ACTIVATE Protege is a mentorship program that pairs up-and-coming arts leaders with industry professionals. Formally a program of Emerging Arts Leaders, Protege now has a new home at Arts for LA!

The idea for Protege emerged in 2007 during a convening for arts professionals—in association with Americans for the Arts—when the issue of mentorship was discussed and deemed essential for the advancement of future arts leaders in the greater Los Angeles arts community. Since its inception, Protege has connected approximately 140 participants.

Protege is a 7-month program (April – October) where selected mentors and mentees meet regularly to discuss mutually agreed upon topics with an emphasis on the mentee’s areas of interest and desired professional growth. Participants receive personalized and invaluable professional development opportunities aimed to enrich the careers of both mentee and mentor.

Additionally, the program includes monthly cohort sessions exclusive to the mentees. These meetings are a way for the mentee cohort to create a community of peers, discuss relevant topics in leadership and the arts, and gain exclusive opportunities to speak with and learn from various arts leaders.

Protege mentorship components are self-administered by its participants with guidance from program leads, while Mentee Cohort Sessions are led by members of the ACTIVATE Emerging Arts Leaders program. The process of building relationships and idea-sharing hopes to ignite new, innovative ways to approach leadership growth within the arts community.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Participants must live, work or study in LA County.
  • Participants must be able to commit to all sessions.
  • Participants must be 18 years or older to apply.
  • Participants will be selected to represent the broad geography and demographics of Los Angeles County.

Meet Our

Bronson Foster

Director of Strategy & Communications, Long Beach Opera

Specialty: Creative Ecosystems / Performing Arts Leadership

Bronson Foster is a strategist and leader who believes that our shared creative and cultural expressions demonstrate the best of what we can achieve. His work focuses on increasing capacity, innovating systems, building space, utilizing data and research, empowering people, and fostering future-oriented thinking for arts and cultural organizations. Bronson is on the team at Long Beach Opera where he is Director of Strategy & Communications. Previously, Bronson has worked with the Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture, Boulanger Initiative, and Live Music Project. He has also served organizations such as Arts for LA, the Association of Arts Administration Educators, and Emerging Arts Leaders Los Angeles. Bronson completed his graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC) earning a Master of Science degree. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Bronson currently finds home in the vibrant Los Angeles region.

Dakota McMahand-Owens

Founder + Executive Director, Budding Artists

Specialty: Arts Education & Nonprofit Management

McMahand-Owens is a classically trained pianist who has spent her life merging arts education and activism to create social change on a grassroots level. Having been personally impacted by the transformative power of the arts, she knows it cultivates creative expression, supports relationship building, and nurtures social-emotional healing. Dakota is a first-generation college graduate with more than 10 years of experience working in the community arts space at institutions such as Inner-City Arts and City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Dakota earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Administration from California Baptist University, and Master of Arts in Education Administration from the University of South Dakota. She also holds a Community Teaching Artist certificate from California State University, Los Angeles and is a trained facilitator for Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring from UCLArts and Healing. As a lifelong learner, she is currently enrolled in a Specialized Study Program in Social and Emotional Learning at the University of California Riverside. In addition to her volunteer artivism efforts as the founder and executive director of Budding Artists, she works in the field of Undergraduate Medical Education.

Daniel Lobliner-Cortez

Board of Directors – Loyola Law School Orchestra

Specialty: Music – Education, Composition, Performance

Daniel Lobliner-Cortez has been playing music for 25 years. He received his Bachelor’s of Music in Education, Teaching Credential, and Master’s Degree in Afro-Latin Music at California State University, Los Angeles. After years in music academia, he joined and became a prominent song-writing member of a touring Latin Ska band. Mr. Cortez spent years touring the US, Europe, South America and China. During this time he gained experience in stagecraft, promotion, sound engineering, and stage performance. Mr. Cortez has also served as middle school band director and elementary level music instructor. Mr. Cortez received the titles of Teacher of the Year and STEAM Teacher of the Year.

David Valdez

Executive Engagement Manager, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion – NBCUniversal

Specialty: Media & Entertainment | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

David Valdez is the Executive Engagement Manager, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager supporting NBCUniversal’s Chief Diversity Officer, Craig Robinson, and all of the company’s DEI efforts across the enterprise. David has spent 11 years at NBCU, previously with the world-famous Studio Tour on the Universal lot before joining Corporate Diversity in Dec of 2020. David was born and raised in Los Angeles and is passionate about supporting community based organizations that provide direct services to families and individuals facing critical challenges to success. He serves on the Board of Directors with Jovenes, Inc. a non-profit that serves youth ages 18-25 that are experiencing homelessness. David is a graduate of Yale University and has a Masters in Fine Arts from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA.

Heidi Zeller

Senior Manager, Cultural Planning, LA Metro

Specialty: Cultural Programming & Communications

Heidi Zeller is a cultural planner and arts organizer with a focus on the role of the arts and artists in enriching public spaces. She is Senior Manager, Cultural Programming for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority where she produces Metro Art Presents, an inventive series of arts and cultural programs in the historic heart of Los Angeles, Union Station. She also oversees communications for the Arts + Community Enrichment division, including traditional and social media, digital marketing and public information. Heidi holds a dual master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and Public Art Studies from USC. She serves on the boards of CicLAvia, an open streets program and Freewaves, a public art organization.

Javier Solórzano

Creator of “Super Lucha Cats” and Art Director at a pet food company

Specialty: Comic books, storytelling and graphic design

Javier Solórzano is a comic book writer and artist. He is the creator of “Super Lucha Cats”, a comic book about a family of lucha libre cats defending their neighborhood in Bell Gardens. Hailed as “a big win” by Eric Mutter of Lucha Central, “Super Lucha Cats” currently has 2 issues, with Javier working on the upcomig 3rd. Javier is also a Graphic Designer and works as an Art Director during the day.

Kevin Johnson-Sather

Audience Services Manager at East West Players

Speciality: Arts Administration/Theatre Arts

Kevin Johnson-Sather is an arts administration professional and theater artist. Currently, Kevin serves as the Audience Services Manager at East West Players leading equitable ticketing initiatives and stewarding the operational growth of this historic organization. Kevin holds a dual MBA/MFA in Theatre Management from California State University Long Beach and has worked in management positions at Center Theatre Group, the Echo Theatre Company, and Timber Lake Playhouse.

Lysa Flores

Director, Talent Acquisition – Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Speciality: Producing / Singer-Songwriter / Performer

Lysa was born and raised in the city of East Los Angeles. A first generation Xicana, Lysa is an accomplished Actress, Activist, Producer and Print Maker and created her own record label “Bring Your Love” in 1997. Named by Newsweek as, “One of the 20 Young Latinos to Watch In The New Millennium,” Lysa has toured the US, Mexico, Egypt and Europe extensively and has produced 4 previously released solo albums which will be followed by her long awaited project titled Immigrant Daughter. 15 years in the making it features audio interviews of her family’s immigration story with first person accounts interwoven with musical guest artists such as Bill Frissell, Flaco Jimenez, David Hidalgo, John Doe and many more. She was the Musical Producer and actress for the critically acclaimed film, “Star Maps” for which she was nominated for best debut performance by the Independent Spirit Awards. Most recently Lysa has co-produced a trio of albums for punk icon Alice Bag the debut release for comedy activist troupe Chicano Secret Service, and the debut release for the psychobilly punk band The Deranged.

Melba Martinez

Producer- BRIC Foundation, Teaching Artist- Justice for My Sister, Social Media Video Producer- Feminist Center for Creative Work

Speciality: Community/cultural organizing, social media/communications

Melba (she/they) is an artist and cultural organizer from Pacoima, CA. Their passion for art and the fight for the liberation of all oppressed people guide her life and work. After attending UCSB, Melba was a community organizer in the San Fernando Valley working with immigrant women to create thriving communities. After that, Melba merged her love of art with her passion for social justice and began working with non and for profit arts organizations working to create a more just world. Melba has worked with, South Bay Center for Counseling, CultureGapLA, Maximum Fun, A Tribe Called Queer and currently works with BRIC Foundation, Justice for My Sister and Feminist Center for Creative Work. Melba’s personal art practice involves a variety of mediums including performance, modeling, video art, installation, fiber arts, makeup and styling. Melba weaves her varied knowledge and experience together to create space for historically excluded voices in the arts and the world at large.

Nadia Chrisanto

Assistant Operations and Digital Assets Manager

Specialty: Museum & Nonprofit Operations, Curatorial, Project & Exhibition Management/Planning, Nonprofit Administration, Leadership, DEAI

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nadia Savira Chrisanto moved to the United States with her family to seek stability and safety. She navigated the nook and cranny of life as an undocumented immigrant and later on as a DACAmented. Her experiences shaped her passions and advocacy for diversity, accessibility, equity, and inclusivity, with a deep focus on the immigrant community. Although she has zero artistic skills, Nadia is committed to supporting works of underrepresented artists and using art & history to promote equity and cultural history. She is a passionate arts administrator and highly self-motivated with a demonstrated history of working in mission-specific museums and nonprofit organizations serving individuals in the arts, history, and culture. Nadia has extensive experience in project management, programming, curatorial research, exhibitions planning, grantmaking, and arts administration. She was the 2016 Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern at the California African American Museum (CAAM), where she developed her passion for the arts and nonprofit administration. After the internship, she continued working at CAAM as a Curatorial & Program Assistant, then as Program Assistant for the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), and as an Administrative Assistant for the LA County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) Education & Public Programs Department. In spring 2021, she rejoined CCI as their Assistant Operations & Digital Assets Manager. After struggling for a few long years, Nadia received her A.A. in History, Humanities, and Social & Behavioral Sciences from Pasadena City College and her B.A. in History from California State Polytechnic University Pomona. In her free time, Nadia is a cat mom to her two spoiled kitties, and enjoys playing video games and experimenting with new recipes.

Oscar Magallanes


Specialty: Public Art

Oscar Magallanes is a Chicano artist based in Los Angeles. Growing up in a Mexican-American barrio in LA, his artwork draws heavily from his upbringing and explores iconography from different eras. Expelled from high school at the age of fifteen, Magallanes was later admitted into the Ryman Arts program, which encouraged him to pursue a career in the arts. He went on to earn a BA in Art from UCLA in 2016 and an MFA in Visual Art from UC San Diego in 2021. His work can be found in the permanent collections of several museums including The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago and The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California. In 2016, he founded the art collective 3B, which has produced public art projects for various institutions. Magallanes has also served on the boards of several arts organizations and taught at UC San Diego.

Rebecca Horta

Director of Youth & Family Programs, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Specialty: Museum Education, art, youth & family programs

A Los Angeles native, Rebecca is a bilingual arts administrator born to immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico with twelve years of experience in museum education and community outreach. Rebecca currently serves as Director of Youth & Family Programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Previously, Rebecca was an Arts Manager for the Airport Art Program for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Division. In addition Rebecca has worked at the City of Ontario: Ontario Museum of History & Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum and Villa. She completed her BA in Art History from Occidental College and an MA in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University.

Robin Gilliam

Director, Kearns & West

Specialty: Community outreach & engagement, CBO collaborations

Robin Gilliam is a lifelong resident of South LA, a dedicated advocate, and an interdisciplinary practitioner. As a consultant, Robin currently works as a Director at Kearns & West where she practices process design and facilitation for community engagement and stakeholder collaborations in the environmental sector. Her areas of focus include community-based participation, equity, access, and environmental justice. Robin earned her BA in Fine Art from the University of Southern California and her Master of City Planning with an emphasis in Environmental Policy & Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, Robin has attended Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design where she studied landscape architecture and Otis College of Art and Design for Public Practice studies. Her diverse and creative background combined with her personal values have powered her passion for innovating impactful environmental and social justice work through meaningful collaboration and strategic partnerships.

Ximena M Martin

Director of Public Programs and Culinary Arts, LA Plaza De Cultura Y Artes

Specialty: Cultural Anthropology

With over 30 years of museum education and public programs experience, I have worked at the Bowers Museum of Non Western Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and presently at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. I curate a robust public programs calendar of community events to engage guests in opportunities of learning and self-discovery through art, history, and food. Events include, cinema, music, and culinary programs, but not limited to performances, concerts lectures, public forums, workshops, think tanks, screenings, special events, etc.

Zach Davidson

Assistant Director of Development, A Noise Within

Specialty: Development & Fundraising

Zachary Reeve Davidson is an arts administrator, director/choreographer, producer, and general theatre miscreant. Zach is the Assistant Director of Development for A Noise Within Theatre, where he has written 100+ awarded grants (representing more than $2.6 million in funding). He also serves as the Artistic Director of Coin & Ghost, with whom he has remixed Shakespeare, Greek tragedy, Italian romance, Mexican folklore, German legend, French opera, and American mythology. As an arts administrator and creative consultant, Zach has worked with a dozen arts organizations throughout Los Angeles and around the country, including Conga Kids, Not Man Apart, Heidi Duckler Dance, BLKLST, Overtone Industries, Invertigo Dance Theatre, and more. Recently, Davidson was named to The Nonprofit Partnership’s 2023 “Emerging Leaders” cohort, co-authored the LA Anti-Racist Theatre Standards, and served as a grants panelist for both the LA County Arts Commission and the California Arts Council.

Ajianna Covington

I’m a new program director for Global Girl Media, and I am passionate about empowering girls through media and storytelling. I’m particularly interested in mentorship and how it can help girls develop their skills and confidence as they navigate the media industry. I would like to grow my expertise in several areas, including leadership development, program management, and media production. I believe that these skills will be critical in helping me support the girls in our program and achieve our organization’s goals. Through my experience with the ACTIVATE mentee program, I hope to gain new insights into effective mentorship strategies and best practices for supporting young women in media. I also look forward to learning from the experiences and perspectives of other arts leaders, which will help me develop a more nuanced understanding of the industry and the challenges it faces. Ultimately, I believe that my experience with the ACTIVATE mentee program will help me become a more effective leader and advocate for girls in media. By building strong relationships with our mentees and providing them with the support they need to succeed, I hope to create a more equitable and inclusive media landscape for all young women.

Angelene Storey

Angelene Storey (she/her) is currently the Prop Coordinator at Center Theatre Group. In 2021, she graduated from Cal State Los Angeles with a BA in Theatre Design and Production. She is also a freelance scenic painter and has worked in theaters all around the Los Angeles area, including Boston Court, A Noise Within, and East West Players. Prior to working in technical theatre, Angelene studied classical voice and music theory for many years. She has always had a passion for various aspects of art and theatre. In her spare time she loves to travel and work on her small business.

Bryan Arellano

Bryan Arellano is a Mexican-American illustrator and storyteller born and raised in Southeast Los Angeles and is based in Cudahy CA. He graduated from California State University, Fullerton in May 2021 with a BFA in Visual Art/Illustration and a minor in Marketing. Bryan is passionate about storytelling and believes stories help create a better world through the sharing of thoughts, emotions, experiences, and observations which allows us to understand others. He is currently working on his digital drawing skills through Photoshop and Illustrator but also enjoys traditional mediums such as ink, colored pencil, and oil paint. He enjoys taking note of small details of his everyday life and imagining them into something new by incorporating them into his work. During his spare time, he enjoys exercising, reading, learning new things, and spending quality time with friends, family, and of course his dog Bruno.

Chanel Wayne

Chanel Wayne is a literacy advocate, digital media strategist, and creative facilitator focused on delivering community impact through education. To date, she has developed several writing and early literacy programs aimed at helping young people successfully navigate the world around them. Through her experience, she has learned that the only way to do business is honestly, in negotiation there is always an option for win-win, and when creating anything that matters we are better together. Put simply; authenticity, balance and collaboration are key pillars in her approach to life.

Chantal Odalys Santoyo

Chantal Odalys Santoyo is a first-generation college graduate, arts advocate, community organizer, and artist who is passionate about using the arts as an educational tool to uplift youth voice. She joined the Create CA team with a desire to make a change in her community because she believes the arts foster fierce leaders who are creative, collaborative, emotionally intelligent, and resilient. As a community organizer she finds innovative ways of creating safe spaces to convene youth, artists, art administrators, art advocates and activists as a way to foster community healing and building through the arts. She is a founding member of The Messy Theater Co., a theatrical production company that embraces the chaos and craziness that is artistic exploration, in the hope of creating a better tomorrow. In 2022 she was the Production Manager for The GRID – a program where students experienced a day of live-streamed student performances, engaged in a series of creativity-exploring workshops, and heard from industry professionals about their journeys! Chantal is a proud advocate for high quality arts education and strongly believes that the arts have the power to heal.

Cinthia Duran Larrea

Cinthia Duran Larrea is a movement researcher with a decolonial vision, a Latin Social dancer, and an improviser following the legacy of the East Side Institute for Social Therapeutics and Performance Activism. She is currently pursuing a PhD in the Critical Dance Studies Program at the University of California Riverside, focusing her research in Latin Social Dances as resource-building and resource- sharing collective spaces that can be used to advance local social justice agendas. Cinthia currently works at UCR as a Teaching Assistant, Gluck Program of the Arts Fellow and Assistant Coordinator of the yearly gathering Indigenous Choreographers Riverside. In line with her vision as a scholar, her pedagogy activates dance, improvisation and performance as tools to offer individuals the possibility to perform who they want to become and improvise their way into the futures they envision for themselves and their communities.

Danielle Gorodenzik

Danielle Gorodenzik is an independent curator born and raised in Los Angeles. She is the co-founder and director of the annual In Print Art Book Fair, Jerusalem. Danielle has curated group and solo exhibitions focused on feminism, photography, and artist books. From 2018-2022, she served as the Director of Collections at the Africa First Collection by Serge Tiroche, where she spearheaded the Africa First Residency, curated exhibitions, and led acquisitions and sales. In 2020 she was selected as the Artis Video Archive Fellow at the Center for Contemporary Art Tel Aviv-Yafo. Between 2017-2019 she was the Juror and Curator for the Video Focus at the Fresh Paint Art Fair, Tel Aviv. From 2016-2018, she served as Program Coordinator at Artis. Danielle received her MA in Curatorial Studies from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and holds a BFA in Communication Design from Parsons The New School of Design.

Francisco Barcena

Francisco Barcena makes music and art that explores themes of political defiance, empowerment, resilience, and overcoming adversity. He was raised in south east LA and has a degree in math from UCSB. He has released over 40 music projects where he has collaborated with local and international artists. He currently works full time as a software engineer in the machine learning space. In his free time he is exploring ways to leverage his technical background in order to create art at scale and inspire people. He wants to inspire people to think differently, strategically, outside traditional expectations, and outside the sometimes misconceived frameworks that others unintentionally impose upon us.

Jen Krebs

Jen Krebs is a curious and adventurous soul who spent a decade in government and food policy before the pandemic spurred her to pursue a more artistic career in Los Angeles. Jen currently works at an advertising agency where she relishes being surrounded by inspiring people and ideas. In her free time, she explores all kinds of creative endeavors (currently, ceramics) and immerses herself in nature. With a drive to create and a zest for life, Jen hopes to inspire others to boldly pursue their own creative passions and harness the power of art to transform the world for the better.

Julie Navarro

Julie Navarro (she/they) is a creative artist, active volunteer, and community organizer for the People of South Gate, a collective focused on mutual aid plus social-political empowerment of the Southeast Los Angeles county area. Since graduating from Humboldt State University with a bachelors degree in Critical Race-Gender-Sexuality studies, Julie has organized free-food distributions alongside providing paintings, murals, photography, videography, as well as digital-graphic designs for various causes. She is also a worker-owner and founder of the live musical performance production company: Chilldust TV, that employs these services to local musicians. Julie looks to apply her experience as an artist to her education in critical theory so as to make an impact in learning to better educate others, especially youth in social-program deprived disenfranchised working class BIPOC areas.

Keana Jackson Alfred

I am the 1st Assistant Treasurer at Center Theatre Group and have worked on and off the stage for over ten years. As an arts administration professional for Los Angeles’s most prominent theatre company, I aim to work behind the scenes on behalf of artists and creatives everywhere, providing resources, support, and structure for their projects and practices. I fell in love with theatre as a child actress, and my passion for storytelling developed into a career as a fashion and costume designer. I enjoy combining my zeal for the arts, deep affection for people, and expertise in communication to serve and support the theatre community locally and globally. I want to deepen my leadership, organization, teamwork skills, and networking. These skills will allow me to be the most productive and effective leader possible and manage a thriving arts organization. I am a Los Angeles native who enjoys writing everything from poetry to stage plays; I live in the Crenshaw/West Adams area of Los Angeles.

Reda Yahoum

Reda Yahoum is a passionate arts professional dedicated to promoting cultural understanding and community engagement through storytelling. Having transitioned from a career in performing arts, Reda now collaborates with LACMA’s Docent Council and School Tours program to create engaging educational experiences for visitors. With a strong interest in project management, Reda is keen to lead an oral history project that bridges political divides. As an immigrant and Muslim-American, Reda brings a unique perspective to his work and is committed to producing public programming for the South/West Asian and North African diaspora. His training in anthropology at UCLA has enabled him to explore the fascinating stories of his fellow human beings. When not working, Reda enjoys film, storytelling, and travel, and values quality time with his close friends despite being naturally reclusive.

Ree Magaña

Ree Magaña is a second-generation Mexican-American artist, curator, and marketing professional born and raised in Los Angeles County. After graduating from California School of the Arts-SGV, they studied marketing at Portland State University’s Honors College before transferring to Mt. San Antonio College to study Film, TV, and Electronic Media. Ree has a passion for making arts and education accessible to marginalized groups; founding CSArts’ Cultural Alliance group, creating a Thrift/Donate Center to aid unhoused individuals, promoting attainable career resources for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students at PSU’s Career Center, aiding professors with online teaching accessibility at Lumen Learning, working with community outreach at Center Theatre Group, and currently supporting artists as an Art Share L.A. team member. Their recent curatorial projects include LA Underground Fashion Walk (Society of Art Los Angeles), Our Art LA exhibition (Art Share L.A. x Angel City Brewery Curator Program), STN Art Gallery (Long Beach Convention Center) and Pasadena Unified School District Youth in Foster art activation project (PUSD).

Sara Castro

Sara Castro (she/her/ella) calls the San Gabriel Valley and East Los Angeles home. As a culture worker and aspiring public educator, Sara is passionate about using history and arts education to build and invest in cultures that can withstand injustices. She is interested in the power of archives and public history to shape stories of self and community and is grounded by her Mexican-American culture and family storytelling traditions. While receiving a B.A. in History at Grinnell College, Sara was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and focused her research on the role of interpersonal relationships in social and political movements through activists’ origin stories. Sara currently works as a Visitor Services Associate at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes where she enjoys connecting with guests about their stories of Los Angeles.


SHI enjoys a challenge – which is why, for nearly a decade, she has been developing photorealistic paintings on wood. Inspired by years of international jet setting, SHI finds experimenting with traditional painting processes + focusing on minute abstract details a journey as interesting as the final piece. Most recently her process has evolved to include a film grain effect from resin + energetically charged materials giving each piece a unique appearance + palpable aura.