We are a growing nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our diverse team assembles backgrounds in art, business, mathematics, psychology, and social welfare. We are unified by a belief that the creative arts can and should be accessible to everyone, and that it has tremendous potential to deepen ties within the refugee community and beyond.

 

Operational Team

Leva Zand, Founder and ExecutiveDirector

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Leva Zand has made an over 10-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.  She is currently volunteer for Oakland International High School and also serves as a board member for Young Women Social Entrepreneur of San Francisco. 

 

Miles Markstein, Intern

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Miles is a long-time web designer and political junkie who has spent most of the last decade living in Oakland, Cairo and New Orleans. As a lover of music and an occasional trumpet and oud player, he believes deeply in making art accessible to everyone, and is committed to helping ARTogether use art to push back against the recent wave of anti-refugee rhetoric. Miles currently spends his time fundraising for the program’s ambitious upcoming projects, while spending the rest of his time as a student at UC Santa Barbara.

 

Kelly Rice, Intern

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Kelly majors in Psychology at San Francisco State University and will graduate with a bachelor's degree in the Spring of 2018. Aside from taking Psychology courses, she has also delved into such areas of study as Asian American Studies, Race and Resistance Studies, and Women and Gender Studies. She is interested in social justice and raising awareness of people who continue to be marginalized and who's voices remain unheard. As the daughter of an immigrant mother, Kelly is passionate about working with refugees and other immigrants who are seeking a better life outside their country of origin. Art, in her opinion as an amateur artist herself, allows for freedom of expression and helps people feel like their voices are worthy of being heard. She loves reading as she believes that it can foster greater empathy and compassion for your fellow human being.

 

Caitlyn Cournale, Intern

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Caitlyn was born and raised in San Francisco. She is currently halfway through her undergrad at Hampshire College where she studies Global Migration and the Politics of Statelessness. Having grown up in a beautiful place that preaches freedom, she is determined to dedicate her life to working with and for those who have not been granted the freedoms that she believes are our right at birth. Caitlyn has worked with children her entire life and knows the power of the creative mind which fuels her love for ARTogether for giving the freedom of creativity to those who have been denied other freedoms in their lives.

 

Yuhong Lin, Intern

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Yuhong was born and raised in China, and moving to the United States in 2012. Currently, he is a student majoring in graphic design and minoring photography at San Jose State University. He will graduate in spring 2018. He was a freelance logo designer and a freelance animated character designer before working at ARTogether. Lin is a person who has so much passion about designing, and he always tries to create something unique, impressive, and influential. As becoming a member of ARTogether, he is contributed himself to the success of the organization.

 

Olivia Buch, Intern

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Olivia was born and raised near Los Angeles, California. Currently she is a student at the University of San Francisco pursuing a degree in International Studies, with minors in Cultural Anthropology and African Studies. She hopes to spend her life continuing work with non-profits and NGOs in order to fight for the rights of marginalized groups around the world. Olivia has always been a lover of art, and an artist herself, and is committed to the mission of ARTogether in working to be a creative resource for the refugee community. 

 

Unsa Kamal, Volunteer

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Unsa was born and raised in Pakistan and in 1999,  she embarked on a new journey of her life when she moved to the bay area with her family. Unsa received her teaching credentials and has been teaching for more than 15 years .  She is a compassionate, empathetic and positive teacher who believes in inspiring her students to bring out the best in them. She is also a consummate artist and has been painting for many years. She specializes in oils and has painted both abstracts and landscapes .   Unsa  believes that art is a powerful medium that can touch people both emotionally and intellectually. Unsa holds a Masters degree in Psychology and is also a certified Life Coach. She is passionate about helping people move forward and set personal and professional goals to lead a life of purpose and fulfillment.

 

Board of Directors 

 

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Mona Ahmadi

Mona was born in Iran and currently lives in the Bay Area. Mona received her MBA from University of San Francisco and works in the field of corporate finance and strategy. She also serves as a board member at Financial Women of San Francisco. She enjoys abstract paintings and believes art to be an element of nurture and self-empowerment.  As a refugee, she is passionate about the cause and dedicated to the success of ARTogether.

 

Hossein Namazi

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Hossein Namazi works as a data scientist in the Silicon Valley and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hossein, a mathematician by training, was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin before moving to the Bay Area. He is passionate about projects that help refugees, minorities, and the underprivileged sections of our communities.

 

Alexandra Pettet

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Alexandra is a mathematician, currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and has since lived and worked in academia in Stanford, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Oxford, England; Barcelona, Spain; and Vancouver, British Columbia. Recent events, both personal and political, have given her a passion for improving women’s health and safety, and raising conditions and status for refugees in the United States. Creative arts have always been an important part of Alexandra’s life, and she is dedicated to the development of ARTogether’s program.

 

Advisory Board 

Mona Afary

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Dr. Mona Afary founded Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) in 2005 in direct response to the urgent need for community mental health services for Cambodian survivors of war and genocide. Dr. Afary holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute, in Berkeley. She has been working as a licensed therapist since 1987. She specializes in trauma work with diverse refugee and immigrant population and their families. Mona immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1975.

 

Heather Rastovac Akbarzadeh, Ph.D.

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Heather is the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Dance Studies in/and the Humanities (2016 - 2018) at Stanford University. She holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She received her B.A. from the University of Washington in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization (specializing in Persian language and literature) with minors in Dance and Anthropology. Heather’s research on diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists extends upon nearly two decades of her own experience as a dancer, choreographer, and artistic director among Iranian American communities.

 

Sahba Aminikia

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Sahba studied music composition in both in Russia and Iran.  Later He received his Bachelor of Music and his Master of Music with honors from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is currently a faculty member at San Francisco Academy of Art University while maintaining his career as a freelance composer.

Sahba is the recipient of many various commissions from theatre troops to contemporary classical ensembles, film scores, Persian traditional music groups to jazz bands including Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Symphony Parnassus, San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Mobius Trio, Delphi Trio and Living Earth Show.

 
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Jacqueline Adams, Ph.D.

Jacqueline is an award-winning sociologist and author of the books Surviving Dictatorship: A Work of Visual Sociology, and Art against Dictatorship: Producing and Exporting Arpilleras under Pinochet, published by Routledge and the University of Texas Press respectively. These books focus on women living in Chilean shantytowns and their experiences of poverty, state violence, cooperatives, participation in a human rights movement, and dissident art-making. Jacqueline Adams has also conducted research on migration, economic survival strategies, and learning in informal educational settings in shantytowns. She specializes in the use of qualitative methods and oral history interviews and has employed a broad range of these research tools while collecting and analyzing data in Chile, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the United States. She has served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and on the editorial board of Sociological Perspectives. She is a senior researcher at the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, where she is working on enforced disappearance, and regularly serves as an external collaborator for the United Nations.

 

Kathryn Winogura

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Kathryn Winogura is Volunteer Services Manager with Jewish Family and Community Services East Bay, and manages about 500 volunteers who help to resettle newcomer refugees in Contra Costa County.  She has been working with refugee communities since 1993.  When away from work, she loves to travel, mostly to Asia, and has also helped in Greece with mostly Syrian refugees. She believes in an America that holds dear its many layers of diversity and welcomes all. 

 

Negar Ghobadi, Ph.D

Negar Ghobadi is an economist by training, and a humanitarian practitioner by vocation. She finished her PhD in development economics in the Agricultural and Resource economics department in the University of California, Berkeley, and has, since, been working in international development research and humanitarian programming with the World Bank, The United Nations, and international NGOs.

In the past six years, Negar has been working closely with refugee communities: In Iran, she worked with the Norwegian Refugee council (NRC), implementing Education and Livelihood programs for Afghan refugees in Kerman, Semnan, and Tehran. Since 2015, She has been working as the head of monitoring and evaluation unit with NRC Jordan, serving Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in response to the Syrian crisis.

Negar was born and raised in Iran and migrated to the United States to continue her education. She lived in San Francisco, and the broader Bay Area for more than twelve years, learning and thriving in an open and welcoming community. As such, she feels a personal passion- if not responsibility- to be a part of making her adopted home as welcoming and nourishing to others as it was to her when she needed it most.