Fifteen volunteers appointed by the Mayor compose the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture. Commissioners represent a diversity of backgrounds and are selected from individual arts and culture patrons, artists, educators, the business and professional community, those with professional qualifications and experience or knowledge of a particular arts and culture field, and the general public.
Robert H. Gleason
Robert H. Gleason is the Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel for Evans Hotels, a San Diego-based hospitality company whose properties include The Lodge at Torrey Pines, the Bahia Resort Hotel, and the Catamaran Resort & Spa. He has been an active volunteer at The Old Globe, where he has served nine years on its board (three as Vice Chair for Development) and is currently the Chair of its Public Affairs Committee. Other current professional and community affiliations include serving as Chair of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, as a member of the U.S. Bank San Diego County Advisory Board, and as a Director of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. He formerly held appointed positions on the boards of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation and the City of San Diego Funds Commission, and served as Chair of the San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. In addition, he is on leave as an adjunct faculty member of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University. He has a degree in economics from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.
John Venekamp is a Senior Vice President/Managing Director for Brown Harris Stevens, a full service real estate firm in New York City. From 1987-1994, Mr. Venekamp was the Founder and President of New York-based Access Marketing, a marketing consulting company, and held various management positions for the J.C. Penney Company for more than 20 years. Mr. Venekamp has been a philanthropist, marketer, board member, fund-raiser, and strategist supporting numerous arts organizations. Mr. Venekamp chaired the Board of Directors for the Empire State Craft Alliance, successfully co-chaired annual galas and benefits in support of arts organizations, and led leadership seminars on "How to Support the Arts." He also served on the Board of Directors for Ziff Marketing, the largest arts marketing and advertising organizationw in New York City. Since living in San Diego, Mr. Venekamp has been very active in the arts community. Mr. Venekamp received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota and has completed executive graduate courses in Business Administration at the University of Tennessee and Harvard University.
Larry Baza is a professional arts administrator with more than 32 years of experience in advocating for the arts at the local, state and national level. He has served on the boards of various nonprofit arts organizations and provided his expertise as a panelist for arts commissions and foundations. In his professional career, Mr. Baza has directed and managed San Diego arts organizations and businesses including Centro Cultural De La Raza, Sushi Performance and Visual Arts, Fingerhut Gallery and Community Arts of San Diego. His wealth of knowledge and experience includes affiliations, consultancies, site visits and panel participation with various arts organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, California Association of Local Arts Organizations, Chicano Federation of San Diego County, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture and the San Diego Community Foundation. Currently, Mr. Baza is a partner in Noel-Baza Fine Art Gallery in Little Italy.
Carlos Cristiani is a business consultant and mediator. He is the founder of Peninsula Business Consultants, a San Diego-based firm focusing on international trade between US/Latin America, and applied technology. He is also the founder of San Diego Mediator, a mediation practice focusing on business and community-based disputes. Mr. Cristiani served on the Board of The House of Mexico, a member organization of The House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park, for three years (2010-2012) as Secretary and as President. In this capacity he was able to establish collaborative partnerships and programs with organizations such as The Mingei Museum, Sherman Heights Community Center, The San Diego Museum of Art, The Timken Museum as well as other cultural organizations. Mr. Cristiani volunteers as a Mentor for Startups participating at EvoNexus, a tech incubator in Downtown San Diego; as a Mentor for the business accelerator Endeavor in Baja California; and as a bilingual mediator for the National Conflict Resolution Center. Born and raised in Mexico City Mr. Cristiani studied law at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), obtained a Philosophy diploma on Ethics and Democracy also at UNAM; as well as a diploma in Corporate and Real Estate Law in Baja. In San Diego he was an International Student at UCSD learning about American history, law and society and later trained at the National Conflict Resolution Center to become a Mediator.
Vernon Franck is a professional land surveyor and owner of Metropolitan Mapping, a land surveying and mapping practice devoted to forward-thinking building projects that enhance the core metropolitan communities of San Diego. Mr. Franck has served on the boards of Sushi Performance and Visual Art (President) and Space 4 Art (Treasurer). He is a member of the Commission’s Public Art Committee (2009-present) and has served on public art selection panels for the Bayside Fire Station (City of San Diego) and the Wrap Project (Port of San Diego). He has also served on the North Park Planning Committee and was Chair of their Urban Design/Project Review Subcommittee. He has been on advisory panels for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s TNT event, the AIA’s Orchids and Onions awards, the Barrio Logan/East Village Arts District and the Market Creek Arts District. Mr. Franck received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from San Diego State University and continued at SDSU as a graduate student in Urban Geography, City Planning and Environmental Design. He enjoys robust relationships with working artists of all persuasions and thoroughly enjoys the pursuit of arts and culture far and wide, high and low. He lives, works, walks, bikes, delivers kids, dines and shops in North Park.
Joanne Hayakawa has been a Professor of Art at San Diego State University since 1982. Ms. Hayakawa has more than 33 years experience teaching, lecturing and exhibiting at galleries, universities, museums, art centers, and diverse art venues throughout the country and internationally. Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the William D. Cannon Art Gallery in Carlsbad, California; Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla, California; Wita Gardner Gallery in San Diego, California; University of Southern California; University of California San Diego; University of Tennessee; and the University of Delaware. Her work has been featured in books, numerous local and national catalogs, and periodicals. Ms. Hayakawa's work has been collected privately and by public agencies including the City of San Diego. Ms. Hayakawa frequently lectures on her own work and public art in San Diego, the United States, and was recently a lecturer at the State Institute of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy. Ms. Hayakawa received a BA degree in art from the University of California Santa Barbara and a MFA degree from the University of Washington.
Dea Hurston is a former San Diego City Schools teacher and arts advocate. She has served on the boards of San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre, Eveoke Dance Theatre, Sledgehammer Theatre, Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary and Friends of Vista Hill. She also sits on the advisory boards for the San Diego Repertory Theatre, Common Ground Theatre, Mo'olelo Theatre and Mainly Mozart. She has worked tirelessly chairing many fundraisers to help support these organizations and many others. She is a San Diego Performing Arts League Business Volunteer for the Arts and a charter member of the La Jolla Playhouse Center Stage Club. Most recently, she has served on the Balboa Park Task Force.
Lewis Klein is Account Vice President for UBS. He is past Board President of Sledgehammer Theater and has been on the board of Eveoke Dance Theater. Mr. Klein was a member of Partners for Livable Places. He served on the Development Committee of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He is a Director for the National Conflict Resolution Center and serves on the Investment Policy Committee for the Jewish Community Foundation. Mr. Klein is a member of the President's Club of the Salk Institute. He supports other local arts and cultural organizations.
One of the most dynamic visionaries to influence beauty and wellness education, Lynelle Lynch has redefined academia for the modern beauty student. Since stepping in as Bellus Academy’s President in 2005, Lynelle has championed an elevated academic approach to beauty and wellness education for both students and educators, and has consistently produced a graduating class in the top 10% of the industry. Under Lynelle’s direction, the academy has also been named the “Harvard of Beauty Schools” by San Diego Magazine (2008) and “Best School in the Nation” by First Chair Magazine (2008), ranked top three internationally for Intercoiffure’s “Best School” Award, and has been a four-time Honoree in Modern Salon’s “Excellence in Education” Issue (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). In addition to overseeing Bellus Academy’s four campuses and advisory board, Lynelle continues her passion for the Arts as the Vice Chairman of the La Jolla Playhouse where she Chairs both the Individual and Corporate Giving committees. In addition she has recently joined the National Theater Communication Group’s National Council. Lynelle has served on the Board of the San Diego Opera, the McCallum Theater and the Palm Springs Opera. In addition to the Arts, Lynelle is active in both non-profit foundations and business associations. She is the President for the Beauty Changes Lives Foundation, Past President of CAPPS, Executive Board member of AACS and Board member of APSCU. With her husband Bill Lynch they also focus on children’s education with their family foundation – William D Lynch Foundation for Children.
Laurie Mitchell is a general pediatrician who has practiced in East County community clinics for the past ten years, most recently working at Southern Indian Health Council. Committed to the well being of children and the arts, she has served as a community volunteer for many local groups including the Wellness Council of the Mountain Empire School District, the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative, and the San Diego Chapter of Reach Out and Read. She and her husband, Brent Woods, have been active supporters of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego Museum of Art, The Old Globe, and Mingei International Museum. In addition, she currently serves on the Board of Directors of The New Children’s Museum, acting as board chair from 2007-2009, and is a member of the Collections Committee of MCASD as well as the Art Committee of the La Jolla Athenaeum. She has also served on the Boards of the Museum of Man and City Ballet of San Diego where she continues to serve on the Advisory Council. Dr. Mitchell received a BA degree in English Literature from Wellesley College and an MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and completed her pediatrics residency training at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Sharletta Richardson has more than 36 years experience in the fields of music, education, and artistic performance. Her career in teaching music began in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1972. Ms. Richardson has taught courses at Gompers School at the secondary, middle, and high school levels from 1978 - 2007. She currently teaches choir and piano at The Center for the Arts at Lincoln High School. Ms. Richardson is an acclaimed master class flute soloist and has performed in and directed numerous instrumental and choir performances. Ms. Richardson received the U.S. President's Volunteers of America Award, Japan Fulbright Memorial Teachers Award, Job Corp Performing Arts Volunteer Award, San Diego Urban League Educator's Award, UCSD Educator's Award, and San Diego City Schools' Instrumental Teacher and Secondary Teacher of the Year Awards. In 2008, KPBS and Union Bank of California honored Ms. Richardson with the Black History Month Local Hero Award in Education. Ms. Richardson has also been very active with various professional and industry associations including the American Choral Directors Association, California Teachers Association, National Education Association, San Diego Teachers Association, and the Southern California Band and Orchestra Association. Ms. Richardson received a Master of Music degree in music education from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and a BS degree in public school music from Virginia State University.
Norma Rodriguez currently works for the Center on Policy Initiatives as lead organizer. Her previous experience includes grassroots organizing mainly focusing on immigration issues and civic participation. She has also been chair and coordinator of Fiesta Del Sol San Diego’s largest Latino street festival. Norma has also taught art and spanish. In addition she has served as a Mana Hermanitas mentor, and taught art at the Sherman Heights Community center. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of California Irvine and her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on international migration from the University of California San Diego. She also currently serves as board Vice President of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial counties and on the board of Asociasion de Liderazgo Comunitario, a city heights based non-profit focused on leadership development and community organizing. She is passionate about arts education and the arts as a vehicle for community empowerment, increased access to the arts for historically underrepresented communities.
Rebecca Smith is Director of Community Engagement at The Eastridge Group. Previously, she was a Vice President at the San Diego Workforce Partnership and a Career Coach at QUALCOMM, also holding related positions over the past twenty years with the University of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and High Tech High. Her experience includes hosting the Public Broadcasting Service series, “Career Advantage.” She earned a Master of Education in Counseling from University of San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from University of California, San Diego. Ms. Smith serves on the Board of Directors of the United Way of San Diego County. She and her husband, Jimmy, an environmental scientist, live with their son, Ezra, in Mission Hills.
Sheryl White, a native San Diegan, has enjoyed a banking career in San Diego spanning 28 years - 23 years at First Interstate Bank and five at California Bank and Trust. Ms. White has been on the Board of Directors of Torrey Pines Bank for the past eight years where she continues to be active in her banking career. She and her husband, Harvey, have been active with The Old Globe Theatre for decades along with many other arts organizations in town including the San Diego Opera and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, to name a few. She has served as Chair of the Board of Directors at The Old Globe Theatre and currently sits on the boards of the San Diego Opera and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Ms. White earned her Masters of Science in Executive Leadership at the University of San Diego in May of this year. She lives in Del Mar with her husband and her son, Greg, who is currently attending Santa Clara University. Her interests include travel, oil painting, attending theatre and working out at the gym. Ms. White was appointed to the Commission in 2010 and currently sits on the Commission's Advocacy Advisory Committee.