Hilary Key, Director
Hilary Key is the co-founder and CEO of Art Steps, having directed our studios since 1999. Hilary has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to joyfully running the show, Hilary enjoys watercolor and oil painting, as well as drawing together with her two sons. She also serves as founder and President of our nonprofit outreach program, Bright Artists.
Friendly, communicative and genuine, Rishica Vendakesh has a strong drive to really get through to kids and enrich their lives through art. After changing her major from science to art, Rishica completed her final year at Cal State University Long Beach. Her passion for art is clear, but her strongest passion may just be helping children. Rishica has already taught children of all ages through Free Arts, a Los Angeles nonprofit benefiting kids who have experienced abuse, neglect, poverty and/or homelessness. We're excited to foster her dedication to children and love of classical oil painting, as Online Program Manager.
Halie Santillan, Yorba Linda Studio Manager and acting Regional Manager, holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Arts from California State University Long Beach. Halie has amazing skills in classical oil painting, and her personable, kind, caring nature is just as strong. Years of customer service and management experience, including years as our studio's Assistant Manager, have made her responsible, reliable, and ready for challenges. Once you meet her, you will find that she is perfectly suited to teaching all ages. She provides wonderful support to all of our teachers, as well as personalized, exceptional mentorship to each of her lucky students.
Taylor Harai, Studio Manager at our Laguna Hills studio, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California Santa Cruz. She majored in Art and minored in History of Art and Visual Culture. Taylor comes to teaching at Art Steps with great enthusiasm, having spent seven years of her childhood, age 7 through 14, as a student in our program! In addition to her stellar artistic talent, Miss Taylor is full of smiles and kindness, so we are thrilled that she has become a vital part of our team.
Robin Madsen, our Costa Mesa Studio Manager, holds a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree in Drawing and Painting from Cal State Fullerton. Robin's love for art is matched only by her love for children and teaching. With a passion for watercolor, she was drawn to art at a young age through the joy she experienced with Disney movies and children's books. That youthful spirit and optimism pours out of her in the classroom, creating an effervescent and cheerful environment for children to learn and grow as budding artists themselves. Combined with her years of customer service experience at Starbucks, Robin knows how to run a productive classroom where children have fun!
If you are a charter school family, you will likely speak with our wonderful back-office math whiz, Emily Todorut. An outstanding artist with degrees in both Studio Art and Radio-TV-Film, Emily finds that she also loves details and numbers, so she is right at home running all of our charter accounts and vital back-office processes in our art-rich environment.
Ashlyn Dickson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with honors in Animation from Cal State Fullerton. Sweet, cheerful and bubbly, Ashlyn is an outstanding visual artist and draftsperson. Years of customer service experience have given her excellent practice in carefully attending to each individual student, parent, and teacher. She's proven that she can do it all, from resolving urgent matters to conducting a classical painting classroom with efficiency, quality and grace.
Warm, kind-hearted and dedicated, Lesdy Sainz holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Cal State Long Beach. After graduating, she expressed her artistic voice through drawing caricatures for Knott's Berry Farm, Disneyland, and private parties. Working in these family settings encouraged her to inspire arts appreciation for all ages, and to be involved in the art community. Miss Lesdy loves sharing her knowledge of classical, realistic drawing and painting with students. She can light up any room, and has an upbeat sense of humor and fun demeanor with children and teens alike, making her classes irresistible.
Long-time staff member Gemma Magdaluyo helps all locations as our Training and Support Specialist. Gemma graduated from the Laguna College of Art and Design with a Bachelor's of Fine Art degree in Illustration, with emphasis on drawing and painting. Her years of experience allow her to provide support for teacher artwork training, as our Director's only proxy in this vital role. She also provides phone help directly to parents who call our office, as well as substitute teaching and lending a hand wherever needed at Art Steps. Her passionate commitment to seeing young artists blossom makes us all very lucky to benefit from her ongoing wisdom and support.
Sureya Davis received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drawing and Painting from the Laguna College of Art and Design, after attending Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis, MN. Through her experience teaching elementary age students over the years, Sureya learned that she loves sharing her artistic passion with kids. With world-class drawing and painting skills, and work featured in numerous exhibits and private collections, she is an outstanding mentor for teens and advanced artists. In fact, she now serves as part-time faculty at LCAD, her alma mater. And we love Miss Sureya's warm, bubbly, and cheerful demeanor.
Monica Ek Castruitia has taught kids, teens and adults using our award-winning curriculum for over 12 years, 9 of which were spent managing a studio in Los Angeles County. We are fortunate that she has chosen to branch out into our Orange County locations, where her skill and depth of experience are well appreciated, and will benefit our students and staff alike. Monica deeply understands the value of a nurturing environment and parent/student/teacher relationships in fostering the growth of fine artists. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Cal State University. Her skills, clear communication, and warm, kind disposition will surely make her a favorite among students and families.
Michaela Moffett has her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Cal State Fullerton, and studied classical drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy. A long-time art student of 17 years, Michaela has extensive exhibition experience as well as knowledge of artistic media and art history. With years of customer service and teaching experience, she is warm, personable, communicative, and enthusiastic. "Miss Michaela" is a wonderful addition to our team of Yorba Linda teachers!
Lillian Baker has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she also made the Dean’s List. She also has an Associate’s degree in Narrative Illustration from Orange Coast College, where she was Founder and President of the OCC Illustration Club. A phenomenal representational oil painter, Lillian is also extremely resourceful and creative. A regular participant in conventions such as the Anime Expo, Mini Comics Expo, SacAnime and Anime California, Lillian is an accomplished cartoonist and designer who is sure to connect with our students on a variety of levels. Say hello to Lillian at our Yorba Linda studio!
Ken Kropacek Jr. has always loved drawing – a love fostered while spending time drawing together with his grandfather as a child. Ken holds an Associate of Arts degree in Visual Arts from the College of DuPage, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts from Cal State University Fullerton, with an emphasis in Crafts. Fun and upbeat, Ken has extensive customer service, management and leadership experience from his time at Disneyland Resort and beyond. Ken’s enthusiasm for art, and for life itself, is absolutely infectious. We warmly welcome him to our Laguna Hills studio!
Katelynn Baird attended Art Steps classes from age 9 through 18. She became a teacher's aide while still in high school, so she's been deeply immersed in our program and processes for years. "Some of my favorite memories come from the relationships and community I had growing up as a student at Art Steps", says Katelynn, so she knows how vitally important an excellent teacher can be in the life of a child. After studying fine art at Westmont College, she transferred to Biola University as a Studio Art major, where she is pursuing her degree. Now a teacher herself, Katelynn brings kindness, warmth, and a true passion for both teaching and practicing fine art.
Joshua Padilla has his Bachelor of Arts, Summa Cum Laude, in Studio Art from the University of La Verne, and with that, a passion for teaching and lifelong learning. Josh has extensive customer service experience with kids and adults alike from his time at Disneyland Resort, as well as art exhibition and volunteer experience. We are also honored to have him serve as assistant teacher in our after school outreach program, Bright Artists, where he works with kids who normally would never have access to a studio like ours. With a kind, gentle, attentive presence and wonderful, relaxed sense of humor, Josh has already proven to be a wonderful mentor for students in our Yorba Linda studio and beyond.
Erin O’Neill graduated Cal State University Long Beach with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drawing and Painting. Erin studied Observational Figure Drawing and Painting in college, but is also interested in art that involves a narrative, such as comics and animation. Combining experience in customer service, tutoring and caregiving, Erin excels in being attentive to individual student needs, and in helping them find their own unique interests and strengths. We warmly welcome them to our Costa Mesa studio!
Elizabeth Eadens possesses a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, and a Masters of Fine Art from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Her background as a yoga instructor helps her bring a balanced sense of calm, peace and vibrant energy to her classes, and her particular love of figure painting is evident in her passion for passing the principles of classical realism along to her students. All the while, Miss Elizabeth makes it clear that she cares about every student, as they journey from new to experienced fine artist in their own right. In addition to teaching our award-winning classical drawing and painting program, Elizabeth also serves as the Laguna Hills studio's Portfolio Prep Mentor. Elizabeth is certified by the College Board to teach Advanced Placement 2-D, 3-D and Design portfolio program.
Brooke Hunter is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting at the Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD), where she is on the Academic President's List. Prior to that, she was on the Dean's List at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. Brooke has enormous talent in representational art, particularly oil painting. Because both of her parents were college art professors, Brooke has spent a lifetime immersed in fine art, having worked at the LCAD gallery, participated in numerous art competitions in high school, and spent years developing her skills before that. Her passion for drawing and painting techniques, and her sharp intellect, are matched only by her connective, kind spirit. Brooke is a wonderful addition to our Laguna Hills studio.
Brendan Kendrick attends California State University, Fullerton, majoring in illustration, and has loved the environment at our studio so much, that he has worked as a teacher's aide for over a year, while hoping to be considered for a teaching position. As it turns out, Brendan, an Eagle Scout with a positive attitude, exceptional patience, and a caring heart, has incredible drawing and painting skills. He admires other artists greatly, and relishes soaking up as much information as he can to keep growing. Brendan delights in working with kids, and sharing his wonderful perspective on the technical aspect of fine art.
Freelance comic book illustrator Arely Martinez completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in Illustration from Cal State Fullerton, as well as Associate of Arts degrees in both Art and Liberal Arts from Santiago Canyon College. Arely previously worked at Blick Art Materials, and interned at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, following a successful run doing portrait caricatures for both Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland. Arely’s sweet disposition, personally attentive nature, and fastidious pursuit of excellence make her a wonderful addition to our Yorba Linda studio!
Andrew Cortez is an active student at the Laguna College of Art and Design, pursuing his Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree with a minor in illustration. With strong graphic, conceptual and representational drawing and painting skills, Andrew takes great joy in both making art and in teaching. He brings levity, connection and skill to each of the students he teaches. Look for Mr. Andrew in the Yorba Linda studio on weekends and throughout the week! In addition to teaching our award-winning classical drawing and painting program, Andrew also serves as the Yorba Linda studio's Portfolio Prep Mentor. Andrew is certified by the College Board to teach Advanced Placement 2-D, 3-D and Design portfolio program.
Lora McWhorter, our Regional Studio Manager in charge of ensuring quality in all locations, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in sculpture from California State University, Fullerton. An attentive, caring mentor with a passion for fine art, Ms. Lora sees to it that all studios have what they need. Teaching our world-class fine art program since 2008, she has become its strongest advocate in our studios, ensuring that her teachers are well-prepared and equipped to succeed. Her dedication to the well-being of children manifests itself in her warm, kind, welcoming demeanor, as well as her steadfast commitment to ethical and artistic excellence.