Teachers & Staff

Gail Tarantino
“Being an active participant in witnessing the creative spark that children emit is an experience that I treasure. Each child’s aesthetic choices are so particular to their own unique way of absorbing the world around them.” — Gail Tarantino

At the art center, teachers illuminate children’s creative exploration by encouraging dialogue and documenting it alongside the project. At the end of the program, students and parents can see the interests and imagination that inspired each piece.

Gail Tarantino, Lead Teacher

Gail Tarantino holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and has been engaging children in the creative process at SFCAC since 1991. Gail is a visual artist whose work has been shown at Fouladi Projects, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, the Oakland International Airport, and Kala Art Institute. Her work is also included in a number of Bay Area private collections.

“My role as an art educator has deepened my appreciation of the varied learning strategies and relational aspects embedded in children’s thinking. Being an active participant in witnessing the creative spark that children emit is an experience that I treasure. After two decades of supporting children’s creative ideas, I continue to be smitten with their poignancy of language, the visual impact of children’s representations and the associations they make while looking at each others project work. Each child’s aesthetic choices are so particular to their own unique way of absorbing the world around them. Being an observer of the multiple possibilities for invention that children utilize is an endlessly enriching time spent in the SFCAC studio. Listening to what sparks a child’s curiosity has a co-constructive component; taking cues from their ideas and developing projects that inspire the unique viewpoints of each art maker.”

Thanks to the generosity of an art center supporter, Gail traveled to Italy to attend Reggio Emilia study tours in 2001 and 2003. Additionally, thanks to the support of the SFCAC Board and SFCAC parents, Gail was able to participate in Summer Conferences hosted by the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance in Calgary, Alberta in 2006, Toronto, Ontario in 2016, and Boston, Massachusetts in 2018.

Erik Parra, Lead Teacher

Erik Richard Parra was born and raised in the border metroplex of El Paso-Juárez. He received a Bachelors of Fine Art degree in painting from The University of Texas at Austin and completed a Masters of Fine Art while on fellowship at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.  Currently based in San Francisco,  Erik has exhibited internationally in alternative spaces, commercial galleries and museums in Berlin, Brazil, Los Angeles, London and New York. In the Bay Area, Erik’s work has been exhibited at Blankspace Gallery, Johansson Projects, The Headlands Center for the Arts, Root Division, Southern Exposure, Kala Art Institute and the Berkeley Art Center. Erik’s work has been included in publications including New American Paintings, the SF Bay Gaurdian and the LA Times. Additionally Erik teaches art and has lectured at universities, given artist talks, garnered residencies and awards.

Steph Kudisch, Teacher

Steph Kudisch is an artist, teacher, and art preparator based in the Bay Area. Focusing in screenprint, sound, and ceramics, Kudisch received their MFA as well as the Isaac M. Walter Sculpture Prize from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2018. Kudisch is a non-binary artist who reinterprets Jewish myth and ritual, continuing in the queer tradition of reimagining possibility. They are a member of the San Francisco Poster Syndicate, where they create and live-print screenprinted political posters. Kudisch teaches ceramics at SOMArts as well as screenprinting in the San Francisco Art Institute’s Public Education department.

Hayley Jensen, Teacher

Originally from New Orleans, LA, Hayley Jensen is an active artist in the Bay Area. She received her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute and BFA in Painting & Drawing from Louisiana State University. She has been teaching art for over 6 years to ages 1 to 98, and has been teaching with SFCAC since 2017. Recently relocated to the North Bay, she received the year-long Max Thelan Studio Residency in San Rafael. Jensen’s work includes painting on paper and plastic, ceramics, sculpture, embroidery, textiles, and working in neon, while she engages in conversations regarding human influence on the natural world. She is very engaged in the Fort Mason community as she helped co-direct and paint a mural at Greens, had a studio with SFAI for 2 years, teaches at SFCAC, and shows work at SFMOMA galleries.

Nora van den Berg, Teacher

Raised in Switzerland with Swiss and Dutch parents, Nora van den Berg studied art in Ireland and graduated from Colaiste Ide, Finglas with a National Certificate in Art & Design and with distinction from the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology with a National Diploma in Fine Art, Painting.

Nora teaches art in both preschools and elementary schools in San Francisco, where she relishes the opportunity to creatively engage with students from diverse backgrounds and home languages, fostering her deep faith in the universally transformative power of making art.

In addition to teaching, she is a working artist in San Francisco and has participated in numerous group exhibitions. She is also represented by The Trinity Gallery in Dublin, Ireland where she has a following by several private art collectors.  Nora shares that it is in painting where she feels most alive. It is the place where she knows there are no mistakes and she feels at one with the physicality and spirituality of this worldly experience. She considers paintings as her physical gift to this world, offering a small reassurance that we always have access to a deeper collective understanding, even during uneasy times.

Adriana Maritza, Teacher

Born and raised in the East Bay, Adriana was introduced to art at a very young age by visiting the Oakland Museum of California and SFMOMA with her mother. As a child, she loved to paint, draw, and work with clay. Her art work often featured a key role in the plays she performed for her family. Her love of visual and performing arts inspired her to study Art History at UC Berkeley and earn a Master’s degree in Museum Studies & Interpretation. Along the way, she developed a passion for teaching and decided to leave museum work in favor of working directly with children. As a lifelong artist and arts patron, Adriana’s goal is to foster an appreciation of art making in each student so that they may grow into adulthood and become advocates for the arts in their communities.

Amy Balsbaugh, Programs & Operations Manager

Amy Balsbaugh has devoted the past decade of her professional and personal life to enhancing the lives of children through creative self-expression. Prior to joining SFCAC, Amy served as Arts Coordinator at Rooftop School, an SFUSD K-8 School with a long history of integrating inquiry-based arts learning into the academic curriculum. She also works extensively with StageWrite (a theatre-in-education organization working in SFUSD schools) and developed visual arts curriculum for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Galileo Learning. Amy is trained in integrating arts and innovation into formal and informal education settings using methodologies from Harvard University’s Project Zero and Stanford University’s d.school. Amy is delighted to be part of the SFCAC team, supporting Reggio Emilia inspired programming that nurtures the innate curiosity and creativity of all children.

For more on our teachers or program, visit our arts program page or phone us at (415) 771-0292.