The National Leaders of Color Fellowships (LoCF) is a transformative leadership development experience curated by WESTAF in order to establish multicultural leadership in the creative and cultural sector. By partnering with the other United States Regional Arts Organizations (USRAOs) the program has expanded nationwide and its mission has become a national endeavor.

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 branch has a closely shaven head and goatee and a medium-dark skin tone. He wears a white collared shirt, grey patterned tie, and dark vest.

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Image: Norman Branch.

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 has long dark dreadlocks and a medium-dark skin tone. She wears a black and white blouse, a pearl necklace, and pearl earrings.

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Image: Triza Cox.

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 shot in black and white. She has dark curly hair pulled up on her head and dark framed glasses. She wears a patterned blouse.

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Image: Rebecca Evans.

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 Gomez is a woman with a medium-light skin tone and shoulder length curly brown hair. She wears a black blouse covered in bright flowers and long earrings.

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Image: Abigail Gomez.

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 a woman with a medium-light skin tone, dark hair pulled up, and wire rimmed glasses. She wears a white top and grey plaid blazer.

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Image: Kelly Jung.

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

Pablo de Oliveira has curly dark brown hair and a medium-light skin tone. He wears a dark suit, plum shirt, and plum patterned tie.

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Image: Pablo Regis de Oliveira.

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 Hernández Romero has shoulder length dark curly hair and a medium-dark skin tone. She wears bright yellow glasses and a magenta top.

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Image: Marissel Hernández Romero.

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 has shoulder length dark finger coiled hair and a medium-light skin tone. She wears a brightly patterned halter top and hoop earrings. Her head is tilted back over her shoulder and she is shot from the left side.

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Image: Molly Rufus.

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 has greying dreadlocks pinned in loops and a medium skin tone. She wears a grey and white polka dot top.

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Image: Theda Sandiford.

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 Z. has a closely shaven head and medium -dark skin tone. They wear a brightly patterned banded collar shirt.

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Image: Maya Simone Z.

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 


Fellow Spotlight

Annie Y. Saldaña Leads the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico’s (MAPR) Creative Community Development Center Initiative 

*Desplácese hacia abajo para ver la versión en español.

By Mackenzie Kwok 

This month, the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) announced the Creative Community Development Center (CEDE) initiative. Led by 2023 Leaders of Color Fellow, Annie Y. Saldaña, CEDE offers professional training, artist-in-residence programs, and mentoring services to support Puerto Rico’s creative communities.  

We spoke with Saldaña about her work and the CEDE initiative.  

Can you tell me a little bit about the background of the creative Community Development Center and it’s creation? 

In 2006, the museum designed a program that was called the Artist Assistance Program. For many years, it served as a unique department that supported visual artists through capacity building and opportunities to make their work visible. This department has been on hiatus for the past few years.  

When the museum’s new director, Maria C. Gaztambide, arrived in April, she sat down and met with everybody that worked at the museum. She saw that I worked as the Education Coordinator for different proposals and projects, and supported artists outside of the museum through exhibition making, or writing about artists’ work. She asked if I wanted to reactivate this Artist Assistance Program and redesign it. Instead of only supporting visual artists through capacity building, we wanted to support art administrators, freelance curators, educators, and everybody that is a part of the creative ecosystem.   

María C. Gaztambide and Annie Y. Saldaña are photographed on a building balcony.

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Image: María C. Gaztambide and Annie Y. Saldaña. Credit: Courtesy Annie Y. Saldaña.

Why was this important to you? 

As both an artist and arts administrator, I have seen the need for this service in Puerto Rico. I have had to leave the island to pursue professional development or capacity building opportunities. I’ve seen artists and colleagues travel outside Puerto Rico to do different kinds of workshops and attend professional development seminars. There’s a need for this locally, not everybody can afford to take a flight abroad and spend a week there to take courses to develop their careers. While we have some of these resources on the island, there are not many and they are not always consistent or ongoing.  

Based on community feedback, we also learned that many of these professional development opportunities were mostly offered in the metro area of San Juan. One of the main goals I have is to collaborate with other arts organizations and cultural centers throughout the island to expand this programming across all of Puerto Rico. Even though the pandemic made international programming more accessible, most of them are in English, so we also see the need to offer these programs in our native language, for accessibility and equal opportunities on the island.  

What level of artists are you hoping to reach?  

The museum has an education department that focuses on K-12, families and general public programming. My department hopes to expand its reach and impact creatives starting from fourth year university arts students, to emerging artists and all the way to long-term, established creatives. My ideal audience would also include art historians, curators, exhibition designers, and everyone else that may belong in this creative ecosystem, particularly underrepresented artists from rural areas, Black and queer artists, and artists in the diaspora.  

I’m very interested in intergenerational relationships through mentoring programs as ways to exchange knowledge and create legacies for established artists. I don’t see it as older artists only teaching the young ones, I hope young artists can also support older artists in a mutual exchange of knowledge.  

How do you define the creative industry? 

The creative industry is a whole ecosystem, with the artist in the middle, plus every single person that works with the artist at some point—those who support these artists like gallery curators, educators, historians, and exhibition designers—everybody that has some kind of creative input.  

Did the Leaders of Color Fellowship have anything to do with you leading this role or initiative? 

The Leaders of Color Fellowship definitely had some influence in letting museum director see the capabilities I had. Being in the LOCF program allowed me to recognize who I am and what I bring to the table. It helped me realize that, yes, I am capable of being a leader.  

Being in these conversations with other Fellows gave me the courage to be a presenter in the Art Administrators of Network Convening in Chicago this past November 2023. That experience, along with the NALAC Leadership Institute that I was a part of in 2019, motivated me to present at another convention happening here in Puerto Rico, the Association of Arts Administration Educators.  

How do you envision your role as a leader in the Creative Community Development Center?

For me, the most important thing is that artists feel seen, recognized, and heard. I see my role as a resource, if an artist is stuck, or needs a bit of guidance or push in breaking down imposter syndrome. I want to be accessible to artists, approach them with care and empathy, and serve as a liaison between the artist and my department.  

Annie Y. Saldaña is ohotographed outside on a wooden bridge with bamboo in the background.

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Image: Annie Y. Saldaña, Credit: Courtesy Annie Y. Saldaña.

To learn more about Annie Y. Saldaña and her work with the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) and the Creative Community Development Center, visit: or follow her at: @annieysaldana Annie Y. Saldaña M.F.A. (@annieysaldana) • Instagram 


Annie Y. Saldaña dirige la iniciativa Centro de Desarrollo para la Comunidad Creativa del Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) 

Por Mackenzie Kwok 

Este mes, el Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) anunció la iniciativa del Centro de Desarrollo para la Comunidad Creativa (CEDE). Dirigido por Annie Y. Saldaña, becaria de Leaders of Color 2023, CEDE ofrece formación profesional, programas de residencia para artistas y servicios de tutoría para apoyar a las comunidades creativas de Puerto Rico.  

Hablamos con Saldaña sobre su trabajo y la iniciativa CEDE.  

¿Puede contarnos un poco sobre los antecedentes del Centro de Desarrollo para la Comunidad Creativa y de su creación? 

En 2006, el museo diseñó un programa llamado Programa de Asistencia al Artista. Durante muchos años, funcionó como un departamento único que apoyaba a los artistas visuales mediante el desarrollo de capacidades y la creación de oportunidades para visibilizar su trabajo. Este departamento ha estado paralizado durante los últimos años.  

Cuando en abril llegó María C. Gaztambide, la nueva directora del museo, se reunió con todas las personas que trabajaban en el museo. Ella vio que yo trabajaba como coordinadora de educación para diferentes propuestas y proyectos, y que apoyaba a artistas fuera del museo coordinando exposiciones o escribiendo sobre las obras de los artistas. Me preguntó si quería reactivar el Programa de Asistencia al Artista y rediseñarlo. En lugar de apoyar únicamente a los artistas visuales mediante el desarrollo de capacidades, queríamos apoyar a los administradores de arte, curadores independientes, educadores y a todos los que forman parte del ecosistema creativo.  

María C. Gaztambide and Annie Y. Saldaña are photographed on a building balcony.

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Image: María C. Gaztambide and Annie Y. Saldaña. Credit: Courtesy Annie Y. Saldaña.

¿Por qué fue importante para usted? 

Como artista y administradora de las artes, he visto la necesidad de este servicio en Puerto Rico. Tuve que abandonar la isla para aprovechar oportunidades de desarrollo profesional y capacitación. He visto a artistas y colegas irse de Puerto Rico para realizar distintos tipos de talleres y asistir a seminarios de desarrollo profesional. Este es un servicio que debe ofrecerse dentro del país, no todo el mundo puede permitirse tomar un vuelo al extranjero y pasar allí una semana para hacer cursos que le permitan desarrollar su carrera. Aunque tenemos algunos de estos recursos en la isla, no son muchos y no siempre son constantes o continuos.  

Tras analizar los comentarios de la comunidad, también descubrimos que muchas de estas oportunidades de desarrollo profesional se ofrecían principalmente en el área metropolitana de San Juan. Uno de mis principales objetivos es colaborar con otras organizaciones artísticas y centros culturales de toda la isla para ampliar esta programación a todo Puerto Rico. Aunque la pandemia hizo más accesibles los programas internacionales, la mayoría están en inglés, por lo que también vemos la necesidad de ofrecer estos programas en nuestra lengua materna a fin de brindar accesibilidad e igualdad de oportunidades en la isla.  

¿A qué nivel de artistas apunta?  

El museo cuenta con un departamento de educación centrado en programas para niños de primaria a secundaria, familias y público en general. Mi departamento busca ampliar su presencia e influir en los creadores, desde los estudiantes universitarios de arte de cuarto año hasta los artistas emergentes, pasando por los creadores ya consolidados. Mi público ideal incluiría también a historiadores del arte, curadores, diseñadores de exposiciones y todos aquellos que puedan pertenecer a este ecosistema creativo, en particular, artistas con escasa representación de zonas rurales, artistas negros y queer, y artistas de la diáspora. 

Me interesan mucho las relaciones intergeneracionales a través de programas de tutoría como una forma de intercambiar conocimientos y crear legados para los artistas reconocidos. No creo que los artistas mayores solo deban enseñar a los jóvenes, espero que los artistas jóvenes también puedan apoyar a los mayores en un intercambio mutuo de conocimientos.  

¿Cómo define la industria creativa? 

La industria creativa es un ecosistema completo, con el artista en el centro, más todas las personas que trabajan con artistas en algún momento —es decir, quienes los apoyan, como curadores de galerías, educadores, historiadores y diseñadores de exposiciones— todos los que tienen algún tipo de aporte creativo.  

¿Tuvo algo que ver la beca Leaders of Color Fellowship con que usted dirigiera esta función o iniciativa? 

Sin duda, la beca Leaders of Color Fellowship influyó para que la directora del museo viera las capacidades que yo tenía. Estar en el programa LOCF me permitió reconocer quién soy y qué puedo aportar. Me ayudó a darme cuenta de que, sí, soy capaz de ser líder.  

Estar en contacto con otros becarios me dio el valor para ser un presentadora del Art Administrators of Network Convening en Chicago en noviembre de 2023. Esa experiencia, junto con la del Instituto de Liderazgo de NALAC del que fui parte en 2019, me motivó a presentar otra convención que se está llevando a cabo aquí en Puerto Rico, la Asociación de Educadores en Administración de las Artes.  

¿Cómo imagina su puesto como líder del Centro de Desarrollo para la Comunidad Creativa?

Para mí, lo más importante es que los artistas se sientan visibilizados, reconocidos y escuchados. Veo mi puesto como un recurso para los artistas que estén bloqueados o para quienes necesiten algo de orientación o empuje para deshacerse del síndrome del impostor. Quiero estar a disposición de los artistas, acercarme a ellos con cariño y empatía, y servir de enlace entre el artista y mi departamento.  

Annie Y. Saldaña is ohotographed outside on a wooden bridge with bamboo in the background.

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Image: Annie Y. Saldaña, Credit: Courtesy Annie Y. Saldaña.

Para conocer más acerca de Annie Y. Saldaña y su trabajo con el Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) y el Centro de Desarrollo para la Comunidad Creativa, visite: o sígala en sus redes sociales: @annieysaldana Annie Y. Saldaña M.F.A. (@annieysaldana) • Instagram 

Opportunity & Support Type
Target Candidate
Open to all
Regional Requirement
All U.S. States and Territories
Questions or need guidance?
Sarah Theune
Program Associate. Performing Arts and Creativity in Community
Funding support provided by:
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