Staff


Kirsha Kaechele
Founder & Creative Director
Kirsha Kaechele’s projects are based at MONA in Tasmania and New Orleans. In addition to art curation, her projects include: feasts as living art installations – temporal exhibitions in which every element of a feast is sculpture or performance; 24 Carrot – a project that creates kitchen gardens in low income areas of Tasmania and New Orleans; Heavy Metal – an art-science project focused on the mercury contamination of Tasmania’s River Derwent; Trascism – Mona’s zero-waste initiative, now implemented across their festivals and events; and Material Institute. 


24 Carrot Garden

Kaya Jones
Garden Education Director
Kaya Jones is an environmental educator. As the Education Director, she designs educational opportunities for 24 Carrot Garden. Originally from Florida, Kaya received her BS in Environmental Science from Florida A&M University and co-founded a student community garden in 2013. Outside of work, she goes camping, fishing, and makes baked goods.

Emily Neustrom
Director of Garden Production
Emily is an urban farmer and musician. As Director of Garden Production, Emily uses sustainable gardening methods to grow crops for the St Roch neighborhood. She received her MS in Horticulture from LSU and is a trained Horticulture Therapist with the AHTA. Emily has worked on urban gardening projects for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Edible Schoolyard NOLA, and LSU AgCenter.

Nashé Renee
Garden Educator
Nashé Renee is a garden educator. She works closely with Material Institute’s youth and visitors educating them about the importance of growing, harvesting, and composting vegetables. Nashé is also responsible for preparing meals with youth, using ingredients derived fresh from our 24 Carrot Garden.


Fashion & Textiles

Norma Hedrick
Head of Studio Culture & Lead Instructor
Norma Hendrick is a fashion educator. She helped establish the Fashion & Textiles department and currently teaches sewing, draping, and patternmaking. Norma studied in Los Angeles under Helen Armstrong concentrating on Flat Pattern Making and with Sharon Tate on Design Room Procedures. Norma worked in the design room of Lillies of Beverly Hills and was a former model as well.

Maria Lisogorskaya
Fashion & Textiles Co-Director
Maria is a founding partner of Turner Prize winning art and design collective Assemble. Her projects range from the scales of product and material prototyping and experimentation to spatial design and organizational strategy. Assemble partnered with MONA to create the Fashion Department at Material institute, where Maria leads on department development, and special projects such as the Tufting Gun Tapestries for the Chicago Biennial, Pandemic Projects, and the first pilot show. Previously Maria has taught master’s design studios at Central Saint Martins, Vienna University, and EPFL Lausanne, as well as lecturing and exhibiting internationally. 

Tora López
Fashion & Textiles Co-Director
López is a New York and New Orleans based visual artist with a background in fashion and costume design. Her clients include Uzo Aduba, Laurie Anderson, Tina Fey, Givenchy, Danai Gurira, Alicia Keys, Kenzo, Cyndi Lauper, Nicki Minaj, Katey Red, the Olsen Twins, Taylor Swift, and Vivian Westwood. She has exhibited at Museum of Old and New Art (Tasmania, AU), Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans), Beth DeWoody’s The Bunker Art Space (Palm Beach), Smack Mellon (NYC), and Signs & Symbols (NYC) among others.

Amani McCutchen
Program Administrator
Amani is a fashion entrepreneur, content creator, and owner of Saint Miraj. Saint Miraj is an online apparel store and brand that mixes vintage and modern trends. Amani works closely with program directors and instructors to plan, coordinate, and execute all aspects of the program’s administrative needs. She also assists with marketing, events, and content creation.

Ilse Nina
Program Manager & Textiles Instructor
Ilse began working with Fashion & Textiles at the beginning of 2021, when she introduced knitting machines to the facility. She continues to grow the department introducing donation-based resources that provide accessibility to textile education offered here. Her classes explore sustainable design practices, digital garment illustration, and material experimentation using analog knitting machines.

Faustine Steinmetz
Curriculum
Faustine is a French fashion designer and fashion educator. She writes and teaches the curriculum for the fashion program at Material Institute. When not working for Material Institute, Faustine has an eponymous slow fashion label focused on handmade textiles. She also designs for French couture houses like Balenciaga and teaches around the world (Parsons, Central Saint Martins, Head Geneva, Westminster London).

Gina Minor Allen
Graphic Design Instructor
Gina is an instructional designer with over 20 of years experience in instruction and digital design. She is the author and illustrator of There’s An Alligator in Audubon Park! and lives in New Orleans with her two sons.

Malcolm “EMMIE” Johnson
Studio Tech
EMMIE is a freelance designer and artist born and raised in New Orleans East. He started a nonprofit called Louisiana Produces The Best Athletes (LPTBA) leading youth to progressive habits and aiming to create a heavenly presence in Louisiana. He also started a company called Originally Golden to show that the most value is within and to express the spirit of self-love across a range of mediums. 

Marwan Pleasant
Open Studio Manager & Instructor
Marwan Pleasant was born and reared in New Orleans. Under the tutelage of his grandfather, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, he’s been a part of the Black masking Indian tradition since being able to walk. His drive at a young age appointed him as an instructor in the Fashion & Textiles department teaching traditional beading techniques and appliqué designs. His fashion brand is called Marlence.

Gurleen Rai
Illustration Instructor
Gurleen is a freelance animator and illustrator. Her films have screened internationally, and clients include FXX, Vox Media, and Antigravity Magazine. She has a Bachelor of Design in Fashion Design from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada and an associates in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Eliza Wapner
Natural Dye Instructor
Eliza is an artist specializing in natural dye and textiles. As the Natural Dye Instructor at Material Institute, Eliza teaches designers how to create color and surface design on fabric and garments using plants as dye. She is particularly interested in indigo and its cultural significance as well as utilizing local color. Eliza graduated with her BFA in Studio Art from Syracuse University in 2016 and has completed artist residencies in the US and internationally. She has a small brand, Lil Bits Cloth, specializing in naturally dyed clothing. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring local waterways, baking elaborate cakes, and walking her dog.

Mark T. Williams II
Graphic Design Instructor
Mark is an artist and technical educator who started a magazine and design firm that runs an apprenticeship program called DECAF Publications; Design + Entrepreneurship + Culture + Arts + Fashion. Mark teaches digital literacy at Carver High School at Graphic Design at Material Institute.


Music | The Embassy

Aimée Toledano
The Embassy Program Director
Aimée is an artist from New Orleans. As Program Director of The Embassy, she co-designs recording arts programming, leads department development, and produces live performances and music videos. As a filmmaker and photographer her work has shown at The New Museum, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and Serpentine Galleries and has been published in the New York Times, Art Forum, and Rolling Stone.

Andy Gross
Lead Engineer & Recording Artist Residency Program Manager
Andy is an audio engineer and artist. As Program Manager and Engineer for the Recording Artist Residency, he records, mixes, and masters all artists’ projects, as well as assists in the management of the program. He graduated from Tulane University with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy and worked in client services at the Orleans Public Defenders office before pursuing music full time. As a performing artist, he’s released and toured multiple self-produced projects performing with acts such as YG, Freddie Gibbs, and Lil Uzi Vert. Andy has engineered music since 2015, working on indie rock, rap, pop, jazz, and everything in between. Outside of music and work, he enjoys writing poetry, painting, and baseball (Go Mets!).

Mike Mosko
Sound Engineer & Sunday Sessions Coordinator
Mike is an engineer, artist, educator, and organizer from Oakland, CA. He leads development of Sunday Sessions at the Embassy for formerly incarcerated and system involved individuals. Mike has lived in New Orleans since 2015 and has been at the forefront of local initiatives aimed at using art as resistance to mass-incarceration and the collective trauma it creates in our communities. In addition to running Sunday Sessions, Mike currently works with kids and families at Orleans Public Defenders as a Youth Advocate.

Cameron Smith
Sound Engineer & Open Studio Coordinator
Cameron is a musician, producer, and engineer from New Orleans. He graduated from UL Lafayette with a degree in Jazz Studies and Music Media and quickly began work as a live sound engineer. Gigging and touring as both a musician and engineer and producing beats for various hip hop projects led to work as a recording engineer. Cam’s goal is to continuously create and serve music, be it as an artist, producer, or engineer.

Maria Rowinska
Vocal Instructor and Studio Manager
Maria is a musician, teacher, and composer. At Material Institute, she provides customized vocal coaching to Residency and Sunday Sessions artists, adapting technique to their music and style to help them more successfully record and perform. After graduating from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Performance Studies (minor: Contemporary Latin American Music), she led and participated in a myriad of projects in Boston and Puerto Rico, before moving to New Orleans in 2021. Currently she works singing, recording, and touring with the electronic afro-Caribbean project, ÌFÉ, as well as providing vocal coaching for a wide group of clients. In her spare time, you’ll find her cooking, dancing, or watching Jurassic Park for the 80th time (truly).


Communications

Lucia Honey
Social Media Content Creator & Manager
Lucia is a video artist, musician, and writer. As Social Media Manager, she documents Material Institute’s programs, curates our public presence, and manages digital assets. She studied interdisciplinary art at School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and in 2020 was awarded the SMFA Traveling Fellowship to create a new video project in Sicily. She’s participated in Offshore, ACRE, and most recently, The Embassy’s music residency where she recorded the album, Self Help. In her free time she enjoys cooking, learning languages, and travel.


Operations

Amina D. Massey
Director of Strategy & Operations
Amina D. Massey is an artist and sociologist. As Director of Strategy and Operations, she establishes organizational policies and coordinates long-range planning to support the purpose and vision of all departments at Material Institute. Amina is a former resident musician of the Embassy Studio where she released her debut album, EMPATH, under the artist name, tanywey. Amina comes from a background in public health and has worked with researchers, policymakers, and local organizations to develop and implement community-engaged programming. She loves to spend time in her garden and with her bearded dragon.


Sites / Build

Jaohn Orgon
Sites Director
As Sites Director, Jaohn oversees sites and construction at Material Institute. His innovative developments combine art, architecture, community, and sacred space. Jaohn’s properties include The New Orleans Tree House, home to the most climbed tree in America; The Safe House with Mel Chin; The Fire House with Banksy; James Beard nominated Best New Restaurant in America, Cochon; Life Is Art West; High Cloud; and Material Institute. His spaces have appeared in Vice, NY Times, Arte, Art Forum, Atlas Obscura, Artnet, and The Guardian.

Photos: Jonathan Traviesa

Material Institute