About Us/Board of Directors

Currently Art FORM offers art education workshops to schools, youth groups and the community for little or no cost.  To qualify for a free workshop, you must be an eligible public Title I school.  At this time we have a limited number of free workshops for the 2016 school year.  Other public schools, charters, private schools and youth groups are welcome to schedule a workshop with a sliding scale of $10-$15 per participant.  The best days for workshops are Tuesday-Friday morning or afternoon, or occasional Saturday afternoons.

In most cases, workshops are 2 hours in length and include: a tour of the space, introduction to creative reuse, group observations and discussion, arts education lesson using recycled materials, and culminating with a project that each participant can take back to school/home.  Workshop lessons can support classroom’s grade level curriculum if planned in advance with our teaching artists, or can be more of a general art and design lesson using recycle materials appropriate for the grade level.  Other workshops may include themes using seasonal content or cultural celebrations.


Art FORM’s Governing Board is a group dedicated volunteers from diverse professional fields.

Erin Pennell, Founder-Board Member/Teaching Artist has been an arts educator throughout California for more than 20 years, having worked with children of all ages in both public and private settings.  Recognizing the need for an expansion of children’s art programs in San Diego, and the vast quantity of recyclable and reclaimable materials potentially available to students and teachers, she opened The Rare Hare Studio in 2008.  The studio has been a mainstay of the Adams Avenue Business District ever since, offering art camps and workshops that feature the wide array of materials that are steadily collected and donated by local individuals, businesses, and industries.

Erin's Comic Con Photo

In 2011, Erin developed Art FORM (Found Objects Recycled Materials) a nonprofit 501c3 branch of the studio, as a way to make her programs accessible to a broader range of San Diegans. Art FORM provides arts education with creative reuse to schools and the community for little or no cost; makes recycled materials accessible for projects; and helps students discover an art form that promotes ingenuity and creative problem solving.  Art FORM currently offers free workshops to Title I schools and features a creative reuse store that makes scrap materials available to schools, families and the community.

Catherine Morrison, Board President, is an attorney with San Diego’s City Attorneys’ Office, with an interest in nonprofit formation and development.  Also, with two artistic teenage daughters at home, she is very interested in and aware of cultivating the arts while being environmentally responsible and conscious.  Art FORM is the perfect blend of these two facets of her world.

Steve Merriam, Ph.D, Board Member, has 27 years’ experience in teaching, research, project management, instructional design, and curriculum development. Dr. Merriam currently directs the Program in Professional Writing at San Diego State University, teaching graduate courses in content editing and corporate and foundation grant writing for nonprofit organizations. He has also served as a faculty adviser for the Qualcomm Social Internship Program at San Diego State’s Entrepreneurial Management Center where he has overseen projects with such partners as the San Diego Symphony, Volunteer San Diego and the San Diego Foundation. From 2008-11, he was the grant writer for Girl Scouts San Diego. In 2009, he co-authored San Diego Homeless Court: Service Provider’s Toolkit with Steve Binder for the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. He also coordinates SDSU’s Business Writing and Rhetoric course, and teaches grant proposal writing for UCSD’s Extension program in Fundraising and Development.

Holly Trusiak, Board Secretary, is a passionate researcher, problem-solver, and craftswoman, who works by day as a marketing communications specialist at San Diego State University. Holly is also earning her master’s degree in mass communication and media studies from SDSU. Prior to working at SDSU, Holly began her career as a newspaper journalist as a copy editor for the North County Times. While growing up in the Adirondack mountains of New York, Holly’s parents taught her how to be relentlessly creative and resourceful. This lifelong love of self-reliance is expressed each day when Holly immerses herself in creating art and homegoods as she strives to be a conscious consumer and reduce her negative impact on the planet.

Karen Martin-Spellerberg, Treasurer, moved to Southern California in 1993 to attend U.C. San Diego, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Post college, she spent the next 20 years in the corporate world, as the head of HR and also as the Controller for a local IT company. She has a wide range of experience from auditing, project & budget management, to marketing, fundraising and event planning. She most recently served as the Director of Office Operations for a boutique financial services firm in San Diego.

While coordinating volunteer opportunities and events for company employees,  Karen realized her true passion was working directly with nonprofits. She is the past Fundraising Chair for the Urban Discovery Academy Network, and is the Community Volunteer Liaison and member of the PR & Media Team for Princess Project San Diego. She is also a volunteer at fundraising events for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and San Diego Professionals Against Cancer (SDPAC).

In addition to her volunteer work, Karen is a huge supporter of the art community; she has hosted educational finance panels at San Diego Comic-Con, in order to provide attending artists and creatives with the educational tools necessary to help them be financially successful in their careers.

Sean Nisil, Board Member, is a graduate of Biola University, Sean has spent his professional career developing and implementing strategic financial solutions for clients in Southern California and across the country. He believes his role as an advisor is much more than just a job. He considers it a privilege to help individuals and families achieve and maintain their ideal lives.

But, helping people live a rich life is about so much more than dollars and cents. That’s why Sean is excited to serve on Art FORM’s board. A father of four, he understands the impact the arts can have on the lives of children. Through supporting Art FORM’s mission, he hopes more children will connect the dots between art and life. In the same way a pile of found objects or recycle materials can be transformed into a thing of beauty, so can children mold their future into anything they want with the raw materials they were given. All they need is a little creativity, some ingenuity, and a spark of inspiration.

Deanna Sampson, Board Member, has always had a passion for art as she is both an artist and an art museum lover.  Deanna has always been an ocean lover and a gardener and this helped her realize her need to take care of the environment.  When Deanna met Ms. Erin 8 years ago she fell in love with Rare Hare studio.  Her family and especially her daughter took lots of art classes and camps at Rare Hare studio.  When Art FORM began in 2011 Deanna and her family were founding supporters as it is the perfect combination of taking care of the earth, landfill diversion, and arts education.

Deanna has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mathematics with an emphasis in Computer Science from San Diego State University.  She has worked in San Diego, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Zurich, Switzerland for companies such as Lotus Development Corp and IBM as a Software Engineer/Web Developer.  Deanna has served on several boards and loves to provide volunteer service.  Deanna, her husband and two children provide 100’s of hours in volunteer service a year.  Deanna intends to provide volunteer service to Art FORM as a Technical Specialist and Fundraiser but will also be found volunteering at workshops, conferences and running the Art FORM store.

Ilona Davidov, Board Member, has always had a great passion for art and a strong interest in protecting the environment. She believes working with Art FORM is a great way to make an impact in the community and inspire others to create and recycle. Ilona came to know Erin throughout the years as her daughter attended numerous camps, art classes and amazing birthday parties at the Rare Hare Studio. She became interested in Art Form and later joined the Art FORM board.

Ilona has a B.S. in Foods and Nutrition and a M.Sc. in Exercise Physiology from San Diego State University. Working in the accounting field for over 20 years, she currently does accounting for an online travel company as an independent contractor. She nurtures her creativity with her side business, Ilona Designs, creating unique handmade jewelry and accessories. Ilona is inspired by her love of travel, nature, yoga and everything worldly.

Tim Owen, Board Member,  is a native San Diegan who teaches 8th grade US History at Albert Einstein Academy Middle School. Tim attended Bonita Vista High School and graduated with a history degree from UC Santa Barbara.

In addition to teaching, Tim has a seasonal business in its 10th year, and he coaches high school basketball and baseball. Tim enjoys spending time with his 9-year-old daughter looking for extraordinary experiences and adventures. This includes trips to the art studio for project materials which, is how Tim became involved in Art FORM. Impressed by Art FORM’s activities, Tim asked Erin to collaborate on a project to create art pieces for his middle school. Following that successful experience Tim joined the Art FORM board.

Passionate about teaching, and a strong believer in the benefits of arts education, Tim brings his nearly 20 years of experience, along with some pretty precise jigsaw-cutting skills to help Art FORM carry out its mission.

 To reach us:

*Tuesdays (phone or email) 619.788-6609 or email us at info@artformsandiego.org

*Saturdays 10:00am-2pm for Art FORM’s Creative Reuse Store on-site at 3316 Adams Avenue Suite B., San Diego, CA 92116.  (in Rare Hare Studio building)

Art FORM is a nonprofit tax exempt organization (501c3); Our federal tax ID number is #45-1273085.

For more information, contact us:

Erin Pennell
Founder/Teaching Artist
3316 Adams Avenue, Suite B
San Diego, CA 92116

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