ARTogether is based in the Bay Area, the occupied, ancestral lands of the Ohlone people, who have stewarded and honored this land throughout generations and are still here. We acknowledge the ongoing legacies of violence against indigenous communities and people of color in this country that provide a context for our work.
ARTogether’s mission is to provide art programs that foster compassionate communities where refugees and immigrants can flourish.
Our Vision – For refugees and immigrants moving to the United States, the journey has just begun. ARTogether offers programs that reach out to refugees and immigrants, providing welcoming, creative spaces for local refugees and immigrants to connect with their community. Our goal is to build communities and promote long-term prosperity for refugees and immigrants, even after assistance from initial government and NGO resettlement programs has ceased. For these programs, art is our social glue, its universality binding us all together.
Art plays a special role in the refugee community. It invites conversation, laughter, storytelling and a sense of belonging. At the community level, it has a unique ability to bring people together, to draw together people from different backgrounds and forge connections through creativity and self-expression. Finally, art transcends the spoken word, allowing people to communicate and express themselves without the burden of language barriers.
ARTogether’s programs are designed to foster:
To better serve our community and reach out to new refugee and immigrant communities, we partner with a number of organizations that already offer a spectrum of vital services to these communities. Below are some of our strongest partners, both past and present.
For more in-depth information about ARTogether and its programs, please see our annual reports and our monthly newsletter below.
Leva Zand has made an over 15-year career and educational commitment to refugees, human rights, and social justice activism and advocacy. She has a BA in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento and a Master’s degree in Feminist and Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara focusing on religion, media and sexuality. She started her nonprofit career in 2005 in Sacramento by leading a program to serve refugees from South East Asia. Later she managed a team of reporters for The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), directed a publication for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), lead a gender awareness program for the Eurasia Foundation and before starting ARTogether, she directed an online school for the Nonviolence Initiative for Democracy (NID). She also used to write and produce “Narratives of Women,” a radio podcast.
Miles is a long-time web designer who has spent most of the last decade living in Oakland, Cairo and New Orleans. He has a BA in Religious Studies and Music from UC Santa Barbara, and recently moved back to Oakland where he works on ARTogether’s new art programs. Miles believes deeply in making art accessible to every community, and is looking forward to ARTogether’s new music programs.
Polina Marso was born and raised in Russia. In 2014 she moved to San Francisco where she received her BFA in Illustration from California College of the Arts. Polina is interested in all kinds of art forms from painting to graphic design. She has been with ARTogether for almost a year as a Project Assistant and an Art Teacher.
Nick is a multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, conductor, and composer. Born in Munich, Germany, Nick conducts the Gustavo Dudamel’s Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, he has collaborated with Grammy award-winning composer Mason Bates for works premiered on his own re-invented light organ, he is the Orchestra Director at Oakland School for the Arts, and he is the “50 for the Future” Education Coordinator for the Kronos String Quartet. Nick is an active member of the Board of Directors for both the California Symphony and the Purple Silk Education Foundation, and directs ARTogether’s after-school arts and music program at Oakland International High School.
Michelle Lin is a poet, multidisciplinary artist, and cultural worker passionate about building loving and liberating spaces for LGBTQ+ artists and artists of color. Since 2015, she has coordinated numerous art programs and festivals in the Bay Area. She co-hosts We Won’t Move: A Living Archive, a podcast from Kearny Street Workshop about local Asian Pacific American arts activism, and is the author of A House Made of Water (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017), a lyrical examination of the inheritance of stories. She is currently working on a series of essays exploring mental illness as a queer child of immigrants and a survivor of sexual and gender trauma, within the historical and political contexts of the U.S. Michelle works at ARTogether as a Project Coordinator Consultant.
Ryan is a Tahitian dance practitioner, and with his wife runs Tānera’i i Ni’a, the first Tahitian Cultural Center in the U.S. Trilingual in English, French & Khmer, Ryan has credentials in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language), and graduated from San Francisco State University in 2014 with a B.A. in English Education. Following the mantra “live with our cultures, not off our cultures,” Ryan is a strong advocate for culturally responsive pedagogy and immigrant & refugee rights, and currently leads ARTogether’s upcoming project, “Cambodian Voices in the Bay.”
After Suriya Shurat received her Master of Arts in Graphic Design and Digital Media, she’s been working with ARTogether and other firms ever since. Suriya prefers to share all her graphic design skills and create beautiful designs that could powerfully communicate with the world.
Suriya is an adaptable, flexible professional who embraces teamwork, and she has a passion for discovery and cultivating human connections. Her coursework and background in studying graphic design, interior design, public health, and fashion design give her the advantage of looking at things from different perspectives.
Hannah Jeffers is an advocate for refugee/immigrant rights, for increased equity, and for widespread access to the arts. She graduated from San Francisco University in 2021 with an M.A. in Museum Studies, specializing in museum exhibitions and program development, and received her B.A. from Thomas Edison State University in Liberal Studies, specializing in communications. She is a creative writer, advocate for cultural heritage preservation, and avid hiker, reader, and traveler. Hannah currently manages ARTogether\’s social media, website, and communications.
As an artist and entrepreneur, Sarah has been practicing photography for over 15 years, and she’s had the pleasure of helping people all over the world celebrate their lives and journeys with her camera. She is currently a senior at UC Berkeley, researching how art can be a mental health intervention and mechanism for identity empowerment withing immigrant and refugee communities. Career highlights include facilitating a two-month photography program with children in Kolkata, India and produced a gallery show featuring their images. She has also worked with a number of nonprofits locally, including photography and mentorship for the International Rescue Committee’s Vision Project, a summer camp for immigrant girls. Sarah is passionate about the power of photography to tell stories and its ability to change the narrative by which people from around the world engage each other.
Celeste Tretto is an economist and a data scientist with a passion for women’s empowerment. She has a MS in Finance from the University of Lugano in Switzerland and a MS in Mathematics and Applied Statistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After moving to the Bay Area she became involved in working with grassroots organizations focused on services that foster healthy and inclusive communities. Before ARTogether, she volunteered for organizations that offer business education programs for low income women. Celeste is currently the Chair of ARTogether’s Board of Directors.