The Joshua Tree High Desert is an extraordinarily rich artistic region with a very high concentration of visual artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers. Groundwork Arts taps into this resource and connects our students to art by bringing professional practicing artists into the schools.
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.
Rhonda Lane Coleman
Director | Teaching Artist
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.
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!
Curriculum Developer | Teaching Artist
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.
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.
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.
Ms. Harmony (Chantelle Rodriguez) is a multi-disciplinary artist, teacher, and performer. She was raised in Austin, Texas, where she began performing quiet rituals and poetry in solo experimental noise, dance and art exhibitions. Artistic areas of expertise include, but are not limited to, painting, printmaking, photography, collage, jewelry, 3D printing, animation, music composition, writing, and self publication in the form of zines. Ms. Harmony has experience teaching students about many types of creative practices including self publication, zine making and comics. In addition to performing live electronic music with synthesizers, Ms. Harmony has participated in numerous group and solo art exhibitions of her work. She thrives on teaching others how to incorporate creative practices into their daily lives.
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.
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.
Administrator | Teaching Artist
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.
Artist Coordinator | Teaching Artist
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.
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.
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.
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.
David was born and grew up in eastern Oklahoma. From an early age he wanted to be a painter. David graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and left for California a week later. He earned an MFA from UCSB and after stays in LA and New York I set up my painting studio in San Francisco. I chanced into making digital art after creating some paintings for Apple Computers. Eventually becoming a motion graphics artist in the tech industry for years. Following that career I moved to the desert to resume my first love, painting.
Jennifer Kane is an artist, teacher, and guide from Los Angeles, CA and currently resides in Joshua Tree, California. Through a multidisciplinary art practice Ms. Kane creates opportunities for communities, both embedded and momentary, to gather in unexpected environments, inspiring a deeper understanding and reconnection to self, other, and place. This is the landscape of her work, and the paintings, drawings, and writing she produces explore and embody these evolving relationships. Her paintings are held in private collection across the United States, and she still spends part of every summer guiding mountain expeditions in the Sierra.
In 2016, Kane received an MFA in Public Practice from Otis College of Art and Design. Currently she serves as the Executive Director of Arts Connection – the Arts Council of San Bernardino County. She is also a contributing writer to the Mojave Project and KCET Artbound.