The Fellowship takes place completely online from late fall through early summer. During this no-cost eight-month fellowship, selected fellows receive access to specialists in the field, strategic learning objectives determined to deepen thought on anti-racist and culturally-oriented leadership practices, and national-level network and cohort building. Upon completion of this program, participants transition to alumni status and have opportunities to collaborate with the USRAO in their region as advisors, funding panelists, and/or other professional capacities.
2023-2024 Mid Atlantic Fellows
The 2023-2024 cohort of the National Leaders of Color Fellowship (LoCF) program represents 54 leaders from across the United States. The cohort will participate in a strategic leadership development program for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leaders committed to the advancement of cultural equity in the arts that emphasizes policy and data in the arts, leadership, culture of care, and strategic foresight through an advocacy lens.
We invite you to meet the ten 2023-2024 Fellows from the Mid Atlantic Arts region.
Norman Branch, West Virginia
Norman A. Branch is a Huntington, West Virginia native. He is the third child and son of the late Norman H. Branch and Lanita C. Hatcher. Norman is a 1995 graduate of Huntington High School and a 2009 graduate of Marshall University with a Regents bachelor of art degree and double minor in marketing and social work. Norman is a former multicultural scholarship award winner and Marshall University Thundering Herd Football player. He lived in Nashville, TN from 1998 to 2001, where he continued his education and worked with community organizations including; being a member of the AmeriCorps Nashville HealthCorps where he worked with families and communities in education and health, as well as working at the Bethlehem Centers of Nashville as a teacher/counselor and mentoring youth. Branch is the CEO of Positive People Association, a community development organization that promotes education, health and wellness to at-risk youth and young adults, through interactive multimedia and theater arts. He has produced, directed, and performed stage plays in West Virginia, Ohio, and Georgia. Norman operates a podcast with his wife called The Biz with NormBeezy and Lady Tiger.
Triza Cox, New Jersey
Triza Cox is a producer, director, playwright, screenwriter, and actress who is currently director of outreach and engagement for Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre and Artistic Director of The Drama Lady Theatre Group. She has worked as associate artistic director of Theatre for Change at Imagination Stage and was the recipient of the 2022 South Carolina Art Commission Screenwriting Fellowship. She serves as an ambassador for the Dramatists Guild, is an associate member of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers, and is an Actors’ Equity Association member. Her research and creative work center on playmaking using Jungian archetypes, motifs, and symbols of the collective unconscious. Much of Cox’s work has been producing and directing professional tours of classic plays to Title I Schools and other efforts to democratize arts access. Triza holds a master’s in Theatre Performance from the University of Louisville and has trained with Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre and the Mandala Center for Change as a Theatre of the Oppressed Facilitator. Directing credits include Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Miss Julie, The Stone Host, and more. Her original plays include A Last Supper, Meritocracy, Melodies in E, God in the Midst of it All, and Lil’ Bard.
Rebecca Evans, Delaware
Rebecca Evans is a Rehoboth Beach-based integrated communications director, social justice artist & activist, unconscious bias consultant and life coach, writer, and co-founder and co-owner of Diamond State of Mind, LLC. Evans also identifies as a proud parent, Black, queer-lesbian, multiethnic, multicultural, disABLED woman, who can be referred to as she/her/they. Evans promotes social and cultural equality, inclusion, diversity, and justice through all forms of artistic expression. She seeks to connect with underrepresented and isolated communities to locate artists, and provide an exhibition space, artistic supplies, and other resources to display an artists’ work, and further their professional and academic goals. Evans obtained her bachelor’s degree in English and Women Studies from Tufts University, and her master’s degree in Corporate Public Relations from Boston University. She has over a decade of experience in integrated communications and working and volunteering within the artistic community. She has written for nonprofits, directed, and acted in plays in Central Jersey, and performed in New York City and Boston before moving to Delaware with her family and three seizure-alert service dogs. Through Diamond State of Mind, Evans, along with her wife, Natalia, will provide unconscious bias training, consultancy, and coaching to individuals and organizations based upon their unique integration of the arts and communications strategies.
Abigail Gómez, Virginia
Abigail Gómez is a Latine visual artist, teaching artist, arts advocate, nonprofit founder, and the owner and artist at Pretty Girl Painting, LLC. She earned a bachelor’s of fine arts from Virginia Tech in 2007. She studied at Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy in 2003. In December 2015, she was awarded a master’s in painting from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. Gómez teaches art in the community through Pretty Girl Painting, Fremont Street Nursery, and Arte Libre VA. She is also a professor of art and design at Shenandoah University. At SU, she is developing a bachelor of arts program in art and design within an equity framework. She is also a COIL Fellow, Shenandoah Conversations Fellow, recipient of the 22/23 Faculty Development Grant, and leads study abroad trips for students to countries in Latin America. Recently, Gómez founded Arte Libre VA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization that empowers Latinx/e, Black, and Youth of Color through equitable access to quality arts education and programming. At Arte Libre VA, she serves as the executive director and chief visionary, Maestra Principal. She facilitates and runs the visual arts-based programming offered tuition-free. She manages paid internships for Youth of the Global Majority, as well as the management and training of teaching artists and assistant teaching artists, all of whom are paid. Through Arte Libre VA, Gómez has managed and facilitated over 30 collaborative and participatory public art projects and murals in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.
Kelly (Hyun Jin) Jung , Pennsylvania
Kelly Jung is the assistant director for Haverford College’s John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities. Her work focuses on building inclusive communities in higher education settings by advocating for the arts and supporting students. As a first generation Korean immigrant, creating a sense of belonging is at the core of her work. In her current role, she is focused on bridging the gap between the institution, community partners, alumni network and students by launching new programs such as the Philadelphia artist-in-residency, Arts and Culture Mentorship, VCAM club-in-residence program and more. Previously, Jung worked as a middle school English teacher, and still continues her passion in teaching by volunteering at organizations such as the Welcoming Center and the Asian Arts Initiative.
Pablo Regis de Oliveira , Maryland
Born and raised between Los Angeles and Brasília, Brazil, Oliveira is a recognized musician and arts administrator, championing equity in the arts. He is an active member of the Brazilian cultural arts community in the greater Washington, D.C. region, performing on the cavaco on local stages and presenting concerts of touring Brazilian artists. He has served as a community-based arts administrator at Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He serves as education and community manager at Strathmore, where he furthers access to the arts through the Strathmore Bloom and Education programs. Pablo co-founded and is executive director of the Maryland-based nonprofit EducArte, a Brazilian performing arts presenter and arts education organization-based nonprofit EducArte, a Brazilian performing arts presenter and arts education organization.
Marissel Hernández Romero , Puerto Rico
Marissel holds a doctorate in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies from The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a Black Puerto Rican Independent Scholar and Afrofeminist currently serving as a senior program associate at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). Romero is one of the recipients of the prestigious 2022 Soros Equality Fellowship for her project Saberes Afrorriqueños, a digital project that seeks to advance racial equity through art and culture She is also the founder and coordinator of the projects De coco y anís, Proyecto Cortijo. Romero has presented her work in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and the United States. She also relates to a general audience through op-eds published in the newspapers Claridad, Revista Marea, Afroféminas y Afrocubanas, and La Revista, addressing issues of racism and anti-racism and Blackness in Puerto Rico. Among her passion for music, food, Brazilian literature, and sci-fi, is her activism to eradicate racism by dismantling the established narrative.
Molly Rufus, Washington, DC
Molly Rufus is a Washington, D.C.-based arts administrator, creative, and culture worker. Her work focuses on creating spaces for diverse and expansive art projects. Molly is currently working at CulturalDC as their programs and exhibitions coordinator, where she focuses on public art and mobile art installations in the district. Her time is also spent coordinating artistic programming at EatonDC and as the DC Programs Manager and Chapter Co-Founder of Black Girls in Art Spaces. Previously, she worked as a program analytics intern at the City of Alexandria to diversify their public programming before moving to coordinate operations for John F. Kennedy Center’s Washington National Opera.
Theda Sandiford , U.S. Virgin Islands
Theda Sandiford is an award winning self-taught fiber and installation artist hailing from St. Croix, USVI. Drawing inspiration from the profound impact of racial trauma, Sandiford melds various fibers with an array of found materials through the art of free form weaving, coiling, knotting, and jewelry-making techniques. Her meticulously gathered materials, combined with community contributions, serve as a testament to collective memory, transforming into “social fabric.” This intertwines contemporary issues and personal narratives, fostering a rich tapestry of interconnected stories. At the core of Sandiford’s creative process lies community art-making. She orchestrates multi-disciplinary experiences that unite individuals, sound, and artistry to cultivate a sanctuary for exploring themes of equity and inclusion, sustainability, and personal well-being. Theda’s artistic footprint extends globally, in venues such as World of Threads, Expo Chicago, Untitled Art Fair, SPRING/BREAK ART SHOW, Governor’s Island NYC, New Jersey Arts Annual, and American Contemporary Craft: National Juried Exhibition. Her work has received acclaim in Excellence in Fibers VI and Fiber VIII from Fiber Art Now, earning her the 2020 Jersey City Arts Visual Artist Award, the 2021 Fellowship in Craft from the NJ State Council on the Arts, and the 2022 Jersey City Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship.
Maya Simone Z, New York
Maya Simone was born and raised in the suburbs of Georgia, and has lived and worked in NYC for over five years as an artist, performer, advocate and arts administrator. They have enjoyed working with Sydnie L. Mosley, Jasmine Hearn, Lisa Fagan, Cinthia Chen, and others. They have had the pleasure of working as an arts administrator and freelancer with NY-based artists including André Zachery (Renegade Performance Group), Edisa Weeks (DELIRIOUS Dances), zavé martohardjono, Nia Witherspoon and more. They are a practicing artist, producer, and collaborator that enjoys working closely with BIPOC artists in creative and producing capacities. Learn more about their work and follow their journey at www.mayasimonez.com.