Our Team

Amanda Thomas
Executive Director

Thomas has worked for ARTsmart as an Instructor since 2013 and as Program Director from 2014-17. She received her BFA and minor in small business and entrepreneurship from Montana State University in 2008. In 2011, she returned to receive her teaching certification in art for students kindergarten through grade twelve. She has taught kindergarten, special education in English for grades six to eight, and fine arts for kindergarten to grade twelve in Montana and New Mexico schools. She also works as a professional oil painter and metal-smith.

Rebecca Chornenky
Program Director/Instructor

Chornenky began teaching art in 1998 at Children’s After School Arts in San Francisco. She moved to Santa Fe in 2000 to study restorative justice-based mediation with the New Mexico Center for Dispute Resolution, where she served as a program manager and lead mediator in restorative justice and school suspension cases and mentored a team of mediators. Her lifelong commitment is to improve the well-being of children and young adults through the transformative capacity of experiential education. She has served as contributing faculty at Santa Fe University of Art and Design through the Artists for Positive Social Change program and in various instructional, curriculum design, stage management, artist and mediation capacities with local non-profits such as Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Family Strengths Network, National Dance Institute-NM, Fine Arts for Children and Teens (FACT), and the Outside In Youth With Promise Program. She is currently completing a certification program in Traumatic Stress Studies through the Justice Resource Institute.

Melinda Baker
Senior Instructor

Baker has been an instructor at ARTsmart/FACT since 2001. After receiving her BFA from UCSC with an emphasis in printmaking, she pursued further studies in art history, illustration, textile design, and education. She was an artist-in-residence in California where she co-founded After-School Artists in Santa Cruz, a thematically–based art program for children ages six to twelve years. She teaches adult classes in Fearless Creativity and is working on a children’s book, while exhibiting her own watercolors in New Mexico and California. When not creating art or teaching, she can be found bird-watching and hiking.

Mariel Rose Garcia

Garcia joined ARTsmart as an instructor in 2014. With a background in ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, beadwork, silverwork, and additional crafts, she is an artist and student of the arts. Her experience and training include both classroom instruction and individual tutoring. Among her goals are providing children with the confidence to explore art and to use their “artist’s eyes” in seeing themselves as artists within their communities.

Vanessa Gonzalez

Gonzalez was born and raised in Santa Fe and she spent 15 years living in Arizona, California, and South Carolina. Her love of art started at an early age and she received her BFA in painting from Arizona State University in 2006. Since then she has continued to paint and exhibit her work. She is currently enrolled in the Teacher Academy at SFCC and is working toward earning her teaching license. She has been involved with ARTsmart since 2015 as classroom volunteer.

Victoria (Tori) Brown
Fundraiser Coordinator/Administration

Tori has volunteered for ARTsmart since 2011 and joined ARTsmart staff in January 2016 to help with the 25th Annual Dinner and Auction as Fundraiser Coordinator and has stayed on to lend a hand in the office. Before moving to Santa Fe and opening her Art*o*mat® art vending machine business in 2012 she co-owned Brown Katz Brown & Company, a contemporary crafts gallery, in Tacoma, WA for 14 years. She is also an artist and her mixed-media work can be seen in Art*o*mat® art vending machines all over the country.