JOHANNA DE LOS SANTOS has been the Executive Director of Art Start since July of 2007. Prior to joining the Art Start family, she spent years revolutionizing the indie film industry’s release platform by pioneering the “Social Outreach Campaign” for two major motion picture film releases, Favela Rising (2005) and The Hip Hop Project (2007), taking conscious, independent film on nationwide tours through under-served communities, homeless shelters and juvenile detention facilities as a part of their distributor’s traditional release campaign. From 2003-2005, Johanna served as Manager of Community Partnerships for the New York International Latino Film Festival and holds three years of corporate business planning expertise from the multinational Briggs & Stratton Corporation. Johanna received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin (1998) and a M.A. from New York University in Latin American Studies (2007) where she focused on art and music as a social movement in communities oppressed by systemic violence. In 2010, Johanna was awarded “Non-Profiteer of the Year” by the New York Association of Non-Profit Professionals. Johanna’s pride lies in her journey from an at-risk teen to the woman she is today, in large part due to her parents who relentlessly inundated her with music, sewing, art, Shakespeare, and most importantly, the unconditional creative freedom to express herself – a gift she hopes to pass on to her own children.
Raised in Brooklyn, HANNAH has been a part of Art Start workshops since 2003, starting as a volunteer and working her way into the Program Director position for Art Start’s Homeless Youth Outreach Programming. Hannah graduated from New York University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Design and Architecture Studies during which she studied for two years in Florence, Italy.
ROY ANTHONY MORRISON is the Assistant Program Director of Art Start’s Homeless Youth Outreach Program, as well as a visual artist, writer and fashion photographer. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in NYC where he earned a B.F.A. (Illustration/Media) and an M.P.S. (Art Therapy). He has worked with community based arts organizations providing creative arts workshops to children, teens and developmentally disabled adults. His photography has appeared in publications such as Essence magazine and featured on MSN U.K. His paintings are part of the permanent collection at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in Harlem.
SPIRITCHILD (Billy Martin) is the Program Director for Art Start’s Youth Offender Outreach Program as well as the Emerging Artists is Residence Program. A poet, emcee and freedom singer from the South Bronx by way of Brooklyn, Spirit creates engaging hip hop curricula specifically to work with teens. His experience spans New York City public schools, Children’s Village Dobbs Ferry New York Juvenile Detention Facility, as well as seasonal teaching tours with teens in Africa, South East Asia, and Europe. As a performing artist, Spiritchild has produced for and recorded with Grammy-nominee Maya Azucena, the legendary Les Nubians, spoken word Nuyorican poets champion Ainsley Burrows, X-Vandals & Ricanstruction’s very own N4P, to name a few, and is the rhythmic poet of the Hip-Hop fusion band, Mental Notes.
JAE JUDITH NICOLAS/TEACHING ARTIST/DANCER Jae is elated to serve with her passion at Art Start as the Dance Teaching Artist. Jae has taught dance for over nine years at various dance studios, public schools, mental health facilities and performing arts programs across New York City and Richmond, Virgina. The 2011 BFA Dance/Theatre Honors Graduate of CUNY Queens College is a recipient of The Farah Marcelus Emerging Choreographer Award. She received recognition for breathtaking, intense performances in her tribute and fundraiser dance to Earthquake victims in Haiti. Her work has been showcased at The Apollo Theater, The Kupferberg Theatre, UNCI New York/Richmond VA, and “The Lexi Show”. She was the principal tap dancer for tap extraordinaire Savion Glover’s partner Marshall Davis Jr. In addition to her work at Art Start Jae is a Benefits Counselor at the Department of Education.
M.C. K~SWIFT (Anthony Scott) has been the Associate Program Director of Art Start’s Youth Offender Outreach Programming since early 2011. He’s a Hip-Hop artist and educator, who has been recording and performing since 1994. He has conducted creative writing and performance workshops in hundreds of high schools in NYC and throughout the tri-state area since 1999, as well as in institutions including: CUNY Grad Center, The New School, NYU, Wesleyan University and Columbia University. Other clients of M.C. K~Swift include Urban Word NYC, The Hip Hop Project, Sankofa Community Empowerment, the Hip Hop Association and the First Wave Program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has also trained educators at numerous schools, non-profit organizations and community centers on bringing creativity into their classrooms.
Denise Cermanski is the Deputy Director, staff social worker, and a photographer by trade. She has developed collaborative multimedia art programs for homeless youth in New York City, teenage moms in foster care in Brooklyn, NY, adult women with severe and persistent mental illness in Queens, NY, and high school girls in Kolkatta, India. Coming from commercial photography, Denise started as an Art Start volunteer in 2009 where she discovered her passion and conviction for art-based community development. With her newfound inspiration Denise earned her Masters in Social Work with a Minor in Law and specialization in Dialectical Behavior Therapy from Columbia University in 2012. In 2005, she earned a Bachelors of Arts in Sociopolitical Photography from Ithaca College.