Grant Committees

Dedicated volunteers review grant applications at ArtsKC each year. Our grant committees are led by Board members and include artists, art lovers, and other established professionals across disciplines. We are honored by the thoughtfulness and time that each committee member generously provides.

Catalyst Mission Committee

Catalyst Project Committee

Inspiration Grant Committee

Interested in Serving? Jump to the Signup Form

ArtsKC Mission Grants – Group A Committee FY22

Brian K. Watts AWMA®, Wealth Manager, PGN Financial Services, LLC

Chuck McCannCommittee Chair, CPA, CFO

Jeremy Lillig, Executive Director at Bright Futures Fund

Jonathan Doram, Musician and Music Educator

Madison Zalopany, Director of Community Programs and Partnership, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Melody Eber, Sr Associate Brand Manager, Russell Stover Chocolates

Muenfua Lewis, Brand Strategist and Co-Founder, By Design

Sariah Pinick, Grant Coordinator, Commerce Bank, Charitable Trusts and Foundations

ArtsKC Mission Grants – Group B Committee FY22

Bety Le Shackelford, Actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA), Director of Community Outreach (Cafe Cà Phê), Campaign Manager (Justin Short for KC)

Glenda Masters, Cultural Arts Manager, City of Lee’s Summit Missouri

glyneisha, poly-disciplinary artist, educator, organizer and community caretaker

James Shackelford, Senior Student Services Coordinator, UMKC School of Medicine

Kanon Cozad, Technology Consultant & Arts Patron

ArtsKC Catalyst Project Grant Committee FY21

Michael Toombs (Chair)
Michael Vance Toombs is an accomplished painter, art activist, and founder and CEO of Storytellers Inc., Artist Collective.  Mr. Toombs is a community leader and champion for young people and working artists in the Greater Kansas City area. Michael began as a young student with Matthew Monks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. He furthered his study through classes at the Kansas City Art Institute and completed a business entrepreneurial course of study through Donnelly College, Kansas City, Kansas.  Michael left the corporate world as customer service manager for GEHA Insurance for 8 years where he help setup their customer service dept. which handled 3500 calls a day with 75 customer service reps. I left to develop my own business in the belief that ”Art is a Change Agent for society’s difficulties.”  Michael’s art form is “interactive community based art”.  As Executive Director of Storytellers Inc, Michael has developed contracts with many high profile organizations including University of Missouri, Wichita State University, Environmental Protection Agency, Accessible Arts, Bartle Convention Center, Olorun Foundation in Burkina Faso, West Africa, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools, Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority, Jackson County Family Courts and C.O.M.B.A.T – Jackson County Prosecutors Office, KCMO Mayors office, KCMO Police  dept. ArtsTech and InterUrban ArtHouse, as well as 18th and Vine Jazz district.  Michael Toombs has been working with the Kansas City Museum since 2016 including serving as a project artist for the design team and a project artist for the Concourse Park project.

Arianna Bonner
Ari Bonner works in Academic Administration at Kansas City Art Institute. Ari is a queer designer, a published photographer and an arts educator based in Kansas City, MO. Born and raised in South Mississippi, she moved to Kansas City in 2015 to complete her undergraduate degree at Kansas City Art Institute (Fiber ’19). She has shown work locally at Front/Space, H&R Block ArtSpace, UMKC Art Gallery, Union Station and the Goethe Institute as well as at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, KY.

Christine Boutros
As an educator and arts advocate, Christine works to create inclusive environments to ensure all people in the community have equitable access to the arts and cultural programming. She is the Grants & Awards Programs Manager at the Charlotte Street Foundation. Christine has worked at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art as Manager of Community and Access Programs. Prior to returning to Kansas City she was the Associate Curator of Education at the Doris Duke Foundation’s Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design in Honolulu. Christine has a double degree in Planning & Design and Construction & Property from the University of Melbourne, Australia, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from La Trobe University.

Schuyler Crowder, Special Events Coordinator – United States Air Force since 2017. In 2010 she graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia with a degree in Bachelors of Arts. Since college she has volunteered with multiple non-profit organizations to include, Visual Arts Center of Richmond (2010-2012), Virginia Garden Club (2011-2013) and sat on the Board of N.C Literary Hall of Fame (2015-2016). She is currently enrolled in Syracuse University to complete her Project Management Professional certificate and plans to work with grant writing and non-profits in the future.  She recently moved to the Kansas City area and this is the first organization that she has volunteered with. Being able to be a part of the Catalyst Project Committee introduced her to many amazing non-profits in the area.

Junann Lopez retired from Hallmark Cards in 2020 after a 22 year career in Finance. She is the current President of the National Association of Asian American Professionals – Kansas City. The National Association of Asian American Professionals is a non-profit organization that cultivates and empowers Asian & Pacific Islander leaders through leadership development, professional networking, and community service. She also serves as a volunteer to the Basehor-Linwood High School English / Drama department as a debate and forensics judge. Junann is a graduate of Baptist Bible College, where she was part of the drama travelling troupe. She has 2 children, a daughter who is a therapist in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a son who is a Marine Reservist. She lives in Basehor with Jeff Rawlings and her cat, King.

Donna Miller-Brown moved to Kansas City in 1999 to pursue an MFA in Sound Design at UMKC. After graduating, she began working at the Folly Theater and around town as a freelance sound designer and mixer. She has designed at the American Heartland Theater, the Unicorn Theater and Metropolitan Ensemble Theater among others. Some of her additional experience includes adjunct teaching and studio work. Donna has been employed at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts for seven years and her current role is Production Services Manager. Her duties include equipment maintenance, crew scheduling, and advancing shows. She is also one of the organizers of the annual Future Stages Festival at KCPA and works to educate Kansas City schoolchildren about exciting careers in technical theater. Donna recently earned a Certified Venue Professional designation from the International Association of Venue Managers.

Kyle Mullins is a dance artist living and creating in Kansas City, MO. He is the artistic director of cerca trova, the contemporary dance company he founded, a second year Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident, and producer of Charlotte Street Foundation’s monthly Making Moves series. Kyle set work on City in Motion Dance Theater, Cottey College, and the Lawrence Dance Intensive. He has choreographed for The Unicorn Theater and Kansas City Public Theater. This year, Kyle’s film work has been commissioned by Powell Gardens, Tarble Arts Center, and presented with No Divide KC. He is passionate about artist empowerment, which feeds his work as a Peer Facilitator for Artist INC. Mullins danced in NYC for ten years before relocating home to Kansas City. He holds a MFA in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a BFA in Dance from the University of Arizona.

Sarah Vang holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Kansas along with a minor in Spanish. This is her first year as an ArtsKC Catalyst Grant Committee member. She currently works in Digital Marketing with a focus in graphic design. Her interests include photography, digital illustration, music, and her dogs. Other passions include working with youth in programs such as the KUMC Academy K-12 in which she was enrolled as a student as well. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her fiancé and two dogs.

Brian Watts is a Wealth Manager for PGN Financial Services, LLC, and holds an AWMA (Accredited Wealth Management Advisor) from the College for Financial Planning. He earned a BS in Biology from Pittsburg State University. He is passionate about education, client experience, bicycle road racing, and his family. He and his wife Jesse have two children, and the family enjoys the arts, music and Sporting KC.

ArtsKC Inspiration Grant Committee FY21

Derald Davis, Chair
Dr. Derald Davis is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and has more than 25 years of experience in urban education as a teacher, principal, district leader and educational consultant. He currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Equity, Inclusion and Innovation for Kansas City Public Schools and is responsible for developing and advancing programs that enhance the values of diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the school system. Derald is the recipient of numerous professional awards, including the Joseph B. Whitehead Educator of Distinction Award from the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and the Ida B. Wells Risk Taker Award from the National Alliance of Black School Educators. He holds degrees from Lincoln University (B.S.Ed.), University of Central Missouri (M.S.Ed.), University of Missouri – Kansas City (Ed.S.), and Saint Louis University (Ed.D.). Derald has been a member of the ArtsKC Board of Directors since October 2017 and serves on the Finance Committee.

Robert Castillo is a Kansas City native and first-generation American. After receiving a Jazz Studies degree west of Chicago and subsequently living in Oregon, he returned to Kansas City where he has been heavily involved in the music scene. He led the groove jazz ensemble The Sextet as bassist and primary composer & arranger, releasing several albums. The most recent, “Among Friends,” was featured by National Public Radio. In 2018 Castillo taught himself to paint and has since developed a deep passion for visual art. He creates in oil, gouache, acrylic, and more and his works span the gamut of technique and style. His subjects include realistic portraits, refined geometric abstraction, images from his Mayan heritage. For more information, please visit

Irene Caudillo, President and Chief Executive Officer, El Centro, Inc.
Irene received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After graduating college, she developed children and youth programs for nonprofit organizations including El Centro and Wyandotte Mental Health Association in Wyandotte County.  In 1994, she took a job with the Kansas City Missouri Health Department as the first minority health outreach coordinator. Her duties included educating health providers on how cultural beliefs and practices impact health behavior. In 1997, she returned to Wyandotte County as the Executive Director for Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc., an agency devoted to developing and maintaining collaborative efforts, advocating, and supporting services to improve the quality of life for Wyandotte County youth. In 2004, Caudillo joined Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas as the Director of Family Strengthening where she directed and managed their social services throughout their 21 county service area.  In 2011 Caudillo became Director of Clinic Operations for Swope Health Services where she provided day to day, operational leadership and direction to their satellite clinics.  Caudillo ensured clinic operations meet expected financial and operational targets and that all clinics were functioning in a highly efficient and effective manner.  Caudillo is currently President/Chief Executive Officer for El Centro, the agency she started her nonprofit career with, where she oversees the day to day operations for the agency. Caudillo is a member of numerous community boards including the Wyandotte Health Foundation, Health Forward Foundation, KU Advancement Board, Greater Kansas City United and the University of St. Mary Board of Trustee. She has received numerous honors for her work, including named by City Union Mission as one of five women in 2010 as the recipient of Women who Changed the Heart of the City award, the 2015 NFL’s Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, the 2015 Donnelly College’s Delta Award, the 2016 Legend of Diversity award from the Wyandotte Ethnic Festival Committee and in 2020 the Sisters of Charity Vincentian Charism Award.  Irene is married and the proud parent of three children.

Martika Daniels – Internationally renowned and motivationally captivating, Martika and her one woman stunt show hail from Kansas City, MO. Raised in a military family, Martika grew comfortable constantly moving about the globe from a young age. Learning from the best instructors the world of circus has to offer, this delightfully dangerous daredevil studied circus arts, fire, escapology, and a slew of sideshow skill sets before ever taking a stage. Eleven years under her belt she entertains with innovative stunts such as barbed wire hula hooping and traditional sideshow stunts like sword swallowing. All the while incorporating informative uplifting messages in her shows. Martika’s main message? No matter how terrifying a goal may be, it is achievable.

Natasha Ria El-Scari is a poet, performer, writer, Cave Canem alum, Ragdale Residency recipient and educator for over a decade. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals.  She’s opened for and introduced great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. Born and raised in KCMO Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and an MA from the UMKC. In 2015 Natasha released her first book, Screaming Times (Spartan Press, 2015). Her second book, The Only Other (Main Street Rag, 2016) dives into the taboo voice of the other woman. In 2019 Natasha released her first self-published and non-fiction book in collaboration with her son entitled, Mama Sutra: Love and Lovemaking Advice to My Son.  In 2020, Natasha self-released, I Say, T(He)y Say a chapbook about a special decade in her maternal grandmother’s life. In the same month she released Growing Up Sina, her first novel created after challenging herself creatively to grow outside of poetry. Natasha has 3 spoken word projects, DragonButterFirefly (2006), This is Love… (2010), CuddleComplex (2016) and DVD Live at the Blue Room (2015). This mother of two is the founder and curator of Black Space Black Art, an organization created to promote the exhibition of African American visual arts and businesses. She’s the founder and curator of the Natasha Ria Art Gallery.

José Faus is a painter, writer, performer, independent teacher and mentor with an interest in the role of artists as creative catalysts for community building. He is a founder of the Latino Writers Collective and sits on the boards of the Latino Writers collective and Charlotte Street Foundation.

Branden Haralson, Communications Manager, Engagement and Public Policy, joined the ArtsKC team in November of 2019. He brings to his role years of experience in marketing, events management, government relations/public policy, and, of course, arts performance. Branden received his bachelor’s degree in voice performance from the UMKC Conservatory in 2013 and his master’s degree in voice performance-arts advocacy & administration from the School of Music at the University of Northern Iowa in 2015. Branden maintains a robust performance schedule of musical theatre, operatic, and jazz works in the KC Metro area and around the country. When not working or volunteering, Branden resides in Waldo with his chow chow Gretel and his cat Isolde. Click here for Branden’s full profile.

Natasha Karsk (she/her) is a local nonprofit administrator, artist, and active community member. She is the Administrative Officer for MY REGION WINS! and works to fund and promote neighborhood-driven projects in Kansas City. With a B.A. in Art Management and a Masters in Public Administration, Natasha’s 15-year career in nonprofit work started at a Crossroads-based art project space and has since included a literary nonprofit and a land conservation organization. Natasha has called Kansas City home most of her adult life and is an advocate for uplifting creation in all its varied and beautiful forms.

Elaina Paige Thomas is a Kansas City, MO native. Mrs. Thomas is very versatile in her dance forms and styles. She is trained in Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, African and certified in Yoga. Elaina has participated in workshops with well-known choreographers such as Debbie Allen, Drea Kelly, Shayne Sparks, John Silver, Jamaica Craft, Cleo Parker Robinson, Anna Maria Forsythe, Frank Gatson, Lisa Attles, Theo Jamison and Chris Tyler. Elaina has been an AileyCamp instructor for 8 years and directed for one year. Mrs. Thomas has international credentials from a 4-month 15 city tour in China, with the international girl group FEME, and toured Italy, with the Clubesque superstar Sunni Stephens. Elaina had the great opportunity of performing on stage at the Chicago Theatre for “America’s Got Talent” in 2011 and graced the stage with international superstar Beyoncé, for the debut of “Run the World” on “Oprah’s Surprise Spectacular”, in Chicago, IL. She has worked with HipHop and R&B artist including Tyrese, Jeremiah, Black Eye Peas, Twista, and Tech 9. She was also a principal dancer for the 2013 IMAX feature film “Dhoom3”. Thomas choreographed and danced alongside of Kansas City’s Diva Jackie Michaels opening up for Keith Sweat and Erykah Badu at the Sprint Center. She continues to perform and choreograph for the R&B sensation, Ginuwine. Along with performing she stays active in modeling and acting. She loves theatre and incorporates it into many of her choreography works. Mrs. Thomas has choreographed/ directed versatile works for 2015 Super Bowl Denver Broncos Champion Shane Ray’s awareness foundation, Liberian Entertainment Awards with Kansas City Chiefs Tamba Hali and also Money Bowe formerly known as Kansas City Chief wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Redmoon Theatre (Sam Zell), Columbia College Chicago Manifest of 2011,, Zuma Records, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and Paseo Performing Arts Academy Kaleidoscope. Thomas has done commercial work for Diamond Direct imports, Brown Mackie College, Sprint, and co-starred on season 2 of Bravo’s “Chicagolicious” and MTV’s Unlocking The Truth. Her choreography won 1st place for the Clash of the Clippers Hair Show in Des Moines, Iowa. She has been on advertisements for Columbia College Chicago and NY Best Seller “The Beginning” written by Sonya Artis. In 2012 Elaina Thomas received her BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. Currently, she is employed full time as Master Teaching Artist at Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. She is a proud owner of two businesses, The Next Paige Agency and Kreadiv a lifestyle brand. The Next Paige serves as Kansas City’s first woman and black owned Talent Management Agency where they help creatives purse their dream by providing resources, opportunities and training.

Garima Yadav has been learning Indian classical dance for 15+ years and has performed extensively in India and in United States. Yadav has imbibed a traditional Indian dance form called Kathak and strives to promote traditional Kathak style dancing. One of her main missions is to explain nuances of the intricate dance style and in the process understand the similarities and difference with other art forms. She has had the opportunity to collaborate with various local artists and presented her work in various performances, lectures and demonstration. Yadav has learned Kathak from her teacher in India, Guru Prerana Deshpande. Guru Prerana Deshpande is one of the leading exponents of the Kathak form of dance in India. She is particularly renowned for her graceful movements and command over the rhythm. She is also known for her traditional teaching style and detailed artistic expression. Yadav has studied Kathak under Guru-Shishya Parampara (Master-Disciple tradition) and is pursuing learning Kathak dance as a passion. Yadav has her own dance school in Overland Park, ‘Kathak Aura’ KC. At ‘Kathak Aura’ KC, students are taught Kathak from the basics to advanced levels, as they imbibe the intricacies of this beautiful dance form. The students are taught in smaller groups and in traditional teacher-student setting.

Interested in serving on a Grant Committee?

Committees of community members review grant applications with the grants manager, then make recommendations for funding that are considered by the Board. We are looking for individuals who are knowledgeable in the visual, performing, and poetry/storytelling arts. Qualified individuals may include staff of arts and cultural organizations; artists, community leaders or educators, or any other adult individual. We welcome individuals of every type of diversity.

We know that your time is valuable, and we are offering $100 stipends to Grant Committee Members in honor of your service.

Responsibilities include

  • read assigned applications over the course of a few weeks (number of applications will vary)
  • write evaluation comments in our online grant system
  • meet as a group to discuss the content of applications, and make funding decisions, which will be recommended to the board for approval
  • answer to a Committee Chair, who leads the group; and to the ArtsKC Grants Manager, who guides the group on policy, eligibility, and history

We are dedicated to implementing a fair and equitable process, and ask committee members to follow our conflict of interest and confidentiality policies.

Grant Committee Member Sign-up

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