Meet Program Manager Adam Levy!


As Performing Arts Workshop’s new Program Manager, Adam Levy manages our school and community site partnerships with the most supreme diligence, which makes sense considering his background. Adam’s a writer and translator, who, together with his wife, just launched a small press, Transit Books. We staff members are grateful for Adam’s commitment to the Workshop’s original book club revival project: the Place of Business Book Club. (Although a few of us have said more than once we plan on attending the staff book club meetings and then don’t, Adam remains patient and dedicated to the project. Maybe it’s the teacher in him.) Read on to learn more about what brought Adam to the Workshop and what keeps him committed to the work.  

What brought you to the Workshop?

After spending a handful of years in the classroom—first as a high school teacher in Budapest and later as a teaching artist and undergraduate instructor in New York—I came to the Workshop eager to support youth and arts programming in a new capacity, in communities that need it most.

What is one of the most memorable things you encountered while at a site visit?

We throw a release party each year for the poetry anthology put together by the students at Marin Juvenile Hall. In one of my first weeks with the Workshop, I was fortunate enough to hear the students read from their work. The power of their stories just blew me away.

What do you like most about being the Workshop’s Program Manager?

I love getting back in the classroom, either to meet with teachers or observe classes, although I don’t mind not having to grade papers!

In spite of our best efforts, we as an office have failed you, because we have failed the book club you started up again (a book club that we get so excited about but sort of fail to attend). Despite our failure, what makes you continue coming to work?

I keep coming to work because I’m surrounded by some pretty sharp, arts-minded colleagues, who care deeply about what we do. What they lack in book club attendance, they make up for in wit and culinary skill.


Meet Program Coordinator Priscilla Lopez!


Priscilla Lopez is the Workshop’s new Program Coordinator, and she’s pretty fearless. She schedules our artistic residencies at school or community sites, manages our internal database, and regularly creates reports from our residency data. But what makes Priscilla even more amazing? She began this role just two weeks prior to our HUGE 50th Anniversary celebration, and she proved she was game for it all. The office has been enriched by Priscilla’s sense of adventure. She even fire dances! (In spite of our best efforts, she WILL NOT fire dance for us at the office.)

In this post, Priscilla discusses how she came to the Workshop, why she’s invested in its mission, and how a certain student in his Adidas track suit taught her the true meaning of swag.

What brought you to the Workshop?

Can I say destiny? (laughing). I think it was a profound desire to find not just a day-to-day job, but to connect my passion with my work. I love the Workshop’s passion and commitment to the students we serve. And as someone who understands the challenges inherent in the San Francisco communities we serve, as well as the power of art, I knew this was the right place for me.

What was most memorable to you about any of the site visits you’ve been on?

I had one memorable visit at Mission Bay [Head Start, one of our Preschool for All sites] to see Melissa Wynn’s creative movement class. There were 12 kids in the classroom, all excited, all wide-eyed. They were so eager to do the next move in the sequence, to get more and more. It made me think of how much energy you have when you’re between the ages of three and five. When you get older, you’re always thinking about how you appear to others, what you look like. But when you’re a kid, you’re not afraid to mess up, and you are so excited to show and tell. What I love about the Workshop is that it’s giving these kids a new way of allowing their energy to express itself.

How has working at the Workshop affected you?

I feel truly honored in serving the kids we’re serving, and I have a newfound respect for them because I’m even more aware of the challenges at their school sites.

I look at my nieces and nephews who can go to gymnastics classes or take part in a number of other extracurricular activities. Because of their socio-economic status, those classes come more easily. But what we’re doing at the Workshop is serving the students who don’t have access to those activities, or whose access does not come as readily or easily. I feel really lucky to be doing that work.

What was most memorable to you about the 50th Anniversary, especially considering how closely you worked with the student performers?

I think I was just mesmerized by how hyper and nervous and shaky the kids were. I made everyone take three deep breaths to calm down. It was funny, though, because as soon as they got on the stage, they were immediately performers. They just snapped into it! It was pretty amazing. And the parents of the kids looked so proud and excited, too. They took so many pictures!

Priscilla had recently told us that one of the 50th Anniversary student performers was wearing a sharp Adidas track suit. Priscilla said, “Hey, that’s a cool outfit,” to which the student replied, “Thanks, I know,” with a smirk.

What about the student in the track suit? Do you think he got his confidence and sass from the Workshop or was he just born with it?

(Laughing) You know, I think the confidence and sass were just him; he’s pretty indicative of the amazing students we serve. I think the Workshop was just the arena for him to show off that confidence.



Thank you to everyone who supported our 50th Anniversary Celebration on November 12, 2015! Together we raised over $67,000 to advance the Workshop’s mission and support high quality arts education programming in schools and community centers.

Check out the 50th celebration photo album here! 

There’s a litany of people to thank. But first, we want to show you a picture of our favorite part of the event:


These young students, all newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and South & Central America who attend Mission Education Center, showed us what they’d been learning in their Performing Arts Workshop class: English, Bhangra dance, and original composition.

To help these Spanish-speaking students with their English verbal skills, Teaching Artist Vanessa Sanchez challenged them to interpret the shapes of the alphabet with their bodies. Those shapes in turn inspired their original choreography.


All of us in the audience were given a rare look inside students’ creative process: how they balance structure and individual, improvisational creative expression; and how they learn the basic skills and vocabulary of dance side-by-side with language and math skills.

Judging from their nonstop ear-to-ear grins, it’s pretty clear that the essential glue holding it all together is pure joy — and pride.




We’ve been teaching at Mission Education Center for over 10 years. Our partnership is one that is near and dear to our hearts. Some of these students have never stepped foot inside a classroom or turned on a computer. They are learning a new culture and language at warp speed following, for quite a few of them, unfathomably challenging journeys to get here.

To say we are humbled by your support of Performing Arts Workshop is an understatement.

Thank you for supporting this event and making it possible to serve students at Mission Education Center and thousands more students in San Francisco and Berkeley.



Performing Arts Workshop family (left to right): Executive Director Emily Garvie, Board President Sagar Gupta, former Executive Director Jessica Mele, and former Board President Cyrus Wadia.

We want to thank the village of folks who helped make this event possible. [unfurling my Oscar thank you speech…]

Thank you to our sponsors! (Click here for the full list of sponsors.) Your excitement and enthusiasm for the event was unrivaled. Seriously, you’re the best.

Thank you to our talented, driven, and tireless event committee led by Event Chair Aliza Arenson! You all belong in the event planning hall of fame.


Thank you to the many luminaries, artists, change-makers, and friends who helped light up the night.

We have so much gratitude for all the folks who helped make this event pop! This wouldn’t have been possible without all of the wonderful volunteers and friends who helped make the decorations, set up the chairs and tables, stuffed envelopes, and everything else in between. We are also indebted to everyone who supported the silent auction!


Board Member and Silent Auction Chair Gabby Guinea (back, right) with our friends from Hopwater Distribution!


Celebrating 50 years in style. Thank you, Matt Evans, for this beauty! (Check out his Etsy page at Evans Woodshop Design.)

SOMArts venue1

Thank you to SOMArts Cultural Center for providing the perfect venue!

Thank you to Carla Sarvis, Gloria’s daughter, for being a part of the celebration. As many of you know, on June 22, 2015, just months before the celebration, Workshop Founder Gloria Unti passed away at the age of 92.

Carla and Tom

Carla Sarvis and Tom DeCaigny

Gloria’s conviction that creativity is a dynamic vehicle for learning has transformed the lives of generations of San Francisco Bay Area youth. We thank her for her tireless dedication to bringing art-making, creativity, and self-expression to young people, particularly the children who need our help the most.

Thank you, Gloria, for everything.  


“Performing Arts Workshop began with the principle that all people have a voice that ought to be heard and that everyone has a right to creative expression, for that is essential to human dignity.”

-Gloria Unti, 1924-2015




Gold Sponsors

  • Nina Kwan
  • Anne and Paul Wattis
  • Paula Williams

Silver Sponsor

  • Wendy vanden Heuvel

Bronze Sponsors

  • AccountingSuite
  • Diane Downing
  • Matthew Clark Davison and Ansumana Hull
  • Karen Harris and Will Cavin
  • Thomas Hensley
  • Rob and Cheryl Lind
  • Ms. RoseMarie Maliekel
  • Annie McGeady and Mike Fratesi
  • Jessica Mele and Doug Wentworth
  • Mark Miller
  • Michael Mullen
  • Olive Grove Consulting
  • Adrienne Leight Rogers
  • Cyrus Wadia
  • Merti Walker

Event Committee

  • Aliza Arenson, Chair
  • Emily Bozentka
  • Emma Feeney
  • Jenna Fiore
  • Janelle Gleason
  • Gabby Guinea
  • Sasha Larkin
  • Elaine Lee
  • Adam Levy
  • Laurie Loftus
  • Priscilla Lopez  
  • Christina Magana
  • Reed Mayfield
  • Jessica Mele
  • Michelle Parker
  • Rick Rochon
  • Jennifer Spoerri


Special thanks

  • Margaret Jenkins, you blew us all away and continue to do so with your groundbreaking performances.
  • Supervisor Eric Mar, thank you for backing arts education in San Francisco and for always fighting for our students’ education.
  • Thank you to Tom DeCaigny, SF Arts Commissioner and former Workshop ED, for leading the Fund-a-Need Auction and getting everyone out of their seats.
  • Thank you to Workshop teaching artists Chinchin Hsu and Natasha Huey for your beautiful, soul-stirring piece.
  • Thank you to Peter Rothblatt for being an amazing champion for the Workshop.
  • Thank you to Jessica Mele for stepping into the action at the last minute and gracing us all with your presence.
  • Thank you to the Garth Applegate Jazz Trio for your beautiful music.
  • Nadya Bratt, thank you for sharing your story with us.  
  • Matthew Evans, thank you for handcrafting the gorgeous marquee.
  • Andrew Ho, thank you for capturing the event with your camera.
  • Photo-matica, thanks for bringing the photobooth fun. (What’s a party without a photobooth?)
  • Many, many thanks to Lisa Wong Jackson of Good On Paper Design for creating a memorable logo and beautiful cards.
  • Old Skool Cafe
  • North Coast Brewing
  • Eel River Brewing
  • Bock Wine and Spirits
  • Smith-Anderson Wine Group


Silent Auction Supporters

Airbnb | American Conservatory Theater | Adventure Cat Sailing Charters | Bi-Rite | Children’s Creativity Museum | Dogpatch Boulders | Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco | Hopwater Distribution | HiDive | I Luv My Body Fitness | Incredible Adventures Tours | Marcella’s Lasagneria | The Masonic | Mollie Stone’s Markets | Numi Tea | Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary | Outdoor Adventure Club | Philz Coffee | Piccino | Pier 39 | Presidio Golf Course | San Francisco Ballet | San Francisco Opera | See Jane Run | Sons and Daughters | Sports Basement | Trader Joe’s SoMa | Zazen


Thank you to Beta Alpha Psi, Glenda Bates, Nancy Chen, Anne Trickey, Sheila Pressley, Maya Sussman, Julie Truong, Joan Rose Tiongquico, Rahman Jamaal, Sale Ramos, and many, many more people!


Welcome, Risi, our *new* New Sector Alliance Summer Fellow!


We are so excited to have Risi Ademola joining us at the Workshop this summer. Read on and get to know her and her bright spirit!

What is your role at the Workshop?

New Sector Alliance Summer Fellow–I will be working on the 50th Anniversary Celebration as well as the implementation of the Immersive Partnerships evaluation system.

Where did you grow up?

Raleigh, North Carolina

What college did you attend and what did you study?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Journalism and Mass Communication

Do you have a favorite quote?

“There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in in another direction”–Oprah Winfrey

What is your favorite art form?

Cultural dances and spoken word

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?

I would go to Alaska, not the ideal vacation, which makes it even more interesting.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to work full-time on my own non-profit, iLead Nigeria, in addition to working with other educational and internationally focused charities and foundations.

NEA Celebrates Capoeira in Our Communities

Sharpen your pencils, it’s Quiz Time.

Q: What do the National Endowment for the Arts and Performing Arts Workshop have in common ?

A: We both turn 50 this year !

That’s not all this national arts agency and small arts education nonprofit share:

  • The NEA promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity; 
  • Performing Arts Workshop helps young people develop critical thinking, creative expression and essential learning skills through dance, music, poetry, and theatre arts.

And this year, they are helping each other meet their missions: Performing Arts Workshop is pleased to be a recipient of an Art Works grant for the next school year!

This grant, one of 138 in California for this year, will support training in Capoeira with the Workshop’s Senior Core Teaching Artist Salê Ramos. Professor Salê will engage students with the Portuguese language, traditional songs and instruments, cultural and political history, and the challenging martial arts-based dance movements of this art form of the African diaspora. Capoeira is an art form, but it is also a way of life: it promotes a culture of respect, discipline and community.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States. Funding these new projects like the one from Performing Arts Workshop represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

Brava theater perfming arts-178

Says Workshop Executive Director Jessica Mele: “Thanks to the NEA, Salê will be able to share Capoeira’s emphasis on structured improvisational movement, interdependence, communication, culture and history with youth in San Francisco for a full year. Students will have the opportunity to go deep with the art form — to really grow and learn through the community of Capoeira that Salê creates in his classrooms.” Adds Professor Salê: “We accept this grant with gratitude and in honor of all those brave enough to practice Capoeira all over the world, especially where it is still suppressed. It is an honor to introduce public school students to the international Capoeira community.”

As they say when someone in the roda (Capoeira circle) busts a particularly dope move:

BOA !!!!

Get Your Encore! @ the Brava Photos Here!

On May 12th, students from across the city came together at the Brava Theater to showcase the hard work, dedication and artistry that they’ve mastered in their Performing Arts Workshop classes. From the lively pre-show party to the creative movement, Capoeira and spoken word performances that wowed the audience,  it was certainly a night to remember.

Relive our 3rd annual student showcase with photos from the talented Russell Jew of Glass.Art.Photography. We are so thankful and proud of everyone who made this event happen!

View all the photos on our Facebook page here: