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.

Sarah Mandala
Program Director

Mandala recently joined the ARTsmart team. She received a BA in English from New England College in 1996 and a MA in Arts Education from the University of New Mexico in 2005. After serving as an AmeriCorps member in Albuquerque and teaching in various community programs, she went on to teach Middle School English and Fine Arts to all grade levels in diverse schools. In addition to teaching, she has developed and supported programming for various community organizations and is a ceramic artist.

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.

Teresa Puia

Puia moved to Santa Fe in August 2017 from Fort Lauderdale, FL to pursue her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling and Art Therapy, with a focus on Children’s Mental Health, at Southwestern College. She completed her B.A. at Flagler College in both Elementary and Exceptional Student Education in 2010. She has eight years of special education experience teaching the most amazing students in grades Pre-K through 12. When she is not teaching, doing homework, or working on her own art, she enjoys exploring all the beauty that New Mexico and the surrounding states have to offer.

Victoria (Tori) Brown
Office Manager/Event Coordinator

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.