Mission & Vision
SOMArts leverages the power of art as a tool for social change through multi-disciplinary events and exhibitions. Equipping artists with the space, mentorship and support they need to shift perspectives and innovate solutions, SOMArts fosters access to arts and culture for collective liberation and self-determination.
SOMArts prioritizes supporting artists who have been historically marginalized in contemporary art. By partnering with diverse artists and curators, we are able to produce multi-disciplinary events and exhibitions that are truly embedded in the communities they serve.
The SOMArts Curatorial Residency program is a unique opportunity for emerging artists to execute their big vision for SOMArts’ Main Gallery space. The support provided by the Curatorial Residency enables artists to continue their professional development, form new creative partnerships, and engage community members through innovative public programs.
SOMArts partners with curators Rio Yañez, Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green for our annual Día de los Muertos and The Black Woman is God exhibitions. We also curate an annual Summer Showcase exhibition in partnership with a rotating guest curator on social issues that are timely and relevant for the Bay Area communities we represent.
Supporting Bay Area Artists and Changemakers
In addition to our creative programs, SOMArts’ Fiscal Sponsorship Program provides administrative and fundraising support to 10–15 artist-led projects.
The SOMArts Rental Program offers below-market rental space and production assistance to over 100 non-profits annually, hosting their exhibitions, performances, and events in our unique
Board & Staff
SOMArts Board of Directors
- Michele Carlson, Interim Board President, Executive Director, Art Practical
- Peter Sizgoric, Board Treasurer, Vice President of Corporate Development, RPX Corporation
- Nare Aleksanyan, Board Member, Law Clerk, DLA Piper LLP
- Mike Anderson, Board Member, Director of Finance, McKesson
- Alex Cook, Board Member, Digital Product Management, @WalmartLabs
- Devra Davis, Board Member, Senior Product Counsel, StubHub Inc.
- Sally Hansen, Board Member, CPA, Burr Pilger Mayer
- Rico Hampton, Board Member, Office Manager, Darby Smart
- Sylvette Sawyers, Board Member, VP of Talent Acquisition, Opendoor
- Luke Spray, Board Member, Corridor Manager, Portola Neighborhood
Board service at SOMArts is a meaningful and gratifying opportunity to give back to an organization that is vital to the Bay Area’s arts ecosystem. To learn more about board service, email [email protected].
Creative & Executive Director
Maria Jenson is recognized as a leader in the arts nationally for advancing innovative strategies to sustain creative communities in the midst of rapidly changing urban environments. As Creative and Executive Director of SOMArts, Jenson has deepened the organization’s commitment to racial equity, creating clear pathways for Bay Area artists to incubate new ideas and grow their careers. Through her leadership, Maria has expanded SOMArts’ educational and public programs, advanced new public-private partnerships, and fostered groundbreaking exhibitions such as The Black Woman is God, The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans* Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience, and many more. These initiatives further SOMArts’ mission to engage the Bay Area’s diverse cultural communities in inspiring creative encounters at the intersection of art and social justice. They also represent SOMArts’ commitment to incubating the growth and careers Bay Area artists and curators, building the sustainability and future of artistic practices in the Bay Area.
As an ardent advocate for the civic and democratic roles cultural institutions should play, Jenson has championed creative projects in community-based and DIY as well as more formal and institutional spaces. Prior to joining SOMArts, Jenson was a key member of the External Relations team in the Marketing and Communications Division managing the transition, rebranding and reopening of SFMOMA during the museum’s $300 million expansion. At SFMOMA, she worked across all departments as a lead project manager on marketing and engagement initiatives and she launched innovative community partnerships as the museum’s Cultural and Civic Ambassador. Jenson produced the museum’s Economic and Cultural Impact study in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, demonstrating the crucial role of cultural institutions in the civic and economic life of San Francisco.
Jenson was the Founding Director of ArtPadSF — an independent art fair launched in 2010 in partnership with Chip Conley. ArtPadSF transformed the Phoenix Hotel into an immersive and interactive platform to engage Bay Area artists, gallerists and art lovers, and enjoyed a successful three-year run that helped to launch the careers of many emerging artists.
A graduate of the 2018 Getty Foundation Executive Leadership Institute, Jenson is a sought-after speaker and thought leader on the role of cultural institutions in fostering a more democratic and equitable society. As the Bay Area continues to change, Jenson is leading SOMArts into its next iteration, strengthening and activating all parts of SOMArts’ multivalent programming, including growing the organization’s site-specific commissions and programs, as well as reinvigorating its artistic presence in the Bay Area.
- Dominic Cheng, Community Engagement & Impact Manager
- Danja Critchell, Receptionist
- Jena McRae Schwirtz, Director of Administrative Operations
- Tara Marsden, Operations and Development Coordinator
- Dara Katrina Del Rosario, Communications & Partnerships Manager
- Sarah Pritchard, Strategic Communications Consultant
- La Vette Virden, Financial Manager
Creative Programs Staff
Event Rentals & Facilities Staff
- Katie Gilmartin, Building Manager
- Dion Reiner-Guzman, Building Manager & Technician
- Colin Johnson, Building Manager & Technician
- Cathie Anderson, Building Manager & Technician
- Christopher Ashbrook, Building Manager & Technician
- Eli Lee, Building Manager & Technician
- Aja Archuleta, Technician
- Sinuba Soliman, Technician
- Sean Garahan, Technician
- Scot McGoldrick, Event Facilities Staff
SOMArts Emeritus Board Members
- Sherry Suisman, Educational Consultant and Lecturer, San Francisco State University
- Rhodessa Jones, Co-artistic Director of Cultural Odyssey, founder of the Medea Project, actress, dancer, singer, writer and teacher
- Iris Fluellen, Associate Director at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)
- Nickolos Gomez, Architect
- Dorothy Santos, Writer, Editor, Curator and Educator
- Brian Freeman, Playwright, Director, former director of the Pomo Afro Homos theater group
- Jacob Foster, Attorney
- Sarah Davis, Producer, event planner
- Drake Hawthorne, Architect and Designer at Perkins + Will; sculptor
- David Kennedy, Attorney at Law
- Lex Leifheit, former SOMArts Executive Director
- Carlos Loarca, former SOMArts Gallery Director, Artist and Muralist
- Tom Mazzolini, Producer of SF Blues Festival, Member of President’s Advisory Committee of
National Blues Foundation
- Josette Melchor, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA.)
- Ruth Passen, Coordinator of Potrero Hill Festival, Staff of Potrero Hill Neighborhood House
- Ernest Rivera, former SOMArts Director of Technical Services
- Anita Sanchez, Former Board President of West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Corp.