Staff Bios

Meet the MoAD team!

Monetta White

Interim Executive Director

Monetta White, a native San Franciscan has strong ties to the city both personally and professionally. In 2007 when she and husband Chef David Lawrence opened 1300 on Fillmore, the duo were excited by the opportunity to help revive the neighborhood through good food and music. For the past ten years, White’s business savvy and passion for food and community continues on with her opening 1300 on Fillmore at SFO International Airport. White manages and oversees all business operations and marketing for the restaurant group. White has been recognized for her knowledge and leadership by the City of San Francisco, for which she served as Vice President of the Small Business Commission. She sits on the board of directors for several non-profit and business organizations including SF Travel.

James G. Leventhal

Deputy Director & Chief Development Officer

James G. Leventhal is a museum leader who has been in the field as an arts professional for over 30 years. With significant experience in all elements of high-impact museum work from education, marketing, collections digitization, and organizational development to fundraising. James last served as the Director of Development at the San José Museum of Art. In the Bay Area James has also worked at The Exploratorium (Director of Development), The Contemporary Jewish Museum (Deputy Director, Development), the Judah L. Magnes Museum (Director of Development and Marketing), and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco during the tail end of the Campaign for the New de Young.

Before moving to out west, James worked for eight years at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, first as a research assistant in the Department of European Paintings, then as a manager on a large-scale collections management project, and eventually as a leader in the development department. Previous to his years at the Metropolitan, James worked in art galleries in New York, along with early years at The Phillips Collection and the Baltimore Museum of Art. With undergraduate study at NYU and graduate work at City College, New York in art history and museum studies, James completed an MBA from John F. Kennedy University. School. James also recently completed the Getty Leadership Institute. Leventhal has served on grant making panels for the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Museum Loan Network, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and been a Museum Assessment Program leader for the American Alliance of Museums. Leventhal has lectured nationally and extensively on best practices in museum management and fundraising.

Linda Spain de Bruin

Chief Financial Officer

Linda joined MoAD in March 2013. Her financial career began as a cost accounting instructor at the University of Texas in Austin. Since then she has logged over 25 years as an accomplished financial and operational manager in the private and non-profit sector. As CFO, Linda successfully organized and grew a consumer product company to a multi-million business catering to Fortune 500 retailers.

She has also managed a cross-cultural exchange program and an international economic policy program. Linda’s expertise includes annual budgeting, financial modeling, cash flow forecasting, lending and legal negotiations, and audit management. Linda is also adept at creating order out of chaos and streamlining processes, making her an ideal member of FENG, the Financial Executives Networking Group. Before diving into the world of finance, Linda studied the German, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Japanese languages.

Elizabeth Gessel, Ph.D.

Director of Public Programs

Elizabeth leads MoAD’s Public Programs department; she is a critical thinker with excellent research, writing and communication skills. She has been developing and running public programs at MoAD since 2010. She has launched new program series on spiritual practices, folktales, sacred music, and dance and overseen the development of two residency programs, the Chef-in-Residence and Poets-in-Residence programs at MoAD. With a Ph.D in history from the University of California at Berkeley, Elizabeth is experienced in the educational and community organizing field, having worked with educational reform organizations and with public schools.

Elizabeth participated in a Museum Studies program at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Since then, she has worked with museums developing and producing educational curriculum, leading school tours, and working with community non-profit organizations. She brings a level of leadership and experience to MoAD, having worked with educational institutions and community groups managing projects and programs.

Elizabeth likes almost any activity she does with her family who include her two sons, Milo and Henry, and her dog, Nova.

Emily A. Kuhlmann

Director of Exhibitions & Curatorial Affairs

Emily Kuhlmann has been engaged at MoAD in various capacities since 2011. She organized past exhibitions such as The Grace Jones Project (2016), Where is Here (2017) and The Ease of Fiction (2017)As Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs she has curated the following solo artists exhibitions: Alison Saar: Bearing (2016), A Matter of Fact :Toyin Ojih Odutola (2016) and Todd Gray: My Life in the Bush with MJ and Iggy (2017). 

Emily received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Irvine in Art History with a minor in Women’s Studies. Returning back to Bay Area, she received her Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the ArtsHer research interests include performance studies and critical race art history. 

Elena Gross

Exhibitions Associate

Elena Gross is the Exhibitions Associate at the Museum of the African Diaspora and an independent writer and culture critic living in Oakland, CA. She received an MA in Visual & Critical Studies from the California College of the Arts in 2016, and her BA in Art History and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2012. She specializes in representations of identity in fine art, photography, and popular media. Elena was formerly the creator and co-host of the arts & visual culture podcast what are you looking at? published by Art Practical. Her most recent research has been centered around conceptual and material abstractions of the body in the work of Black modern and contemporary artists. She has presented her writing and research at institutions and conferences across the U.S., including Nook Gallery, Southern Exposure, KADIST, Harvard College, YBCA, California College of the Arts, and the GLBT History Museum.

Mark Sabb

Senior Director of Innovation & Engagement

Mark Sabb is a digital strategist, artist, and designer dedicated to the intersection of arts and community. Through independent collaborations Mark has cemented himself as a cutting edge digital artist in San Francisco, and in 2014, along with Michael Warr, Mark was granted the Creative Work Fund award as a part of the multimedia project, Tracing Poetic Memory in Bayview Hunters Point.

Paul T. Plale

Design Lead

Paul T. Plale joined MoAD during its renovation in April 2014 as a graphic design intern. He has been involved in the brand’s evolution ever since, from exhibition graphics to web presence to program branding to print advertising. He has previously created work for the Curran Theater, Seneca Center, Calle 24 Latinx Cultural District,  ZY Creative, Staura Cellars Winery, African American Shakespeare, and many others. Paul studied at Academy of Art University in San Francisco pursuing Web Design & New Media with a focus on brand design, where his work was featured multiple times in the AAU Spring Show.

Born in Albuquerque, raised in central Pennsylvania and educated in San Francisco, Paul interprets life and art from many angles at once. He enjoys exploring the conflux of subcultures as they interrelate and spark new ideas. These ideas find their way into his art, writing and design.

Demetri Broxton

Senior Director of Education

Demetri Broxton joined MoAD in January 2016 as the Director of Education. An Oakland-native, Broxton has over 16 years of experience working in the field of education and the arts. At MoAD, he leads the educational programs that enhance the visitor experience at the Museum. His department helps to connect youth, educators, and the public to the historical, cultural, and intellectual contributions of the worldwide African Diaspora.

This appointment marks Broxton’s second tenure with MoAD. He previously served as Education Program Manager for MoAD from 2007 through 2010. Outside of his role at MoAD, Demetri is an independent curator and educator. In 2012, Broxton founded Demetri Broxton Studio, an independent curatorial service and has served as curator for the City of Berkeley’s Civic Arts galleries since 2013. Demetri’s largest projects include Decoding Identity, which he co-curated at MoAD in 2009 and Past Forward, at the African American Art and Culture Complex (SF) in 2010.

Demetri graduated from San Francisco State University with an M.A. in Museum Studies with a dual emphasis on Education and Curatorial Practice. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts from UC Berkeley in Art Practice and Education.

Richard Collins

School & Community Outreach Coordinator

Richard Collins joined MoAD after working for six years as a classroom teacher in Bay Area K-12 public schools and teaching college freshman at California State University East Bay while earning his MA in Applied Anthropology. His interest in museums began as an undergraduate student when he pursued several internships including an education internship with MoAD. After this internship, Richard went on to become an intern with the Smithsonian Institution at the National Museum of African Art.

In addition to classroom teaching, Richard has held many positions with San Francisco museums and cultural institutions including working as a docent, in public education and managing visitor services. This combination of frontline museum experience and classroom teaching skills lead him to the role he currently holds with MoAD leading school groups and public tours as well as training docents and managing volunteers.

Richard is a California native who grew up in the East Bay and has also lived in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. He has been a lifelong Golden State Warriors fan.

Suzy Drell

Director of Special Events

Known for her creativity and calm demeanor, Suzy has produced events in the Bay Area for over 20 years. With a Fine Arts background and the sole owner a small high-end design firm, producing décor, original design, product development and large outdoor installations, she has a reputation of taking an idea from inception to execution that creatively integrates events, environments, video production, digital media, decor and technical production.

Suzy graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with BFA in sculpture. She has taught Display and Decor in the Fashion Department at the Academy of Art.

Find more on Suzy at suzydrellcreativedesign.com

Nicole Winthrop

Membership Manager & Board Liason

Nicole joined MoAD in 2017 as Visitor Experience Associate.  She received her BA in Philosophy from Dominican University of CA in San Rafael, then went on to travel and teach English as a Second Language, working with identities ranging from Malian professors to Japanese makeup artists, Colombian traders to Chinese small business owners, Polish actresses to high-ranking Ghanaian military officers.  From 2012-2016, Nicole built a 2.5M sales portfolio over a 4-year real estate career in New York City.

Since joining MoAD, Nicole has incorporated her organizational, sales, and customer services skills to build out the Museum Bookstore by engaging local authors and writers to sell their works in the Store, as well as by coordinating programs around their works.  One of her most treasured collaborations has been with Adreinne Waheed to bring her work, Black Joy and Resistance, to MoAD.  Nicole was also successful in applying best museum practices in implementing wayfinding in the Museum.

When not at work, you can either find Nicole in the woods or in the gallery.

Azha Simmons

Development Associate & Stewardship Coordinator

Azha joined MoAD in July 2018 as the Development Associate & Stewardship Coordinator. She is dedicated to the advancement of emerging museum professionals. Azha has hosted emerging museum professional mixers for California Association of Museums (CAM) and Western Museums Association (WMA). She sits on the board of Bay Area Emerging Museum Professionals. This appointment marks Azha’s second tenure with MoAD. She previously worked as an Education Intern in 2013 working closely with the MoAD Youth Media project.

Azha received her dual M.A./ M.B.A dual degree in Museums Studies and Business Administration from John F. Kennedy University. She received her Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University in History with a minor in Africana Studies.

Janan Sirhan

Director of Facilities

Janan joined the MoAD in March 2019 as the Facilities Director. She holds a B.A. in Classical Studies and a minor in American History from UC Santa Cruz. During her studies, she focused on numismatic portraiture in the Augustan era, as well as the scope of Roman funerary portraiture from 8th c. BCE through 3rd c. CE. She also volunteered to transcribe century-old diaries from local Santa Cruz history as part of a collaboration to preserve several generations of historic community female voices and relevant documentation of California-focused, Victorian-era daily life.

She previously worked for a science center and zoo in San Mateo as the Facility Rental and Museum Experience Manager. At this position, she developed a thriving rental and events program and also created a First Friday Family Nights program from scratch. In collaboration with the Exhibits department, she also project managed temporary pop-up exhibitions that created hands-on, relevant physical and life science experiences for families in the Bay Area Peninsula.

Nia McAllister

Visitor Experience Manager

Nia McAllister is the Visitor Experience Manager at the Museum of the African Diaspora and a Bay Area born poet, writer, and environmental justice advocate. She received her B.A. in Environmental Analysis: Race, Class, Gender, and the Environment from Pomona College. Since joining MoAD in December 2017, she has dedicated herself to facilitating engaging, thought-provoking, and impactful experiences for all who visit the Museum. As an avid reader herself, Nia applies her literary passion towards managing and curating the MoAD bookstore. Nia and her team are dedicated to intentional representation, and have established the Museum bookstore as a platform for authors of the African Diaspora and a space to feature local artists and Black businesses, making MoAD home to now the last Black bookstore in San Francisco.

Beyond the shelves, Nia is dedicated to creating spaces for voices and narratives of the African Diaspora to be shared. She is the creator and host of MoAD’s monthly Third Thursday Open Mic, and has been integral in growing a vibrant poetry community at the Museum since the program’s launch in April 2018. She is a regular performer at Open Mics around the Bay Area, and has been interviewed on the Poets of Color Podcast . Nia’s poetry has been featured by Oakland-based publisher Nomadic Press as part of their Dial-a-Poet series in partnership with Nomadic Coffee. Outside of MoAD, Nia can be found writing outdoors, taking care of her plants, and dancing in her free time.

Naomi Neal

Visitor Experience Associate

Naomi Neal is a past MoAD Education Intern who has joined the team in 2019 as a Visitor Experience Associate. Originally from Southern California, Naomi moved to San Francisco in 2015 to attend San Francisco State University. Graduating in 3 years with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in African Studies, Naomi has dedicated her time to engaging and participating in organizations that focus on serving and bringing communities together.