Samantha Alexis Manuel

Sam (she/her/siya) is a recent UCLA grad with a BA degree in Communication with an Art History and Digital Humanities minor. She has a strong desire to forge connections between the arts, technology, equity, and advocacy. Her capstone project, a VR exhibition called “In Discrete Fashion: Garment Workers of LA,” considers the garment workers’ vulnerabilities within the industry, the harmful working conditions they face, specific forms of exploitation, and the laws, policies, and systems that sustain these unfair practices. Bringing together the Garment Workers of LA Photograph Collection from UCLA’s Library of Digital Collections, news footage, short documentaries, interviews, related scholarship, and a culminating community resource board, the experience is designed to equip viewers with the knowledge to influence the balance of power within the garment industry. It was chosen to be presented at UCLA Undergraduate Research Week 2023.

These values are reinforced by the exhibition/admin positions she’s held at LACMA, LACE, 11:11 Projects, and at the J. Paul Getty Museum where she coordinated and planned the launch of “Our Voices, Our Getty: Reflecting on Drawings,” the first exhibition of its kind that featured personal interpretations written by the 2022 cohort of interns.

While being the Executive Assistant at Arts for LA, the other half of her week is spent as an Arts Associate at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) under the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Division, assisting the gallery with exhibition-related administrative support.

Yamily Pardio

Yamily is a DACAmented immigrant from Yucatan, Mexico of Yucatec Maya and Chinese descent. She has been deeply impacted by her experiences, which led to her dedicating her youth to organizing in various realms of the immigrant movement. She was part of the first group of students advocating for Dream Resource Centers at Mt. San Antonio College in 2013. As a non-traditional student, she was able to benefit from those advocacy efforts years later when she returned to college in 2021 now that every college campus in California has a Dream Resource Center. While away from college, she focused her organizing efforts on stopping deportations and building mutual aid networks for immigrant transwomen. She is currently an undergraduate student at UCLA with the hopes of exploring the intersection of legal scholarship and cultural artifacts.

Gustavo Herrera

Gustavo was appointed as Arts for LA’s Executive Director in December 2018.  Prior to working with us, he was the Western Regional Director for Young Invincibles (YI), where he was responsible for leading YI’s California offices, including its West Coast expansion. As director, he set strategic direction and advanced YI’s policy priorities on health care, higher education, jobs, and civic engagement for the region.

Before starting at Young Invincibles, Gustavo was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of L.A. Plaza de Cultura y Artes (LAPCA), overseeing the day-to-day operation of a county museum, including the oversight of a master plan committee responsible for strategically developing three acres of additional museum campus. From 2010-2012, Gustavo led the Maestro Foundation, a classical music and performance arts foundation, as the Director of Organizational Development. Between 2007-2010, he assessed and recommended business growth strategies in the US marketplace for the global Fortune 500 Company, American Honda Motors, Co.

Gustavo holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from American Jewish University and a dual Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with an emphasis in socio-politics and economics and Art History from the University of California Santa Barbara. Gustavo served on the Board of Directors of the Create: Fixate Arts Organization (2006-2010). He is a current Strong Workforce Implementation Advisory Board Member for the California Community Colleges, Advisory Board Member for the California Physician’s Alliance and founding Board Member of Silverlake Forward.

Gabriel Gutierrez

Originally from Chicago, Gabriel is an adult adoptee, first generation street dance artist, founder of MoFundamentals, and artivist dedicated to highlighting the resiliency of the foster and adoptee community. His work centers around disseminating his knowledge of street dance, lessons of manhood derived from his experiences in homelessness, being his own financial safety net and foster care. Gabriel brings important ancestral practices from his P’urhépecha lineage into his work.

His contributions at the intersection of hip hop, education, healing practices, and foster care advocacy have earned him invitation to train at intensives hosted by Rennie Harris, nomination for the ACTIVATE Cultural Policy Fellowship to represent Los Angeles City District 1, and recruitment to pilot reentry programming funded by the California Arts Council. Follow his work on instagram @mofundamentals.

Melissa Flores

Melissa is a Program and Operations specialist with demonstrated experience interacting with diverse community members and creating positive relationships to further various program outreach. Melissa brings strategic management, holistic program development and thoughtful user experiences to each project. Prior to Arts for LA, Melissa worked with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator where she helped curate their member experience and bring its community together virtually. Melissa has also worked at The Gabriella Foundation, spearheading various projects including the expansion of their summer camp program to low-resource communities in Los Angeles. Melissa’s experience in the arts and culture sector is diverse – she has been a dancer since the spire age of three, studied film at Santa Clara University and expanded her arts administration career through the former Leadership Council of Emerging Arts Leaders, Los Angeles.

In her downtime, Melissa can be found rooting for her favorite sports team (Go Clippers!), ambitiously working on her running pace, exploring different foods in Los Angeles or having passioned discussions about various prestige TV.

Ricky Abilez

Ricky Abilez (they/them) is a Queer, Latine artist, educator, and advocate who centers restorative and racial justice, social equity, and culturally responsive engagement in their work as an arts education practitioner and community leader. They’ve worked with prestigious arts organizations including South Coast Repertory, The LA Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and The Ford Theatre, and have taught a self-developed curriculum in using art for social justice at various high schools across the country, including California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley.

Prior to their work with Arts for LA, Ricky worked as a performing artist and freelance producer in regional musical theatre. They also served in nonprofit administration as the Education and Community Partnerships Manager at 4C LAB, the Associate Diversity and Inclusion Consultant at McCoy Rigby Entertainment, the Executive Assistant to Dr. Eric Cervini at Deviant Content, and Policy Fellow at the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

They hold a BFA in Theatre Arts from Cal State Fullerton and an MPA in Education Policy and Public Policy Analysis from the University of Colorado Denver. They were honored with the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award in 2022 by the CU Denver Alumni Association and Robert Earl McConnell Foundation for their commitment to equity and civic engagement in the arts and society. They are an avid singer and spend most of their downtime being the family clown.