The Foundation Staff
Christa Blatchford, Chief Executive Officer for the Joan Mitchell Foundation, directs the vision of the Foundation with the Board of Directors, and oversees the programming, administration, and operations of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s New York City headquarters and the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, LA. Christa previously served as the Foundation’s Artist Support Director, and then Deputy Director, overseeing national programs including the inaugural years of the CALL Program.
A visual artist herself, Christa has been dedicated to the support of visual artists throughout her career. Before joining the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Christa spent three years as a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), working to provide a variety of professional development opportunities for artists. She has also worked with a range of non-profit visual arts organizations including Minetta Brook and Eyebeam. At Minetta Brook she worked on critically acclaimed programs such as Robert Smithson’s Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island. Christa Blatchford received her Masters degree in Fine Arts from Hunter College in 2005, taught at Hunter’s Undergraduate Art Department, and has shown her artwork throughout New England. Christa resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two children.
Aimee Solomon is the Senior Director of Finance of the Joan Mitchell Foundation and a member of the senior management team. Aimee is accountable for the financial, and risk management operations of the Foundation, which includes the development of a financial and operational strategy, metrics tied to that strategy, and the ongoing development and monitoring of control systems designed to preserve company assets and report accurate financial results. Additionally, Aimee oversees the Human Resource function of the Foundation.
Before joining the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Aimee spent 5 years as an auditor with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP in the Entertainment division. Aimee then left PwC to work as the Accounting Manager and then Director of Accounting and Financial Reporting at Sonar Entertainment. Additionally, Aimee then spent 2 years working exclusively with nonprofit organizations fulfilling financial needs at various clients as their part-time Controller. Aimee received her Bachelors of Science, Accounting degree from Monmouth University in New Jersey, where she currently resides.
As Senior Director of Artist Programs, Kay Takeda oversees the Foundation’s diverse roster of artist-centered initiatives, including its grants, residencies, and professional development programs. As part of the senior leadership team, she spearheads the Foundation’s activity to refine the focus and enhance the impact of program offerings as an essential facet of Mitchell’s legacy.
Takeda has worked for over 20 years to advance artists and the arts sector. In her previous role as Vice President, Grants & Services at LMCC, she developed and oversaw grantmaking, professional development programs, and community initiatives. She designed and guided the implementation of LMCC’s $5 million Downtown Cultural Grants Initiative, oversaw the long-standing Manhattan Arts Grants, and led a renewed focus on professional development programs for artists and organizations. Prior to joining LMCC, Takeda led national grantmaking programs at Arts International and managed exhibitions and programming at the Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art at Snug Harbor. She has served on the boards of the artist-run Goliath Visual Space and Tickle the Sleeping Giant, Inc./Trajal Harrell, has sat on numerous funding panels, and lectures widely on professional issues affecting artists.
As Director of Facilities, Derrick Biney-Amissah coordinates technology deployment and ensures that the Foundation's various facilities are able to support its programs, functions and mission. He studied philosophy and fine art at Georgetown University and received an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute. Working in academic administration and on various capital projects for more than a decade at Pratt Institute's Media Arts Department and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, he developed a strong interest in organizational design, applied technology, and the power of creative collaborations to affect institutions and society. He has served on the Church Council at the Riverside Church in New York, where he has been a longtime member, and is a mentor with the Moriah Institute. While it amuses him to write about himself in the third person, he would like it to be known that, among many other things, he enjoys cycling, soccer, art, design and his colleagues.
A graphic designer and artist, Melissa began her work for the Foundation as a consultant, and came on as staff in 2012. As the Design & Media Manager, she oversees the Foundation’s websites and visual media projects, and works collaboratively with the Communications Manager on communications projects and strategy. Melissa holds a BA in Photography from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a MFA in Printmedia from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is proud to count Joan Mitchell as a fellow alumna.
Melissa has long worked with non-profits and progressive causes as a former freelancer and designer for Revolution Messaging, where she completed work for clients such as ACLU, Amnesty International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MoveOn.org, and Planned Parenthood. Melissa has additionally worked as an arts educator, and has taught graphic arts, printmaking, and photography to high school, college and adult students.
As Controller, Melissa McBride Elmasian monitors and confirms the financial condition of the Foundation. Melissa is responsible for the production of monthly financial statements, maintenance of the accounting records, comprehensive budgeting and ensuring the Foundation results comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
Melissa earned a MS in Business Administration and Finance from Salve Regina University while becoming a CPA. She started her career in public accounting before moving into the private sector as the CFO of a national newspaper chain where she worked for 15 years. Melissa subsequently shifted to a nonprofit accounting outsourcing service for 2 years before joining the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
As Communications Manager, Jenny Gill works collaboratively with all staff to plan and implement communications projects that support the mission, vision, and values of the Foundation. Previously, she was Director of Communications at Creative Capital, where she spent seven years developing artist-centered communications strategies and content. Jenny has held positions with a range of other arts organizations and galleries, including the American Craft Council, Sewanee: the University of the South, Joan B. Mirviss Ltd., and Vanderbilt University’s Fine Arts Gallery.
Using the other side of her brain, Jenny also worked for many years as a letterpress designer/printer at the historic Hatch Show Print, studied at the International Workshop for Ceramic Art in Tokoname, Japan, and was an artist assistant for Nashville sculptor Alan LeQuire. She holds a BA in art and art history from Vanderbilt University, where she was awarded the Hamblet Award for studio art, and an MA from Bard Graduate Center.
Sameen assists with the daily, monthly, and yearly accounting operations for the Foundation’s finances and budget. Prior to joining the Foundation, Sameen worked as a financial manager at a non-profit organization for over 5 years, managing financial operations and developing and maintaining procedures to ensure the organization's financial goals were met. In her free time, Sameen enjoys spending time with her family, trying new restaurants, and tending to her indoor jungle.
Janice Teran is the Administrative Associate at the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a full-time student at Rutgers University where she earned a BA in Art History. Janice oversees the maintenance and use of the Foundation's home office, in addition to performing various administrative and office support activities for multiple departments, and provides direct administrative support to the senior management team.
Artist Support Department
Shervone Neckles-Ortiz manages the New York City and national programs for both the Creating a Living Legacy (CALL) Program and Professional Development Program. Before joining the Foundation, Neckles-Ortiz worked as an art education consultant and adjunct professor for Pratt Institute and other leading NYC art institutions and organizations. For several years, Neckles-Ortiz served her Brooklyn community as a high school teacher in the NYC Department of Education before moving into roles as a department chair and contributor to the Arts Achieve: Investing in Innovation (i3) Grant Program.
As an interdisciplinary artist Neckles-Ortiz has held residencies at the Youlou Arts Foundation, Wave Hill, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the Elizabeth Foundation SHIFT Program, the Center for Book Arts, and The Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Previous awards include grants from Queens Council on the Arts, Foundation for Contemporary Art, The Puffin Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, as well as fellowships from Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and Manhattan Graphic Center. Her award-winning work has been shown worldwide in both solo and group exhibitions. In 2019, her work was featured in the Venice Biennale’s Grenada Pavilion and as an outdoor installation at the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum in Flushing, Queens. Her practice also has included curatorial projects with Pratt Center for Community Development and Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and at the Ice Box Gallery in Philadelphia. She earned an MA from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, an MFA from Queens College, and a BFA from the College of New Rochelle. Her work can be seen at shervoneneckles.com.
As the Artist Programs Manager focused on Young Artist Initiatives, José Ortiz runs a mentorship and portfolio development program for participants age 12 to 25. He holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, NYC, and is a painter, multi-media artist and arts educator, committed to connecting art with our everyday world. In addition to exhibiting his work both regionally and internationally, he has curated visual art shows, designed sets for dance performances and was a key collaborator on several large-scale multi-media installation projects at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and The Point, CDC. As an art educator, José has worked for The Children’s Art Carnival, Henry Street Settlement, Romare Bearden Foundation, The Anyone Can Fly Foundation and other national and international arts organizations.
As the Artist Programs Manager, Grants, Lilia serves as the first point of contact for artists around all artist programs, supports the Artist Centered Program Department, and oversees the logistics of the Foundation's grant programs. Prior to joining the Foundation, Lilia spent three years as a Program Officer at a private family foundation focused on child welfare, where she managed that foundation’s grant programs, including programs in many art disciplines. She holds a BA in Art History and Anthropology from New York University and while she is not a skilled artist herself, in her free time she enjoys knitting, baking, traveling, and reading, and is always looking for new and exciting experiences. She is also a passionate supporter of animal rescue shelters, and dreams of one day owning a farm so she can rescue all the dogs.
As Director of Archives and Research, Laura Morris oversees the Foundation’s archival and artwork collections and facilitates access to these collections for scholars, curators, students, and others with an interest in Mitchell’s life and work. She manages Mitchell-related research projects and fellowship programs at the Foundation, and provides research and logistical support to exhibitions, publications, and educational projects internationally.
Laura earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar. She spent a year abroad in France as an undergraduate, and later returned to Aix-en-Provence to live and paint. Laura holds a master’s degree in Library Science, with an Archives Management concentration, as well as an MA in History, from Simmons College. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2012, Laura worked as an Archivist for the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Business School Historical Collections, the Harvard University Archives, and the New York Public Library / Manuscripts Division.
As Database & Digital Assets Manager, Andrew Beccone oversees the Foundation’s collection database and related digital assets. Working primarily with the Collection Manager, Catalogue Raisonné, and Archives staff, he ensures that the Foundation’s information resources are well organized and readily accessible to colleagues both inside and outside the Foundation. His additional responsibilities include administering copyright licensing agreements and color correcting images. Prior to this, Andrew worked as a freelance database developer, and as the Librarian at Marian Goodman Gallery. He holds a Master’s Degree in Information and Library Science from Pratt Institute.
As Collection Manager, Heather Whitehead ensures the care and stewardship of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s art collection. Her responsibilities include managing outgoing loans, conservation initiatives, storage, inventory, and documentation. Before joining the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Heather worked as the Registrar of Richard Gray Gallery, the Collection Manager for the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Associate Registrar for Collections at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné
As the Project Director for the Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné, Suzi is responsible for overseeing the Catalogue Raisonné project, identifying necessary areas of research, overseeing the team of researchers, developing a timeline and budget for the project, and will manage the eventual production and publication of the multi-volume book. Prior to beginning her research on Mitchell, Suzi was the Editor and Project Manager for the Hans Hofmann Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, and has served as the Director of Membership for the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association since 2013. She has also worked with contemporary artists, including painter Terry Winters, at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York, and at the intaglio etching studio Paulson Press in California. She received a BA in art history from Northwestern University and MA from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two sons, and cat.
As Researcher for the Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné, Marley Lewis is responsible for provenance research and image coordination. Previously, Marley was Research Associate for the Agnes Martin Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, a Collection Manager for a private estate and has held positions in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art and in the Post-War and Contemporary Art department at Christie’s in New York.
Marley currently serves on the Athena Leadership Council at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College and has previously served on the board of the Ojai Music Festival. She is a member of the Artemis Council at the New Museum and the Brooklyn Museum Chairman's Circle.
Marley holds an MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies from Columbia University and a BA in Art History and Political Science from Barnard College.
At the Joan Mitchell Catalogue Raisonné, Alexandra Tagami Vargo performs research focused on exhibitions and bibliographic materials pertaining to Mitchell’s work. Prior to joining the Catalogue Raisonné, Alex worked at Driscoll Babcock Galleries (established 1852) in Chelsea, where she led the gallery's research program for five years. During her time at Driscoll Babcock, Alex researched the exhibitions and publications record of John Frederick Kensett for the gallery's forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné on the artist. Alex has served as lead researcher on several gallery and museum publications, including Charting New Waters: Redefining Marine Painting, Masterworks from the Burrichter/Kierlin Collection (Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 2013), which was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2014 American Alliance of Museums Publications Competition. Previously, Alex worked in the art department of The Atlantic, where she researched and commissioned editorial photographers and illustrators for the magazine. Alex received a BA in art history from the University of Virginia, where she graduated with distinction for her thesis on the paintings of Ad Reinhardt.
Joan Mitchell Center on Bayou Road, New Orleans, LA
Toccarra A. H. Thomas is a media and performance artist, film programmer, and arts administrator. As the Director of the Joan Mitchell Center beginning October 14, 2019, she will guide and refine the artist residency program, develop related public programs and special projects to connect artists and communities, and oversee the Center’s day-to-day operations.
After obtaining her BA in Cultural Anthropology (Film Studies minor) at Smith College, she went on to earn her Masters in Media Studies at The New School, while also working as an interview facilitator for StoryCorps’ Griot Initiative to record personal narratives of Black Americans that were later archived at The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Following her time in the field, she served as the program manager at African Film Festival, Inc., where she produced public programs in over thirteen countries in partnership with city parks, community centers, schools, cinemas, and museums that challenged notions of culturally “accessible” content and brought members of the public together in conversation with creative practitioners and art educators from Africa and the African Diaspora. Later, she shifted focus to support the professional development of artists as the NYFA Source Program Associate at New York Foundation for the Arts, where she led workshops and created resources tailored to address the needs of artists at varying stages in their careers. Most recently, she held the positions of inaugural general manager of Pioneer Works Art Foundation and inaugural managing director of SPACE, a contemporary multidisciplinary art organization in Portland, ME.
Silvia Chamale is the Joan Mitchell Center’s Housekeeper. Born in Guatemala, she has lived in New Orleans for 15 years. Silvia is the mother of three and has been working as a housekeeper for 10 years. She’s worked in restaurants as a waitress and making desserts. Silvia previously worked at the House on Bayou Road Bed & Breakfast, and has been with the Center since February of 2013.
As the Operations Manager, Nathan is responsible for the creation, maintenance, assessment, and oversight of the Joan Mitchell Center’s property and operational systems as a program of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
Nathan brings over a decade of military operations and program management experience to the Joan Mitchell Center. As the NCOIC of a joint service linguist training center, he supervised all human resources, budget, and operational services supporting a 600-person workforce. Nathan has directed basic, intermediate, and advanced language training programs, while serving as a linguist instructor and mentor. In addition to his military career, Nathan followed his passion in the founding of Healing Pause, a non-profit that donates trained and sponsored on-staff therapy dogs to organizations serving communities in need. Nathan is an ornithology enthusiast and will never pass up a good opera or ballet.
Frank Gleber brings a wide range of experience to his position as the Joan Mitchell Center’s Hospitality Associate. Over his career, he worked first as a travelling inn-sitter and then as an innkeeper in bed and breakfasts both in Florida and Louisiana. As a boy, Frank often worked in the kitchen with his French mother preparing the family meals so it is little wonder that he has been either head cook, owner/operator, manager, or some combination of those roles for several Louisiana restaurants and is known among the staff and residency artists at the Center for his delicious home-style cooking. If that were not enough, Frank has likewise been a floral arranger, the owner/operator of a daylily nursery, a wedding cake catering service, and a dairy farmer for 28 years, first in his family’s business and then on his own.
As the Digital Media Lab Assistant, Dave Greber manages the Center’s media lab, provide the Joan Mitchell Center's Artists-in-Residence with technical support in the utilization of the Center’s media equipment and design software as well as related technical advice and assistance.
Greber is an installation artist who offers a mystic reading of contemporary, capitalist society using video and sculpture. He began exhibiting artwork as a member of New Orleans-based collective, The Front, and since has been featured in Crystal Bridges’ State of the Art, Lorna Mills’ Ways of Something (Dreamlands, Whitney Museum of American Art), C24 Gallery’s Double Crescent, and solo exhibits with the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans. In the past few years, his artistic identity has expanded to that of a secular pilgrim on the Appalachian Trail, a metaphysical healer in Taos, NM, a brewer of wild-foraged beverages in Norway, and as the AV Manager of the Prospect.4 Triennial. Most recently, he completed studio residencies at the NCCA in St. Petersburg, Russia and Narva Kunstiresidentuur, Estonia. He currently has a 52 Channel synchronized video, commissioned by MTA Arts & Design, exhibiting in the Fulton Center transportation hub in Lower Manhattan.
As the Joan Mitchell Center Studio Assistant, Jones works closely with the Joan Mitchell Center’s programs team to stock and maintain the Center’s studio facility, provide the Artists-in-Residence with general technical assistance and assists in addressing artists’ practice-related needs while in residency.
Jones is a practicing artist, arts educator, and community organizer currently living in New Orleans, LA. He holds an MFA from Tulane University (2016) and a BFA from Indiana University (2014). Jones’ visual art has been shown in galleries across the nation, and he has given public lectures at Newcomb Art Museum, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Tulane University, and Notre Dame University.
Astrid Kaemmerling, PhD, is a German-born artist, arts administrator, educator, and community manager who brings with her a deep knowledge about the complex role of the artist in the 21st century. As the Artist-Centered Program Manager, she is responsible for the administration, assessment, and refinement of the Joan Mitchell Center residency and public programming and acts as a primary contact and resource for the artists-in-residence.
Most recently, Astrid worked as Cultural Coordinator at the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco, where she conceptualized local public programming. Since moving to New Orleans, she has worked at Antenna, providing project management support for Fossil Free Fest. Her interest in interdisciplinary arts collaboration has led her from Germany to the US to the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University, where she received her PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts (2016), a degree positioned at the intersection of art and research. She specializes in the domain of walking art and is the founder of The Walk Discourse, a social practice art project, educational platform, and research laboratory that provides room for exchanges about walking art and public space. Founded in San Francisco, CA (2016) and currently based in New Orleans, LA, The Walk Discourse playfully and critically invites participants to study the urban and rural fabric while walking. Her research and artwork spans the genres of visual, performance, and media art and strives to connect spatial experiences and memories with a critical exploration of neighborhoods and selected urban places. Kaemmerling has been exhibited internationally in Germany, Italy, Korea, and the United States, has won several awards and fellowships, and has had residencies at the Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto (Italy), the Vermont Studio Center, and Kala Art Institute (CA), among others.
As Property Associate, Mauricio manages the maintenance and care of the buildings and green spaces of the Joan Mitchell Center campus. A practiced carpenter and craftsman, he previously worked as an independent contractor as Mauricio Mossi Floors for over 20 years, primarily working in flooring installation with additional expertise in sheetrock, plumbing, and electrical work.
As the Artist-Centered Program Associate, Kendra provides administrative and on the ground support to the Joan Mitchell Center Artists-in-Residence and associated public programming. Kendra received her BA in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Originally from Queens, NY, Kendra has lived in New Orleans since 2015. Her professional experience is in event coordination and broadcast production, and she is further trained in framing and carpentry. Outside of work, Kendra is very passionate about music. She DJs locally and is often working on video projects with local musicians.
Sandy Thornburg serves as the Joan Mitchell Center’s Weekend Property Coordinator and is here to help ensure a smooth flow of the Center’s operation from weekday through weekend. Weekdays, Sandy teaches in the primary grades at a local school. She loves being part of the Joan Mitchell Center team and is happy to help our artist residents have a successful stay at the Center.