About Us



City Hearts is dedicated to providing the highest quality art education and experiences to children in the most economically stressed neighborhoods of Los Angeles County, thereby enhancing self-esteem, creativity, literacy, social and academic skills while strengthening the health and vitality of the children and their community. City Hearts inspires a love of the arts, an appreciation of creative discipline, and respect for the creative process, enabling children and youth to be confident, imaginative, tolerant, generous and cooperative, as well as caring and contributing participants in the global community.

City Hearts provides classes in Dance, Literary Arts (Playwriting/Storytelling, Shakespeare), Musical Theatre, Music (Guitar/Songwriting), and Visual Arts (Photography) for students in under-resourced areas of Los Angeles County. Classes take place at our community and school partner sites with limited or no access to the arts. All classes are completely free of charge.

Now in its 37th year, City Hearts has grown to develop a robust and exceptional arts education program that fosters the creative process and engages students in a myriad of artistic mediums. Our current core programs consist of either in-school or after school sessions conducted throughout the school year, typically twice-weekly or adapted to suit the schedules of our school partners.


City Hearts was founded in 1984 by Sherry and Bob Jason in response to the needs of the youth they represented on a daily basis in the Juvenile Court as attorneys in the LA County Public Defender’s Office. Sherry knew first-hand the healing power of the arts as a former ballerina and ballet teacher. She recalls: “I was surprised to hear Mozart being played on an old piano by a boy in an orange jumpsuit. The teacher told me it was his first lesson – he had picked up the music by ear. It brought me to tears when I learned that he was only 13 years old, was convicted of murder, and awaiting placement in the prison for youth. I lamented, ‘What if he had met the piano first?’” Sherry taught the first City Hearts class on January 18, 1985.



Stephanie Denise Silberman (she/her) has dedicated her career to supporting access to high-quality arts education for all youth regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. As a small child, she was brought to a local art museum on a school field trip that changed the course of her life. As a recognized Emerging Leader by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts & Culture, she has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector of arts education, creative youth development, museum education, marketing and communications, event production, donor management and fundraising.

She was previously an Arts Education Fellow in the ACTIVATE Arts Advocacy Leadership Program by Arts for LA, a Museum Educator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Norton Simon Museum of Art, and Treasurer for Museum Educators of Southern California. She also supported the arts through development and communications at Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), The Gabriella Foundation, and as Co-Chair of the Development Committee for the leadership council of Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles, a local branch of Americans for the Arts. Presently, she serves as the Executive Director at City Hearts: Kids Say Yes to the Arts with plans to guide the organization and its arts education programs into a new stage of growth. She graduated with a M.A. in Art History from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Florida.

LOUIE LEIVA, community engagement & programs manager

Louie Leiva (he/him) is an educator and urban planner with an affinity for art in public spaces. He is joining the City Hearts team as a Community Engagement & Programs Manager. As the proud son to immigrant parents from El Salvador, and a lifelong Angeleno, his connections and commitment to advocating for and creating opportunities for Southern California’s next generation of young creatives is what drives his work. He studied at UC Berkeley and the University of Washington in Seattle and has past work experience in local government, higher-education, and the non-profit sectors. Directly engaging with community members like students, parents, and small business owners is often the highlight of his day to day.

CALVIN BANKS, teaching artist - world music / guitar & songwriting

Guitarist, songwriter, and sound engineer, Calvin Banks has performed and recorded with Stevie Wonder, George Thorogood, REO Speedwagon, Bo Diddley, Big Mountain, and others. He has worked with music technology companies, and has taught digital audio recording, music improvisation, and songwriting. Calvin specializes in teaching in a way that connects a rich grassroots and traditional musical history with powerful social and literary content.

KAREN FURNO, teaching artist - musical theatre

Karen Furno is an accomplished actress, singer, and dancer and has worked extensively as a performer, director, and choreographer. She recently portrayed Dora in EQUUS at the Chandler Studio Theatre that won the LA Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Revival. She has been in television shows (The Practice, Ally McBeal), and films (The DTS Project, Christmas with the Kranks). She also teaches a wide variety of classes through STAR Education.

BRIAN NIEMAN, teaching artist - photography

Brian Nieman is a professional photographer and educator. His artwork has appeared in Polaroid Magazine, the L.A. Times, and The Peace Project Book among others. His work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and is in private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe. Brian was recently the “Educator” Winner in the California Streaming Photography Contest.

TASHARA GAVIN-MOOREHEAD, teaching artist - dance

TYEE TILGHMAN, teaching artist - shakespeare

Tyee Tilghman is an actor, director, writer, and producer. He received an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and a BFA in Drama from West Virginia University in Morgantown. Tyee’s TV & Film credits include Mr. Malevolent, Criminal Minds, and The Young and The Restless. He is passionate about Shakespeare, language, and inspiring young minds to create art.

ANAHIT POTURYAN, Program & Operations Coordinator

Anahit Poturyan is a writer, art educator, and digital marketer based in LA with a strong focus on technology, research, history, and culture. She received her B.A. in English Literature and an Art History minor from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and an M.A. in Aesthetics and Politics from the California Institute of Art (CalArts). She has worked at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice, Italy; the 58th Venice Biennale, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Hammer Museum, Artbook @Hauser & Wirth, and Otis College of Art and Design. She has lectured at numerous conferences across the world, such as the Nordic Summer University in Faro, Sweden, and the Western University of Australia in Perth, Australia. Her writings have appeared in the LA Review of Books, MediaTech Ventures, Whitehot Magazine, among others.

CARLA JUAREZ, Grants Coordinator

Carla is driven by work that advocates for racial equity and social justice, especially in creative spheres that intersect with environmental justice. They approach their work in fund development and communications collaboratively through a human-centered focus. They have volunteered in several nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles that centered around education and the arts as well as worked with City Year, The Salvation Army, Heart of Los Angeles, and Executive Service Corps of Southern California. Carla earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature with a Music History minor from UCLA.


Ed O'Neill, Vice President

Engineer, Contractor, Developer; Owner of Drilling & Construction Co.; Let There Be Hope (Medical Research Foundation); Topanga Historical Society

Laura Salvati, Secretary

Regional HR Specialist, Lakewood Healthcare Center, Attorney at Law


Arts Advocate; Programs Manager, UCLArts & Healing; Vice Chair for the arts and cultural affairs commission for the City of West Hollywood

Joe Grassi

Principal of Grassi & Associates (Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)); Engineer, consultant

Lilit Hovhannisyan

US Bank Teller Coordinator/Social Services Coordinator/Senior Teller; fluent in 3 languages; loves finance and is studying accounting.


Public Policy Professional; Accomplished Comedian and Improviser; Former Board Member of the Goldman School of Public Policy Alumni Association, Stanford University

Sherry Jason, Co-Founder

Sherry Jason, City Hearts Co-Founder, was a soloist with Ballet Concerto and has taught dance for 50 years. She received her B.A. in psychology from UCLA, and her Juris Doctor from Southwestern University School of Law. While with the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile Division, she met her husband attorney Bob Jason. Sherry and Bob’s philosophy on the nature of delinquency, intervention and prevention, and how the arts transform a child’s life led them to found City Hearts in 1985.

Bob Jason, Co-Founder

Co-Founder of City Hearts; Attorney at Law, L.A. County Public Defender, representing indigent criminal defendants, retired; Author of several critical essays.

Aakash Ranavat

General Manager at PlayVS (esport video games); former Head of Business Operations & Strategy at Intuit; involved with Boys & Girls Club, American India Foundation


Finance Specialist at Capital Group

Advisory Council

Sal Aquino

Principal of Jefferson Elementary, Compton, CA


Community Engagement Consultant; Former CUSD Teacher


STEAM Advocate, Film Maker, and IT Consultant; Co-Presenter at the 2018 SXSW EDU

John Merjil (Sandoval)

Business Systems Analyst, Deloitte Tax LLP, Financial & Consulting Firm; City Hearts graduate; City Hearts mentor and junior teacher.

Martin Schmitt

Internet Innovator, cars.com; Philanthropist, kayangel.org (Orphanage in Haiti)

Felice Willat

Professional Photographer, Member of Orvis Gallery

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