Staff & Board

Our Staff

Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez

Executive Director

anjee [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Anjee has institutionalized the organization’s commitment to commission significant new work annually and to run a fiscally sound organization. She has played an integral role in community development work, which uses art as a vehicle to bring together people of various socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to promote neighborhood-based social change.

Anjee has worked as a curator, writer and cultural worker in the Bay Area for the past eighteen years. She began her involvement with MACLA in 1994 and served as Associate Director and Curator from 2004-2007. In 2009 Anjee was recognized for her dynamic leadership with the “40 Under 40” award from the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. She has served as a nominator, juror and panelist for Creative Capital, Alliance of Artists Communities’ Visions from New California awards, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

She has presented at Grantmakers in the Arts (2009, 2011), the Ford Foundation’s 2010 Space for Change, and served as an advisor to the William and Flora Hewett Foundation’s Bay Area Cultural Asset Mapping project. In 2012 she joined the Knight Foundation’s National Arts Advisory Committee. Anjee earned a B.F.A. in Pictorial Studies from San Jose State University and holds an M.A. in Visual Criticism from California College of the Arts.

Leyla Carleo

Executive Assistant

leyla [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Leyla is a Graphic Designer and multidisciplinary artist born and raised in Venezuela. She moved to California to attend college and received a BA in Communications Studies with a focus on Discourse Analysis from San Francisco State University. She found her way back to art after spending some time in the law field. Leyla is passionate about Design, Illustration, Ceramics and Lino Printing, as well as learning new languages, she’s trilingual. Currently she is finalizing her studies in Graphic Design at Shillington School of Design. On her free time, Leyla enjoys reading, watching films and traveling.

Eda Benites

Operations & Finance Manager 

eda [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Eda considers herself a jack-of-all-trades with a focus on community work. As a poet herself, Eda strongly believes in the power of art to spearhead change and hopes to leverage her ambition to empower artists of underrepresented backgrounds as they move within the art community.  

She has worked alongside inspiring peers at El Centro Chicano y Latino as a program coordinator and gave back to her alma mater as an admission counselor serving the Latinx community. They also co-founded Cafecito Quechua, a community-based language and culture initiative whose purpose is to revitalize and destigmatize the learning of Quechua/Indigenous Andean languages.  

Eda holds an MA in Latin American Studies and a BA in Anthropology with minors in Spanish and Biology from Stanford University. You can find her reading a book at the beach, mushroom hunting in Bay Area hiking spots, or finally repotting her plants. 

Individual Donor Coordinator LuisLuis Ambriz

Director of Donor Experience

luis [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Luis Ambriz is the Director of Donor Experience at MACLA. Luis was born and raised in Stockton, California and received his Masters in History from San Jose State University. During his time in school, Luis worked for several nonprofits in the fields of politics, sales, and organic farms. Aside from his interests in arts and culture, he is a certified instructor for The Princeton Review and also independently tutors for SAT and GRE courses around the Bay Area. Luis has a passion for education and has curated museum exhibits and history-specific tours for elementary school students in the Los Altos area. In his free time, Luis enjoys playing basketball, going hiking, and traveling.

Angelica Torres

Pathways Program Director

angelica [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Angelica Torres moved to San Jose in 2013 to pursue a degree in Communication Studies at San Jose State. During this time, she worked part-time at MACLA with the youth program. Her passion for community led her to work for State Senator Jim Beall and she later continued on to community in tech. She rejoined the MACLA team in September 2020, and in her current role as Pathways Program Director, she is focused on equipping youth with confidence and skills that are transferable for future career pathways. Angelica has a passion for uplifting youth, art, culture and everything tech. In her free time, she likes to read, take photos, and watch feel-good shows.

Youth Development and Production Coordinator Ruben

Ruben Escalante

Studio Manager & Mentor

ruben [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Ruben Escalante is a Filmmaker, Photographer, and Youth Advocate at MACLA’s Teen Tech Center. Ruben was born in Madera, California, and grew-up in Dos Palos, CA. Once Ruben graduated from High School he moved to San Jose to pursue an education in Cinema. Since graduating Ruben has worked at numerous elementary schools focusing on art therapy. They recently started a collective titled Emo Kids of Color, E.K.O.C for short. E.K.O.C is a collective of artists who specialize in photography, zine making, film, music, and poetry.

Alyssarhaye Graciano

Visual Arts Curator 

alyssarhaye [at] maclaarte [dot] org

Alyssarhaye is a practicing textile artist, published author, and community curator. Her curatorial practice has focused on emerging and established artists of color, uplifting untold stories, and artistic expressions. An experienced arts administrator, she has held positions at Silicon Valley Creates, New Museum Los Gatos, and ran a small business, BlackSheepMade offering textile workshops and selling her art. As an arts advocate, she volunteers on the GenArts Steering Committee, writes for Content Magazine, and is currently in the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI), Class 14. Born and raised in San José, Alyssarhaye is trilingual with a BA in Languages and Literature with an emphasis in Spanish and French from the University of California, Riverside.  

In her spare time, she is an avid cyclist exploring Bay Area trails. When she’s not on her bike, she is a budding home chef who likes to cook Thai food and explore her Mexican-Filipino family recipes.