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teaching artists

Melissa Baker

Inspired by her upbringing on her family’s cattle ranch, Melissa’s artistic style embraces abstract images found in nature. After graduating in 1999 with a fine art degree from the University of Wisconsin, Melissa returned to Napa Valley with her sister Mercedes, converted an old 1920’s hay barn into a working studio, and established the Ehlers Artists Collective.

In 2009, the Napa Valley Mustard Festival selected Melissa as “Artist of the Year.” She has exhibited in galleries, universities and museums from New York City to Buenos Aires and is involved in set design, movie making, and playing in a rock band, Samvega. Melissa feels very fortunate to be able to make a life with her sister and their amazing artistic family on Ehlers Lane and to teach drawing and painting at Nimbus Arts.

                  

Mercedes Baker

A native of Napa Valley, Mercedes is passionate about exploring the many facets of art, from painting murals and stage sets, to bronze casting and the creation of found-object sculpture. She was educated at the University of Wisconsin and studied anthropology and traditional painting in Bali. Along with her sister Melissa, Mercedes founded the Ehlers Collective Art Studio in 2002, where she continues to paint and inspire others. Twice a year she tours the United States as part of the rock band, Samvega.

“Artists need each other,” Mercedes says, “We give each other courage and help each other remember that art is the mirror of humanity. It direclty correlates to our surrounding, both physical and emotional, and it allow us to process all things seen and unseen.”

Mercedes teaches drawing and painting at Nimbus Arts and exhibits her work both nationally and abroad.

                  

Matthew Baum

Matthew Baum is a photographer and educator based in Napa Valley, California. He earned a BA in American history from Brown University, studied architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts.

Matthew is on faculty at the University of California – Davis, and previously taught at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Hunter College and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He was co-founder and director of the VisuaLife photography education program, working with underprivileged youth in NYC.

Matthew’s work has been exhibited at venues in the United States and abroad, including CAMRaleigh, Fordham University’s Center Gallery and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.


Nikki Ballere Callnan

Nikki has been working in the arts and arts education most of her life. During her undergraduate studies at Sierra Nevada College, Nikki taught ceramics to children. The exposure to working with kids awakened a joy for teaching that has become a significant part of her life and career. Nikki also worked on developing her own art process and producing studio artwork.

After graduating with a BFA degree, she moved to Boston and began working as an arts coordinator for an after-school program. Nikki complemented this position with work as a teacher’s assistant in the ceramics department at the School of The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Later, Nikki became a Teacher Fellow at Nobles and Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts, teaching seventh and eighth grade art and high school ceramics as well as coaching Field Hockey.  She also taught an independent study program with a ceramic focus, expanding her experience and further developing her skill-set in working with children of all ages.

Moving to California’s beautiful Napa Valley with her boyfriend (and now husband), Nikki built a small home studio and kept working in clay and the arts.  Later, Nikki began working at Napa Valley College as an Instructional Assistant in the ceramics studio, managing all aspects of the studio, making glazes, mixing clay, loading, firing and unloading kilns as well as helping students.  Nikki continued her studies, earning a Master of Fine Art Degree from San Jose State University, with a concentration in ceramics.

Nikki joined the Nimbus Arts crew after gaining her advanced degree and has been working with Nimbus ever since. She leads development of various art camps and classes and other arts programming for kids and adults alike.

Nikki and her husband have grown their small home studio into a successful full-time pottery business. They also continue to teach at Nimbus Arts, balancing their studio business with sharing their passion for art with students and the community. Nikki stays connected to young artists through a general arts class she teaches weekly at Howell Mountain School for kindergarteners through to 8th grade.

William Callnan

William Callnan earned a BFA from the school of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University in Boston in 2002. Since then, he has continually worked in the arts, teaching, doing public works and commissions as well as creating original artworks for exhibition and sale. In making ceramic work, William shows the touch of his hand in his finished works in order to convey his unique expression. His work strives to be original and speaks to the plastic nature of clay as a medium. Currntly he is a ceramics and general arts instructor at Nimbus Arts. He exhibits locally throughout the Bay Area and works out of his home studio in Angwin, California. His work can be found in private collections across the country.

Nick Cann

Nick Cann has been creating graphic images since 1965. After studying at San Jose State University, L’Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, and The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Nick began his career at MGM, illustrating sets. He spent the next 30 years in Los Angeles as a freelance designer-illustrator. He has designed sets for Diana Ross, Gene Wilder, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and has been commissioned to do murals and assemblages for Hyatt Regency in Buffalo, NY, the New Orleans and Dallas airports, Bonanza Steak Houses, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Nick has worked for Stephen Spielberg and Tom Cruise, and has designed posters for the San Francisco Ballet and sets for the Stapleton Ballet. Since coming to the Napa Valley, Nick added Erin Martin Design, Jeni Olsen Design, and many Napa wineries to his clientele. In 2006, he began teaching calligraphy and drawing to students at Nimbus Arts.

Joseph Close

Joseph Carl Close is the son of Susan and Patrick Close, this native of Columbus, Ohio has spent the better part of 20 years immersed in a variety of creative disciplines ranging from oil; painting, hand blown glass and steel sculpture. Close’s penchant for tinkering and drawing were fostered by a love of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion works, Sci-Fi comics, mythology and the industrial trades. His father’s profession as a Local 189 Pipe Fitter and pop culture were heavy influences that led him to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where Close studied Industrial Design Technology. Searching for a less commercial means of creative expression, Close changed direction and taught himself anatomy and began a passion for oil painting. This course change led him to Canton, Ohio where he nurtured skills as a painter by sharing studio space with established painters such as Marti Jones Dixon and Marcy Axleband. During these years, Close also was part of helping Ken Carter, glass artisan, build his hot glass shop, KC

Glass, from the ground up. Earning 2nd Gaffer, Close worked for and with Ken Carter for 9 years in an intense Hand Blown Glass environment that focused on production works and traditional Venetian glass techniques. There he was taught steel fabrication that enabled him to produce several public art commissions for the city of Canton and Massillon Ohio.

As a stand alone artist, Close has integrated oil painting, steel and glass into several solo shows depicting a blend of mythology and personal experience captured with 2-D oil works, as well as 3-D installation. Wanderlust and the pursuit to meet, learn and engage with artist and craftsmen near and far, Close has landed and set roots in Saint Helena, CA. where he has taken up residence at Ehlers Society founded by the Baker Sisters. Here Close hopes to lend his skills and experience to help keep the arts alive and well in the community, as well as continuing a lifelong endeavor to tell a story through visual imagery.

 

Olivia Cowell

Olivia is a director and actor who focused her attention on teaching children while obtaining her M.A. in Drama from San Francisco State University. Local directing credits include: A Chorus Line (The Napa Valley Opera House), Private Eyes (Lucky Penny Productions), Late: a Cowboy Song (Sonoma Backstage Theater), Eternity (8×10 Play Festival), Lend Me a Tenor (Napa Valley Playhouse) and Alice in Wonderland (Studio G). Olivia has taught as a teaching artist in over 15 schools throughout the Napa Valley since joining cafeteria kids theater in 2008. She is the currently the Performing Arts teacher at Napa Christian Campus of Education.

 

Margaret Dennett

At Sacramento City College Margaret taught Costume Construction and Design, as well as designing costumes for all the SCAT productions. Her work was honored with two “Ellies” for outstanding costume design.  After moving from Davis to Napa, she started my own business creating custom designs of chef and garden ware, as well as hand painted jackets for local shops. During this time, Margaret also returned to school to continue her studies in ceramics, photography, drawing and printmaking at both Napa Valley College and Sonoma State University.  She received her teaching credential in Art, Drama and Textiles. Margaret’s teaching career began teaching at Calistoga Jr./Sr. High School serving as an instructor in Art, Ceramics and Drama for 3 years. Margaret transitioned to New Technology High School in Napa where she started the school’s first Art and Drama program, retiring from New Tech in 2016.   On retirement, she was part of UC Davis Global academy, spending 10 days in London studying Shakespeare at the Globe and continued graduate work at Sonoma State in Theater education.

Margaret believes that the Arts can change the lives of our youth in the most positive ways and her time teaching and working with young people has shown growth in skill and confidence when immersed in the Arts.

Retirement has given Margaret the time to continue her work and studies in painting and printmaking and return to her love of ceramics.

Margaret first connected with Nimbus five years ago and has volunteered each year to help produce the backdrops for NIMBASH, the annual Nimbus Arts fundraiser.  Over that time Margaret has also served as an Artist/Instructor for Nimbus programs and classes.

Ed Edwards

Growing up in Chicago, Ed would sneak into his grandfather’s office to gaze at the stained glass windows of knights in battle.  After studying art at Lawrence University Ed began creating his own stained glass windows and continued to work with glass throughout his business career.  In 2002 he established his stained glass studio in Napa where he created windows for businesses, churches and residences across the country.  He began his transition to kiln-formed art when he couldn’t find the desired glass for stained glass window projects.  Soon thereafter, Ed transformed his workspace to a hot glass studio.  He now sells his work in galleries from Florida to California.

An important aspect of Ed’s transformation to kiln-formed glass work has been helping others experience the enjoyment of working with glass.  In addition to teaching classes in his studio, he has taught at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center in Mobile, Alabama, and the Mobile Museum of Art.  Ed is excited to join Nimbus Arts and share the joy of kiln-formed glass.

Paulo Fernando Paiva Ferreira

A native of Lisbon, Portugal, Paulo has lived in Mozambique, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United States. His professional experience includes theater production and management, graphic design and marketing, commercial illustration, 3-D product design, and environmental design.

From an early age, Paulo’s artistic expressions took form as Painting and Sculpture. The aesthetics of his work are derived from the many different cultures he has experienced. Sculpture is a form of art that requires one to think in space without boundaries or handrails and where the agility of a young person’s mind can discover its freedom.

For Paulo, teaching at Nimbus for the last two years has been a wondrous involvement in the world of unfettered creativity where both the teacher and student are gifted with the amazement at their creation of art.

David Garden, Jr

After majoring in film production, David created award-winning shorts as a film editor at Colossal Pictures in San Francisco. In 1998, David moved to Napa Valley and in 2005, when he heard about a new art center called Nimbus Arts, he jumped at the chance to become an instructor. He has been jumping ever since, working with students and bringing the joy of art to the Napa Valley community and beyond. “I am grateful for the freedom to include a variety of arts and sciences in my curriculum,” David says. “From outer space studies to toy-making, puppetry to music, alternative energy to game design, Nimbus Arts helps me ignite the creative spark.” Although David is 6′ 2″ tall, he lives in a chicken coop. “The close quarters are a constant reminder to watch out where I’m going and to observe the world around me.”

In addition to serving on the board of Nimbus Arts, David is also a board member of Arts Council Napa Valley.

Aimée Guillot

Aimée received her Bachelor of Arts in Literature from SUNY Purchase (Cum Laude), and her Master of Fine Arts in Acting from UC San Diego. Additional acting training: NYU /Tisch School of the Arts; Oxford School of Drama. Professional acting credits: Off Broadway- Big Love (Brooklyn Academy of Music Next WaveFestival -2001, Obie Award winner); Canard, Canard, Goose? (Here Arts Center); and Xtravaganza (St. Ann’s Warehouse, Guggenheim Works & Process, and Whitney PerformanceSpace). She is also an original member of the New York based investigative theatre group, The Civilians. Regional- Big Love (The Goodman Theatre, Long Wharf Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville- Humana Festival of New American Plays), Wintertime (Long Wharf Theater); The Importance of Being Earnest (La Jolla Playhouse). Bay Area- Eurydice (Berkeley Rep), The Typographer’s Dream (Encore Theatre, Shotgun Players), Big Love (Berkeley Rep) Finger (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts). As a director she has staged productions at The Napa Valley Opera House, Lincoln Theater, and the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center. She has been a drama instructor in the Bay Area for over 10 years, and was voted one of the top 100 teachers at UCSD. She founded the non-profit Cafeteria Kids Theater with Olivia Cowell in 2014.

Shelly Hanan

Shelly began taking photographs when she received a brownie camera for her 5th birthday. After taking an astonishing number of pictures of her 3-year old sister, Shelly turned the camera on the world around her. Shelly attending Humboldt State University where she became enamored with the early 20th century artists who experimented with surrealism and abstraction, as well as the avant-garde photographers of the early 1920’s and 30’s. She began, and continues, to explore capturing a similar sensibility, while staying true to the realistic medium of photography.

Shelly received her teaching certification in K-12 Art Education from New York State University at Stony Brook. She has truly enjoyed sharing her talents with pre-school, middle school and high school students, focusing primarily on photography and film in recent years. Having the opportunity to work with very young children again at Nimbus Arts has been refreshing and delightful!

Shelly serves on the board of Arts Council Napa Valley. Her work may be viewed in their online Creative Directory and at: http://www.shellhananphoto.com/

Helen Jane Hearn

Helen Jane’s history as an illustrator and writer has been at the front edge of digital creation for 20 years. Since 1997, she has written at helenjane.com, exploring the impact of digital culture on social spaces. Studying art through the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the University of Minnesota, Helen Jane has spent much of her adult life working as a designer and creative problem solver. Inspired by the Napa Valley’s generous hospitality, she believes wholeheartedly in inspiring creativity through celebration.

Emma Higgins

Emma is a Calistoga native who takes inspiration daily from all the beauty of this valley. With an multi-disciplinary artistic and culinary education from the City College of San Francisco, she has come to realize that art is everywhere you look. From sharing a family recipe to working on a collective art piece, it is the human experience of creating and expressing together that has kept her active in the arts. She views developing art skills and an interest in the arts to be as fundamental as food to create a full, vibrant life and community. She celebrates the Arts’ liberating and healing properties and hopes to ignite that spark in others.

Lisa D. Hinz

A licensed clinical psychologist and a registered art therapist, Lisa earned a doctorate at Louisiana State University and a postdoctoral certificate in art therapy at the University of Louisville. For 25 years, she has been helping people with eating, weight, and lifestyle concerns achieve their goals for optimal health in body, mind, and spirit. Lisa appreciates how the creative process allows people to access deep inner wisdom and facilitate profound change without getting caught up with lots of words. She is an adjunct professor of art therapy at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and the author of two books, Drawing from Within: Using Art to Treat Eating Disorders and Expressive Therapies Continuum: A Framework for Using Art in Therapy.

Lisa facilitates SoulCollage™ at Nimbus Arts. “I love the relaxed and accepting atmosphere at Nimbus,” Lisa says. “It can be very intimidating for non-artist adults to pick up art materials for the first time in years. Nimbus provides the perfect supportive place for this to happen; there is never judgment, only encouragement to trust the process.”

Mikey Kelly

Mikey Kelly received his Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2003 after studying at San Jose State University and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts at the University of Oregon in 1996. He lived in New York for six years where he worked as a fabricator for various artists and created retail displays for Urban Outfitters, Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman and interiors for The Ace and Standard Hotels. He has worked professionally in the fields of glass, ceramic, steel, drawing, painting, printmaking, interior design and as a project manager overseeing many large-scale public and private commissions. In 2012 Mikey struck out on his own opening his studio in Napa, CA.
Mikey’s work is shown and sold at major art fairs and galleries across the United States and is represented in many museum, corporate and private collections.

Joel Kurtz

Joel grew up in the Northwest exploring wilderness and the arts in equal measure. He went on to major in glass, with a minor in media/performance, at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. His exploration continued into wood sculpture, metals casting and most recently slip-cast ceramics, inspired by anthropology, architecture and industry. Joel taught sculpture at the high school level for nine years where he expanded the program to include metals casting and fabrication, glass slumping and fusing, and ceramics. After twenty years in Oakland, California he made the decision to move on to a new adventure in the Napa Valley.

Gabriella Levandowski

Gabriella is a multi-media artist with works ranging from print and textile design to large scale interactive art installations. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2013 with a BFA and a minor in Art History, she moved to the Bay Area further pushing the experimental side of fiber arts while also pursuing a career in repeat pattern design on a commercial level. Her work focuses on the dialog between color-theory, shapes, and texture. While teaching, she encourages students to explore the tangible aspects of creating artwork with a fearlessness in their approach to a blank subject matter inspired by recognizable objects, the abstract, and everything in between.

      

Dave Massaro

A true Napa Valley native, Dave has been working with the metal arts and fabrication for over ten years. His work primarily consists of industrial scraps of steel but it also composed of stainless steel, brass, copper, bronze, aluminum and other types of metal. Voted one of Napa Valley’s Top 25 Most Interesting People by Napa Valley Living, his passion for life and art are visibly transmitted through the welding and plasma cutting classes at Nimbus. His work can be seen on the St. Helena High School campus as well as in local galleries. Have a blast with 30,000°F of molten fun while transforming dreams into realities.

Oscar Aguilar Olea

In the mid 1970s, along with 20 other student artists from the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City, Oscar took to the street. The group gave themselves the name SUMA and began to use the fences of Mexico City as their canvas. With the attention the murals attracted, SUMA was invited to show at local galleries and museums and the group was part of the first biennial for young artists in Paris. SUMA also caught the attention of artists like Rufino Tamayo, Juan Jose Arreola and others, and won a place in the evolution of Mexican Art.

Following his involvement with SUMA, Oscar dedicated several years to research techniques, studying egg tempera al fresco, oils, watercolors, etchings, drawings, woodcutting, and sculpting. As an artist and teacher for Nimbus Arts, Oscar applies the techniques he learned and brings his expertise representing the human figure.

Vincent Serrano Pagniucci

Vincent Serrano Pagniucci studied Illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL and earned a BFA in 2006.  Vincent began painting landscapes plein air and gained gallery representation at the M Gallery of Fine Art.  In 2008 he moved to San Francisco and began filling sketch books with drawings of people and city scenes.  Vincent uses as wide variety of mediums and has taught community art courses at City College of San Francisco, College of San Mateo and Chabot College.  

In 2016 Vincent relocated with his wife to Napa, CA.  He currently teaches at Nimbus Arts, Napa School of Music and Sunrise Montessori of Napa Valley.

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Holly Hubbard Preston

Holly is a journalist, essayist, and recently published fiction writer. Her non-fiction work has appeared in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Forbes, and Newsweek, among others. Her fiction has been published in many literaly reviews including Palimpsest, the Southampton Review, and Glimmer Train. Holly holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Stony Brook University in New York, as well as a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and modern european history from the University of Southern California. Save for one day when she was 21 and thought of being a trial lawyer, Holly has never considered being anything other than a writer.

Erin Ramsey

Erin Ramsey was born in raised in Durham, North Carolina where she gained an early appreciation of the power of community and homegrown vegetables. After studying theatre for many years, she decided to pursue her culinary interests at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, where she emerged with a Bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, and a husband, Kipp Ramsey, to boot.

Erin moved to Napa with her husband in the summer of 2010 and was immediately enthralled in its myriad of culinary opportunity. Upon her arrival to the valley, she joined the team at Robert Sinskey Vineyards and has since relished her position managing the biodynamic winerys’ culinary program; a veritable stage for farm to table practice and creativity.

She embraces all opportunities, such as those provided by Nimbus Arts, to enthrall Napa’s youth in the many culinary adventures inspired by its incredible community.

 

Kipp Ramsey

Kipp plays in the very busy intersection of farming and food purveying activities at Long Meadow Ranch. He is the guy who knowledgably plans, delivers, prepares, and presents the bounty of Long Meadow Ranch from vegetables, fruits, honey and eggs to freshly made olive oil to grass-fed beef and lamb.

A native of Madisonville, Kentucky, Kipp moved to Mississippi to attend Ole Miss, where he received a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences with an emphasis in hospitality management. After graduation, Kipp moved to New Zealand where he worked in orchards and vineyards while traveling, skiing, fly fishing, kayaking, camping, and hiking. Upon return from traveling abroad, Kipp decided to pursue his love of cooking and service at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York where he graduated with a degree in culinary arts.

After years of experience, Kipp has learned the importance of “less is more” when preparing seasonally driven food by focusing on the ingredients and letting them shine.

Claire Tiwald

Claire Tiwald is an avid traveler and artist creating multiple forms of visual art. Armed with her BA in Art from Nebraska Wesleyan University creates photographic realist portraiture, sculpture, art dolls, collages, inks, and digital paintings. She uses all these skills to create her comic-books. “Sequential art is an open road: comics can be a venue for both childish whimsy and more serious adult themes.”

Her work was featured at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum in 2013 and the Lone Star Studios collective in Oakland. Currently she is self-publishing her first full length graphic novel Age of Avarice, which currently has content published online at www.ageofavarice.com. Her full artist portfolio can be found at www.clairetiwald.com

Claire is always available for commissions and is teaching comic booking and other art mediums at Nimbus Arts.

Adam Wiedmann

Adam Wiedmann was born and raised in the Berkshires of Western Massachu- setts. He was named for his great great uncle Adam Clark Vroman, the Pasadena based photographer and naturalist. Adam traveled west for college to his familial roots and found himself in the arts. After college he returned to the East Coast to start a family in Maine and had immediate success as a sculptor, showing in galleries and selling his work to public, private and corporate collections world- wide. After too many New England winters, he and his family decided to once again move out West. Recently, they were drawn to Napa Valley, where people practice the art of living—be it food, wine, the arts or philanthropy. As an art- ist, it is his goal to transform a hard industrial material into soft balanced works inspired by nature.
 

Nancy Willis

Artist Nancy Willis lives and works in the Napa Valley. Principally an oil painter, Willis works with themes of intimacy and connection across paint, printmaking, and video mediums. She has created multiple series exploring the bed, the dinner party and the chandelier as well as work based on her annual trips to France.

Willis is entrepreneurial in her practice. In 2007, she successfully launched annual Path of the Artist painting tours to France leading artists through an intimate view of Paris, Bordeaux and Bergerac and the Mediterranean. In 2013, she debuted a weekend workshop at Sundance, Utah amidst the natural beauty of the Timpanganos Mountains.

In addition to teaching painting and printmaking at the Napa Valley College, and Nimbus Arts, Willis also teaches design at the Culinary Institute of America/Greystone and San Antonio. There is little difference between her art practice and her life. In 2011, she curated the exhibition Discrepancy/living between war and peace at the Napa Valley Museum, which grew out of work in her studio. She is currently curating an exhibit about the intersections between art and the dinner table.

Willis sees the world through the eyes of a painter; tactile, evocative and filled with sensations. She advocates good wine and long dinners for all artists and can be found looking to stir things up in and out of her studio.

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