2022 CYA Review Panel

The Creative Youth Awards go through three rounds of reviews to determine Merit Awardees. Meet the 2022 Review Panel!

Round 1 Review Panel


Lani Rovzar

BACF Executive Director / Photographer & Branded Environments

BACF Executive Director and Photographer, Lani Rovzar, has a long professional history in Bay Area arts administration, as well as a personal artistic practice in fine art, photography, fashion and corporate interior design. Passionate about supporting local artists and community, she founded 42 Degrees Arts Agency, an incubator program through Intersection for the Arts, and also produces fine art photography through Lani Rovzar Studio.

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Laura Kakkis-Serper

BACF Artistic Director / Musician

BACF Artistic Director and Musician, Laura Kakkis Serper, founded Kairos Music Academy, a place where young students thrive through music, drama and theater arts. She brings her love of artistic development to BACF through many experiences of designing and implementing multi-media programs with renowned Bay Area music ensembles.

Milo Lawrence

Milo Lawrence

Scenic Designer

Scenic Designer, Milo Lawrence, has worked on Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, models for the movie Motherless Brooklyn, and the Sochi Winter Olympics. They value the different lenses through which artists see and interpret the world, and the way their own world can expand by seeing it through the creativity of others.

Round 2 Review Panel

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Paul Abueg-Igaz

Media Artist / Film / Music

Media Artist, Paul Abueg-Igaz, is a curriculum developer at the California Film Institute in San Rafael, as well as a freelance filmmaker, media creator, and curriculum writer. Creativity, to him, is simply the ability to solve problems, and art is a wonderful platform in which to develop the creative instincts that are inherent in us and necessary for leading a satisfying life.


Chanelle Ignant

Media Artist / Musician / Writing

Media Artist and Musician, Chanelle Ignant, is the Internship Program Manager at Women’s Audio Mission, as well as a performer and guitar teacher. She previously led youth media initiatives at KQED, working with Bay Area high school students to produce audio and written content for on-air programs. Chanelle deeply believes in cheering youth on as they hone their creative practices.


Asher Witkin

Singer / Songwriter / Photographer

Singer-songwriter, Asher Witkin, began singing with Kairos Music Academy in 3rd grade, and has been pursuing music ever since. He was cast in the West Coast Premier of School of Rock commissioned by Andrew Loyd Weber, and in 2017, he released his first album, Becoming Home, featuring the single ‘Sailing Away,’ co-written with Dan Wilson, grammy award winning songwriter for Adele and John Legend. Some of his personal creative projects include songwriting and production, creative nonfiction, theatre, and macro photography.

Round 3 Review Panel

Creative Writing


Juvenal Acosta

Professor / Novelist

Novelist, Juvenal Acosta, has published fiction, journalism, and poetry. He is the author of a trilogy of noir novels called “Trilogía Negra” (El cazador de tatuajes, Terciopelo violento, and La hora ciega), and a neogothic vampire novel: Tenebroso. Acosta has published three books in collaboration with artists: Paper of Live Flesh and Tango of the Scar (both limited edition artist books) and Tauromaquia (an essay on bullfighting and photography).


Evy Ibarra

Architect / Poet / Communications Manager

Architect and Poet, Evelyn Ibarra, taught poetry and fiction at New York University, and served as both the Poetry and Translation Editor for the Washington Square Review. She worked as an architect for fifteen years and is currently the Communications Manager at Kairos Music Academy. For her, creativity produces something that is utterly surprising, makes leaps that she could not have imagined before, and does it in a way, so elegantly and honestly, that it is nearly impossible to realize the process behind it, how it was generated and made.


John Parman

Partner, Snowden & Parman

Partner at Snowden & Parman Editorial Studio, John Parman, worked as an architect and planner for 40 years. He’s on the editorial and design committee of ARCADE, the Seattle design and culture magazine, and is an advisor to Room One Thousand, the annual publication of graduate students at U.C. Berkeley CED. John believes that finding one’s own voice is also clearing away the tropes in order to work out what we think and how we want to articulate it.


Aimee Phan

Author / Professor

Author and Professor, Aimee Phan, received her BA in English from UCLA and her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she won a Maytag Fellowship. She is the author of two books, We Should Never Meet: Stories and the novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, USA Today and The Oregonian among other publications. She currently teaches as an associate professor in writing and literature at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, California.


Stephen Rumph

Professor, University of Washington

Professor and Author, Stephen Rumph, teaches music history at the University of Washington and wrote Beethoven After Napoleon (2004), Mozart and the Enlightenment Semiotics (2011), and The Faure Song Cycles (2021). He sings professionally as an operatic tenor and has performed leading roles and solos with opera companies and symphony orchestras throughout the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. Stephen’s hopes the CYA will encourage Bay Area youth both to create their own artworks and appreciate the treasures of other creative artists.



Amanda Beane


Filmmaker, Amanda Beane, began her career as a production designer and later became a director, after graduating from the California College of the Arts with a double major in jewelry/metal arts and textiles. Her production design work has been featured at, Los Angeles Cinefest, New York Shorts International Film Fest, as well as winning the 2020 gold addy for internet commercial. In the last few years, Amanda has ventured into directing, her films have been official selections in The San Francisco Dance Film Festival in 2016, 2020, 2021, and New York City’s Dance on Camera in 2022.


Kathleen Courtney

Film Producer / Unit Production Manager

Film Producer and Unit Production Manager, Kathleen Courtney, began her freelance career as a Production Coordinator on feature films. In the mid-90s she found that she most enjoyed being a Producer and/or Production Manager on both films and television. She shared that a UPM has many ways to express creativity, starting with hiring the crew who are the right fit for the project and facilitating the director’s vision while staying within the budget.


George NeJame

Producer, Founder & President of NSQ, Inc.

Producer, George NeJame has consulted and worked in the entertainment industry for over 40 years. He currently serves as the Supervising Producer of the CW’s hit comedy series, “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” and is under contract to YouTube Originals (YTO Stages) at the Google Campus in the historical Howard Hughes Hangar, Buffalo Studios in NY, and the Cabo Agency in Mexico. NeJame also runs the day-to-day operations of his own consulting and production company, NSQ, Inc.


Nicole Newnham

Writer / Director / Producer

Writer, Director and Producer, Nicole Newnham, is an Emmy-winning documentary producer and director, four-time Sundance Film Festival alumnus and six-time Emmy-nominee. Her first documentary Unforgettable Face screened at Sundance in 1994, the same year she graduated from the Stanford Documentary Film Program. Most recently, she co-directed the Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary Crip Camp with Jim LeBrecht.


Jody Stillwater

Film Director

Film Director, Jody Stillwater, has created work featured at the de Young Museum, YBCA, Mutek, Transfer Gallery, and ISEA. He co-founded Lenape Films, whose mission is to employ storytelling that prioritizes equity and inclusion, allowing for diverse stories from underrepresented communities to thrive. To Jody, making films and telling stories feels like taking imagery and symbolism from culture, breaking it down to it’s most base elements and building it back up for the present and future.

Music Composition


June Bonacich

Music Teacher / Composer

Music Teacher and Composer, June Bonacich, has been teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the precollege division since graduating with a master’s degree in composition. June’s specialty is working with very young students, teaching them musicianship and composition in an age-appropriate manner. Creativity to June is joy in process and believes that this joy can be triggered again and again as one looks or listens to the things that we created in the past.


BZ Lewis

Composer / Producer / Engineer / Artist

Composer and Producer, BZ Lewis, is a six-time Emmy Award winning composer who has produced bands and artists all over the world through his recording studio, Studio 132. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a voting member of the Grammy awards. BZ enjoys giving back and sharing his experiences in the music biz, and learns something from everyone he works with.


Gabriella Smith

Composer / Environmentalist

Composer and Environmentalist, Gabriella Smith, began studying piano when she was 8 and started composing music when she was 11. She recently released her first full-length album, Lost Coast, with cellist Gabriel Cabezas, named one of NPR Music’s “26 Favorite Albums of 2021 (So Far)” and a “Classical Album to Hear Right Now” by The New York Times. Her love of music comes from a love of play exploring new sounds on instruments, building compelling musical arcs, and connecting listeners with the natural world.

Music Performance

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Costantinos Dafnis

Composer / Director / Sound Designer

Composer, Director, and Sound Designer, Costas Dafnis, has supported youth creativity in film, theater, and music through his work at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Art Institute, Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, University of the Redlands, Festival Napa Valley, The Bay School of San Francisco, and the Berkeley Symphony. His music for Daniel Kremer’s Overwhelm the Sky (Kino Lorber) will be released by La-La Land Records in 2022 alongside an orchestral suite from his music for CR Coppola’s Torch.

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Amber Morris

Voice Coach

Voice Coach, Amber Morris, has been a performing vocalist for over 40 years and has taught voice in the SF Bay Area for the last 19+ years. She counts Grammy and Emmy Award Nominees, Winners, and Platinum Hit songwriters among her clientele and prepares clients for auditions, recroding sessions, festival stages, and tours. Amber is extremely passionate about the power of creativity and cultivating authentic individual expression in the artist.


Michael Roest

Associate Dean & Executive Director of San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College and Adult Education Departments

Associate Dean and Executive Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Pre-College and Adult Education Departments, Michael Roest, earned his Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and his Master of Music from The Julliard School. From 2013 to 2016, he served as the Executive Director of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra (NOYO), creating their first chamber music program and Young Composer’s Program. Roest has also conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra and NOYO’s full symphonic orchestra.


Bob Schleeter

Guitarist / Composer / Arranger / Music Educator

Guitarist, Arranger, and Composer, Bob Schleeter, has performed with the top jazz, soul, rock, and blues artists in the SF Bay Area, and was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. From 1990 to 2017, he built and led the highly esteemed Marin Academy music program. Bob continues to be amazed and inspired by the work of young people and is happy to support them in their development.


Arkadi Serper

Pianist / Composer

Pianist and Composer, Arkadi Serper, is the Director of Piano and Composition and Music Theory at The Crowden School, and teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory in the Preparatory Department. He has written and published choral music for Kairos Youth Choir and compositions in original musical theatre. Arkadi’s compositions have been produced by several major orchestras, and he continues to perform as a pianist locally and internationally.



Misha Bruk


Photographer, Misha Bruk, realized that photography truly captured his heart and imagination as he was about to graduate with a degree in architecture from UC Berkeley. His clients include many high profile institutions, magazines, real estate agencies as well as personal photography. Misha loves creating beautiful images that capture an essence and invite experiences of unexpected opening and inspiration.


John Chiara


Photographer, John Chiara, received his B.F.A. in Photography from the University of Utah in 1995, and his M.F.A. in Photography from the California College of the Arts in 2004. In 2011 and 2013, the Pilara Foundation in San Francisco commissioned his work included in group exhibitions at Pier 24 Photography: HERE and A Sense of Place. Concurrently, Chiara’s work was included in Twisted Sisters: Reimagining Urban Portraiture at the Museum Barengasse, Zurich, Switzerland, and in Staking Claim, a California triennial invitational at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Art.


Chris Gould

Photographer / Instructor at The Harvey Milk Photo Center and Youth Art Exchange

Photographer, Chris Gould, studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and works in the black and white analog tradition. He has worked at the Harvey Milk Photo Center for 3 years, currently teaching Part One and Part Two of the Black and White Photography and Darkroom class. Chris has enjoyed taking pictures since he was a little kid.


Ellen Shershow


Photographer, Ellen Shershow, is a commercial and fine arts photographer based in Oakland, CA. She has been profiled about her pet portraiture on NPR’s Marketplace, LA Magazine and Slate, and spoke at Today at Apple as part of Apple’s photo lab. Ellen continues to hone her own art practice through residencies and is currently working on a book about senior dogs.


Heather Snider

Executive Director, PhotoAlliance

Executive Director of PhotoAlliance, Heather Snider, is a curator, writer, and consultant with 30 years of experience in the fine art photography field. She began her career at Vision Gallery in San Francisco, and has also worked as an art instructor for CYO youth programs San Francisco, the Arts Committee Chair for the Chinese Immersion School in San Francisco, Director at Scott Nichols Gallery, and Executive Director of SF Camerawork. Heather believes that awards that publicly recognize youth for their artistic achievements play a critical role in supporting and encouraging the artists and creative thinkers of tomorrow.

Visual Art


Lourdes Alba

Associate Producer
Associate Producer, Lourdes Alba, has been working in film since 1993, when she got her start in location scouting for film, TV, and documentary projects. She has worked on a number of Pixar’s Academy Award winning films, including Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and others, including 2020’s SOUL. Lourdes is currently an associate producer on “Luck,” an upcoming film for Skydance Animation.

Facundo Argañaraz

Pro Artist, SF Arts institute

Artist, Facundo Argañaraz, founded 1599fdT and Et al. Gallery in San Francisco. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, including exhibitions in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and Sonoma. His current work is aimed at confronting characteristics of Modern constructs, the erosion of content through time, and the problems of originality in a thoroughly commodified world.


Lisa Jones

Artist & Founder, MASTERWORKS Art Studio
Artist, Lisa Jones, founded MASTERWORKS KIDS’ FINE ART STUDIO in 1997 to encourage children and their parents to explore the universal experience of communicating ideas through visual media. She created a small business, Urban Canvas USA, to facilitate one-day street painting events promoting art to a broad range of people. Lisa is dedicated to enchancing art in communities.

Tova Lobatz

Art Consultant / Curator / Grant Writer
Art Consultant, Curator, and Grant Writer, Tova Lobatz, has produced over 100 art installations nationwide and successfully launched two public art projects. She advises artists, collectors, architects, designers, and brands on creating environments that inspire them by connecting them with the right artist and delivering a seamless project from start to finish. As Director of Heron Arts, Tova emphasizes programming that reflects the community, is inclusive, and responsive to the needs of the diverse, emerging Bay Area art scene.

Cy Wagoner

Creative Resistance Coordinator, NDN Collective
Creative Resistance Coordinator, Cy Wagoner’s background in arts and activism has always been rooted in a communities expression of visual arts and storytelling. His early background as a teacher informs his continued dedication to engaging youth in building their voice and skills to continue to fight for a better future. Cy believes it is our responsibility to support the youth in creatively expressing their vision of a just and healthy world.