Our Team

Emily Carlson (she/they) is the director of OMA Center for Mind, Body and Spirit’s program Art in the Garden. She earned a BA in Poetry and African American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. For over two decades, Emily has taught writing to students from elementary school to college. She worked at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, led The Experiment in International Living’s program for high school students in Ghana, cared for horses in Italy and Brooklyn, NY, and studied poetry in Beirut through a grant from the Syria-Lebanon Nationality Room. Emily is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Symphony No. 2 and I Have a Teacher. She lives with her partner Sten and their three children in a cohousing community.

Callie Gropp (she/her) heads OMA Pittsburgh’s Surviving to Thriving Programs. A native of Pittsburgh, Callie earned a BA in History and African American/Black Studies from Oberlin College. She has been an educator since 2007, and increasingly she spends her time working to create awareness about the science of trauma and resilience. She is hopeful that through education, awareness, and advocacy we can establish Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, and all forms abuse as a major public health issue. In order to break cycles of silence and harm, Callie believes we must collaboratively respond to the collective arena of trauma and its effects throughout the generations. Through collaboration with individuals and organizations city-wide, she hopes show possibilities that emerge when communities come together to provide all people with access to holistic, trauma-informed and healing centered care. She believes that when we heal ourselves in the present, we heal the generations to come.

Valerie Herrero (Teacher) is an avid adventurer and finds inspiration from closely observing everyday wonders and curiosities–from tiny insect parades to the vast world all around us. Valerie has been a teacher at several organizations including Carnegie Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, Assemble, The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, and The Pittsburgh Glass Center. In 2015 Valerie created The Bridging Arts Program, a community program that used art and empathic dialog to connect Greene County and Pittsburgh youth. Having grown up amidst woods and fields scattered throughout Ohio, she appreciates the ways nature has been a great teacher to her. She hopes her work can offer those lessons and discoveries with everyone she has the opportunity to share and learn alongside. Her artwork and performance projects are filled with explorations about fleeting time, the process of change, and the intricate connections and the gentle balance of life on Earth. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her cat, Cow Kitty.

Kastler Joseph (Teacher) is originally from Newark, New Jersey. He has a degree in The Applied Sciences of Electronic Engineering Technology and in Electronic Computer Technology. Kastler has always had a love, passion, and joy for working with children. After his son was born he realized that working with children is a calling. Kastler has a desire to assist parents who do not have the ability to aid their children for numerous reasons, and so he applied for a position in the Pittsburgh Public School system. As a Para-Professional in PPS, Kastler has enjoyed working with children of all ages. He has observed that pre-teens and teens, who society says are supposed to be more independent, are the ones who are most dependent. Why? They often do not know how to navigate their inner conflicts, conflicts they experience with others, and conflicts with the world around them. Kastler also runs a tutoring service to aid children who are below reading level and children who are learning to read. Working with youth has been a wonderful experience for Kastler and he looks forward to opportunities to extend what he does in every and any way possible.

Dahlia Rao is an education specialist and leader in arts programming, always seeking opportunities to engage creatively with children and address issues of inequity in education. She has a wide range of experiences with university-community partnerships, both in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor/Detroit area. She holds her bachelors in History/Anthropology and Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dahlia lives with her husband Shiv and three children in Squirrel Hill.

Joanne Riley (OMA Youth Programming) practiced as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (pediatric and adult) for sixteen years until going into Health Care Administration. She has a passion for assuring individualized quality care and management allowed her to do that. After management positions including Director of Nursing, and completing her Master Degree in Hospital Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, she accepted a position as Senior Administrator for General Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh where she stayed for 25 years before retiring in 2017. Her responsibilities were broad including: residency training programs, research programs and clinical programs. Joanne’s last project prior to retiring was obtaining a large state grant to create an Addiction Clinic for UPMC. Since retirement she has been filling her life with volunteer work, gardening, creation with stained glass, and her wonderful husband and family.

OMA’s Art in the Garden celebrates and supports a community of individuals with varied experiences and expression, including socioeconomic status, race, national origin, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and ability.