Samantha Johnston, Executive Director & Curator

Samantha has been the Executive Director and Curator at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center since 2015. She holds a certificate in Arts Development and Program Management from the University of Denver, an MFA from Lesley University College of Art & Design, and a BFA from Alfred University. Prior to joining CPAC, she taught photography and visual arts for 12 years at high schools in Boston and Denver.


She has curated exhibitions with contemporary artists such as Jess T. Dugan, Daniel Coburn, Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman, and Zora Murff. Samantha has served as a reviewer at Houston FotoFest, Review Santa Fe, PhotoPlus New York, Medium, Month of Photography (MoP), and Filter. She has juried several exhibitions including Critical Mass and The Fence.


She is a longtime member of the Society for Photographic Education, and served as Treasurer of the Southwest region from 2013-2016 and Co-Chair of SPE’s 2013 Southwest regional conference in Denver. She was named one of Colorado’s Top 100 Creatives 3.0 by Westword and has been featured in Lenscratch.


Megan Ross, Director of Communications & Marketing

Megan is a marketing and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit world. Prior to joining CPAC in January 2015, she served as Director of Marketing for the Southern Environmental Law Center, where she led several successful marketing and PR initiatives across a six-state region. She has also held editorial and public relations positions at the National Wildlife Federation, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, and other organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. She holds a BA in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University and is a 2014 graduate of the Board Development Academy at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. She is a passionate amateur photographer and a contributing writer at Lenscratch.


Shana Cruz-Thompson, Education & Programs Manager

Shana joined CPAC in July 2021, with a background in experimental photography and mixed media. She has over 25 years of experience as a freelance portrait and event photographer. Passionate about community outreach and arts education, she is the founder and director of Project Photo Op, a nonprofit organization that empowers youth through photography workshops, mentorships, and exhibitions. As the creator and curator of Vigilante Darkroom Zine, she aims to highlight women working in analog, experimental, and alternative photographic processes. Shana holds a BFA in Photography from the University of Colorado Denver.


Desanka (Desa) Beslic, Operations & Communications Manager

Desa has a background in art museum operations, fundraising, and marketing. Prior to joining CPAC in February 2020, she worked for three years in higher education advancement as a Development Coordinator at Occidental College (Los Angeles) and a Development Assistant at California Institute of the Arts. She also has a strong grasp of contemporary art from previously being a Content Creator and Sales Associate at the Denver Art Museum. She holds a BA in Art History and Classics from Lewis & Clark College (Oregon), where she took several darkroom photography classes that inspired her to pursue a career in the arts.

Photos by From the Hip Photo