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 leads visual arts workshops with Art Start youth in homeless shelters and group homes, creating curriculum that builds confidence, explores identity, and connects youth to their city. 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. Hannah is currently earning a Masters of Science in Urban Affairs from Hunter College.
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 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.
Denise Cermanski, MSW 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.
Nella Mupier, MPH – singer, actor, educator, and advocate – is the Associate Director of Programs for Art Start. Her professional performance background includes both award winning and nominated regional theatrical productions in Texas, Massachusetts, and New York City. Prior to joining Art Start family, she worked to develop and implement skill building workshops and performances, designed to enhance and build skills in acting technique, voice and diction, and dance and movement for at-risk, minority youth. These workshops and performances provided youth opportunities to experience how performance could be used as a platform for civic engagement on issues most relevant to their communities including, but not limited, to health behavior, education, violence, and social justice. Nella earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Communications from Prairie View A&M University and her Master of Public Health from Texas A&M University. She intends to pursue a doctoral degree in Educational Theatre and plans to continue merging her passion for performance with her public health training to identify ways to utilize the transformative power of music as a tool for youth leadership development and community health development.