Arts Journalist alumni celebrate the “boot camp” finale with the 2016 Arts Journalists Masters. From left to right: Donna Granata; Meghan Farnsworth; Kelby Vera, Allison Wolfe, Monica Castillo, Isabel Castro Melendez, Ana Gonzalez, Matthew Stromberg and Professor Sasha Anawalt, director of the Arts Journalism MA program.
Flickr / Alan Mittelstaedt

Arts Journalism alumni remain active, vibrant with jobs, journalism skills

As we head into our ninth year as a program, it’s good to note that the first Arts Journalism courses were offered by USC Annenberg in 1979 and taught by Norman Corwin, a legendary radio producer, writer and director. Our tap roots are hearty and the connection we have to radio remains with our award-winning Los Angeles arts and culture online magazine, Ampersand.

Since 2008, 87 students have graduated from this program, which is, by design, a small program that emphasizes one-on-one interactions with professors, including Tim Page and Sasha Anawalt. Both have been with the Arts Journalism Masters program from the start.

The alumni network remains strong, vibrant and active – and over the years many alums have hired other alums. Why? In part, because they all share training in digital and multimedia, and speak the same language about the arts. There is a guiding philosophical approach to arts journalism at USC that can be summarized in the words, “Leave blood on the page.” This is the place where human journalism is practiced, and stories in all their forms aim to move the audience by being meaningful, well executed and almost viscerally alive.

Meet some of our Alumni: 

Katie Antonsson, '16, is an editorial assistant at the Art Institute of Chicago. Email and website:,

Monica Castillo, '16, joined The New York Times staff immediately after graduation as a film writer for the newsletter of its film and television site, “Watching.”

Corinne DeWitt, '16, was hired by Green Dot Public Charter Schools in L.A. to do coding full-time. Her multimedia thesis project website on “Hopscotch,” the mobile opera by The Industry, is what caught Green Dot’s attention. At present, she is also project manager at The Industry, and in-house journalist at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Jonathan Shifflett, '16, is working at KPCC 89.3 FM radio in Pasadena as assistant producer on the arts & culture & entertainment show, “The Frame.”

Kelby Vera, '16,  is entertainment reporter for The Daily Mail Online, working out of its Venice, CA, office covering entertainment and culture in Los Angeles for this UK-based news media outlet. Email:

Brian Welk, ’16, is working at The Wrap as a Web Production Assistant on its PowerGrid, both blogging and managing the database. Email and website:,

Christina Campodonico, '15, dance critic and arts writer for The Argonaut, and contributes to the Los Angeles Times, earned 2nd place at the L.A. Press Club Awards in the criticism/review category. Email: 

Stephanie Case, ’15, is assistant producer for a growing national drive-time public affairs broadcast on Pacifica Radio Network in L.A.

Elizabeth Nonemaker, '15, is associate editor for the monthly 21CM magazine, developing content, writing and editing, as well as overseeing aspects of day-to-day management and working with the designer.

Matthew Stromberg, '14, continues to break art stories in Los Angeles and also covers under-reported and overlooked artists for Hyperallergic and KCETLink.

Dylan Valley, '14, is now associate lecturer at University of Witwatersrand.

Sarah Bennett, '12,  is the Orange County food and drink columnist for the Los Angeles Times, published every Sunday in its Weekend section. She regularly contributes to the LA Weekly, taking second place for it at the 2016 National Arts and Entertainment Awards in the long-form personality/profile category. She also works full-time at Santa Ana College as assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies. Email and website:,

Gemma Cubero del Barrio,  '12, still produces documentary films for her company, Talcual Films, and also is a lecturer at the School of Communications and Journalism at the University of Hawaii (Manoa). Email:

Tim Greiving, '12, is often heard reporting about film music for NPR’s Weekend Edition. He also writes on the subject for the Los Angeles Times. His story on “Saving Mr. Banks” (2014) for Classical KUSC’s Arts Alive show earned him a National Arts and Entertainment Award for Best Radio Feature.

Elisa Hough, '12, is an editor at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Cara Rifkin, '12, was part of an eight-member team of producers who recently won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Program for Food Network’s show, “Patricia Heaton Parties.” 

Heika Burnison, '11, CEO/executive producer at White Light Audio, produced and premiered Mike Ott and Nathan Silver’s “Actor Martinez,” at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, featured in The New Yorker (Feb. 2) in a Richard Brody essay. It later screened at Tribeca Film Festival and received glowing reviews by more than a dozen film critics. Three more international film festivals have followed.

Gabriel Cifarelli, '11, curates all of the art exhibitions (usually four a year) at Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. He is distinguished for debuting new work by living artists. He continues to work at Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Art Park, to write and publish his poetry, and sometimes to produce music series.

Rebecca Kinsky, '11, is a producer at Abominable Pictures, Inc., producing comedy for TV and web.

Rachel Neubeck, '11, is a feature producer at FOX Sports working on content for the UFC and NFL Sunday and founder and executive director at Neu Haus Studio (her own start-up production company). Email:

Alan Scherstuhl, '11, continues his long run as film editor at the Village Voice, and his archival tendencies still shine in his “Studies in Crap” Twitter feeds.

Evelyn McDonnell, '10, received tenure and a promotion, and was elected director of the journalism program at Loyola Marymount University. Email and website:,

Erica E. Phillips, '10, is a reporter for WSJ Logistics Report, specializing in global supply chain, transportation and distribution. She is based in Los Angeles.

Please send updated Alumni news to Sasha Anawalt at