Mark Gingery, Facilities Director

Jeff Price Murphy, Facilities Assistant


Brynn Farwell, Programs Director

Athena Aranow, Education & Outreach Coordinator


Conrad Sisk, Technical Director

Lori Tierney, Production Manager


Eli Bacon, Marketing Director

Jenny Comperda, Marketing Assistant

Juniper Lindquist, Graphic Designer

Kelly Beach, Social Media Coordinator


Michael Thompson, Front of House Manager

Robin Karlstedt, House Manager

Rachel Singleton, Bar & Hospitality Manager

Vanessa Bennett, Assistant Bar Manager

Raja Meadows, Bar Staff

Emily Wilson, Volunteer Coordinator

Teresa Lani, Hospitality Coordinator

Stephany Burns, Hospitality Coordinator


Debi Curtis, Accounting & HR Manager

Denise Sheehy, Accounting Assistant, Hospitality Coordinator


Sierra Lefebre, Executive Assistant

Nicole Klimek, Director of Development

Amy Taylor, Box Office & Membership Manager

Brenda Jendrusch, Box Office Attendant

Skye Molaro, Box Office Attendant

Katie Austin, Box Office Attendant

Hannah Mosby, Gallery Attendant

Taylor Person, Box Office Attendant

Meet Our Staff

[img] The Center for the Arts - Executive Director, Amber Jo Manuel

Amber Jo Manuel

Executive Director

Amber Jo Manuel
(530) 274-8384 ext 206

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.

Debi Curtis

Accounting & HR Manager

Debi Curtis
(530) 274-8384 ext 203

Debi joined the Center in March 2016 after packing up her life and moving to Grass Valley from the Sacramento area.
She has over 25 years of Accounting and HR experience, including 12 years with various non-profits (WEAVE and Folsom Cordova Community Partnership). Debi enjoys working for non-profit organizations which allow her to use her business skills while still making a difference in her community. This is her first experience with performing and visual arts; so far she is loving attending the shows and expanding her music knowledge.
In her spare time she loves gardening (learning how to grow tomatoes in the foothills proved to be a challenge), knitting and crocheting, baking, being Nana to her seven grandchildren (three of whom live in Grass Valley) and exploring her new home town.

Mark Gingery

Facilities Director

Mark Gingery
(530) 274-8384 ext 207

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”. 

Brynn Farwell

Programs Manager

Brynn Farwell
(530) 274-8384 ext 208

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.

Eli Bacon

Marketing Manager

Eli Bacon
(530) 274-8384 ext 205

Eli grew up splitting time between Northern California and Central Oregon. Several generations of Eli’s family have lived in Nevada and Placer County so this is a homecoming of sorts. 

Eli earned an undergraduate degree in business from University of Denver in Denver, CO before moving back to Northern California to begin a career in marketing and development. Soon after Eli pursued a masters degree in marketing from University of San Francisco. After spending over 10 years managing fundraising and marketing teams for public and private non-profit organizations, Eli recently accepted the Marketing Manager position with The Center for the Arts.

Conrad Sisk

Technical Director

Conrad Sisk

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.

The Center for the Arts Front of House Manager, Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson

Front of House Manager

Michael Thompson

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.

Box Office

Box Office
(530) 274-8384 ext 209

Athena Aronow

Education & Outreach Coordinator

Athena Aronow

Athena is a Nevada County native, whose love of arts and art culture began at an early age. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A in Cultural Anthropology, and a minor in Photography and Social Documentation. She worked for many years in education in the Anthropology Dept. as an academic advisor for undergraduate students, and then as a Graduate Advisor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her passion for Photography led her into a successful career as a wedding photographer and a mentor to aspiring photographers. She has worked with students at all college levels, and continues to offer mentorship in Nevada County. As a natural progression of her immersion in the artistic world, she has now stepped into a role at the Center for the Arts as the Education & Outreach Coordinator. 

Lori Tierney

Production Manager

Rachel Singleton

Bar Manager

Emily Wilson

Volunteer Coordinator

Board Of Directors

The Center for the Arts Board Member, Tyson Tucker

Tyson Tucker


Tyson Tucker

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 (, 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.

Lisa Swarthout

Vice President

Lisa Swarthout

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. 

John Lamb


John Lamb

John Lamb is a San Francisco native who moved to Grass Valley three years ago and currently operates Lamb’s Victorian Inn with his wife Janet. His background encompasses a broad spectrum of experiences including work as a Human Resources professional at AvantGo, Responsys and Oracle in the Bay Area. His years of experience in the health insurance industry and as a residential General Contractor round out a career profile that will bring a unique perspective to CFTA.

“Jeff Bridges told us that Grass Valley was in ‘the sweet spot’ of the foothills and I couldn’t agree more. The Center for the Arts is a beacon of light and serves the community at its core. I am excited to become part of this dynamic and successful organization.”

John currently holds the position of Board Secretary.

Martin Polt


Martin Polt

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.

Rick Bergquist

Rick Bergquist

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. 

Walt Bringman

Walt Bringman

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.

[img] The Center for the Arts Board President, Betsy Swann Brown

Betsy Swann Brown

Betsy Swann Brown

Betsy Swann Brown is a medical device executive with a degree in Engineering Physics and a 28-year career to date. She has held a variety of technical and senior management roles in manufacturing, research & development, marketing, business strategy, and intellectual property. To conclude a rewarding 17-year stint at medical device innovator Conceptus Inc., she worked with the senior leadership team to negotiate the recent sale of the company to Bayer Healthcare for $1.1 billion. As a result of her work at Conceptus, she is an inventor on at least 17 issued US patents and numerous corresponding OUS patents.

She has been a resident of Grass Valley for 10 years and supports numerous local nonprofits, enthusiastically patronizes local businesses, and enjoys attending many of the wonderful events in our area. She has served as President of the GVCS Foundation through the 2013 school year and developed four major highly successful annual fundraisers.

Betsy served as President of the Board of Directors for eight years and continues to Chair the Audience Development Committee. 

The Center for the Arts Board Member, Huck Ingram

Huck Ingram

Huck Ingram

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.

Olivia Pritchett

Olivia Pritchett

Our newest board member.

The Center for the Arts Board Member, Jim Pyle

Jim Pyle

Jim Pyle