Introducing Our Art Steps Staff...

Each of our talented teachers, carefully hand-chosen by our Director for a kind, warm personality, strong classical artistic painting skills, and enthusiasm for working children, either has a fine art degree such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, or is currently working toward one. Every teacher participates in 40 hours of hands-on, project-based artwork training with our Director, plus another 20+ hours in the classroom with an experienced teacher, to ensure consistent excellence in instruction.

Teachers are supported over time by in-classroom observations and out-of-class artwork reviews by our studio managers, as well as periodic refresher training to keep teaching skills sharp. At Art Steps, we pride ourselves on providing ongoing mentorship to staff, so that every single teacher can truly cultivate his or her passion for passing the time-honored tradition of classical painting skills to the next generation.

All teachers have been fingerprinted and background checked through the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Have you met your child's teacher? Before and after class, be sure to come in and chat! We love to be in touch with you!
Interested in teaching at Art Steps? Apply Here!

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.


Robin Bourland, our Yorba Linda Studio Manager, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Drawing and Painting from Cal State Fullerton. Together with her team, she has managed our Laguna Hills and Costa Mesa locations and kept them running smoothly. 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. Ms. Robin also acts as Lead Studio Manager, mentoring our other Art Steps management teams each month, so that we can best serve all of our students.


When you call the studio, you are likely to reach our wonderful office administrator and scheduler, Hayley Mazeika. We have searched far and wide for just the right person to fortify our office and serve our families. Hayley is as warm, friendly and helpful as she is detail-oriented. We know families love working with her as much as we do! Ms. Hayley also serves as Central Office Trainer, where she ensures all Art Steps staff understand our processes, so that you have a smooth experience.


Lora McWhorter, our Operations Manager, 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 became our studios' strongest advocate, ensuring that her teachers are well-prepared and equipped to succeed, before moving to the Dallas, Texas area with her husband and young daughter, where she now works remotely. Ms. Lora now oversees operations for all locations as well as our online program, and enjoys participating in illustration curriculum work as well. 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.


If you are a charter school family, you will likely speak with our wonderful back-office math whiz, Emily Tarascio. 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 as Office Manager, running all of our charter accounts and vital back-office processes in our art-rich environment.


Warm, kind-hearted and dedicated, our Online Program Manager 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.


Vanessa Millan has Associate of Arts degrees in Art History and Studio Art, and a Certificate in Media Arts from Bakersfield College. She is currently a Studio Arts major working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at California State University, Fullerton. Among other artistic projects, Vanessa recently teamed up to create a 30 second stop-motion animation, developing storyboard concepts and editing film with 24 Hour Animation. Talented and hungry for knowledge, Vanessa is absolutely passionate about art and passing her knowledge on to children. Please welcome her to our Laguna Hills studio!


Tomas Ogle graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Drawing and Painting. His world-class skills in representational drawing and oil painting combine with a passion for digital painting and illustration. He especially loves figurative subject matter, and is committed to sharing his skills with the next generation through teaching students of all ages. Mr. Tomas works as a substitute teacher in the Fountain Valley School District and at the Orange County School of the Arts, and we couldn't be happier to have him on board as a teacher at Art Steps Laguna Hills!


Tara White was an Art Steps Yorba Linda student in her elementary school years, and we're proud to have her now as an outstanding member of our teaching team at her home studio. Tara's early exposure to drawing and painting sparked a lifelong love of fine art and art history, leading her to receive her Master of Arts in Italian Renaissance Art from Syracuse University, after earning her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from California State University, Long Beach. Part of Tara's studies included living in Italy, where she interacted with classical artworks first-hand; In her role as a gallery attendant and curatorial intern, she also created curriculum and taught students. Ms. Tara brings exceptional warmth and a communicative spirit to each student she teaches, and we are so happy to have her on our team.


Noah Barrett, Laguna Hills Assistant Studio Manager, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from California State University Long Beach and holds three Associate Degrees from Saddleback College in Art History, History, and Studio Art. Noah is warm, personable, kind and connects well with kids and teens of all ages. A freelance illustrator, Noah is dedicated to creating and growing as an artist. Noah excelled in his role as co-teacher in our Bright Artists nonprofit outreach program last year, honing problem-solving and classroom management skills that he has brought into his studio leadership role.


Bubbly, positive, and fun, Dominique "Nikki" Lafreeda is a welcome addition to our Art Steps Yorba Linda team. While receiving her Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Entertainment Arts and Animation, Ms. Nikki has demonstrated her zest for quirky and unusual experiences by participating in lively art activities such as the Pencil Mileage Club Zine and the Knott's Scary Farm Into the Fog art show. With skills in digital art as her forte and having studied child development and education, this kind-hearted, fun-loving artist is the perfect teacher for our students today.


As a former tutor in math, english, psychology, art and more, Newlyn Nguyen knows what it means to effectively communicate with kids and teens. With the heart of a leader, Ms. Newlyn has raised funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She has also worked as a teacher's assistant, co-facilitating and leading a class of 25 students, grades K-3, where she created lesson plans, helped guide student behavior and developed a genuine passion for teaching. Ms. Newlyn's passion for art education is matched only by her drawing and painting skills. She currently attends Orange Coast College as a business major, while continuing to study art. We warmly welcome her to our Costa Mesa studio!


Monica Ek Castruitia, Hiring and Training Specialist, 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.


Lillian Baker, Costa Mesa Assistant Studio Manager and Advanced Studies Mentor, 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 inspires students of all levels to strive for excellence at our Costa Mesa location.


Leone Deleon is currently a student at the Laguna College of Art and Design studying Entertainment Design, and aspires to work on kids' shows as a visual development artist in the animation industry. A strong digital artist, Leone also exhibits skill in sculpture, charcoal, plein air painting and digital 3D design. With fantastic people skills and a great sense of humor, Leone will be helping with Summer Workshops in our Laguna Hills studio, and looks forward to helping foster the next generation of artists.


Friendly, warm and gracious, Katie Johnson, Yorba Linda Assistant Studio Manager, has a Certificate in Entertainment Art from Fullerton College. While she loves doing digital art, her roots are in traditional drawing and painting. Her favorite thing to do is get out into the world and draw from life! Katie brings the sense of presence, efficiency and fun learned in her experience as a theme park letterbrush artist into teaching at Bright Artists, our sister nonprofit outreach program. Kindhearted, engaging and calm, Ms. Katie instills inspiration and confidence in each of her students.


Jessica McNeil, Yorba Linda Assistant Studio Manager, has her bachelor's degree from Cal State Fullerton, where she has cultivated her love of figurative painting and portraiture. Jessica finds joy in representational painting and drawing for its own sake. She loves introducing children to the arts. Bright, cheerful, hardworking, thorough and sharp, Miss Jessica is a wonderful part of our amazing Art Steps Yorba Linda team!


Kindhearted and patient with a strong work ethic, Haley Wagner, Costa Mesa Studio Manager, has received three Associate's arts degrees from Orange Coast College. Ms. Haley has developed resilience and savvy through her experience working in a wide variety of customer service settings, including management and childcare. Years of nannying young children, including one on the autism spectrum, not only has prepared her to work with all kinds of children, but shows that her dedication to kids is unwavering. Look for Ms. Haley's smiling face at our Costa Mesa studio!


As someone who has pursued a lifelong love of art against the odds, Ha Ly has a passion for bringing a can-do, encouraging outlook to children. She recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Illustration from California State University, Fullerton, where she graduated summa cum laude. Specializing in digital drawing and painting, Ms. Ha also loves working in pencil, colored pencil and watercolor, and is most interested in children's book illustration. For Ms. Ha, visual storytelling is a way to inspire and brighten one's day through art, and she brightens up everyone's day with her positive spirit and uplifting presence. You can see more of her stunning artwork at


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 Advanced Study Mentor. Elizabeth is certified by the College Board to teach Advanced Placement 2-D, 3-D and Design portfolio program.


Brittany Cotter got her start in the Art Steps program as a teacher at our Laguna Hills location, and currently teaches for our Online Program as well. She holds an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences from Santa Ana College, and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from California State University, Fullerton. In addition to being an artist, Brittany is also an actor who has painted and built sets for multiple theater productions. Bright, bubbly, personable, positive and exceedingly kind, Brittany has a passion for both art and teaching kids. She would someday like to become an illustrator for children's books.


Brittney Coman, Laguna Hills Studio Manager, has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton, as well as an Associate of Arts degree from Orange Coast College. Bubbly and friendly, she has outstanding leadership skills to rival her keen artistic talent. Brittney works in a variety of media as a fine artist; While she has worked in wide-ranging materials from watercolor, to glass blowing to black-and-white photography, oil painting is her primary emphasis. Warm and connective, Brittney is passionate about dedicating her life to fine art, and to helping her students thrive.


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.


After studying Graphic and Interactive Design at Foothill College, Beatrix Colmet Daage is now pursuing her bachelor's degree in Visual Communication and Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Ms. Beatrix's sweet, attentive demeanor, combined with her years of experience with children (providing both preschool and private childcare), serves her focus on attending to students' needs. Organized and neat, Ms. Beatrix has pursued a wide range of visual art interests, from fine art to merchandising to graphic design, bringing a wealth of new perspectives to the students she teaches. Look for her at the Yorba Linda Art Steps studio.


Aren Hinojos is a student at California State University, Fullerton, majoring in Entertainment Art. Bubbly, warm, and extremely welcoming, Aren also serves as a Peep Ambassador at the CSUF Business Advising Center, assisting students with navigating the campus, and with college life in general. With a passion for learning, a can-do attitude, and a drive to help children succeed, Aren is a wonderful addition to our Yorba Linda teaching team!


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 Lead Designer and Marketer!


Amanda Levenson's artistic accomplishments include designing and illustrating a children's book; creating individual, couples and pet portraits; visual development and character design for animation; comic book work; and many other projects she tackled as a freelance illustrator and fine artist. Amanda was the illustrator for the Daily Titan, the newspaper for California State University, where she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Illustration. She was also a member of the Pencil Mileage Club. Kindhearted and attentive, Ms Amanda is a welcome member of our team as Laguna Hills Assistant Studio Manager.