Amber Jo Manuel, Executive Director
Sierra Lefebre, Executive Assistant
Massimo Massarotto, Development & Sponsorship Coordinator
Chris Paizis, Accounting & HR Manager
Nicole Dean, Accounting Assistant
Katie Austin, Box Office Manager & Membership Associate
Brenda Jendrusch, Box Office Attendant
Jessica Brugnon, Box Office Attendant
Anjah Kotok, Box Office Attendant
Juniper L. Dacre, Marketing Manager
Jenny Comperda, Marketing Associate
Bob Free, House Photographer
Penny P. Collins, House Photographer
Michael Thompson, Front of House Manager
Robin Karlstedt, House Manager
Rachel Singleton, Bar & Hospitality Manager
Vanessa Bennett, Assistant Bar Manager
Raja Meadows, Bar Staff
Teresa Lani, Volunteer Coordinator
Conrad Sisk, Technical Director
Lori Tierney, Production & Operations Manager
Bret Scheinfeld, Stage Manager
Jaya Betts, Stage Manager
Jeff Price Murphy, Facilities Assistant
George Jayne, Lighting Technician
Brynn Farwell, Associate Director of Programming
Bruce Labadie, Booking Agent
Athena Aronow, Arts Education Manager
Hannah Mosby, Visual Arts & Programs Associate
Amber Jo joined the staff at The Center for the Arts in Fall 2016. She is a native of Nevada County and returning home after working in development at not-for-profit arts organizations for the past 17 years. She most recently held the position of Director of Development at the American Conservatory Theater where she successfully led a $33 million capital campaign for ACT’s second stage, The Strand Theater, which opened in the San Francisco mid-market district in May 2015. Prior to ACT, Amber was involved with capital campaign fundraising and development efforts at both Cal Academy of Sciences and Berkeley Repertory Theater. Amber also worked as the Individual Giving Director at The Roundabout Theater in New York where she worked on the seat campaign for Studio 54 and the historic reopening of the Henry Miller’s Theatre, the first LEED-certified Broadway theatre, which later was renamed the Stephen Sondheim. Amber’s interest in the arts began on the stages of Nevada County where she was an active dancer, actress and director. She received a B.A. in Drama from UC Irvine and later earned a M.F.A. in Directing Asian Theater from the University of Hawaii.
Associate Director of Programming
Brynn Farwell was born in Penn Valley, California in 1995. In 2013, she moved from rural California, to Seattle, Washington to attend Cornish College of the Arts where she received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in 2017. She has exhibited in several solo and group exhibitions in Seattle, New York, and Nevada County. During her time in school, she studied abroad in Rome, Italy, in the Rome Studio Art Program through the University of Washington, Bothell. In 2015 she was selected as one in fourteen students across the continent to participate in the New York Studio Residency Program in Brooklyn, NY, for the spring semester of 2016. Brynn has worked for several non-profits including the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, as a youth sailing instructor and A.I.R. (Artist in Residence) Gallery in Brooklyn, as a Benefit Coordinator. Since moving back to Nevada County, Brynn sings in a local funk band, Elevation, creates visual art in her studio, and works at The Center for the Arts in order to participate in and give back to the artistic community she has always loved.
Accounting & HR Manager
Chris holds a BA in Economics and a minor in Music from Chapman University. His early career focused on customer experience analysis and consulting in the Bay Area. He then went on to earn a certification in Integral Coaching, which opened the door to a coaching and training role at LinkedIn. With his unique blend of business acumen and interpersonal skills, he hit his stride with small-to-mid sized business operations, where he gained skills in accounting, human resources, budgeting, and strategy. Chris moved to Grass Valley in 2020 where he lives with his wife who was born and raised here. He is thrilled to be working in the community and bringing his unique skill set to The Center for the Arts.
Conrad earned a BA in Ethnomusicology from the College of William & Mary in 2008, and spent the next six years as a performing and teaching musician. He took an interest in sound engineering; recording and mixing scores for his friends’ film and theater projects, and doing live sound production for his own bands and musical ensembles.
In 2014, Conrad moved to Penn Valley and began doing live sound as a full-time vocation, working as an audio tech and engineer for large-scale productions, including concerts, corporate events, music festivals, and trade shows.
In 2020, Conrad was hired as a sound engineer for the newly renovated Center for the Arts. Throughout the pandemic, he has provided stage sound for the performers and broadcast sound for the at-home audience for the Center’s livestream concert series. In 2021, Conrad was made the Technical Director of the Center. He is very happy to be working more closely with such fine and capable folks in this new capacity.
Juniper has been working for over 25 years in the digital arts, branding and graphic design field. With a love of connecting people through visual art, she has managed projects for businesses both tiny and large. Although graphic and brand design has been a main focus over the years, she has produced a diverse body of work including label & package design, web design, convention booth layout, clothing design, interior design, car wraps, custom illustration, painting, animation and album cover art. Originally from Canada, Juniper has made California her home since 2007, and has been happily nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills for the past 12 years.
Mark grew up in Rough and Ready, CA and graduated from Nevada Union before moving to San Diego in the 80’s. There, he became part of the theater community working predominantly for The Old Globe Theater as Electrician, Carpenter, Project Coordinator and Facilities Director. After several years away, Mark was happy to move back to Grass Valley with his wife and kids in late 2021 to join The Center as its new Facilities Director. “I feel like a part of the community, and I get to help bring the arts to people of all ages”.
Front of House Manager
I have been a paperboy, retail sales clerk, bartender, restaurant owner, and concert security with Bill Graham Presents. I was born in Barstow, Ca. and lived there for all of 2 weeks. Most of my life was spent in the SF Bay Area.
With deep roots in the Grass Valley area (my father was born in Nevada City and paternal grandparents were from North San Juan and Camptonville) I always knew I would live here someday. I am very excited and happy to be a part of The Center for the Arts.
Our newest Board Member.
Elissa Spencer has been an educator for 16 years. She started her career in the NYC public school system teaching special education, and has taught 1st through 8th grade during her tenure. Elissa received her bachelor’s in arts from Sarah Lawrence College and a dual Master’s in special and general education from Hunter College. For the past six years, she has been teaching middle school at GV Charter school.
Elissa is passionate about the arts–both as a participant and consumer and is thrilled to help infuse more art in local education through her work on the board. Elissa spent her adolescence in Nevada County and credits theater as the thing that brought her the most joy, perspective, insight and confidence. She has toured the US, singing in a variety of bands and can currently be seen in local community theater productions.
Elissa lives in Grass Valley with her brilliant daughter, her kind husband and her devious dog and cat. When she isn’t working, acting, running a fundraiser or serving on a board she is hiking, swimming, gardening and enjoying movie nights with her family.
Huck’s practice focuses on real estate, wills & trusts, estate planning, personal injury, copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy and publicity rights, advertising, marketing, unfair competition, and entertainment law issues and disputes. He also has experience in financial services and appellate litigation.
Huck has represented real estate brokerages, buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants, apparel manufacturers, movie studios, production companies, record companies and prominent entertainers, and handled trademark and copyright enforcement proceedings for a wide variety of clients. His practice includes advising companies on how to protect and promote their intellectual property. Huck also aids clients in developing litigation prevention strategies and related counseling, including drafting internal policies and guidelines to help clients achieve business objectives while minimizing risk.
Prior to beginning his career as a lawyer, Huck was a judicial clerk and extern for Justice Lawrence D. Rubin at the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, California where he was exposed to a wide array of civil and criminal matters.
Jim Pyle is a retired USAF Command Pilot who flew a variety of aircraft and served at numerous bases in the United States and beyond. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science degree and, while in the Air Force, attended the University of Portland and earned a Masters in Business Administration. After retiring from the military he worked in marketing and business development for Bay Area technology companies including Apple, Silicon Graphics, Bay Networks (which became Northern Telecom), and Cycore-a Swedish multimedia company, and PGP Corporation.
Following the rapid deflation of the dotcom bubble he started PROAVIS Architectural Photography and about that same time moved to Nevada City. Jim joined The Center board in the fall of 2008 and served until 2015. He returned to the Board of Directors for his current term in 2017.
John Baggett and his family have lived and supported arts education in Nevada County for decades. He currently serves as Superintendent of the Nevada City School District, was Superintendent and Principal at Colfax Elementary School District for six years and Principal and Director of Education in the Grass Valley School District for seven years. He was Director of visual and performing arts serving 21 elementary schools and 10,000 students in Sacramento for ten years after teaching elementary school for five years.
John’s history of building strong relationships among the Board of Trustees, co-workers and families allowed him to implement and improve school arts programs, culture, and community in his appointments. His work ranges from overseeing large district programs, including securing funding and bringing arts to urban and rural schools. He was awarded Administrator of the Year, Middle School Principal, Nevada County ACSA in 2012, received the Administrative Leadership Award by the California School Library Association in 2006 and the Hope Award from the Sacramento Hunger Commission for bringing gardens to poverty schools.
After attending Nevada City schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade, John graduated from Nevada Union High School, and received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine. He earned a teaching credential, Masters Degree in Education and Administrative credential from National University, Sacramento. John performed and traveled Europe and Asia with Nevada Union and UCI Choirs. He and his wife Katy enjoyed raising their two daughters, exploring the beautiful hiking and running trails, as well as the rich arts community in Nevada County.
Lisa Swarthout was elected to her first term on the Grass Valley City Council in November of 2004. She was re-elected in November of 2008, November 2012 and November 2016. Lisa served two years as Mayor in her second term, and was appointed to her second term as Mayor in December of 2018. Previous to her elected position she spent nine years on the Grass Valley Planning Commission. Some of Lisa’s duties on the City Council have included: General plan steering committee, Economic Resource Council City representative, Member of LAFCO (10 years) Liaison to the City Park and Rec Commission, liaison with the Grass Valley Downtown Association and a member of the City’s budget committee.
Lisa is also the Past Chairman of the Grass Valley Downtown Association, and past Chairman of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council. She has served on the boards of many non-profit organizations in our community including: the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, The Friendship Club, Silver Springs Foundation and Soroptimist International of Grass Valley.
Lisa received her BA in Communications from CSU Chico, with a minor in Political Science. She recently retired after running a successful retail store in Downtown Grass Valley for 30 years. Lisa resides in Grass Valley with her husband Chris Therrien and their beloved cats and dog.
Ms. Swarthout is currently serving as the Board’s Vice President.
Our newest Board Member.
Martin has lived in Nevada County for the past 15 years, and in California for 33 years. He grew up in Denver, Co. where he began his love of the outdoors including skiing, hiking, and biking and generally trying to keep in shape (which has become harder over the years!). Martin earned his BA in Finance from the University of Denver, and MA in Applied Economics from San Francisco State University. He started his career as a financial analyst in banking, followed by positions as Chief Financial Officer in homeless and mental health non-profits, and he has held his current position as Chief Fiscal Officer for the County of Nevada for the past 6 years. Martin balances life with the love of his wife Linda, time with family and friends, and active participation in local arts and culture including music, dancing, karaoke, and a healthy dose of spirit and the written word. He currently holds the position of Board Treasurer.
Our newest board member.
Raul Audelo is a nonprofit executive, digital media producer, and visionary strategist with more than 20 years of experience leading teams of marketing and communications professionals. Most recently he served as Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Recreation and Park Association. Previously, as Chief Digital Officer at the Association for Latino Professionals for America, he developed and led the organization’s strategy to amplify the ALPFA brand nationally among corporate leaders, universities, existing and prospective members, and the Latinx market. And as the Senior Manager for Web at Earthjustice, he led digital innovation and transformation projects including a full-scope website redesign and the establishment of a social intranet supporting internal communications and culture change.
Beyond the technical and strategic aspects of digital transformation, Raul has a passion for authentic initiatives to enable communication and support diversity in the workplace. At Earthjustice, he was a founding member of the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership group where he collaborated with senior executives to develop a DEI vision and plan of action. In that role, Raul provided insight and direction to catalyze the hiring of a Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, and helped form the organization’s first employee resource group for people of color.
Driven by a passion for community and a belief in the power of altruism, Raul embraces his responsibility to give back by transforming neighborhoods through inspirational works of art and mentoring at-risk youth. A creative at heart, Raul is a practicing painter and muralist, creating both large and small projects that have been shared around the world from Mexico to San Francisco to Tokyo. As a consultant, he developed an innovative web property promoting the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s purchase of the last remaining mural in the U.S. by the renowned social realist painter David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Raul lives with his wife and two sons in the western Sierra Nevada of California. He enjoys hiking, meditation, yoga, and exploring the area’s majestic rivers and lakes.
With twenty-five years of experience working in Enterprise Applications. He’s a technologist who knows business and is able to engage with both technologists and laymen. He’s worked with PeopleSoft as a startup, Vecta PLC in the UK, and is currently Senior Software Advisor, Chief Evangelist, and a member of the Board of Directors with Lotus Technology. He holds a degree in computer science from California Polytechnic State University and studied management at Harvard Business School.
Rick served as Vice President of the Board of Directors for eight years and continues to serve on the Board Advisory Committee.
Tyson Tucker serves as a Managing Director in Coldwell Banker Grass Roots Realty’s Commercial Division (CBGRR). Mr. Tucker is consistently one of the top-producing commercial agents in the region. Mr. Tucker has 13 years of experience in all facets of commercial real estate on both the principal and brokerage sides of the business. He has been integrally involved in excess of $1B of commercial real estate transactions since 2006.
Most recently, Mr. Tucker served as the Director of Acquisitions at Berkeley Partners (www.berkeleypartners.com), a premier real estate fund manager for institutional investors which owns and operates over 5M SF of multi-tenant industrial real estate located across the country and has over $500M in assets under management. While at Berkeley, Tyson was directly responsible for managing a transactions team of 15 people, including analysts/associates, lease administration, transactions management, and in-house counsel. During his 18-month tenure, Tucker was directly responsible for over $150M in real estate acquisitions across the country. Tucker also led the firm’s disposition efforts where he directly marketed and sold properties in 8 different states totaling $130M.
Tyson started his tenure as Board President in 2022.
Walt was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska during the fifties through the early sixties and had a rather unusual childhood. He would regularly watch the AAA baseball team, the Fairbanks Gold Panners, play from midnight to 4 a.m. during the continuous daylight of summer. This was juxtaposed with the winter’s twenty-four hours of darkness. These long and frigid winter nights (record cold of -72 in 1962) would sometimes be ablaze with the northern lights.
In the mid-sixties, Walt’s family relocated to the Bay Area, which created culture shock caused by the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Beach Boys, and The Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury. This disorientation was resolved by a tour of duty with the USAF as an avionics electronics technician assigned primarily to military cargo jets. Upon returning to civilian life, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from San Francisco State University. The combination of technical and behavioral training shaped and influenced his work experiences for his entire career. He retired from healthcare facilities management, having
performed in a wide variety of roles dealing with hospital capital projects, especially construction, maintenance, and planning.
Walt is very pleased for the opportunity to be on The Center’s board as it is his small way to give back to the community he calls home. The Center has a wonderful vision, a clear mission, and the staff to transform the current operation into a world-class performing and visual arts organization. He is proud to be with them during this exciting time.