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 Canada in 2006, and the 2016 Summer Conference in Toronto, Ontario.


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.


Adriana Maritza, Lead 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.


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Lead Teacher

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is an artist and educator of mixed Pakistani and Lebanese descent. He enjoys glitter, fabric, quilts and embroidery and when he’s not teaching and making art, he’s your friendly, neighborhood Muslim drag queen.  He has worked as a teacher in both Pakistan and the U.S. and sees education as a way of broadening our perspectives of art’s role in a globalized world.


Marisa Aragona, Teacher

Marisa Aragona has worked extensively in the Bay Area arts community as an artist, activist, curator and educator for over 10 years. In addition to her work as an arts educator, Marisa is a professional photographer specializing dance and stage visuals including recent work with Bay Area companies and choreographers such as Mix’d Ingrdnts, David Herrera Performance Group, Joe Goode, PUSH Dance, Rosemary Hannon and Sheena Johnson among others. Her photo-based work and installations have been exhibited in Zurich, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Seattle and Vilnius Lithuania. Her photographs have been published and received awards from the Photo Review Journal, the Association of Women Photographers and the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art. Marisa grew up outside of Washington DC and received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2005 and BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2000. Marisa lives and works in San Francisco.


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.