Leading Together

Fostering a Culture of Peace through Artists and Journalists

Thomas West, Executive Director of Advancement

Thomas West

Executive Director


Since becoming The Peace Studio’s founding Executive Director in 2020, I have sought to lead and scale our work with urgency. Every time we watch the news, it’s clear we need to work toward a world where more people are striving to be the best versions of themselves and having a stake in their neighbors’ struggles. Our theory of change is simple – resource and uplift artists, journalists, and storytellers who want to better their communities, and our culture will become more just, more humane, more peaceful.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past three years—from hosting two virtual Peace Summits, to developing a flagship curriculum and fellowship program that is helping creatives take care of themselves and tell restorative stories, to curating and investing in a community of young change-making artists through our Artist as Catalyst program. But I have always known that in order for us to realize our full potential, to become equally effective at serving both artists and journalists, there would come a day where I would need a co-leader with deep journalism experience.

Today, it gives me great joy to announce the appointment of Mariano Avila, our new Executive Director of Programming. I now move into the role of Executive Director of Advancement.

There are many reasons I’m excited to announce this new co-leadership model:

  • Mariano is an extraordinary and passionate leader, with the same hunger and drive that I have to see our organization impact as many artists and journalists as possible
  • Having two leaders will offer new strength across every aspect of the organization. As Mariano works to build out new programming and expand our current programs, I will be devoting more effort to growing and diversifying our revenue streams so that we are able to continue scaling.
  • And finally, it is amazing to have a thought partner and collaborator that understands journalists in the same way I understand artists. In 2019, right before I began my tenure as the founding ED, a burgeoning Peace Studio combined forces with the nonprofit Images and Voices of Hope that had a long and extraordinary history of serving journalists for 20 years. To have a co-leader who is a journalist and knows how to best support journalists honors Ivoh’s DNA in ways we’ve never been able to realize until now.

The future at The Peace Studio is as bright as it has ever been, and Mariano and I can’t wait to keep you updated as new programs and strategies roll out in the months ahead. As always, thank you for being on this journey with us and for being a key part of our Peace Studio family. We can’t do what we do without you!


In 2021, my friend and mentor Kat Schotthoefer told me I should join the board at a nascent organization called The Peace Studio. “It’s perfect for you,” she said. Kat knew I was a journalist, but had once spent several years organizing for nonviolent peace initiatives, and that I had an MFA in creative writing—journalism, peace and art. I was inspired to find that a team as accomplished and connected as The Peace Studio’s board and staff had brought my three passions into a single mission. I became a board member within a month.

Today, I’m grateful and excited that I get to join Thomas West, the founding executive director, on the executive team. So, why two of us?

Well, the first thing I learned about The Peace Studio was that there is really a single mission: fostering a culture of peace through American storytellers. The second lesson was that it serves two distinct audiences: artists and journalists. That is where the conversation that resulted in two executives began. Thomas, a talented, Juilliard-trained opera singer with a passion for fundraising, saw the need to build out programs that serve journalists as well as the programs already serving artists at The Peace Studio.

It takes courage and humility to approach your board and invite them to reimagine your own job as a two-person partnership. I hope to honor his vision and the board’s trust in the years to come. How?

The Peace Studio’s curriculum and fellowship are deep and powerful resources. I know we can scale them to serve not dozens, but hundreds and eventually thousands. We can only scale through partnerships and we are preparing announcements to that end—stay tuned. Of course, we can only serve our partners if we have the funds. My efforts will, in part, allow Thomas to focus on advancement, an area in which he is both passionate and gifted—this too has already yielded results.

Imagine a Peace Studio that serves artists and journalists from around the country with dedicated programming. Imagine us bringing our workshops to local newsrooms and arts institutions in cities large and small. Imagine a future where the content our network of storytellers create is the catalyst that fosters a culture of peace in America. That is the vision that we, The Peace Studio’s executive dyad, our staff and our board all share and want to share with society.

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