Christian Gaines has served as the executive director of WESTAF since January of 2019. Gaines oversees the development of WESTAF’s arts-based technology projects, which currently serve approximately 3,000 arts organizations and more than 220,000 artists nationwide. He also works to support the development of the 13 state arts agencies in the WESTAF region. Gaines most recently served for five years as executive director of the international art competition ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A longtime board member of the nonprofit DisArt, he worked tirelessly to ensure that ArtPrize involved and embraced disability culture through exhibits, events, programs and support services. Gaines’ background also includes extensive work in the film industry. For five years he worked at IMDb.com, where he served as a specialist in festival strategy and business development, overseeing the global expansion of Withoutabox.com, a film submission and adjudication platform connecting filmmakers to film festivals worldwide. He also served for eight years as director of festivals for the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, California, and for four years as festival director and director of programming at the Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Julia Alvarez is the deputy manager of the CaFÉ program, where she has worked since 2015. In her work, Alvarez consults with the administrators of competitions on the CaFÉ system to ensure that announcements of competitions are effective and that the online aspect of the competition is artist-friendly. As CaFÉ’s deputy manager, Alvarez plays a central role in the management of the strategic direction of the fast-growing CaFÉ system. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in art from California’s Whittier College. There, she studied theater and fine art printmaking. In addition, Alvarez attended the Academy of Art and Design in San Francisco, where she studied fashion design and marketing.
Mareike Bergen is a ZAPP program associate. She provides customer support for ZAPP and will assist the ZAPP team by processing contract renewals, coordinating logistics, and more. Bergen has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Bethel College and has a background in customer service and event planning. Originally from Kansas, she relocated to Denver after graduating from college. Outside of work, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and cooking.
Justina Braziulyte is a ZAPP program associate. Braziulyte assists the ZAPP team by conducting trainings of new administrators, providing technical assistance to administrators and artists, and assisting in contract management. She also works on the technical side of ZAPP, helping with bug and enhancement ticket writing and providing release support. She is currently studying computer programming and coding and is pursuing a computer science career. Outside of WESTAF, Braziulyte is interested in photography and graphic design.
Greer Brown is a customer service associate at WESTAF. Prior to joining the organization, she studied economics at Iowa State University. As an undergraduate there, she served as advocacy director for the Iowa State Chapter of the Global Health and AIDS Coalition and also as recruitment director for the Iowa State Chapter of the International Association of Students in Agriculture and Related Sciences. In addition, Brown was a member of the Iowa State University Lectures Committee on which she participated in the selection of a variety of distinguished individuals invited to make presentations on campus. She has also been active with a number of international NGOs and participated in an internship program in Punjab, India, where she worked with self-help groups teaching women entrepreneurial skills that can be used as a source of income. Immediately prior to joining WESTAF, she worked at a digital real estate photography company. Brown is currently pursuing a registered nursing degree and plans to gain her bachelor’s of science in nursing after that.
Rebecca Brown serves as the human resources manager and finance project associate at WESTAF. She has an extensive background in human resources and finance and served for many years as the finance/human resources director for an internationally recognized, simulation-creating organization. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in physical education sports sciences from the University of Denver.
Ben Casalino began working at WESTAF in late 2018. Casalino’s entire life has existed at the crossroads of art/design and technology, which has manifested itself across all his past work and experience. Casalino studied graphic design at Arizona State University before living in Portland, Oregon for five years. During that time, he grew his technical understanding while working for WACOM Americas, a global company that creates interactive tablet/stylus displays for artists and animators. After relocating to Colorado in 2016, he worked as a web developer for a Boulder-based digital marketing agency and for Vail Resorts Inc., Colorado’s leading ski resort company. Casalino has won multiple art contests that featured his designs on the Phoenix Suns game program cover. Casalino is a graduate of Galvanize’s Web Development Immersive program, a full stack programming school in Denver.
Chrissy Deal is a program manager whose responsibilities at WESTAF are centered on promoting multicultural leadership in the arts through professional development and networking. She manages WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program, staffs WESTAF’s multicultural advisory committee, and leads WESTAF’s efforts in the area of executive search. Prior to joining WESTAF, Deal worked in the education and curatorial departments of the Denver Art Museum, served as a program officer for the scholarship program at the Daniels Fund, and was education director at the contemporary art center RedLine. Deal serves on the board of trustees of the Denver Foundation as well as serving on its leadership and equity committee. She is a former vice chair of the Denver County Cultural Council, which allocates Scientific and Cultural Facilities District funds to cultural organizations. Deal is also a member of the Denver Art Museum’s Latino Audience Alliance; an alumna of Denver’s Circle of Latina Leadership; and a founding member of LatinasGive!, Denver’s first Latina giving circle. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University.
Janae De La Virgen works across programs at WESTAF. Her key areas of focus include work with the Independent Music On Tour (IMTour) program and the management of advisory letters for artists from abroad seeking visas to work in the United States. De La Virgen was previously the administrator for Arts for Colorado, a nonpartisan, statewide advocacy organization and a member of the Music Task Force, a collective of music industry professionals dedicated to supporting the development of Denver’s independent music scene through the Denver Music Summit. She currently serves on the Artist Committee for PlatteForum, an organization that supports contemporary artists and underserved youth. In 2015, she was selected to participate in the Emerging Leaders of Color professional development program. De La Virgen holds a bachelor’s degree in music business from the University of Colorado Denver.
Rebecca Dominguez is a finance associate at WESTAF. Prior to joining WESTAF, she honed her customer service skills working for the Colorado Department of Revenue in the driver’s license division and as a member representative for the Credit Union of Colorado. Dominguez is currently completing coursework to obtain her bachelor’s degree in English at Metropolitan State University. Her long-term goal is to teach high school English. In her free time, Dominguez enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Lori Goldstein is the manager of WESTAF’s Public Art Archive. Goldstein is responsible for long-term planning, product development, and overseeing the addition of public art collections to the Archive. Prior to joining WESTAF, she served as public art and program manager for the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Prior to working at the Arts Council, she served as a contractor for the Archive during its formative years. Goldstein has also served as the public art assistant at Braaksma Design, a public art studio with projects that have been commissioned across the country. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in history and received a master’s degree in art history with an emphasis on public art from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Jessica Gronich is WESTAF’s GO Smart program manager. In that capacity, she ensures that clients receive high-level advice regarding the design of grant processes. Gronich also collaborates on product development and works with clients to ensure they make the highest and best use of the product. Prior to joining WESTAF, Gronich spent the majority of her career working for nonprofit organizations in the areas of international relations, policy, and education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin. Gronich is actively involved in the community and serves on the board of her neighborhood Homeowners’ Association, volunteers for Planned Parenthood, and hosts international students through WorldDenver.
Amy Hollrah serves as WESTAF’s finance director. In that capacity, she manages all aspects of WESTAF’s finances, including budget preparation and execution, management of investments, and the design of financial structures to support WESTAF’s business initiatives. Prior to joining WESTAF, Hollrah worked for the Colorado Environmental Coalition as finance and operations director. She previously worked in theatre management at institutions such as the La Jolla Playhouse, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the Guthrie Theatre, and the Barrington Stage Company. Her positions in those organizations focused on union relations, creative licensing, financial management, and human resources. Hollrah holds a bachelor’s degree in business/arts administration from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Leah Horn serves as WESTAF’s director of marketing and communications, developing communication strategies and directing marketing initiatives. She coordinates WESTAF symposia, seminars, and other policy-oriented meetings and events. She also reviews WESTAF’s legal documents and contracts and leads the organization’s advocacy efforts. Prior to joining WESTAF, Horn managed a Wisconsin congressional campaign, served as an administrator at a law firm, and worked in product development and visual merchandising for an international sports-apparel company. She has served as a grant panelist for Colorado Creative Industries and the National Endowment for the Arts. Horn currently serves as vice-chair of the Denver County Cultural Council, the board that distributes Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Tier III funds to science and cultural organizations in Denver. Horn received dual bachelor’s degrees in sociology and journalism (media studies) from the University of Colorado Boulder and a master’s degree in communication at the University of Colorado Denver.
Sarah Joel is a customer service associate at WESTAF. She is studying public health at the University of Colorado Denver with plans to apply to medical school after graduation. Prior to joining the organization, Joel worked in customer service at the on-campus library at the University of Colorado Denver, and she tutored elementary students at a local youth center. Joel volunteers at the Children’s Hospital in Aurora, Colorado in her spare time, in addition to enjoying art, working out, hiking, traveling and listening to music.
Seyan Lucero is WESTAF’s associate director. In that capacity, she oversees the organization’s operations and technology initiatives and manages the budgets and schedules of the organization’s key technology projects. Lucero is also responsible for overseeing processes related to technology design and builds, testing WESTAF systems for usability, and general software-development support. She is a member of WESTAF’s senior management committee. Lucero previously worked as the manager of administrative services for an executive search consulting firm. She earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Lani Morris is a program assistant for CaFÉ. Prior to joining WESTAF, she worked to mobilize volunteers in issues of education and food justice as an education justice fellow with Repair the World: Pittsburgh. She holds a bachelor’s degree in art history and business from University of Puget Sound. Outside of her work at WESTAF, Morris enjoys making art, volunteering in schools, and is an avid hiker and backpacker.
Samantha Ortega is an administrative assistant at WESTAF. In that capacity, she supports the work of the WESTAF trustees, particularly the arrangements for and management of board meetings. She also assists the WESTAF executive director in a variety of projects. Ortega earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Texas at El Paso, where she was regularly named to the Dean’s list. She attended with the support of the Avaya communications company that awarded her a four-year scholarship. Ortega has worked in the media aspect of the presenting field and is familiar with media event management for large venues. She has worked in media management for El Paso’s 11,619 seat Don Haskins Center that presented acts like Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, and Cirque du Soleil. She also is familiar with managing media for smaller venues with experience in doing so at the 1,152 seat Magoffin Auditorium. Ortega has also studied dance and for many years was a member of El Paso’s Turning Pointe Dance Academy.
Julia Passantino is the ZAPP communications and support associate. She assists in the creation and execution of webinars, news, and video content and supports the communication, marketing, and social media strategies. She also supports the ZAPP team by providing technical support and assistance to both administrators and artists. Outside of work she enjoys playing the violin, hiking, and immersing herself in a book. Passantino holds a bachelor of arts degree in public relations and film studies from Coe College.
Adam Sestokas serves as WESTAF’s director of technical operations. In that capacity, he is responsible for the direction, management, site reliability, PCI compliance and optimization of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) based cloud architecture and infrastructure of the organization and all of its software as a service applications. To accomplish this work, he collaborates with a multitude of external development teams and technology partners. Since coming to WESTAF, he has migrated the company to AWS and led the change to Atlassian’s technology-management ecosystem.
Sestokas has over a decade of experience in web technologies and information systems beginning with an internship with the Department of Defense information systems in 1999. Prior to joining WESTAF, Sestokas served as the Internet technology manager for an INC 5000 company, growing the tech department and capacity of the organization as it tripled its revenues. Before that, he worked for Secure Billing Worldwide in various roles, starting as a programmer for a PCI compliant payment gateway that processed and offered fraud-detection services on millions of transactions a month.
Sestokas earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a concentration in technology management and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Buffalo with a concentration in management-information systems.
Natalie Scherlong is a customer service associate at WESTAF. She has a background in digital marketing, content creation, social media, and customer service. Her experience includes accompanying the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in leading a panel to showcase the success of their anti-smoking social media campaign. Scherlong has an associate’s degree in general studies from Community College of Denver. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her cat and dog, as well as traveling and honing her photography skills.
Laurel Sherman is a general projects coordinator and manages the processes deployed in WESTAF’s executive search services. She also staffs WESTAF’s board-development committee that ensures a regular flow of qualified and diverse candidates for consideration by the WESTAF trustees. As a project coordinator, she works directly with the WESTAF executive director to expedite the research and preparation of significant reports to the WESTAF board to document new initiatives and to prepare communications essential for the advancement of policy work. Sherman studied English literature and film at the University of Colorado Denver. Prior to joining WESTAF, she worked at the Tattered Cover bookstore, a leading independent bookstore.
Kelly Ernst joined WESTAF in May of 2019 as the business coordinator for CVSuite and GO Smart, aiding in content and contract services, client communications, and marketing. Ernst has a background working in public and socially engaged art and has held positions in marketing and development for organizations such as the Santa Fe Opera, Creative Time in New York City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA Denver). She is also a planning committee member for RedLine Art Center’s 48-Hour Summit. Most recently, Ernst was a contributing writer for Colorado-based magazine Boulder and Cherry Creek Lifestyle, covering arts and culture. Ernst received her bachelor’s degree in art history and multicultural leadership at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Raquel Vasquez is the program manager for the CaFÉ (CallforEntry™) project at WESTAF and is responsible for the overall administrative performance of the system, working to ensure the project’s effectiveness as a software service supports WESTAF’s mission to benefit the arts and creative industries. In this capacity she plays an active role in program operations, software improvement, and works closely with the business and technical operations team on design, specifications, testing, deployment and marketing to ensure end user requirements and program success are a priority.
Raquel holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Denver. She is a recipient of the IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Scholarship and a member of Beta Phi Mu.
Christina Villa is the manager of ZAPP. She oversees the daily operations of the ZAPP system, which serves 850 art-fair events and nearly 80,000 artists. She works with an oversight team and a partnership group to plan for the long-term future of ZAPP and is responsible for executing long-term business strategies related to ZAPP. She also directs the annual national level Arts Festival Conference. In addition to her work with ZAPP, Villa is a member of WESTAF’s senior management team. Prior to joining WESTAF, she worked in arts administration with the city of Aurora, Colorado’s Art in Public Places program, and the Colorado state arts agency, Colorado Creative Industries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Natalie Villa is a project manager at WESTAF. As the technical project lead for CaFÉ and ZAPP, Villa facilitates communication and technical processes among the internal technology team, the program teams, and external development companies. She creates and manages project plans, coordinates technical releases, aids in development of new site features, and assists in the management and operations of the CaFÉ and ZAPP programs. Villa also manages the YouJudgeIt program, assists the Creative Vitality Suite team in content and contract services, and serves as WESTAF’s accessibility coordinator. In addition, Villa creates and produces many of WESTAF’s online help and promotional videos, including WESTAF’s National Endowment for the Arts 50th Anniversary promotional video. She has received awards for her personal film work as well, including Best Amateur Film and Audience Choice awards at the Ridgway Moonwalk Film Festival and Best Documentary Short Film at the Oklahoma Cine Latino Film Festival for her short film, With the Power of a Thousand Suns. Villa earned a bachelor’s degree in film and television from the University of Colorado Denver.
Lauren Wilson began working as a finance associate at WESTAF in 2017 and works primarily with the ZAPP system. She graduated from Davidson College in 2014 with a degree in art history with a concentration in gender and sexuality studies. During her studies, Wilson presented on Oskar Kokoschka at the Belvedere in Vienna, Austria and on the Federal Art Project’s western division in Davidson, North Carolina. After graduation, she relocated to Denver and began working in finance and business management for socially-minded start-ups. She continues to devote her life to the arts through organizations such as Tilt West and practicing her own paintings and mixed media works in her spare time.