Board and Staff


EDWIN BERNBAUM started Vital Arts with friends BETH JAY and TOM DOLAN following the loss of his son Jonathan Bernbaum in the Ghost Ship fire.  Their goal was to honor the victims of the fire by working to ensure that no artists or art lovers have to pay for their passion with their lives.  

From inception, Vital Arts has worked collaboratively with others in the community, including many of the other victims' families, and is grateful for the support of countless individuals, including those listed on our Advisory Committee, our Partners, and donors.

Board of Directors

Edwin Bernbaum

Co-Founder, Board President

Edwin Bernbaum is a scholar of comparative religion and mythology and the father of Jonathan Bernbaum, who died in the Ghost Ship fire. Ed consults on leadership, culture and the environment and has presented widely at venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Geographic Society, the Wharton School, and the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author of The Way to Shambhala (Anchor Doubleday) and Sacred Mountains of the World (University of California Press), which won a gold medal from the Commonwealth Club of California and was the basis for a year-long exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution. Formerly a program director at The Mountain Institute working with National Parks, Ed co-chairs the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas. He lives in Berkeley with his wife Diane. Ed holds an A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Beth J. Jay

Co-Founder, Board Secretary

Beth Jay served the California Supreme for most of her career, the last 27 years as Principal Attorney to three successive Chief Justices. She was repeatedly named one of California’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers. She presently is Of Counsel to the law firm of Horvitz and Levy, the largest law firm specializing in civil appeals, and continues to serve on a Supreme Court Committee reviewing the Code of Judicial Ethics and to mentor young lawyers. Beth has supported organizations providing legal services to underserved Californians during her career and since retiring. Her work in improving the administration of justice and advancing access to justice has been recognized with the Bernie Witkin Award, the California State Bar’s highest honor, as well as OneJustice’s Opening Doors to Justice Award. Beth holds a B.A. from Vassar College and J.D. from Stanford Law School.


Steve Berger has over 40 years’ experience as owner, President and Chairman of various private companies including New York Fabrics (acquired by JoAnn Stores), NYF Properties, TurnItIn (acquired by Insight Venture Partners) and 2lemetry (acquired by Amazon). Steve is an investor and advisor to various early stage companies, often leading early stage investment rounds and serving on the board of directors. He has had a long interest in education, serving as a math coach for competitions, mentor for an entrepreneurial class at UC Berkeley and competitions at various universities, and has served on the Board of College Preparatory School.  Steve is also past Chairman and current board member of The Partners Program, a non-profit educational organization providing free academically challenging summer programs, year-round tutoring and more for underserved Oakland middle school youth. Steve is a graduate of Stanford University, an avid cyclist and a Berkeley resident.


Bob Epstein is an entrepreneur and holds a PhD from UC Berkeley in electrical engineering and computer science, specializing in distributed database systems. He has been heavily involved in founding the Berkeley Food Institute that works to catalyze and support transformative change in food systems, to promote diversity, justice, resilience, and health, from the local to the global. He is Chairman of the NRDC Action Fund. Epstein is a co-founder of five companies: Sybase, New Resource Bank, GetActive Software, Colorado Microdisplay and Britton-Lee. He is also a co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national community of professionals and business people working to influence state and national environmental policy. Under his leadership, E2 helped pass California’s major global warming bills – the “Clean Cars Bill” and the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006”. His early career was focused on the commercialization of databases and networking. In 1984 he was a leading architect and proponent for client/server computing with the creation of Sybase and the development of SQL Server.


Amir Massih is Co-Founder and President, Northern California, of 4Terra, which develops and builds mixed-use and multi-family housing projects.  He is a recognized leader in identifying and entitling multifamily development opportunities in the Bay Area. His most recent position was Group Vice President for Archstone, a national owner and developer of multifamily properties. Amir was responsible for all development in the City of San Francisco. Previously, Amir was Land Manager at Pulte Homes, responsible for acquiring and entitling property in the urban Bay Area, focusing on conversion of industrial property to high-density residential housing. Prior to transitioning to real estate, Amir was Director of Operating Strategies at Gap, Inc., leading an eleven-member team in analyzing operational efficiency and revenue growth opportunities across corporate, domestic and international brands. Amir holds a Masters Degree in Health Policy and Administration from UC Berkeley.   His non-profit work includes board positions at La Cocina, a food incubator cultivating immigrant entrepreneurs, and Halt Homelessness, which is working to eliminate street homelessness.


Kathryn Reasoner

Executive Director

Kathryn Reasoner has won awards and recognition for her advocacy and leadership on behalf of artists and institutions in the Bay Area, including the Headlands Center for the Arts and di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. Adept at forging public private partnerships, she has participated on the cultural planning teams for the California Arts Council, the City and County of San Francisco, and the County of Napa, co-authored public art ordinances, and advised and worked with numerous local and national grantmakers in the arts. Kathryn brings relevant user experience to design, development and management of cultural spaces along with wide knowledge of international models for development and adaptive re-use through periods of living and working abroad. She continues to actively consult in the field while lecturing at colleges and universities in her native Bay Area. She received her M.A. in Arts Administration from the Graduate School of Business at Golden Gate University and a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of California at Santa Cruz.