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Groundwork Arts believes that all students deserve access to the arts, and we are committed to filling instructional gaps and providing pathways for students to develop the creative thinking skills needed to navigate the 21st century.

Video Editing by Jorge Davies, Graphics by Melissa Sabol

LEAD STAFF

Rhonda Coleman

Rhonda Lane Coleman

Director

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Melissa Sabol

Operations &
Creative Director

Meg Shannon

Meg Shannon

School Liaison
& Teaching Artist

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Jorge Davies

Media Producer

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Heather Sprague

Artist Coordinator

& Teaching Artist

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Wendy Hunt

Social Media Producer
& Teaching Artist

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Sarah LaChance

Curriculum Developer

CURRENT TEACHING ARTISTS

As teaching artists, it is our job to expose students to a variety of materials, techniques and philosophies, to guide them through independent and collaborative explorations, and then turn them loose to experiment.

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Wendy Hunt

Social Media Producer
& Teaching Artist

Jacobine van der Meer

Jacobine Van Der Meer

Teaching Artist

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Jai Schmidt

Teaching Artist

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Devino Tricoche

Teaching Artist

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Jen Shakti

Teaching Artist

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Margeaux Walter

Teaching Artist

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Heather Sprague

Artist Coordinator

& Teaching Artist

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Marcia Winn

Teaching Artist

STAFF & TEACHING ARTIST BIOS

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Syd Abady

Teaching Artist

Syd Abady is a textile artist whose work incorporates elements of painting, sculpture, social practice, and installation. With this multidisciplinary practice, she examines the politics and personalities of the home. She focuses mainly on questions of what makes a home and to whom does that home belong. Syd grew up in Los Angeles but received her BFA in Textiles and Urban Studies on the east coast at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), Satellite Art Fair (Miami Art Week), The Brewery Art Walk (Los Angeles), Woods-Gerry Gallery (Providence, RI), The Beatnik Lounge (Joshua Tree, CA), Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (Deer Isle, ME), as well as on the walls of various homes. In addition to teaching at groundworks and continuing her own studio practice, Syd teaches weaving at A-Z West.

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Julia Calabrese

Teaching Artist

Julia Calabrese is a multidisciplinary artist who uses the tools of video and performance to create her visual language. Julia combines elements of performance art, dance, set design, theater and community engagement to make site-specific artworks. She inhabits natural landscapes or constructs immersive environments to explore themes of human frailty, failure and the absurd. Julia grew up in the Washington D.C. area and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Alfred University in 2007. She lives and works in Joshua Tree, CA.

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Rhonda Lane Coleman

Director (Current)

Rhonda Lane Coleman is an arts professional with advanced degrees in Art History, Business Administration, and Museum Studies. As a leader in the art and design field for over 25 years, she has a distinguished record of innovative outreach programs, contemporary art exhibitions, and site-specific installations, but is most recognized for pioneering the art of unknown artists, experimenting with art accessibility, and creating sustainable arts models. She has held important curatorial positions at the Henry Art Gallery - Seattle’s Contemporary Art Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC, and taught at the University of Washington and University of Southern California. Coleman has lived in 29 Palms for more than a decade and worked with numerous organizations in the Joshua Tree area – Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts, Joshua Tree Music Festival, 29 Palms Art Gallery, Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, and Morongo Unified School District. Coleman is currently the Executive Director of Joshua Tree Living Arts as well as the Director of Groundwork Arts.

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Wendy Hunt

Social Media Producer & Teaching Artist (Current)

Wendy Hunt is an artist, illustrator, free-range thinker, musician, and writer living in the Mojave Desert. She loves the playful element of designing and developing brands, websites, and marketing goodies for small businesses and creatives in business. Wendy loves maps and speculates that we can visually map our interior landscape the same way we map our physical world.

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Megan Hutch

Teaching Artist

Megan Hutch is an artist, musician and performer living in Joshua Tree, CA. She began showing her work at a young age in her hometown of Cincinnati, and quickly set out West to develop her craft in an environment that inspires her. Megan's visual artwork spans from painting to collage, ceramics to textiles.  She has recently begun working as an educator at the Institute of Inquiry in Joshua Tree where she teaches a music program for kindergarteners, crafts instruments with the children, and teaches the fundamentals for music making. Through encouragement and discipline, Megan creates a safe space in her class environment. She believes it is every child's right to have the opportunity to learn and hone useful tools for self expression through the Arts. She is thrilled to be a part of the Groundwork Arts team!

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Sarah LaChance

Curriculum Developer (Current) | Teaching Artist (Past)

Sarah LaChance has been working as an educator for 8 years, and received her Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California. She has experience teaching a wide range of age groups, from Kindergarten through adult, in a variety of settings. Sarah began teaching in Japan, where she taught in local public schools for 4 years. On her return to the U.S., Sarah helped organize a learning program for newly arrived refugees in her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. There, she worked to bridge the gaps in students’ education as well as help them acclimate to their new home. Teaching and engaging with students from a diverse range of cultures has greatly impacted her teaching philosophy. Sarah works to promote exploration, experimentation, and curiosity through engaging, hands-on content. Sarah currently lives and works in Pioneertown, California.

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Emma Palm

Social Media Producer | Teaching Artist

Emma Palm is a sound and visual artist from California. With a background in sociology and linguistics, she is interested in the nuances of communication and expression through art. Her solo electronic music project, No Translation, collages synths, vocals, and field recordings that explore the interconnectedness of relationships with environments and memory. Emma’s visual art spans drawing, video, photography, and digital collage, often creating abstract compositions that combine organic textures with more defined elements. Her creative practice involves frequent reflection, experimentation, and improvisation.

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Caroline Partamian

Teaching Artist

Caroline Partamian is a sound and visual artist. By focusing on the process rather than the anticipated result, her work encourages what can be revealed when one becomes conscious of their kinetic movement in the process of creation. Her work has taken on the form of compositions, graphic notations, sound environments, books, video, and more. She has shown work at BoxoPROJECTS, Marfa Open, Wassaic Project, Otion Front, Flux Factory, Anthology Film Archives, Babycastles, Compound Yucca Valley, and more. She also runs a small publishing press, Weird Babes, in the form of zines and prints featuring artists' and her own works-in-progress and experiments, and is co-founder of Other Desert Radio (with her partner Ethan Primason) a community based radio station highlighting the people and voices of the California Hi-Desert.

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Elisabeth Pollnow

Curriculum Developer | Teaching Artist

Elisabeth Pollnow’s art borders on three-dimensional and two-dimensional forms that explore themes found in the natural world. Her early years spent living in isolated areas of North Dakota and Alaska gave her a deep sense of connection to nature. Finding inspiration from her surroundings has been a lifelong focus. Elisabeth has a BA in art from Evangel University and has worked as a professional artist for 15 years. She has worked in the entertainment industry as well as a professional contract sculptor, working on large-scale projects for public monuments within the Los Angeles area. Elisabeth has exhibited in Pasadena, San Fernando, the Morongo Valley and has taught drawing in Orvieto, Italy. She is currently a member of the California Art Club, Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council, Gallery 62, and Twentynine Palms Artist Guild.

Melissa Sabol

Melissa Sabol

Operations & Creative Director (Current)

Melissa Sabol is a Graphic Designer, Designer-Maker, and Project Manager. She has over 25 years of experience as a creative with a keen eye for design and a practical approach in planning and execution which allows her to play an integral role in delivering successful project outcomes. Melissa began CAD drafting in civil engineering and architecture and has years of experience designing/developing real estate and owning a retail graphics/printing shop. With her innate passion for all things unique and beautiful, Melissa is driven by architecture, interior design, graphics, art, and nature to continue exploring new mediums and diversifying her skill set by integrating woodworking, welding, and ceramics to her repertoire. Since living in Joshua Tree CA, Melissa has focused her design services on arts, education, and the environment. One notable client is Copper Mountain College Association where Melissa designed the branding and book layout for “Howl Art & Literary Magazine” from 2014-2019. She also designed the “Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours Catalog'' from 2014-2017 for Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council. She holds a degree in Architectural Drafting/CAD and Business Systems from the High-Tech Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Brian Schirk

Teaching Artist

After spending several years working as a civil engineer, Brian Shirk escaped the cubicle world and is now a working artist. He has experience in architectural design, construction, and fabrication. His experiences in the architectural and engineering fields are reflected in his teaching with Groundwork Arts. Brian has exhibited in numerous museums,  galleries, and art fairs all over the world, including The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Frieze Art Fair in London. Brian graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He now lives and works in Twentynine Palms, California.

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Jai Schmidt

Social Media Producer (Past) | Teaching Artist (Current)

Jai Schmidt is a non-binary conceptual, visual and performance artist, writer, and certified permaculture designer. Their work explores sensory experience, climate change, and mental health through installation, fiber arts, illustration, video and performance.  After completing their BFA in painting from Daemen college and extensive travel & research, Jai’s work confronts widespread anxiety through reconnection to land extending into social practice through offering workshops, volunteer work, and activism. Their work has been included in the permanent collections of the Burchfield Penney Art Center and multiple private collections throughout the US and Chile. Jai considers their artwork an essential part of their spiritual practice.

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Jen Shakti

Teaching Artist (Current)

Jen Shakti has been painting and making art her entire life. She was raised in an artistic family of at least 4 generations. Jen’s formal art education includes 2 years at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Laguna College of Art and Design where she received her BFA in 1995. Her professional art career began in 1992 as a tattoo artist in Orange County where she established herself as a leading female artist of unique custom designs and her pioneering work called sacred tattooing.

 

Jen’s focus is acrylic on canvas and her Desert HeART series showcases her passion for the desert ecosystem. She enjoys working in a variety of mediums including woodworking and videography. On her YouTube channel she has produced over 100 upbeat videos to share her art, including her best tips and techniques for making art. In 2022, she won the painting award from the California Welcome Center in Yucca Valley and was invited to show her paintings at the Yucca Valley Film Festival. She shows her work in galleries in the high and low desert, art festivals and participates in the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours every October.

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Meg Shannon

School Liaison | Teaching Artist (Current)

Meg Shannon has been an educator for over 20 years. Having served as Principal of Riverside Garden School for 10 years, she has spent most of her career teaching elementary students in all disciplines. Most recently she has taught art in the classroom to groups of elementary students. She is an advocate for dyslexia and an active member of Decoding Dyslexia California. She participated in the effort to pass AB 1369 which requires school districts to implement program guidelines for dyslexia. Meg serves on the boards of several local non-profits which benefit children in the Morongo Basin. In addition, she has worked extensively in volunteer positions helping children in all aspects of education. Meg is the co-facilitator of Kidsville at the Joshua Tree Music Festival where hundreds of children participate in art and music programs over a 3-day period twice a year.

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Heather Sprague

Artist Coordinator | Teaching Artist (Current)

Heather Sprague is a native Californian, and longtime resident of the Morongo Basin, with ties going back four generations. She has Bachelor degrees in Art History and Art Studio from the University of California, Davis. She now works full time as a professional artist and photographer. When she isn’t focused on her own fine art exhibitions and projects, she volunteers her time as President of Joshua Tree Living Arts, and has taught in after school art programs throughout the Morongo Unified School District for the last two years. Heather works with children in the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program as well as with children in need. Her art curriculum takes both an art historical approach as well as a technical approach, giving her students the broadest exposure to the visual arts as possible.

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Lisa Starr

Teaching Artist

Lisa has 17 years experience in alternative healing arts and crafting drums and sacred instruments for spiritual growth and practices. Drum Making is at the core of her personal journey and fulfills her passion as an Artist. Lisa is also the builder and owner of Bonita Domes, her private residence, studio, and vacation retreat, located in Joshua Tree, California. Bonita Domes was built using Super Adobe technology directly from the earth on which it stands. The structure of the dwellings are built on the principles of earth architecture and sacred geometry, which further enhances the experience of self-healing and empowerment for visitors, clients, and guests. Bonita Domes boasts a close-to-nature experience and an authentic earth-magic lifestyle. 

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Tayler Straziuso

Teaching Artist

Tayler Straziuso is a ceramic artist who grew up in Long Beach, CA, where her love for ceramics began. After graduating from college, she moved to Downtown Los Angeles where she started a line of functional pottery. Tayler now lives in Twentynine Palms, where she is able to work with clay full time. She draws a lot of inspiration from the Mojave desert and its colors, critters, and sunsets. Tayler loves to make things she would use in her everyday life.

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Dylan Thadani

Teaching Artist

Dylan Thadani is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Yucca Valley, CA. In between oil painting and making photographs he is often traveling, bringing his playful nature and disciplines within him. Making landscape paintings out of the trunk of his car or photographing rivers in India, whatever the project he approaches it with a humble reverence and deep love for the mysteries of life. 

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Devino Tricoche

Teaching Artist (Current)

Devino Tricochë lives, mumbles, and paints in the California High Desert. His work in abstraction is inspired by the tangible people and places he experiences, and the thoughts, feelings, and memories that they inspire. His individual works are emotionally driven, and are created in frenetic layers of oil, acrylic, and charcoal, each part of an individual story being partially or fully obscured by the next layer. He is also an accomplished magician, fire artist and manipulator, and can make any balloon animal you can think of.

Jacobine van der Meer

Jacobine van der Meer

Teaching Artist (Current)

Jacobine van der Meer tells visual stories through interrelated theatrical installations, sculptures, drawings and collages. Abstracted human or animal forms become characters inhabiting environments created with inner and outer levels of awareness. With an extensive background in special effects makeup and prosthetic sculpture she often incorporates materials and techniques used for film and stage productions while examining the juxtaposition of the natural and the artificial. Born and raised in The Netherlands, a country in which the landscape has been almost entirely altered by humans, the attraction of the mostly untouched Mojave Desert made her decide to set up her studio in Landers many years ago. She started adding natural materials from her surroundings using them simultaneously with the artificial materials she has worked with for years. While keeping a focus on craftsmanship and detail she leaves room for improvisation and instinctual expression.


Jacobine’s work has been exhibited in The Morongo Basin, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami and Berlin and is in private national and international collections. She performs experimental music as ‘The Brutal Poodle’, always in costume. She is excited to work with children, helping them explore their creativity and looks forward to learn from them while they learn from her. It will be an adventure!

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Margeaux Walter

Teaching Artist (Current)

Margeaux Walter is based in Joshua Tree and utilizes mediums including photography, installation, video, and performance to portray issues related to conservation, climate change, consumption, and waste. She has been awarded artist-in-residence programs at organizations such as Montalvo Arts Center, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, VCCA, JTHAR, BigCi in Bilpin, Australia (Environmental award) and at Joshua Tree National Park. Her work has been exhibited nationwide at institutions including MOCA in LA, Hunterdon Art Museum, The Center for Photography in Woodstock, Tacoma Art Museum, and the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work is featured in publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, Boston Globe, and Blouin Art Info.

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Marcia Winn

Teaching Artist (Current)

Marcia Winn was born and raised in Costa Rica. She developed a passion for travel and language at a young age when she traveled to the United States as an exchange student in High School.  Her passion for learning led to a bachelor’s degree in French literature and a master's degree in education. Marcia’s ability to communicate with diverse groups of people aided her in her work in hospitality in South America. Now living in Joshua Tree, Marcia is pursuing a career in language education in the public schools. When she's not working, she enjoys making ceramics, crocheting, and hiking in nature.

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Elena Yu

Teaching Artist

Elena Dao Jing Yu is an interdisciplinary artist working in drawing, video, performance, weaving, and collaborative works. Her work centers around the representation of physical space, memory, and movement through diagrammatic scores and collective explorations. Her scores read as both documents of the past and instructions for future works. Elena's Chinese-New Zealand-American mother and grandmother taught her to sew, knit, and crochet at a young age, and she continues these crafts with her line of clothing and bags. She has exhibited, performed and hosted workshops at the Hammer Museum, the wulf, Royal Nonesuch Gallery, the Beatnik Lounge, and various other artist run spaces. Elena received her BA in Art from University of California and lives in Joshua Tree, CA.

Rhonda Coleman
Jai Schmidt
Meg Shannon
Heather Sprague
Devino Tricoche
Jacobine
Jen Shakti
Melissa Sabol
Wendy Hunt
Sarah LaChane
Margeaux
Marcia Winn
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