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Antonio F. Delgado


“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

 -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Why be one thing you grow up … when can be them all? Antonio F Delgado works as the Minister of Fun and Education with Science In A Suitcase. Sometimes he gets the opportunity to be a Robotics Master Mentor with National Instruments and teach the next generation of Robotics Teachers. Over the past three years Antonio would trek to East Austin to assist a Title 1 Robotics team at Govalle Elementary School. In 2014, Antonio and his friends Nicole and Lillan started an organization called Science In A Suitcase. Together they hope to teach kids all over the world about the greatness of robotics and creativity. By 2015, Science In A Suitcase and their friends at the Paramount Theatre created a partnership titled, “roboARTS”. Today, Antonio travels the globe teaching kids about creativity through robotics and songwriting by leveraging everyone’s most powerful tool - imagination. During his downtime, Antonio loves to play music with his band Oh Antonio and His Imaginary Friends, create children’s stories, and producing musicians at Ice Cream Factory Studios. In 2021, Antonio hopes to release 52 songs. Even when Antonio is writing about himself in the third person, he strives to ignite creativity, imagination and joy in the people around him. He believes that a STEAM education is essential to creating well rounded and fruitful students and art is essential to life. He is excited to join Austin’s Emerging Arts Leader and further support arts in central Texas.

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Gabriela Kane Guardia

Vice President

“You are kind to painters, and I tell you, the more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” - Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh

Gabriela completed an MA in Latin American Studies at UT Austin with a portfolio in the Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship Program. Her fieldwork and research engaged Chilean cultural policy and Indigenous representation. She loves collaborating with culture bearers for the preservation of folk and traditional arts as the Deputy Director at Texas Folklife. She holds a BA in International Studies and Spanish from Texas A&M, and previously managed SEAD Gallery in Historic Downtown Bryan. She advocates for public support of the arts, and previously served as an intern with Texans for the Arts during the 86th Texas Legislature. Gabriela is passionate about culturally-specific STEAM education, shown through her service with Innovation Collaborative and Latinitas. She is excited to serve as a board member for Austin Emerging Arts Leaders after a very rewarding mentorship experience with the 2020 mentee us to use it!"


Jessica Gelarden


“Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?"

-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Jessica has more than a decade of experience in arts administration. She most recently served as the director of operations at Austin’s Ao5 Gallery, coordinating the rebranding of the Gallery and managing the day-to-day operations to ensure profitability and sustainability. Prior to moving to Austin, Jessica was the education program manager for a non-profit arts organization in upstate New York. She was responsible for the establishment of a school of the performing arts that featured Broadway artists and the creation of arts-in-education programming. She managed program budgets, hiring, marketing, and implementation. Each program reflected the organization’s vision and responded to unique community needs. In personal and professional capacities, Jessica advocates for the arts and works to build the support that can sustain arts organizations and programming. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in art history and criticism.

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Julia Vunderink


'Hay que vivir sin prisa y con paciencia.Take your time and enjoy your life."

Julia is a native Austinite and local arts enthusiast. After earning a BA in Arts History and Latin American Studies, Julia led community arts initiatives and taught English and Arts classes in Spain and Central America. Eventually making her way back to Austin, Julia briefly worked as the Education Intern at Mexic-Arte Museum, and has been working for local arts education non-profit MINDPOP for three years, where she lends her insights regarding organizational logistics and event planning, and shares the passion for expanding arts access and creative teaching in Austin. Julia is new to the Austin Emerging Arts Leaders board as of 2021, and is excited to be a part of the EAL community!

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Jesus Varela

"Create Positive Social Change."

Currently the coordinator of signature events at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin, Jesus Varela has over 10 years of experience in the development and expansion of community arts programming.Starting in 2009, he was the lead representative for Remezcla in San Francisco tasked with connecting to Latino cultural institutions and creators in the Bay Area and recruiting a team of part-time writers to create hyper-local editorial content. In 2010, he was part of the team that created Radio Valencia, a local pirate-radio station in the San Francisco Latino Cultural District focusing on highlighting local creators.


After moving to freelance tour management in 2012, booking/artist relations for multi-venue festivals like SF Carnaval, Varela was recruited to lead cultural program management and development for Accion Latina in 2015. He went on to work with the creation of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and lead the process in launching a multi-venue free/family friendly/bilingual art walk focused on generating paid opportunities for local artists while increasing revenue for local shops & restaurants.


Most recently, he worked with a small team to create La Pulguita, a safe space for local street vendors to sell with a focus on job & work skill development.One of the main goals throughout Varela's career has been to work across private and public sectors to preserve, defend, cultivate, and advocate for the vitality of underserved communities.

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Sandy Lam

"In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment." - Maxine Hong Kingston

Sandy Lam is an interdisciplinary storyteller, non-profit professional, and bubble tea enthusiast. She is especially passionate about creating and amplifying stories about the experiences of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. She wrote, produced, and performed in "So Lucky," a play about intergenerational conflict and mental health in Asian American communities. More recently, her short play "Twitter Feed" was featured in New Manifest Theatre's Manifest Minifest and Theatre Three's Love and Kindness in the Time of Quarantine. She also enjoys creating spaces for connection and learning through community workshops. She has been a content creator and facilitator for the APIDA Community Writing Circle, BIPOC Story Circle, and the Performing Justice Project. By serving on the EAL board, she hopes to uplift and foster a community for emerging artists in Austin.

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Christopher Kiley

"Creativity is intelligence having fun." - Albert Einstein

Christopher Kiley specializes in the dynamic intersection between the creative sector and public resources. Chris has a unique background, navigating the field and communicating the needs of the creative sector to a myriad of decision makers at the local, state and federal levels. Chris supports the non-profit arts sector alongside individual artists and concerned citizens that desire a robust public arts funding model. Chris joined the staff of Texans for the Arts, the State's arts advocacy organization, in 2016. As Associate Director Chris manages the fiscal health and growth of the organization. Chris oversees implementing numerous communication and membership strategies aimed at arming the non-profit creative sector with the tools it needs to succeed in securing vital public resources. Chris is keenly interested in how public investment in the creative sector provides measurable and valuable assets to our communities and building a statewide coalition of creatives to help make that case. 

Chris moved to Texas in 2014 to attend graduate school at Texas Tech University from New York, New York and moved to the Austin area to pursue working with TFA in 2016 after completing his MFA in Arts Administration. He considers Texas one of the best places on Earth and loves working on behalf of the arts community here. Chris has been involved in Texas politics since arriving in the State and spent time while at Texas Tech interning for former Congressman Gene Green from Houston in Washington D.C., immersing himself in arts policy and funding issues.  

Chris is also  dedicated to arts education. Chris worked for Austin non-profit Creative Action as a SPARK School Arts Integration Teaching Artist from 2016 to 2019. In partnership with Austin ISD, Chris collaborated with classroom teachers to develop and implement curriculum for STEM subjects through a creative lens. Chris believes that a robust arts education is critical to ensuring that our young people are prepared to enter the 21st Century Workforce and the skills an arts curriculum develops are critical to their success.

As an artist, Chris also has a background in Acting and Directing for the stage. Chris has performed professionally all over the country and served as Executive Director of the Derryfield Repertory Theater Program, a summer initiative dedicated to introducing young people to theater and producing professional musical theater productions at the Derryfield School in NH from 2014- 2018.

Chris recently accepted an adjunct professorship at Texas Tech University, teaching a graduate level arts advocacy course that explored the structure, implementation and evaluation of advocacy campaigns designed to solve problems in the field. 

"I believe a healthy arts landscape is vital to providing us with happy, healthy communities. The arts give us a voice, but it is up to us to use it!"

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Emily Heroux

"We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is." - Dr. Mark Vonnegut


Emily is a Massachusetts transplant, a sometimes artist, and an all-the-time arts supporter. Since moving to Austin in 2015, she has slowly become more and more engrossed in the arts scene. Starting out as just an onlooker, she realized her passion for the arts lived on 'the business side of things.' She took a more hands-on role coordinating live-painting events and providing behind-the-scenes support to local artists and art-focused events.

She loves bringing emerging artists to the forefront and connecting them to opportunities that make them remember why they do what they do. So when asked to join the Austin Emerging Arts Leaders, she didn't hesitate to jump on board. (She is also a pun enthusiast.)

Emily has worked in local nonprofits for over 6 years and is currently the Development Coordinator at Out Youth and the Project Coordinator at HOPE Campaign. 

Ryan Manning

Ryan Manning

Ryan Manning works as a program manager at Creative Action, where he supervises and creates content for after-school arts programs, creative camps, and community events across Austin. He studied performance and production at Texas State University and Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre with a focus on theatre direction. In the past, Ryan has worked with numerous theatre companies including the Scottish Rite Children's Theatre, Salvage Vanguard Theatre, Austin Shakespeare, and the City Theatre. He has also worked on and been a participant in local festivals including Frontera Fest, The 48 Hour Film Project, Fusebox Festival, and the 14/48 Play Festival. 

Mary Rochford

Mary Rochford

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open." - Martha Graham


Mary Rochford is an El Paso born, Austin based artist. She creates figurative art pieces through both hand-embroidery and oil paint. Mary’s work is a dreamy, intimate exploration of women’s experiences, often using strong color and surreal imagery. Mary has led workshops through Creative Box Studios and is a member of the artist collective, atxGALS. 

Mary has also worked as an actress since childhood and received an acting degree from Emerson College. She has performed with theatre companies across the United States, specializing in physical and devised theatre. She is particularly proud of her training and work with Double Edge Theatre. 



The Austin EAL believes in building a collaborative community and values the diversity we all bring to the table. We commit ourselves to creating an inclusive community, and see this as central to our mission of cultivating the next generation of arts leaders. We are proud to support diversity in our community.

Austin EAL will not practice or permit any unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, age, race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious creed, physical handicap or disability, sexual orientation or gender-identity/expression, marital status, veteran’s status, political service or affiliation or any other basis prohibited by law.


Austin Emerging Arts Leaders began in 2012. After meeting at the Americans for the Arts National Convention in San Antonio, Sarah Rucker and Anne-Marie Mckaskle-Davis formed and facilitated the first gatherings, providing participants with a community in which to share experiences as early-career creative professionals, and a space to address challenges and fulfill needs through peer support. The very first membership meeting took place at Austin’s City Hall in August 2012, in conjunction with the People’s Gallery Artist Talk.

Official status as Texas’ first Americans for the Arts chapter followed shortly thereafter (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston were quick to follow suit). The Board of Directors structure was formalized in 2013, and facilitated events and activities began to grow out of the community of members and volunteers, including quarterly panel discussions, scholarships for emerging artists, and networking events. A general partnership was established in 2015 to further formalize operations, with Austin Creative Alliance serving as Austin Emerging Arts Leaders’ fiscal sponsor.

 More recently, the board has shifted to focusing on diversity and inclusivity in the creative sector of Austin. The New Philanthropists Board Inclusion Assessment resulted in candid conversations and a task to be more inclusive moving forward.


Towards the end of 2018, following the successful establishment of the EAL Mentorship program, the last of the original founding members moved on to their own personal endeavors and the organization saw an influx of new board leadership. The board shifted from a membership-based model to that of a non-profit that focused on mentorship, scholarship, and workshop opportunities for the Austin region and beyond. 

Over the course of 2019, due in particular to the contributions of Skyla Lowery and Heather Arnos, the original goal to become of 501(c)3 finally came into the picture. As of January 2020, we are an IRS designated non-profit with the mission of cultivating the next generation of arts leaders by developing inclusive systems for creative and personal growth.

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