JOHANNA DE LOS SANTOS has been the Executive Director of Art Start since July of 2007. Prior to joining the Art Start family, she spent years as Social Impact Director for two major motion picture film releases, Favela Rising (2005) and The Hip Hop Project (2007), taking conscious, independent film on nationwide tours through marginalized communities, transitional housing residences, and detention facilities as a part of their distributor’s traditional release campaign.  From 2003-2005, Johanna served as Manager of Community Partnerships for the New York International Latino Film Festival and holds three years of corporate business planning expertise from the multinational Briggs & Stratton Corporation.

Johanna received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin (1998) and a M.A. from New York University in Latin American Studies (2007) where she focused on art and music as a social movement in communities oppressed by systemic violence.  In 2010, she was awarded “Non-Profiteer of the Year” by the New York Association of Non-Profit Professionals. Since 2015, Johanna has split her time between NYC and the Midwest as she leads the organization’s expansion of its Public Exchanges Program and key strategic partnerships throughout the U.S.




MARIAMA NOGUERA-DEVERS has been with Art Start since 2015. Beginning as an intern and volunteer, she became a Teaching Artist in 2017 facilitating dance and visual art workshops. As the Programs Manager she liaises with partnering sites and community partners while supporting the Co-Executive Directors with daily operations and the management of Art Start programs. She graduated with honors from Eugene Lang College in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Global Studies with a focus on the intersections and interdependence of social justice and the Arts.



KISSENIA CHARA-WILLIAMS began with Art Start as a youth participant at the age of 16. After she and her family left the shelter system, she was offered her first job as an office assistant for Art Start. Thereafter she created and taught Art Start workshops at a family shelter and transitional housing center. Kissenia later on started a family and moved to Germany where she became a photographer. For the past five years she has taken her business around the world servicing military families and the community. Presently she owns a photography studio in Brooklyn, while leading Visual Arts workshops as an Art Start Teaching artist at a shelter for young women and mothers. She has certificates in photography and business, as well as her Commercial Photography Associate's Degree at LaGuardia Community College.



MARIAM ARYAI RIVERA manages Art Start’s SONYC program at Nelson Residence in the Bronx which offers academic enrichment and art workshops 5-days a week for middle school youth living at the shelter. As the onsite director she leads a team of interns, teaching artists, and the Creative Collectives’ Associate Program Director. Rivera, a multi-lingual multi-media artist has been working with Art Start since 2014 and comes from a long history of working as a community organizer and workshop facilitator. A self-proclaimed ‘hood chef,’ Mariam pioneered Art Start’s Food Justice program.


CYNTHIA CEILÁN brings to Art Start more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She has worked with a variety of organizations that serve special-needs, underserved, and other vulnerable populations in the areas of health care, homeless services, supportive housing, food and nutrition, addiction treatment, education, and policy advocacy.  She is a lifelong advocate for social justice.

Prior to finding her true calling in the nonprofit sector, Cynthia accumulated a wealth of business and management experience in the corporate world, having worked primarily for companies in the tech industry. Cynthia is also the author of three books of non-fiction humor, a literary novel, and numerous short stories, essays, and articles.


SHANÉE SMITH, recent Master of Science in Social Work graduate Columbia University, is a vivacious agent of social change committed to combatting the invisibility, misrepresentation, and suppression of young people of color through the arts. As a social worker for Day One, an organization committed to addressing the issue of teen dating violence in NYC, as well as a teaching artist for the Homeless Youth Outreach Program at Art Start, Shanée has explored ways of introducing and infusing contemporary social issues into her scope of work. In doing so, Shanée has worked to encourage participants to identify the ways in which art, in it's many forms, can be used as a tool of healing, storytelling, resistance, and power within and between communities.

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MIKY SOLANO first joined Art Start in 2008 as a justice-involved youth. After 2-years of participating in the One Mic music-recording program, he was accepted and graduated from EAR in 2010. After volunteering at Art Start for 3-years, he was hired as an Assistant Music Teaching Artist. Also one of the leaders of Legendary Cyphers, Miky is a master freestyle artist who can put into verse the day-to-day challenges of a young man rising from the streets of Brooklyn. In between verses, Miky is an inspirational presence for students and shows undying commitment to his ever-expanding role at Art Start.



RAMONA TIM KEE’S passion for the Arts was conceived in Trinidad and Tobago at the young age of 3. By age 10, her love of dance and theater blessed her with opportunities to perform for Prince Charles, Miss Universe Pageant and star in a documentary aired in France and on Discovery Kids. At 24, despite having a dance career in Trinidad, she decided on a whim, to pursue acting in NYC and currently works in Film, Television and Theatre. Apart from her acting pursuits, she volunteers with ArtStart and is an Acting Coach under Marc John Jefferies.