecturer at SDSU and as a researcher for the San Diego Caregiver-Child Connections Project. She has worked at ARTS since July 2013 and hopes to pursue her Ph.D in Social Welfare.

What are your artistic passions? Sewing, cooking, and anything DIY (Do It Yourself)

What do you like most about working at ARTS? The youth and their families. Interacting with parents and providing their youth with meaningful services.


RobROB TOBIN - Artist-in-Residence

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. 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.

What are your artistic passions? 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 broken. Blown out tires have been a lot of fun to work with. It’s a kind of alchemy.

What do you like most about working at 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. It is in the quiet moments, working one on one with a student, when I see a light come on in their eyes, that is when I feel most rewarded. The kids at ARTS amaze me every day with their trust, strength, resilience and generosity.


HulyaHULYA D’ARRIGO - Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Hulya D’Arrigo was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey by a British mother and Turkish father. She studied Fine arts in Istanbul, Turkey before moving to U.S. where she majored in Psychology with a Minor in Art. She later received her Masters in Social Work in 2000 from San Diego State University. She has worked at San Diego Hospice as their Pediatric Medical Social Worker for seven years. Currently, she works as a per-diem social worker at Scripps Hospice. Hulya has been a Licensed Social Worker for 3 years.

What are your artistic passions? I have many passions in art and have studied painting but I love doing sculpting, knitting, sewing, and many other artsy crafts.

What do you like most about working at ARTS? I love working with very creative mind people and students who inspire me every day!




JONES VON JONESTEINVisual Arts Department Head

Jones is a self trained artist born and raised on the east coast, who incorporates photography, mixed media sculpture, performance and printmaking techniques into his artistic practice. He moved to San Diego in 2006 and joined ARTS in 2010 to develop their ceramics program which he has expanded into a thriving component of their visual arts program. Jones exhibits his artwork nationally and has been involved in performances through the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and the Oceanside Museum of Art. Jones has also traveled internationally to create work, most recently as a resident artist at the International Ceramics Studio in Kesckemet, Hungary. He is currently studying Art History at SDSU and greatly enjoys injecting the studio classes he teaches with historical context and references.

What are your artistic passions? Music, photography, printmaking, design, ceramics, storytelling, and mythology

What do you like most about working at ARTS? It’s all about the relationships with our students and staff. Working with a group of talented, artistic, inspiring people who you trust creates a really special environment.


DarciDARCI MANZOArtistic Coordinator

After a successful professional dance career, performing and teaching around the world, Darci joins ARTS with over seven years of event planning and project management for museums and art organizations throughout San Diego and Los Angeles. Darci graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnology Anthropology and is dedicated to providing opportunities to children that harness creativity through the arts. She currently dances with local companies including the renowned San Diego Opera and Flamenco Arana.

What are your artistic passions? Dance, Theatre, & Movement

What do you like most about working at ARTS? The kids and being a part of the ARTS community.



Xiame - BabyXAIME ACEVES-EQUIHUA – Volunteer Coordinator & Evaluation Support

As a first generation college graduate, Xaime received a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He grew up in Southbay San Diego and Tijuana. His experience comes from community activism in under resourced and underserved communities through event planning, leading workshops, and creating art. After college, Xaime began getting involved with local non-profits in the southbay like the Trash Talker’s Coalition and Casa Familiar and eventually found his way to ARTS. He look forward to helping create access and provide resources to youth from all backgrounds.

What are your artistic passions? Painting, Multi Media, Performance and Short film.

What do you like most about working at ARTS? I enjoy being in a creative space where ideas are always being produced, shared and collaborated by everyone.





July 9, 2014



ARTS’ Summer Camps

May 23, 2014

This summer register your artist for ARTS’ Summer Camps to work with experienced teaching artists in ceramics, media arts, visual art, music, theater and more!...



Creative Career Panel

May 13, 2014