Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Jennifer landed in Los Angeles shortly after graduating from Emerson College with a B.A. in Mass Communications and Film.
An accidental philanthropist, Jennifer had a movie career in mind before fate dealt her a different hand. After a close friend was diagnosed with Leukemia, she began spending more time in hospital rooms and experienced first-hand the loneliness of hospitalized and medically fragile children.
Soon after, Jennifer began volunteering at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles with a group of friends, most of whom were artists, and in the fall of 1997, The Art of Elysium was born. What began as a group of friends with a mission to make sure no child goes through treatment alone, became a new way of looking at art and its capacity for social change.
Now in its 20th year, The Art of Elysium has been called the preeminent arts charity in Los Angeles, serving over thirty thousand individuals in communities in need per year, and thousands of emerging, volunteer artists.
An artist and activist, Rain was raised in the arts. She has toured with bands including Aleka’s Attic, The Causey Way, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Angela McCluskey, and recorded with REM, RHCP, and Leona Naess. In 2003, Rain formed the band Paper- cranes. She produced and released 4 EPs and 2 records. She is a founding member of The Citizen’s Band, a New York City based political cabaret troupe. Past participants of the Citizen’s Band include Sarah Sophie Flicker, Zoe Kravitz, Zooey Deschanel, Mark McAdam, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Karen Elson, and Nina Pers- son. In 2010, Rain founded Gift Horse Project which brings differ- ent artists together to collaborate on one of a kind concert ex- periences to benefit artist driven charities. Rain has contributed as a writer to Origin Magazine and currently writes, sings and performs with her band Venus and the Moon. She joined The Art of Elysium in 2014 as the director of Elysium Sessions overseeing the music arm of the charity. She is now partner of Elysium Ban- dini Studios, the first ever philanthropic studio and streaming platform. Rain believes in the power of collaboration over com- petition and thrills in seeing artists use their gifts to be of service to those in need.
Leslie Culp graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Prior to The Art of Elysium, she was a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and provided psychosocial support to patients, parents and siblings. Leslie is currently the Vice President of Academic and Community Arts Programs for The Art of Elysium and has been with the organization for 11 years. She is responsible for the training, supervision, development and implementation of all programming in Los Angeles.
Amy Belknap graduated with a BS in Psychology and Child Development from Cal State Northridge, and has a masters in Merchandise Product Development at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Amy’s love of fashion, art, and design, and her experience working with a range of medically fragile young people have helped her in developing our Fashion & Design community programming.
Andrée graduated from The University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Vocal Performance and Music Industry. After graduation, she worked for two years at The William Morris Agency in Brand Partnerships within the music division. She then left to pursue her own artistic endeavors and worked as a touring musician, singer-songwriter, performer, and music instructor. Andrée volunteered with The Art of Elysium for four years before taking on the position of Director of Music and Movement.
Tom Franco is an actor, artist, and founder of the Firehouse Art Collective in Berkley, California. These spaces allow artists to co-create community and culture, with an emphasis on living ones creative lifestyle. These spaces serve as art studios, galleries, housing, event venues, retail stores and more. He is a fine art sculptor, using found objects, mixed media and paint. Tom's artwork is regularly displayed and sold through galleries of the Firehouse Art Collective, as well as in shows through the United States and overseas. Tom has developed public art programs, murals, live art and feature films. He regularly teaches art classes and speaks at high schools, colleges and community workshops.
Born and raised in Australia, Tash Sakkas began touring and working professionally with national dance groups and theatrical companies at the age of 6. Appearing as the lead in local and international film, TV and theatrical productions, she was fortunate enough to work alongside many of the leading musicians, artists and performers in Australia. At age 12, she was taken under the mentorship of Australia’s lead choreographer, Robert Sturrock, and Australian actress and Ambassador for The Special Olympics, Paula Duncan. Receiving a scholarship to The Australian Institute of Dramatic Arts at 14, she continued to develop her craft with the school until the age of 17. At 16 she became a principal in Australia’s leading Dance Company “Industry.” After being inspired by Ms. Duncan’s work, Tash developed a dance and movement program for Down Syndrome children and adults. Upon graduating high school, she attended Bond University, where she studied Psychology and Marketing. With her love for non-profits, she worked on fundraising strategies and events as an intern for the Leukemia Foundation of Australia. In 2009 Tash collaborated with Australian actress Kimberly Joseph on her documentary highlighting the nuclear fall-out in Kazakhstan during the cold war, working on the Kazakh Steppe with children and adults who are suffering from plutonium exposure. She is currently building schools with non-profit Build On to empower underdeveloped countries through the power of education. Her first school was built in Malawi, Africa in 2013 and she is currently working on building her second school in Nepal in 2015. Tash joined The Art of Elysium in 2013 as its Music and Dance Manager and is now the Event Director. She delights in bringing the healing power of art to medically fragile children throughout Los Angeles.
Shannon Going was a volunteer with The Art of Elysium for 4 years before coming on board as Director of Theatre & Film Programs. As an actor, she has worked and performed in various theatre, film and televisions projects. Shannon also has years of experience working in the nonprofit and business worlds teaching at-risk youth, providing psychosocial support for critically ill patients, developing rehabilitation programs for abused mothers and children, and producing and managing large events of all types. As a graduate of UC Santa Barbara with a BS in BioPsychology and a minor in English, she is excited to be able to combine her passions and expertise to work with other like-minded artists to bring healing and joy to those who need it most.
Iris Torres was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she majored in Broadcasting Communications and worked in journalism, radio and TV.
In 2005 she moved to Vancouver, BC, to pursue a career in Film Production were she worked for 4 years as an Assistant Director for films like “Twilight” and “Planet of the Apes” before transitioning to producing.
Iris has been a producer for James Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini Productions from 2009-2017. She has produced commercials directed by James for Gucci (La Passione and “Dionysus”) and 7 for All Man Kind (Spring 2012). Her 2013 debut feature “Interior Leather Bar” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been shown at numerous Film Festivals around the world. Feature film producing credits for films directed by James Franco include “Bukowski” (2013), “In Dubious Battle” (2016) starring Selena Gomez, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris and Bryan Cranston, premiering at Venice Film Festival. Other credits include “Goat” (2016) “King Cobra” (2016) “Don Quixote” (Palm Springs Film Festival 2015), “Memoria” (2013). Iris collaborated with Sony TV and Life Time on “Mother, May I sleep with Danger?” starring Tori Spelling, which led to a second production with Life time “High School Lover” in 2016.
In 2017, she transitioned as a producer at The Art of Elysium & EB Studios the first philanthropic studio , where she currently works as a Lead Producer, mainly focusing with the objective of supporting emerging talent. Her next productions are a feature film “Fish”. Iris’ main passion is to help shape the future of emerging talent.
Krista Machovina holds a BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a MA in Art Therapy from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Krista has over 24 years experience in art education, art therapy, and non-profit management. Krista currently serves as The Art of Elysium’s Director of Visual Arts Programming while maintaining a studio in northeast Los Angeles and an active exhibition schedule. Her paintings are found in private collections nationwide and have been shown in gallery and museum exhibitions.
Erica Ortiz is a Mexican - American writer and director based in Los Angeles. In 2015, she graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Film/ Video Production. Her short film Ms. Match received recognition at the West Hollywood Women’s Leadership Conference and was the closing night film at LA Shorts Festival. She is currently a Director, Cinematographer, and Associate Producer at The Art of Elysium - a non-profit organization that brings art to communities of need. Erica is continuously seeking ways to tell socially impactful stories that inspire audiences to question social norms. She is dedicated to creating content that inspires inclusion, open mindedness, and growth within society today.
Jennifer K. Howell
VP, PROGRAMS-ACADEMIC AND COMMUNITY ARTS
DIRECTOR-ELYSIUM ART SALONS AND EVENTS
DIRECTOR-FASHION AND DESIGN PROGRAM
DIRECTOR-MUSIC AND MOVEMENT PROGRAM
DIRECTOR-THEATRE AND FILM PROGRAM
DIRECTOR-VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM
ELYSIUM BANDINI STUDIOS
Jennifer K. Howell
DIRECTOR-CONTENT AND PRODUCTION SUPPORT
Samar Osman, Armanino LLP
Shepard & Amanda Fairey
Studio Number One
Denise Lopez, DL Creative Studio
Alice Braccini, VIOLETTA Group
Marcel Pariseau, True Public Relations
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Independent Voting Board Members
Current Term 2015-2018
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
FOUNDING BOARD MEMBER
SECRETARY OF THE BOARD
Christopher R. King
*All Board Meeting Minutes on File and Available Upon Request