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 Our Mission | History | People


Our Mission

Epic Arts is a grassroots non-profit organization that promotes collaboration and community development through the arts. Since 1997, we have been working to build community partnerships, mobilize local artists, produce cultural events, and develop resources and facilities that ensure accessibility for artists, performers and audiences.

Our Goals

  • Provide a forum for the public to connect, engage and explore the arts
  • Promote leadership in a variety of creative forms including crafts, music, movement, visual performance, and production arts, as well as the technical skills associated with creating, managing, and promoting these arts
  • Foster personal development and establish cooperative relationships
  • Engage the widest possible audience by including different ages, backgrounds, and those with limited access to art and creative experience
  • Promote greater integration of creativity in education, communication, work and play

The Arts have a unique capacity to establish a common ground among people, enhance communication and understanding, and form the bases of meaningful personal and social development. Epic Arts Foundation is committed to promoting projects and activities that demonstrate these ideals. In cooperation with our community partners, individual donors, as well as outside granting sources Epic Arts supports cultural exchange and fosters community-wide colaboration and participation. See our current list of sponsorship projects.

Epic Arts History

For over 10 years, Epic Arts has been producing cultural activities, facilitating collaboration and pursuing our mission of building community through the arts. Our first facility, Jingletown Gallery, was a successful underground East Oakland art space that was not centrally located with easy access by public transportation. In 2003, Epic Arts moved to its present location directly across the street from the Ashby BART station on the border of Berkeley and Oakland in the historic Lorin District. Since this move we have been contributing to the cultural landscape by working with community groups, facilitating collaborative public art projects and programming more than 180 accessible events annually. We initiated the Ashby Arts District, an alliance of neighboring non profits and arts organizations working together to increase participation in local arts. Highlights of our collaborative neighborhood events include the South Berkeley Shines Mural Project, Senior Stories Murals and the annual Ashby Arts District Open House Celebration. Beyond neighborhood programing Epic Arts produces a number of large-scale opportunities for cultural participation such as the "How Berkeley!?" Parade & Festival (enjoyed by 30,000 people, enlisting the involvement of over 800 community members, businesses, and organizations annually) and "The Bright River," a wildly successful hip-hop theater show playing to a combined audience of over 50,000 people.

Epic Arts Studios serves as a vital gateway to a universe of positive community and cultural experiences. 

Connecting people and relating directly with our neighborhood is an essential part of our mission.

For the past 4 years we have struggled to fit programs and services within 1200 sq ft of usable space. At present, most of the 6000 sq ft building is not sufficiently accessible or equipped to serve our needs, forcing us to contain our programs to a mere 20% of the existing structure. To make matters worse, a recent fire rendered nearly half of the property uninhabitable and in need of immediate demolition.

New Epic Community Arts & Cultural Center in Development

Epic Arts is currently designing a new 10,000 sqft multi-disciplinary arts facility. This expansion will triple our audience capacity insure wider accessibility and continued programmatic growth to meet the demands of our community. 

new facility

The People 

Ashley Berkowitz - Executive Director 510-644-2204 ext 7 ashley (at) epicarts.org
As a founder and acting Director of Epic Arts, Ashley works to ensure the organization continues to develop the operations, relationships, and resources that make the Epic Mission possible. Ashley is also the President of Legacy Management which provides strategic planning and support services in the areas philanthropy, public-private partnerships, and social ventures for forward thinking individuals and organizations. Epic Arts enables him to combine his passion for collaboration, music and community. He believes in the power of creative expression to unite and inspire people.

Justin Katz - Program Director 510-644-2204 ext 13 justin (at) epicarts.org
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Justin began his creative career as a performer and composer in several Bay Area music and theatre ensembles, most notably Rosin Coven and Dr. Abacus. His ability to run the business side of these projects led to his development as a manager, promoter, booking agent, and event producer. In 1997 Justin co-founded Epic Arts and continues to serve as the Program Director, booking and producing its diverse programming. He is also the founder of Paradox Media, an event production and design firm that presents events such as The Edwardian Ball, and serves as an associate producer with ArtCar Fest, Burning Man, and ArtSFest.

Tanya Hurd - Development Director 510-644-2204 ext 11 tanya (at) epicarts.org
Tanya has nearly a decade of bi-coastal experience in arts production and management. She is the Development Director for Epic Arts where she oversees the growth and development of the organization through civic and community outreach and fundraising activities. She is the lead grant writer and also maintains relationships with Foundations and Civic Granting Institutions. Tanya also has an extensive background as a line producer for festivals and organizations including the San Francisco Theater Festival, Everyday Theatre and Burning Man. Together, Justin and Tanya produce all of Epic Arts' Special events and Festivals. Previously, Tanya worked at a non-profit organization in NYC where she assisted with the development of a project to revitalize the South Bronx by opening a community theater and museum/library/cultural center to house the Diaspora of the Puerto Rican culture.

Greg Keidan - Director of Media Relations 510-644-2204 ext 15   greg (at) epicarts.orrg
Greg managed the folk rock group ThaMuseMeant while pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience at the University of New Mexico. He has worked with bands such as Leftover Salmon, The Yonder Mountain String Band, The Slip, The Motet, Dave Nelson, and many more as a concert and festival promoter in the southwest and Ohio.  More recently, Greg has worked as a community organizer and facilitator with America Speaks and Oakland Community Organizations.  A recent transplant to the Bay area, Greg is very excited to be a part of the Berkeley music scene. 

Lev Laltoo - Chairman Community & Economic Development  510 644 2204 ext 19 Lev (at) epicarts.org          For more than 20 years Lev has been in the business of building everything from recording studios, restaurants, retail stores and custom homes. In that time has improved and developed over 250 M worth of real estate. He leads the charge to fulfill on the vision of the Community Arts & Culture Fund to establish a legacy of social good and make a significant impact locally. In addition, Lev serves as an adviser and consultant in the realm of business development, partnerships, and organizational consulting. Now he is focusing his wealth of experience, expertise and industry relationships to support projects that have social value. His particular interests include supporting music, arts, and children.

Executive Board

Lawrence Katz
Lawrence has been both lawyer and judge. Currently he is a student and instructor at Cal. He is also the Chapter Director for the American Civil Liberty and a consultant to U.S. Department of Justice for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. He has served on non-profit Boards in various capacities for many years including the Bay Area Congregation B'nai Shalom, Walnut Creek (current Executive Board), the Union Mental Health Association of Contra Costa County (past Board Member) and the Contra Costa Legal Services Corporation (past Board Member).

Frank Schwartz
Currently engaged with alternative energy and sustainability concerns, Frank's 30+ year career spans a wide swath of technology and business development in digital media, computer systems engineering and integration, network architecture, integrated circuits, software, & robotics, and as an executive (VP, CTO, CEO) with a number of Silicon Valley start-ups.  It also includes brushes with entertainment and survivalism as Technical Producer for a high-profile Hollywood/Silicon Valley joint venture, celebrity webcasts, and co-producing large Esplanade theme camps and contributing to special events for Burning Man and various creative communities, including Pagan Easter with Rosin Coven.

John Solomon

Associate Producer, Founder, "How Berkeley Can You Be?!"
John is a successful Berkeley restaurateur, having opened notable businesses such as Ay Caramba, Rick & Ann's, and Caffe Venezia.  In addition he is the founder of the wonderfully infamous "How Berkeley Can You Be" Parade and Festival, now in it's twelfth year.

Kitty Wells
After a decade as a bohemian sort enjoying the creative potential of New York City, Kitty moved to California and got immersed in the worlds of digital media, technology and business. Now on the Left Coast for quite some time, she has created and contributed to several award-winning marketing and insights programs for Sun and Microsoft; explored the entrepreneurial world of start-ups; and produced technology think tanks and celebrity webcasts.  She currently applies her strategist and creative skills to projects as diverse as producing a global cleantech conference and online network; consulting for large technology companies; designing an esthetically pleasing and "green as possible" home remodel; and co-producing large Esplanade theme camps and contributing to special events for Burning Man and various creative communities, including Pagan Easter with Rosin Coven. 

Zak Zide
Zak is an environmental artists, educator, original Epic Arts board member and conspirator. For the past 15 years Zak has been an educational program developer and leader for numerous bay area institutions including Lawrence Hall of Sciences in Berkeley, Cal Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and now the Oakland Museum. He is also producer of EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival.

Team Members & Advisers
Sara Bruckmeier
Community Arts Ambassador
Sara runs Garden Translations, a residential landscape design business and manages a general contracting company. She is committed to building community through the arts and has helped organize several community arts projects. The first was the "South Berkeley Shines" mural which celebrates scenes from South Berkeley and has been designated a "Peace Wall" by the city of Berkeley.  The second is the South Berkeley Senior Stories Mural Project, funded by grants from the California Council of the Humanities, California Stories Fund and the East Bay Community Foundation. As Co-Directors of this project, Sara Bruckmeier and community artist Bonnie Borucki brought together South Berkeley Seniors, muralists, and neighbors to create a series of murals. Each panel depicts a scene from the history of South Berkeley and is grounded in the personal history of an elder of the community. This mural series is on tour and will be permanently installed at Malcolm X Elementary School in fall 2006.

Andrea Mock
Development Associate
Andrea Mock of Andrea Mock and Associates is a writing consultant and dancer. She has alternated facts with diverting fiction for such fly-by-night operations as Palm, Siebel, Scopus, Gemini Mobile, Luna Systems, Antenna Theater, The Miami Fine Arts Museum, Pebble Beach Company, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent and BART. Andrea received her BA in Aesthetic  Studies- Performance in 1979 from U.C. Santa Cruz where she studied dance and play writing. In 1980 she formed Dancing Ear, Inc. with composer, Victor Spiegel. Andrea wrote and received three grants from the Zellerbach Family Fund for the company's dance and music productions. She join the Speakeasy Theatre Collective in 1996 as writer-in-residence and Marketing Director, Andrea's produced plays include Survival of the Weirdest (with Hank Hyena), Brain in a Box, First Time, and Age of Enlightenment, for which she received her fourth Zellerbach Family Fund grant. Her most recent play, Jane Austen in Berkeley, was developed, in part, at Epic Arts.

Daphne Knowles
Social Club Committee Chair
Daphne is a trendsetting restaurateur and owner of Acote, cultural ambassador, social engineer, and food stylist. In her previous life she worked as nutritionist with Shape Down which addressed childhood obesity with education and counseling. 

Philo Northrup

Associate Producer, Founder, ArtCar Fest
Philo Northrup has been making ArtCars for 23 years. He is currently building his sixth, entitled "Daisy Singer." Two other Philo ArtCars still drive, the Truck in Flux and the Buick of Unconditional Love. The other three, alas, have gone to that garage in the sky, which underscores one of the reasons why the ArtCar medium is so powerful: it's ephemeral

Kimberly Marie Agnew

Director of Dance & Crafts
Kim Agnew is a multidisciplinary dancer, percussionist and performer with over 25 years of education and experience. Her early training included modern, ballet, tap and jazz dance, but the last 17 years has been fully immersed in West African, Salsa, and Afro-Cuban Folklore. Her master teachers include Alassane Kane and Coura Ndiye, both formerly with National Ballet of Senegal; Mabiba Baenge, master Congolese dancer and drummer; and Susana Arenas and Jose Francisco Barroso, both previously with the Cuban National Folklore company, Raīces Profundas. She continues to study and perform with her teachers on an ongoing basis. Ms. Agnew also performs regularly with afro -fusion funk groups and currently works with Albino, a 14 piece touring ensemble. Agnew has been sharing her knowledge and passion for the arts with youth for more than 10 years and teaches in a variety of settings. She has taught for the San Francisco Ballet Center for Dance Education for the past 9 years. Ms. Agnew has a personal commitment to give back (to the community); all she has been given by her mentors, and is honored to inspire others on their journey through the arts.

Ed Kaplan
Chief Architect
New Facility Project

Mr. Kaplan has a Master of Architecture degree and a Bachelor degree in Architecture, both from UC Berkeley. He is past treasurer of the board of the American Institute of Architects, Vice President of the Board of the Small Business Network, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and is a past president of the board of Pro Arts.Kaplan Architects is a San Francisco based architectural firm doing projects throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Edward Kaplan AIA, NCARB is an award winning, licensed architect and has been responsible for many residential, commercial, retail, and public projects. The firm has been awarded a national award by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) two consecutive years.

Naomi Davidson
Strategic Partnerships Advisor

Naomi is a corporate consulting associate with the international firm McKinsey & Company. A Cal graduate, with a degree in Robotics, most recently she has been actively involved in market research studies, best practices and corporate re-engineering projects In addition she is involved with the Small Business Development Center of Oakland organizing conferences and networking with Bay Area business leaders.

Lathan Hodge
New Media Advisor
Lathan an experienced producer, having completed a number of  commercials, public service ads and television shows. He has worked with all the major film studios, marketing films to the ethnic television marketplace. Lathan has served as Executive Producer of the Children and Entertainment Department for Black Entertainment Television (BET) and is an award-winning producer who was honored by the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with two Emmy Awards. He began his career at CBS, Chicago. He is the winner of three NAACP Image Awards and two Emmy Awards. He served on the advisory board of Rock the Nation, a Rock the Vote organization. Lathan Hodge served as the producer for the public service ads, "Art. Ask for More. The Hip Hop Series" for Americans For the Arts and the Ad Council.

Nashua Kalil
Community Process & Redevelopment Advisor
Experienced planer, community advocate, and consultant having worked with BART, City of Berkeley, taught at UC Berkeley, worked nationally and internationally on creating livable communities through the development of major transit project designs that positive impact peoples lives. She has always demonstrated a passion for community efforts and enthusiastically championed the our cause in South Berkeley.

Aria Marinelli
Strategic PR & Events Advisor
Aria received her Bachelor's degree in Event/Entertainment Management from Johnson Wails University and became involved in the planning, publicizing and execution of numerous large-scale events, such as The Tony Awards Gala and Cinema Against AIDS at the Cannes Film Festival. While working for amfAR - The Foundation for AIDS Research, Aria coordinated international press campaigns and cultivated celebrity involvement, including soliciting name endorsement, auction items and attendance.

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