Christian Gaines joined WESTAF as its executive director in January 2019. A film, arts, and technology leader with experience in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, Gaines has held leadership positions at the Sundance Film Festival, the Hawai‘i International Film Festival, and the American Film Institute. For five years, he ran business development at Withoutabox, a film festival submissions platform acquired by IMDb, a division of Amazon. In 2013, Gaines became executive director of ArtPrize, a disruptive international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During this time, he served as a council member on the Michigan Arts and Cultural Council. He serves as vice chair of DisArt and on the board of directors of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Gaines is passionate about bringing opportunities to artists, creating joyful spaces, and inspiring teams to do their best work.
Cameron Green supports the executive director and the board of trustees and is the primary driver for the operationalization of WESTAF’s Strategic Plan and 10-Year Vision. Green has a background in arts administration, customer service, museums, and higher education, with over nine years of experience in these areas, including organizing the Western Spirit Juried Art Show and Sale and the Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Invitational Western Art Show and Sale. He has been an invited speaker for various cultural organizations throughout Wyoming and at academic conferences throughout North America. Green graduated with a master’s degree in history with a minor in gender and women’s studies from the University of Wyoming in 2018 and is a 2021 alumni of the WESTAF Emerging Leaders of Color program. In addition to his work with WESTAF, he serves as the statewide Wyoming history day coordinator.
Web Services for Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
Christina Villa guides all operational and strategic business initiatives to support the execution of WESTAF’s strategic plan and the short, medium, and long-term objectives of WESTAF’S five SaaS applications: CaFÉ, CVSuite, GO Smart, Public Art Archive, and ZAPP. Serving as part of WESTAF’s leadership resource team, Villa ensures the business department initiatives and projects complement the overall work of the organization and its guiding principles. Prior to joining WESTAF, she worked with the city of Aurora, Colorado’s Art in Public Places program, and the Colorado state arts agency, Colorado Creative Industries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a leadership development certificate from the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation.
Paul Barrow manages and facilitates the day-to-day processes and logistics for CaFÉ’s clients and internal teams. He handles client communication and support for the CaFÉ program while focusing on the system’s long-term strategic development. Originally from the UK, Barrow holds a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Leeds and has a background in writing and acting across a range of media and platforms. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, music, and movies and has a particular love for the theater.
Mareike Bergen oversees the ZAPP product operations team to ensure customer satisfaction and retention along with technological growth for the ZAPP site. Bergen holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a computer science minor from Bethel College and a background in customer service and event planning. Originally from Kansas, she relocated to Denver after graduating from college. Outside of work, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and cooking.
Timothy Carmichael provides customer support for ZAPP and handles the operations and logistics for additional ZAPP system services, including JuryBuddy™, ZAPP Onsite™, and ZAPP Next™. Carmichael pursued a bachelor’s degree focused on drawing and design at the University of Tennessee and has a background in business, technology, and the arts. Currently residing in Golden, Colorado, Carmichael was born and raised in Tennessee. Outside of work, he loves to hike, cook, draw, play and design video games, build computers, and play guitar.
Blair Carpenter supports the business, technology, and operations teams in growing the reach and scope of CaFÉ, CVSuite, GO Smart, Public Art Archive, and ZAPP. She is a CRM specialist, has a background in digital marketing, and is passionate about using her skills and experience to make art more accessible via intuitive, inclusive technology. Carpenter holds a bachelor’s degree in music and history from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in voice and opera from Georgia State University. She loves reading every book she can get her hands on and baking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Justine Chapel leads the creation of external communications, assists in the execution of social media marketing, and provides customer support for the CaFÉ team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Colorado Boulder and currently resides in Denver. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and picking up new craft projects.
Ken Cho handles the sales efforts for CaFÉ and ZAPP. He is responsible for all inbound and outside sales initiatives that promote WESTAF’s Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms while also coordinating with all related internal departments to create an exemplary customer service experience for all of the organization’s clients. Prior to joining WESTAF, Cho lived in Washington, D.C. and served as the senior local foods advocate for 4P Foods, a benefit corporation dedicated to helping small-scale organic farmers thrive in today’s food economy. Cho holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Elmhurst College. Outside of the office, he enjoys bicycle touring and fancy bike rides such as the Tweed Ride (where he met his wife Laine), and is fascinated by 3D printing.
Kelly Ernst joined WESTAF in 2019 as the business coordinator for CVSuite and GO Smart, aiding in visual design, client communications, and marketing. Ernst has a background in working with public and socially engaged art space and has held positions in marketing and design for organizations such as the Santa Fe Opera, Creative Time in New York City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver. She sits on the board for the Denver-based nonprofit Civic Canopy and contributes to the Colorado-based magazine Lifestyle, covering arts and culture. Ernst received her bachelor’s degree in art history and multicultural leadership at the University of Colorado Boulder and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in strategic design and management at Parsons School of Design in New York City where she is located.
Lori Goldstein is responsible for the PAA’s long-term planning, product development, and for overseeing the addition of public art collections to the Archive. Prior to joining WESTAF, she served as public art and program manager for the Arts Council of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Before working at the Arts Council, she served as a contractor for the Archive during its formative years. Goldstein has also served as the public art assistant at Braaksma Design, a public art studio with projects that have been commissioned across the country. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Colorado College and a master’s degree in art history with an emphasis on public art from the University of Colorado Boulder. Goldstein currently serves on the board of Public Art Dialogue and is the co-chair of the Information and Governance Committee of the newly formed ‘Ennials Alliance.
Sara Graydon leads and coordinates the creative execution of ZAPP’s marketing, branding, social media strategies, webinars, program blogs, paid single-show e-blasts, and other external communications. In addition, she provides technical support and assistance to both art festival administrators and artists. Graydon graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media communication from Colorado State University, where she worked for five different publications as a photojournalist and desk writer. Before joining WESTAF, Graydon worked as a marketing coordinator for a history museum where she utilized her expertise of multimedia communication campaigns and audience engagement to grow and foster the museum’s audience and membership. Outside of her work at WESTAF, Graydon is a professional photographer. In her free time, she can be found with her beloved canine companion in the mountains, exploring trails, and on the water.
Jessica Gronich manages the day-to-day business processes for GO Smart and collaborates on product development. Gronich also ensures that clients receive high-level support and advice regarding the design of their grant processes. Prior to joining WESTAF, Gronich spent the majority of her career working for nonprofit organizations in the areas of international relations, policy, and education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Texas at Austin.
Ayanna Hwang is one of WESTAF’s customer experience coordinators. In addition to providing customer support for the ZAPP and CaFÉ programs, she is currently seeking an advertising and media studies degree at the University of Colorado. She will then continue her education at the Denver School of Traditional Chinese Medicine to study holistic medicine. Prior to her position at WESTAF, Hwang worked in marketing for water conservation as well as for a nonprofit organization promoting cultural awareness. Outside of work she enjoys painting, going to festivals/concerts and photography.
Trevor McElhaney manages the enhancement and maintenance of the Creative Vitality™ Suite tool alongside data management and analysis for WESTAF. Prior to joining WESTAF, McElhaney worked with nonprofit organizations to identify racial disparities in mortgage lending, gaining a passion for using data to steer social change. With this passion, he now utilizes his skills to uplift the arts in his current role. McElhaney graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and during his time there, competed in and won multiple competitions in mathematical modeling. In his spare time, he enjoys rock climbing, running ultra marathons, and traveling.
Elicia Smith is the primary point of contact for returning ZAPP clients, providing support to ZAPP administrators in addition to assisting in the technical development and progression of the ZAPP platform. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) and has a background in sports, technology, professional development, and event management. Smith was born and raised in Virginia, but now resides in Denver. Outside of work, she likes to get exercise from strength training, hiking, skiing (on snow and water!), soccer, and tennis, and challenges herself creatively through experimenting with graphic design and comedy writing.
Raquel Vasquez oversees the administrative performance of CaFÉ (CallforEntry), working to ensure that the program’s effectiveness as a service aligns with WESTAF’s strategic plan and mission. In this capacity, she plays an active role in program operations and software improvement and works closely with the business and technical operations team on design, specifications, testing, deployment, and marketing to ensure end-user requirements and program success are a priority. Vasquez holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Denver.
Alison Verplaetse supports the operations of the Public Art Archive program through public art data management, collection management system client customer support, bug fix documentation, and system enhancements. Verplaetse began her career as an academic librarian and conservator of books and paper, during which time she held positions at Regis University, University of Colorado Boulder, and Harvard University. Her interests in conservation and art led her to a role at Silo Workshop, a Denver-based public art fabrication and conservation company, where she became a full-fledged sculpture fabricator and welder. She has traveled throughout the country to install works of public art. Prior to joining WESTAF, she served as the exhibit design & fabrication manager at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. Verplaetse holds master’s degrees in library science and art history from Indiana University Bloomington and a bachelor’s degree in studio art from University of Indianapolis.
Natalie Villa facilitates communication and technical processes among the internal technology team, program teams, and external development companies for CaFÉ, CVSuite, GO Smart, Public Art Archive, and ZAPP. She creates and manages project plans, coordinates technical releases, and aids in the development of new site features. Villa also supports the director of business by coordinating and managing the objective and key results, streamlining and improving operations, and developing training materials for staff across all five earned income products. In addition, Villa creates and produces many of WESTAF’s online help and promotional videos, including WESTAF’s National Endowment for the Arts 50th Anniversary promotional video. She has received awards for her personal film work as well, including Best Amateur Film and Audience Choice awards at the Ridgway Moonwalk Film Festival and Best Documentary Short Film at the Oklahoma Cine Latino Film Festival for her short film, With the Power of a Thousand Suns. Villa earned a bachelor’s degree in film and television from the University of Colorado Denver.
Raymond Wilson assists in providing customer support for the ZAPP and CaFÉ programs. Before joining WESTAF, Wilson worked on movie sets, in the classroom, and in informal education. He is currently pursuing a degree in biochemistry at Metropolitan State University of Denver. After graduation, Wilson intends to continue his academic studies in genetics. Outside of work, he enjoys playing music, walking his dog, fishing, and reading science fiction.
Alliances, Advocacy and Public Policy
David Holland joined WESTAF in 2019 as director of public policy to lead its advocacy and public policy programs and services and serve as the primary liaison with federal agencies, regional arts organizations, state and local arts agencies, and state arts advocacy groups. His role has evolved to also drive the impact of WESTAF’s leadership and professional development programming, grantmaking, and technical assistance and consulting services across teams as deputy director. He is leading a new Bay Area Arts Policy and Leadership Seminar and co-directing the development of the state of Washington’s Creative Economy Strategic Plan. Since joining WESTAF, he has also launched the Creative Vitality™ Summit; authored the Creative Economies and Economic Recovery report in partnership with NASAA; chaired the redesign of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Performing Arts Discovery program working with regional and national partners; established the Western Arts Advocacy Network; collaborated on developing new equity-focused relief and resilience grantmaking programs in the West and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; spearheaded WESTAF’s Arts and the Rural West gathering; reimagined its Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar; joined the faculty of the Emerging Leaders of Color program; and secured private and public investment for WESTAF’s programs. Holland previously served as associate director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston. Other prior roles include leadership and senior management positions with VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation, VCU School of the Arts, ART 180, the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Arts & Business, and the UK innovation foundation Nesta. Holland also served as a senior consultant with BOP Consulting and worked as campaigns officer for the UK’s National Campaign for the Arts. For more than 13 years, he has served as an independent management consultant and is currently on the faculty of the MA in Arts Administration program at Goucher College. He serves as a panelist and on steering committees for the National Endowment for the Arts, Colorado Creative Industries, and the Oregon Arts Commission. He is also co-chair of the Creative States Coalition and serves on the national Cultural Advocacy Group. He is a Salzburg Global Fellow, Evan Carroll Commager Fellow, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Holland holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and Asian studies from Amherst College and masters degrees in international studies and diplomacy and the history of art from the University of London, SOAS.
Cynthia Chen is a versatile arts and culture professional with diverse experiences in development, marketing, grant writing, and advocacy at local, state, and international levels. Trilingual in English, French, and Mandarin, Chen has helped with the production of cultural projects in the United States, France, China, and Taiwan. Chen contributed to revenue and international development for publicly managed cultural institutions such as the Centre Pompidou and Musée d’Orsay. Raised in the Salt Lake City area, Chen began her career working as a legislative fellow for the Utah Cultural Alliance and continued to engage actively in public policy issues as the development associate for the nationally-recognized youth media arts nonprofit, Spy Hop Productions, where she worked on a legislative appropriation at the Utah State Legislature for the construction of a new media arts education facility. Chen graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in music (with honors) from the University of Utah where she majored in flute performance and minored in political science. She holds a master’s degree in public policy with a specialization in cultural policy and management and the distinction of summa cum laude from Sciences Po Paris. Chen is also an alumna of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Public Policy and Leadership Conference and WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program.
Moana Palelei HoChing manages key public policy and advocacy programs, develops new initiatives, and provides counsel to WESTAF’s executive director and deputy director. HoChing contributes to research and policy communications and is spearheading WESTAF’s effort to engage Pacific jurisdictions in its work. She currently serves as indigenous curator at losteden.gallery and creative director of Pasifika First Fridays. HoChing is also the chair of the Zoo, Arts, and Park (ZAP) Program Tier 1 Board, where she assists in directing $14.3 million of Utah taxpayer dollars to 22 arts and cultural nonprofits, as well as three zoos throughout the Salt Lake Valley. She previously served as the assistant director of educational outreach of the Honoring Nations program at the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and is a multidisciplinary artist, technologist, and fierce advocate for Indigenous affairs, having consulted on projects in Kenya; Waikato, Aotearoa; New Orleans; New York; Las Vegas; Denver; and throughout Indian Country and has her own production company, Crazyhorse Productions. HoChing is a proud alumna of the National Pacific American Leadership Institute (NAPALI), Harvard University’s Administrative Fellowship Program (AFP), and WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program.
Social Responsibility and Inclusion
Anika Kwinana (she/her) serves as WESTAF’s director of social responsibility and inclusion. In this role, she informs and develops a range of equity-centered learning experiences and grants programs that work to build a more inclusive arts and culture sector. Previously, she was a manager of national education initiatives at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts where she ensured that arts professionals were equipped with relevant professional learning and support as they sought to provide equitable access to the arts among public school students. Anika has worked with a number of arts organizations as a music and arts director, stage manager, producer, gallery coordinator, and subscriptions sales associate. She also served as assistant director of national college fairs, programs and services for the National Association for College Admission Counseling where she piloted and scaled arts and STEM college and career fairs reaching over 20,000 attendees annually. Anika is chair of the Arlington County Commission for the Arts, a member of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Arts at Mason Board, and board member of the Arts Administrators of Color Network. An alum of artEquity’s inaugural BIPOC Leadership Circle, she worked with arts leaders from across the nation to develop social justice leadership models. Anika earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University and a master’s degree in arts management from George Mason University, where her capstone focused on the need for diversity in arts organization leadership. She also holds a master’s degree in public anthropology from American University and a postgraduate degree in management from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Jade Elyssa Cariaga manages the development of a national cohort of leaders of color and administers the equitable distribution of over three million dollars in the 13-state WESTAF region and Oceania. With a decade of experience in program direction, cultural anthropology, and arts policy, they work as an arts consultant for projects funded by California Office of the Small Business Advocate and Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. They are associated with the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies, American Educational Research Association, First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, and Californians for the Arts. Their work has been included in national policy reports by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Americans for the Arts, and commended on the municipal level by Supervisor Kuehl of Los Angeles County’s Third District. In addition to their work in the field, they serve as Appointed Member, UCLA Gender Recognition Act Governance Committee; Chair, Chancellor’s Committee on LGBTQ Affairs; and Board Co-Chair, UCLA Lambda (LGBTQ+) Alumni Association.
Ashanti McGee is an artist and arts advocate who has called Las Vegas, Nevada home for over 25 years. She began her arts administrative work assisting local grassroots and nonprofits with grant writing and management and continued working in this area for over a decade. In 2014, she was selected as the Nevada representative for WESTAF’s Emerging Leaders of Color program and has served as a panelist for WESTAF’s Arts Leadership and Advocacy Seminar. She most recently served as a district representative for Nevada Congresswoman Susie Lee, focusing on outreach for Black, Native American, and LGBTQ+ communities around arts and culture and environment and public lands. A proud mom of four, McGee has committed her work to arts and education, including updating arts education standards for the Nevada Department of Education; serving as a board member for Cultural Alliance of Nevada, a statewide arts advocacy organization; cofounding the Las Vegas Womxn of Color Arts Festival, and acting as a core member of NUWU Cultural Arts + Activism complex, a POC-owned and operated space in Las Vegas that works to uplift all communities by strengthening cultural knowledge and identity through the arts, activism, and education.
Marketing and Communications
Leah Horn provides leadership and strategic oversight of all of WESTAF’s communications and marketing activities. She oversees the organization’s public relations, branding, social media, and tech product marketing and develops and implements communication strategies for WESTAF’s advocacy and public policy programs, grantmaking, convenings, and equity-centered work. She also manages the planning and coordination of WESTAF’s conferences, meetings, and events. Prior to joining WESTAF, Horn managed a congressional campaign in Wisconsin. She previously served as a law firm administrator in Arizona and spent nearly a decade in retail management, working in visual merchandising and product development for a worldwide clothing and accessories retailer and then for a leading international sports apparel company. Her background includes over 15 years of experience in meeting and event planning. She has served as a grant panelist for Colorado Creative Industries and the National Endowment for the Arts and as a panelist and speaker at the Artist Communities Alliance (ACA) Conference. She is currently in her second term as chair of the Denver County Cultural Council, a city-council-appointed body that distributes Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) Tier III funds to cultural organizations in Denver. Horn received dual bachelor’s degrees in sociology–gender studies and journalism–media studies from the University of Colorado Boulder after transferring from the music program at the University of California, Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Colorado Denver and is currently pursuing a yoga teacher certification. Horn has a background in (and love for) music performance and theory and trained in classical ballet for more than 10 years. An avid outdoor enthusiast and animal lover, Horn spends much of her free time outside with her Yorkie, (mini) Cooper.
Samantha Ortega assists in planning and executing comprehensive marketing strategies for WESTAF’s technology products that drive leads, opportunities, and sales. Ortega manages the organization’s online public profile and presence and increases online engagement with WESTAF’s products and services across all platforms. She develops and implements social media strategies for WESTAF’s products, services and convenings and also assists in coordinating and planning various conferences, meetings, and events. Ortega holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Texas at El Paso. She has a background in event marketing and has assisted in managing the media for events featuring performers such as Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Cirque du Soleil, and more. In her spare time, she enjoys music, spending time with her loved ones, and the outdoors.
Natalie Scherlong works to broaden WESTAF’s impact through internal and external communication strategy. She develops, coordinates, and implements the day-to-day activities that support WESTAF’s communications, public relations, brand management, and strategic initiatives and assists in coordinating and planning various conferences, meetings, and events. She also manages the WESTAF website and newsletter, WESTAF Now. Scherlong has a background in digital marketing, content creation, social media, and customer service. Her experience in these fields includes leading a panel alongside the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to showcase the success of its anti-smoking social media campaign. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, pottery, spending time with her pets, traveling, and reading.
Finance and Administration
Amy Hollrah manages all aspects of WESTAF’s financial activity, human resources, office management, and other projects with an exceptional team of five staff. Hollrah loves building new processes and has greatly enjoyed her more than 10-year tenure at WESTAF, which combines her experience in financial management and her passion for the arts. Prior to joining WESTAF, Hollrah worked for the Colorado Environmental Coalition in Denver and spent a decade in San Diego working in regional theater as general manager at San Diego Repertory Theatre and as associate general manager at La Jolla Playhouse. Hollrah holds a bachelor’s degree in arts administration from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. Outside of work, she is an avid trail runner and consumes a vast amount of podcasts about economics.
Rebecca Brown’s many years of experience in the financial and human resources fields include serving as the finance/human resources director for an internationally recognized, Colorado-based organization that created simulations and learning experiences across all industries; serving as a tax examiner with the Colorado Department of Revenue, owning her own business; and managing several state and federal political campaigns. Brown earned a master’s degree from the University of Denver and a bachelor’s degree and K-12 teaching certificate from Colorado State University after transferring from the University of Arizona. While at Arizona, Brown was a NCAA Division 1 volleyball scholarship recipient. Her outside interests include traveling, sports, music, politics, interior decorating, her awesome and very successful adult children and, of course, her dogs.
Rebecca Dominguez began her career at WESTAF as a customer experience coordinator and quickly moved into the finance department before becoming the HR and office manager. Prior to joining WESTAF, she honed her customer service skills working for the Colorado Department of Revenue and for the Credit Union of Colorado. Dominguez holds an English degree as well as a Human Resources Management certification. In her free time, Dominguez enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Jessica Martinez joined the WESTAF administration team as a part-time office coordinator in September 2019. In this position, Martinez supports the complex financial and human resources operations of the finance and administration department with organizational skills, attention to detail, and consistency. She is currently pursuing a degree in cybersecurity from Red Rocks Community College. She enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and hiking.
Michelle Reilly works to process accounts payable and receivable, as part of WESTAF’s finance team. Curiosity led Reilly to move sight unseen from Boston to Denver, where she is honored to have found a place helping nonprofit organizations strive to create something of value for the communities they serve. She has worked for a variety of first-rate scientific and cultural arts organizations, including: Swallow Hill Music, RedLine Contemporary Art, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and MCA Denver. Reilly draws inspiration from many places and is influenced by creative expression, things that grow, collective endeavors that challenge hierarchy, acts of compassion, downright silliness, and a respect for all living things. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and art history from Boston University as well as a bookkeeping certificate from Red Rocks Community College. Reilly is also CNAP (Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional) certified. When not living in the land of ledgers, Reilly loves to get outside to enjoy a hike in the mountains, explore a new exhibition or performance around town, have play time with her pets, or share a meal and a laugh with friends.
Sharon Van Boven works closely with the finance and administration and social responsibility and inclusion teams to support WESTAF’s regional touring program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), along with other grantmaking programs in WESTAF’s portfolio. Originally from Seattle, Van Boven has been in Boulder for over 20 years and has worked in the nonprofit sector for most of that time. She previously served as a program coordinator at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center and finance and operations manager at the Center for Humanities & the Arts in the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a bachelor of arts from Central Washington University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado Denver. Van Boven is an avid fan of the arts and spends most of her free time hanging out with her husband and two kids and being outdoors enjoying all that Colorado has to offer.
Lauren Wilson oversees the ins and outs of WESTAF’s finances. She works on reconciliations, data integration, data analysis, and management of client payouts. Working across every department, she streamlines operations and strives to make financial management understandable and interesting for program managers. Prior to joining WESTAF, Wilson worked in community solar energy. She has presented at the Belvedere Museum, Mint Museum, and RedLine Contemporary Art Center as an art historian. Wilson graduated with a degree in art history with a concentration in gender and sexuality studies. She continues to devote her life to the arts through organizations such as Tilt West and by practicing her own paintings and mixed media works in her spare time.
Technology and Innovation
Paul Nguyen leads the technology strategy for WESTAF’s web services, business intelligence, security, compliance and implementation, digital marketing tools, data architecture, and more. He has a successful history of guiding WESTAF’s Software as a Service (SaaS) products, having served in various tech roles from 2007-2019 and, more recently, serving on WESTAF’s board of trustees. Before returning to WESTAF in his current role, Nguyen was a product manager at JumpCloud, where he developed internal and external data strategy and brought to market several innovative B2B data products and API for IT professionals and security-forward companies. He leverages his experience and insight in data and technology to advance WESTAF’s initiatives in arts, policy, and social equity. Nguyen holds a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Parsons School of Design and a master’s degree in data science from Regis University. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family, gardening, and exploring Colorado.
Rene Asanga acts as the cloud infrastructure expert for all of WESTAF’s organization’s Software as a Service (SaaS) programs. He also helps maintain and monitor best practices and PCI compliance and aids in the execution of data privacy and compliance of WESTAF’s internal and external infrastructure. Originally from California, Asanga holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a finance emphasis from Fresno Pacific University. Outside of work, he coordinates different community activities through a nonprofit that he founded and enjoys watching the news, reading, and continuing to learn more in the field of IT.
Jonathan Cantwell works closely with project coordinators and the rest of the technology and innovation team to maintain and expand WESTAF’s capacity to provide software tools to artists and organizations. They bring their expertise in coordinating a team of software engineers at Synacor, handling individual client needs, and configuring white-label web portals and other software products for major ISPs, and upgrading outdated code bases while maintaining necessary functionality. Cantwell had a lifelong interest in user experience and web accessibility, having started web development as a hobby to support and enhance the usability of the web portal of a collaborative fiction community they grew up with. They earned their bachelor’s degree in computer science from SUNY Buffalo in 2009 and was a semi-finalist for the Microsoft Imagine Cup in their senior year for a project in which they and their team built assistive technology for neurodivergent and disabled students and their teachers and caretakers.
Ben Casalino’s entire life has existed at the crossroads of art/design and technology, which has manifested itself across all his past work and experience. He studied graphic design at Arizona State University before living in Portland, Oregon for five years. During that time, he grew his technical understanding while working for WACOM Americas, a global company that creates interactive tablet/stylus displays for artists and animators. After relocating to Colorado in 2016, he worked as a web developer for a Boulder-based digital marketing agency and for Vail Resorts Inc., Colorado’s leading ski resort company. Casalino has won multiple art contests that featured his designs on the Phoenix Suns game program cover. Casalino is a graduate of Galvanize’s Web Development Immersive program, a full stack programming school in Denver.