Cat Willis

Founder
Cat Willis (pronouns: she/her/hers) is the founder and former Executive Director of the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center for ten years in Santa Cruz, CA. She is originally from Rochester, New York, where she began her dance education with Garth Fagan Dance, with whom she studied extensively for six years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in dance from SUNY Brockport. Cat has served on the Arts Council of Santa Cruz grants panel, the County Park Friends Advisory Committee and sits on the board of directors for Next River and Black Surf Santa Cruz. She received the 2014 Gail Rich Award for her excellence in arts leadership in Santa Cruz County.

Cat's dedication to racial justice and equity spans a lifetime of education, community organizing, and activism through the platform of arts and culture. Her cross cultural work in the dance arts have led her to studies in West Africa, and to Jamaica where she was artist in residence and lecturer at the Edna Manley School of Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. She was the 418 Project’s 2009 Artist in Residence and the Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H grant recipient in dance for her evening-length dance production “Diaspora, Food for Thought: Roots, Ritual, Re-imagined,” an exploration of ancestral wisdom, racial trauma, and a re-imagined Black Diaspora in the American experience. My life is my work and I have always strived to lead with integrity and courage; and to truly show up for my community. I believe in the power of the creative that each of us possess and that creating a just society begins through human connection, creativity, and culture- the arts and our connection to the earth are the tools for the world we must rebuild."

She is founding director of the Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative alongside community partners United Way of Santa Cruz County, NAACP Santa Cruz Chapter, Blended Bridge, County Park Friends,and the Santa Cruz County Black Coalition for Justice and Racial Equity. She currently sits on the Santa Cruz County Commission on Anti-Racism, Economic & Social Justice (CARES) and the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County's Rise Together cohort.

George Newell

Board President

George Newell has a long history in local government and community organizations. After moving to California from his home in Oklahoma in 1970, Mr. Newell established and managed the Veterans Reentry Program for Vietnam Veterans at Monterey Peninsula College. In 1974, George moved to Santa Cruz to work for Santa Cruz County and in 1978 became the County Administrative Officer. In 1989, he was hired by Sally Reed to be the Deputy County Executive for Santa Clara County, and in 2000 retired after serving as County Executive. Throughout his carrier George Newell has worked with many community organizations in both Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties. He has helped organize and govern groups supporting the delivery of programs for at risk youth, organizing neighborhoods for community development and expanding health care for people in need. He has served on the board of the Long Marine Lab Seymour Center and was part of the founding of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and served as President of the Cultural Council during its 25th anniversary year. Since the fall of 2004 George Newell has served as Executive Director for the Tannery Arts Center. He is currently on the Boards of the Tannery Arts Center, Museum of Art and History, Art Forum, and the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center and is a printmaker in the print shop of the Printmakers at the Tannery.

Michael Watkins​

Board Member

Michael Watkins was elected as Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools in November, 2006, and is now in his second term as superintendent.  He held the statewide position of President of the Juvenile Court and Community Alternative School Administrators of California and currently holds the position of President-Elect of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA). Michael began his teaching career with the Oakland Public Schools and from there went to work for the Alameda County Office of Education.  He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology, Life-Time Teaching Credentials in secondary and special education, and a Masters in School Administration. His work with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education began when he assumed the position of Learning Handicapped Program Specialist later becoming the Director of Special Education.  Before becoming Superintendent, he served as the Director of Alternative Education where he was honored by both the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the Watsonville City Council for his work with at-risk youth and for outstanding achievements in education.

Val Miranda

Board Member

Valéria (“Val”) Miranda is the executive director of the Santa Cruz Art League, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019. Val also teaches graduate art and museum education at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She is passionate about the power of the arts and culture to change individuals, communities, and society. Val has worked in and with arts organizations since 1992. She was the Director of Education at the San Jose Museum of Art and at the Monterey Museum of Art. She also consults in equity and diversity, nonprofit administration, education, strategic planning, and fundraising. Val is a 2019 Americans for the Arts leaders of Color Forum Fellow, a 2013 graduate of the Multicultural Artists Leadership Institute at the School of Arts & Culture @ Mexican Heritage Plaza, and a 2001 graduate of Packard-funded Arts Leadership for the Future. She holds a MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Val’s artistic practice is in dance, and she was a member of amateur and semi-professional dance companies from middle school to college. She feels blessed by having grown in a family where art was a huge part of her family and cultural environment. Her mother took her to the theater for the first time when she was 5 years old and she has been in love with plays ever since. Her work for 13 years in a contemporary art museum gave her opportunities to not only develop audience-centered programming but to also to develop relationships with San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area artists and art organization leaders. Communities are central to the existence of any cultural organization and an extremely important part of Val’s professional and personal life. She is passionately committed to the sustainable power of collaborations and partnerships in leveraging cultural resources. Since 1992 she has worked with an extensive number of community groups including artists, business leaders, schools, neighborhood associations, artists, professional organizations, universities, city officials, and cultural advocacy groups. In Santa Cruz for the last twenty years, Val is also an avid urban homesteader, and spends lots of time in the art spaces, beaches and woods of Santa Cruz County with her spunky 17-year old son and many friends.

Micha Scott

Board Vice President & Artistic Director

Micha Scott is a dance professional with 29 years of performing, teaching, and choreographic experience. She was a senior member of the world renowned Garth Fagan Dance in New York for 13 years before coming to the West coast. She is currently TWDCC Artistic Director, resident choreographer at Mountain School in Soquel, CA,  an instructor at Dancenter, and lead teacher with Tandy Beal's Dance Around the World program. Micha has been a lecturer at Santa Clara University, UCSC, SUNY Brockport as well as a guest choreographer for numerous companies and schools.

Tiffany Trujillo

Secretary

Tiffany Trujillo grew up in Santa Cruz County and is deeply rooted in the area. She holds her B.A. in Anthropology from UCSC and has a professional background in financial management and the fast-paced world of recruiting. She lived briefly in Seattle, Washington until she settled in the heart of the Mission District in San Francisco, with her husband Ethan. In 2009, their daughter Ava arrived and Tiffany decided to be a stay-at-home mom; a title she proudly holds today. In 2013, Tiffany and her family moved back home to Watsonville to assist her mother with caring for her terminally ill father. Since then, they have settled into life in a multi-generational home in the diverse and inspiring community of Watsonville that she holds close to her heart. In 2014, Tiffany discovered TWDCC and her daughter has been an ongoing dance student and active member of the youth company since. Throughout the years, Tiffany has been inspired by the dedicated teachers, staff, and students at TWDCC. Seeing her daughter’s joy and witnessing TWDCC create a diverse, inclusive, dynamic environment for dancers of all ages strengthened Tiffany's resolve to become involved. In 2020, she was given the opportunity to serve on the board of directors. TWDCC‘s service-oriented mission of building bonds in our community through innovation, the creation of diverse spaces, community outreach, and sharing the artistry of movement uplifted and resonated with Tiffany. She is a proud member of the board and committed to ensuring the mission of service and opportunity continues throughout the community for decades to come.

Debra Feldstein

Treasurer

Debra Feldstein is a collaborative leader, problem solver, advocate, community builder, and an innovative organizational development and philanthropic strategist. Following a brief career as an attorney in the Boston area, Debra entered the field of nonprofit management and development. She built her 25-year career as an executive director and consultant, working to increase the capacity of nonprofits. She also specializes in rebuilding organizations with management and infrastructure challenges following leadership transitions. Debra relocated to Silicon Valley in 1999 to lead Hillel at Stanford, where she transformed the program, successfully spearheaded the first phase of the capital campaign for the Center for Jewish Life at Stanford University, and increased annual revenues by 300%. She then served as executive director for City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley and as a consultant for several local and national nonprofits. She has worked extensively with organizations that deliver programs in youth development, the arts, environmental education, academic support, and Jewish engagement. Having worked with large, national organizations, Debra has a nationwide network of resources and individuals. Debra graduated from Tufts University with a degree in international relations, received a Juris Doctor from the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, and completed a Master of Management degree at the Heller School at Brandeis University. She is a member of the Massachusetts and Illinois Bar Associations. Debra lives with her family in Santa Cruz, CA. She is an active community member, participating in political campaigns, serving on several boards of directors, and raising funds for various nonprofits. She studies martial arts and has taught karate to children and adults.

Skip to content