Starting Artists, Inc.



MarisaWebPortraitFounder/Executive Director of Starting Artists, Marisa Catalina Casey is an artist, administrator, and advocate who has worked almost exclusively in the nonprofit sector supporting a variety of constituents and causes from arts advocacy to child welfare to international development work. Marisa obtained her BA in Latin American Studies from Brown University and her MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College. Utilizing her artistic and entrepreneurial skills, Marisa has worked as a photojournalist for CARE-Peru, the Alliance for Children, and The Providence Journal.  Marisa has held positions at the William Randolph Hearst Foundations, Metropolitan Opera, Teen Ink, New York State Arts, and APERTURE Foundation. Additionally, she co-authored Born in Our Hearts: Stories of Adoption (HCI: 2004), selling over 11,000 copies with proceeds benefiting international orphanages. Her memoir and photo-illustration is included in NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure (Harper Perennial: 2008). Marisa has received fellowships and scholarships from such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Columbia University, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She is a Council Member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Council and a Founding Member of Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA). Marisa has received grants from the Newton Cultural Council, Production Workshop, and Creative Arts Council. A 2008/9 YouthActionNet Global Fellow, Marisa received the 2010 Robert Acito Award for Youth Involvement from Brooklyn’s Community Board 6 and in Fall 2010, she was the only American chosen to attend the Lucca Leadership Institute in South Africa. Marisa is a new member of the British Council’s Transatlantic Network 2020, a coalition of young Europeans and North Americans taking collaborative action on global issues.

LaceyWebPortraitProgram Coordinator at Starting Artists, Lacey Upton obtained her BA from the Boston College Honors Program, majoring in theatre and English.  As an actor, Lacey is currently a member of The Actor’s Project NYC and has performed off-Broadway and in regional theatres throughout the Boston area.  As an educator and teacher, she mentored teens and designed costumes for The Magic Circle camp at Tufts University, taught after-school arts and drama classes in Brookline, MA, and teaches beginning voice and music private lessons.  Lacey works extensively with the non-profit Teen Ink as an editor and reader of teen writing and as assistant program coordinator of the Teen Ink Summer Writing Intensive.  Lacey spends her days breaking out into song performing as much as possible, and she is excited to join the artists and entrepreneurs of Starting Artists.


VirginiaWebPortraitBoard President of Starting Artists, Virginia Graham is a Consultant at Bain & Co. in NYC. She earned her MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and she holds her MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College and her BA from University of Pennsylvania. Virginia continues to be an active advocate for the performing arts at Penn. She currently serves as a committee chair on the Student Performing Arts Advisory Council and played an integral role in creating the new Platt Performing Arts Center on campus that opened in September 2007. Virginia has worked as an Analyst at Cornerstone Research providing financial and economic analysis for commercial litigation matters. She ran the analyst recruiting program and chaired the Community Outreach Initiative. Virginia has held positions at the Roundabout Theatre Company, Arena Stage, National Dance Institute, and the Metropolitan Opera.

XimenaWebPortraitBoard Vice President, Ximena Antunez de Mayolo brings a wealth of experience in education, community outreach and fundraising to the Starting Artists Board of Directors. Prior to joining the Key Biscayne Community Foundation as its Executive Director, Ximena worked in various arts organizations in both Miami and New York, including The Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. As a junior photography appraiser for Penelope Dixon and Associates, Ximena participated in the firm’s community outreach program teaching photography to children in Miami-Dade county’s foster care system, culminating in annual exhibitions of the student’s photographs in the Miami International Airport galleries. While at the Lowe Art Museum, Ximena worked to develop innovative and multicultural educational programming for children and families, and she participated in the creation of Miami’s first museum magnet school. Following this experience Ximena joined the Development Department at Creative Capital in New York, a national foundation supporting individual artist projects. While at Creative Capital, Ximena worked to identify and develop strategies for targeting prospective funders. Ximena received a BA in Comparative Literature in Wellesley College and completed her MA in Arts Administration at Columbia University Teachers College.


Board Member, Bob Casey is an attorney and Director at Goulston Storrs in Boston, MA who concentrates in the field of private client and trust matters and has more than thirty years of experience in estate planning and estate and trust administration, focusing on both tax and non-tax considerations.  His broad-based practice consists of preparing wills, trusts and related documents for both United States and multinational clients; acting as counsel to estates (in both probate court and estate tax settlement proceedings); advising on protection of assets; advising on tax planning matters (including charitable gift planning); negotiating and drafting prenuptial agreements; and advising clients generally on personal, family and tax matters.  Bob also participates as a trustee in the management of investments in numerous client trusts. He has been on the Board of Directors of several nonprofit organizations including the the Alliance for Children Foundation, Inc., Childrens Welfare Foundation, and All Newton Music School. Bob earned his BS from Holy Cross College, his JD from Suffolk University Law School, and his LLM (taxation) from Boston University Law School.

KatWebPortraitBoard Secretary, Katherine Gressel brings an interdisciplinary background in arts education and community art to the Starting Artists Board of Directors. As a freelance arts consultant, her projects include serving as the first program manager for Arts to Grow, a young nonprofit providing arts after-school programming to underserved K-12 students at schools and community organizations. She also provides grant-writing and development support for Creative Time, and project management for the renowned artist team Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel. Katherine previously worked as Director of Partnerships and Development at the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art (UAMA), a small arts-based public high school in Downtown Brooklyn. At UAMA, she served as the primary liaison between the school and its outside partners in the arts and business communities, coordinating special trips and events, and spearheading UAMA’s first major public relations and fundraising campaign as well as new after-school and internship programs. Katherine holds a B.A. in art from Yale, and has led youth mural projects in New York and San Francisco, and exhibited artwork at the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Arts Council, and smaller galleries. Her scholarly writing on socially-engaged collaborative art has been presented in the CUNY Graduate Center’s online journal and in the 2007 Social Theory, Politics, and the Arts conference at NYU. Katherine has worked as a teaching artist for the Brooklyn Museum, the CityKids Foundation, Community-Word Project, and Hester Street Collaborative, among other organizations. While earning her MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College, Katherine pursued internships at Groundswell Community Mural Project, CITYarts, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

PaulWebsiteBoard Treasurer, Paul Wilson is a Client Manager at BTQ Financial with a portfolio of clients including Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance; Housing Works, Inc.; and Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, among others. As Client Manager, Paul provides comprehensive outsourced financial management to nonprofit organizations including full accounting services, controllership and longer term and strategic planning assistance. Previously, Paul was a Financial Analyst at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and sat on the Board of Directors of the Ithaca Health Fund. Other volunteer experience includes: Ithaca Coalition for Global Justice, Human Rights Watch, Bronx Credit Union, Arab Family Support Center, United Progressives, Watermargin, The Cobbler Newspaper, and the Obama Presidential Campaign. Paul received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University and his MPA from the Wagner School at NYU. While at NYU, Paul came in first place in the NYU Wagner Negotiation Competition and was a finalist in the NYU Stern Business Plan Competition, for his socially- and environmentally-conscious bus company business model. He joins the Starting Artists Board of Directors after a lengthy stint as a volunteer.


Highlighter_highlightVolunteer Spotlight: JINI

“As a person who wants to give something back, I like coming to SA to help the community, to help kids, to be artistic, and to be a part of something that is really positive.”

Starting Artists Volunteer, Jini teaches photography at the Urban Assembly School of Music & Art. She found out about SA through a Call for Submissions to the Brooklyn Utopias? Teen Art Show. “I was so excited for my students to be a part of the Utopias? show and then I went to the SA website and I thought, this would be great for my daughters!” she explains. Jini’s daughters, Chandani and Jauhara, who are currently home-schooled, attend SA’s free Afterschool Program on a regular basis. So far, Jini has contributed by mentoring students during the Afterschool Program and by creating handmade objects to sell at the first annual Starting Artists Holiday Pop Up Shop.


We could not serve hundreds of starting artists of all ages each year without the support and dedication of our volunteers. Our committed corps of students, young professionals, artists, business people, parents, and educators help by offering their time and energy in the following ways.


  • Assist students during the Afterschool Program, which runs Monday – Thursday, 3 – 6pm.
  • Host dinner parties and fundraising events to solicit donations on behalf of Starting Artists.
  • Help out at special events including street fairs, birthday parties, fundraising events, and gallery openings.
  • Apply marketing, fundraising, financial, communications, and programmatic skills in the administrative offices.

To become an SA volunteer, please fill out the Volunteer Application and contact Lacey or call our offices at: 718.701.5483.



Intern Spotlight: SHAQUANDA

Currently a junior at Gotham Arts Professional Academy, Shaquanda is the oldest of four children. While only 16 years old, she has the work experience of an adult because as she explains, “I take the opportunities given to me, contribute my skills and turn my studies into knowledge.” In addition to interning at SA, she has interned at MoMA, FIT, and Marc Ecko/Sweat Equity Enterprises.

With the wide background she has in the arts, it is Starting Artists, Inc. that she says “Provides unlimited resources and opportunities to improve on all my skills.” Shaquanda likes the atmosphere at SA because it is through such experiences that her abilities reach to their full potential. Other positions restricted her to a certain art medium, which was not enough for her.

In June 2009, Shaquanda received the Haney Medal from the DOE, rewarding her maturity, development, perseverance, and immense productivity in the Arts. It is because of such character and skills that Shaquanda was given the opportunity to intern at SA. “Art is my life,” she says with interests specifically in fashion and in the visual arts.

In addition, Shaquanda has taken an interest in theatre through VIBE Theatre Experience, a nonprofit organization for which she was able to perform an original work with other talented young women. Shaquanda plans to major in fashion at a college such as FIT, where she has taken classes since freshman year in high school.  While her current worry is on the SATs, she is determined to follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer.

As told to Natalia Zhen, SA intern.

If you are interested in interning at Starting Artists, please email Lacey.