Emerging Leaders of Color

Program Goals

Since 2010, WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program has promoted diverse, representative leadership and equity in the arts by:

  • Building a cohort of cultural leaders of color in the western United States (and now the southern region, in partnership with South Arts) who are committed to the advancement of the arts;
  • Engaging a diverse group of emerging leaders in coursework and activities designed to strengthen competencies and prepare participants for leadership positions in the field;
  • Providing opportunities for promising arts professionals to establish networks that support their careers; 
  • Advocating for the cultural interests of the communities they represent and serve; and 
  • Deepening participants’ understanding of the arts in the United States and how public support sustains the vibrancy of the sector.  

Program Participants

Participants are selected by a review panel comprised of program staff, alumni, and seasoned leaders of color from the field and are considered on the following criteria:

  • Professionals who are generally under the age of 35.
  • Ten years or less of experience working in the arts.
  • Current resident of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming.
  • Self-identify as a person of color.
  • Arts administrator or significantly arts-interested community member, such as a volunteer, public official, and/or artist with a strong interest in issues of cultural policy and arts administration. (The program is not designed to serve individual artists.)
  • Individuals who have not previously had an opportunity to participate in high quality professional development sessions.

Program Impact

In 2019, WESTAF commissioned an independent evaluation of the ELC program to assess whether we were meeting our stated program goals effectively. The evaluation provided alumni with an opportunity to reflect on the experience and any influence it may have had on various aspects of their personal and professional lives. Key findings included:

  • The program is well regarded by alumni and others in the field.
  • The program achieves its goals to develop leaders of color committed to the arts.
  • There is strong communication among participants and with WESTAF.
  • The program influences both the personal and professional lives of participants.
  • As a result of the program, participants feel empowered and more capable of influencing the arts field.
  • A strong majority of participants believe that the program positively affects their understanding of and capability to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

View the full ELC application here.

Leaders of Color Network

In 2020, a Leaders of Color advisory committee of ELC alumni began holding regular conversations about the current needs of the network as well as ongoing collaboration with each other and WESTAF to further support their professional objectives.

Below is a listing of alumni of WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color Program by year. The state listed is where they resided at the time of participation. (In 2016 and 2019, WESTAF convened alumni and did not recruit new cohorts in those years.)


Elisa Radcliffe | Arizona

Antoine Girard | California

Laili Gohartaj | California

Nathalie Sánchez | California

Andre Carbonell | Colorado

Victoria Gonzalez | Colorado

Tara Gumapac | Hawai’i

Annette Luján | New Mexico

Jennifer Kleven | Nevada

Humberto Márquez Mendez | Oregon

Renato Olmedo-González | Utah

Moana Palelei HoChing | Utah

Rezina Habtemariam | Washington


Reyna Montoya | Arizona

Katherin Canton | California

Kai Monet | California

Mariana Moscoso | California

D’Anté McNeal | Colorado

Eric Chang | Hawai’i

Sandra Margarita Ward | Nevada

Andrew Akufo | New Mexico

Ashley Stull Meyers | Oregon

Cynthia Chen | Utah

Julz Ignacio | Washington

Hunter Old Elk | Wyoming

Leah Shlachter | Wyoming


Christy NaMee Eriksen | Alaska

Ashley Hare | Arizona

Lauren Benetua | California

Jessica Ceballos y Campbell | California

Janae De La Virgen | Colorado

Alexandria Jiminez | Colorado

Adrian Molina | Colorado

Mariko Chang | Hawaii

Emmanuel Eze | Idaho

Nicole Davis | New Mexico

Fawn Douglas | Nevada

Candace Kita | Oregon

Amir Jackson | Utah

Cheiko Phillips | Washington

Robert Martinez | Wyoming


Moriah Sallaffie | Alaska

Yvonne Montoya | Arizona

Luis Escareño | California

Nikiko Masumoto | California

Brandy Reitter | Colorado

Saniego Sanchez | Colorado

Lehua Simon | Hawaii

Leta Neustaedter | Idaho

Regina Still Smoking | Montana

Gabrielle Uballez | New Mexico

Ashanti McGee | Nevada

Marla Lepe | Utah

Brian Carter | Washington

Joshua Heim | Washington

Nurieh Glasgow | Wyoming


Rico Worl | Alaska

Myrlin Hepworth | Arizona

Cindy Im | California

Abe Flores | California

Danielle Brooks | Colorado

Madalena Salazar | Colorado

Estria Miyashiro | Hawaii

Jadira Gurule | New Mexico

Anastacio Del Real | Nevada

Robin Mullins | Oregon

Claudia Borjas | Utah

SuJ’n Chon | Washington


Abigail Enghirst | Alaska

Sarah Guerra | California

Maria Paredes | California

Sophia Fernandez Healy | Colorado

Trisha Lagaso Goldberg | Hawaii

Brooke Swaney | Montana

Wayne Burke | Nevada (deceased)

Bianca McCarthy | Oregon

Michelle Patrick | Utah

My Tam Nguyen | Washington


Christine Marasign | Alaska

J. Gibran Villalobos | Arizona

Monica Ximena Delgado | California

David Dadone | Colorado

Marques Hanalei Marzan | Hawaii

Bahija Sayed Qasim | Idaho

Dyani Bingham | Montana

Hakim Bellamy | New Mexico

Tony Walker | Nevada

Tonisha Toler | Oregon

Jesus Rios | Wyoming

ELC Program Expansion: South Arts Partnership

In July 2019, WESTAF established a new partnership with South Arts to launch the region’s inaugural Emerging Leaders of Color (ELC) program. WESTAF Manager of Social Equity and Inclusion Madalena Salazar and Director of Impact and Public Policy David Holland, along with faculty members Salvador Acevedo and Margie Johnson Reese, led South Arts in building their ELC program online with a Southern focus. Participants were selected from approximately 100 applicants, and invitations were sent to 12 individuals from Alabama (2), Georgia (1), Kentucky (2), Louisiana (1), Mississippi (1), North Carolina (2), South Carolina (2) and Tennessee (1) in October. Due to the pandemic, both WESTAF and South Arts have shifted the program to a virtual format. The virtual convening spanned three days—December 3, 4 and 9, 2020—and featured lectures and interactive and social elements. WESTAF is grateful to have this opportunity to expand the ELC program through our partnership with South Arts.