Maria Jenson's career reflects a combination of her interests in arts and civic engagement as well as a passion for supporting strong creative communities.
She relocated to the Bay Area from Los Angeles in 2009 to participate in the special kind of community building engendered by this unique region. Believing that the Bay Area radiates significant change into the global culture, and that arts are central to a strong and thriving community, Maria is proud to serve the Bay Area arts community in her role as Executive Director of SOMArts Cultural Center.
As Executive Director, Maria manages fundraising and grant making activities, supports new and experimental performances and programs, and collaborates on external partnerships and special initiatives. Prior to joining SOMArts, Maria was a key member of the External Relations team in the Marketing and Communications Division managing the transition, rebranding and reopening of SFMOMA during the museum’s $300 million expansion. At SFMOMA, she worked across all departments as a lead project manager on marketing and engagement initiatives and she launched innovative community partnerships as the museum’s Cultural and Civic Ambassador. Maria produced the museum's Economic and Cultural Impact study in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group.
Maria was the Founding Director of ArtPadSF — an independent art fair launched in 2010 in partnership with Chip Conley, a top Bay Area business leader and noted author. ArtPadSF transformed the Phoenix Hotel into an immersive and interactive platform to engage Bay Area artists, gallerists and art lovers, and enjoyed a successful three-year run.
Prior to ArtPadSF, Maria launched and managed Salon Oblique in Venice, CA, a boutique art salon/gallery, and has written and directed theater in Los Angeles and spent years in dance, theater and film. Consequently, she sees community building as a “theater” of civic activity: a place where the various participants – artists, business people, academics, critics and the public – can perform meaningfully in the dance of culture.
Maria has received critical notice for her work in the arts. She was the recipient of the 2017 San Francisco Arts Institute Disruptor Award in recognition of her leadership to advance equity in the arts. She is on Culture Type’s list of “Curators and Cultural Leaders to Watch in 2016”, and she received an award for her service on the Yerba Buena Business Cultural District’s board. Maria is active with Arts for a Better Bay Area (ABBA) an advocacy coalition where she works with colleagues at other arts organizations in the region on education, advocacy and inclusion issues as they relate to arts, economic and community-building endeavors.
Maria regularly serves as a guest speaker and panelist.
- Dominic Cheng, Special Events Coordinator: As a San Francisco based artist, curator and event planner, Dominic creates meaningful experiences and connections between people and places.
- Danja Critchell, Receptionist
- Jena McRae Schwirtz, Director of Administrative Operations: Embody-er of dichotomies: task master & artist, hip-hop & folk lover, scholar & rebel. Jena supports the SOMArts team with her love of art and type A tendencies.
- Sarah Pritchard, Director of Communications & Strategy: Dancer, organizer and communications nerd, Sarah has designed everything from violence prevention curricula to avant-garde performances.
- La Vette Virden, Financial Manager: Mother, daughter, sister, auntie, cheerleader, and bookkeeper, La Vette is a native of San Francisco who has worked for non-profits across the city. When not working, La Vette enjoys singing and hitting the flea markets to maintain her honorary title of resident SOMArts fashionista.
Creative Programs Staff
- Carolina Quintanilla, Curatorial Partnerships Manager: When she's not working at SOMArts, Carolina is an Ethnic Studies student at SFSU. She enjoys crochet, doodling and spending time with her plants.
- Dara Katrina Del Rosario, Curatorial Partnerships Associate: As a curator and educator, Dara works with community members to create a more equitable arts sector.
- Matthew McKinley, Gallery Exhibitions Designer & Technical Coordinator
- René Yañez, Director of Special Projects & Building Manager: Bay Area legend, culture-bearer, and co-founder of the Chicano arts movement, René is the curator of SOMArts' annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition. He also tends to SOMArts' beautiful garden oasis under the 101 freeway.
SOMArts Board of Directors
- Sherry Suisman, Board President: Sherry Suisman has served on the SOMArts Board of Directors since August 2010. An educator for over 15 years, Sherry has provided professional development and other support to community college faculty across the state, and served as a Business Communications Instructor and Director of Academics at Year Up Bay Area. From 1999 – 2009, Sherry taught writing and reading courses in the English Department at San Francisco State. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from Washington University and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State. Sherry is committed to supporting the arts in the Bay Area and is thrilled to be a member of the SOMArts Board.
- Iris Fluellen, Vice President & Secretary: Iris Fluellen is a Bay Area native and San Francisco resident whose claim to fame is she has lived in the 415 area code her entire life. She has been involved in the non-profit arena for many years. Previous employers include the SF Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Asian Art Museum, the Nature Conservancy, her alma mater, UC Berkeley, the Public Policy Institute of California and is now Director of Leadership Gifts for the San Francisco Parks Alliance. Iris is a board member of the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In addition to her commitment to philanthropy, she is a strong believer in the arts being the catalyst to touch the creative spirit that lies within all of us. In her spare time, Iris writes about her observations about politics and relationships between the sexes. Movies, reading, cooking and traveling are almost as important to her as her two cats, Carrie and Samantha.
- Peter Sizgoric, Treasurer: Peter Sizgoric is a transplant to the city of San Francisco and originally from the Midwest. Mr. Sizgoric has professional experience in consulting and financial services across a diverse array of industries, and nonprofit experience as both a volunteer and board member for arts organizations. Mr. Sizgoric possesses two bachelor of science degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master of business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
- Alex Cook, Board of Directors: Alex has served on the SOMArts Board of Directors since August 2016 and is currently a Senior Product Manager at @WalmartLabs in Silicon Valley. Prior to @WalmartLabs, Alex implemented several business transformation projects at Gap Inc., moving to San Francisco from New York City and Ralph Lauren Corporation, where he drove digital and ecommerce initiatives as part of the Global Ecommerce Strategic Development team. Before Ralph Lauren, Alex was an investment banker at BofA Merrill Lynch where he advised clients in the Retail & Consumer Products industries. Alex brings with him nonprofit board experience from several environmental, arts and LGBT-focused organizations and believes strongly in the enrichment and development of the arts. Alex graduated from Dartmouth College and outside of work enjoys the art, food and social scenes of San Francisco.
- Jane Hu, Board of Directors: Jane is a digital media executive and freelance photographer. She is currently the VP of Monetization at Smule, a social music company. Prior to this, she spent 5 years at YouTube, building and heading up business and creative operations for YouTube Red Originals, as well as overseeing programs for YouTube’s global base of content creators. Prior to this, she started a digital studio with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. She sits on the boards of SOMArts and Art Works for Change. Outside of her 9-to-5, she photographs cities, performers, and movements with work appearing in local and national publications. She has an MBA, MA, and BS from Stanford University.