CounterPulse Staff

Julie Phelps. Photo by Robbie Sweeny Julie E. Phelps
Artistic Director

Julie Phelps has been with CounterPulse for over seven years. Phelps represents and engages the hybrid strategies of curator, artist, and community activist as a mode of advancing the multi-faceted mission of CounterPulse. As part of her work at CounterPulse, Phelps has led the design and implementation of numerous initiatives including transitioning from a rental venue to a curated and acclaimed program, launching community-based programming with low-income neighboring residents, and instigating cross-cultural exchange projects with Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden and most recently the African continent through her membership in The African Contemporary Arts Consortium.  In addition to her work at CounterPulse, she has toured nationally and internationally as a performer. Phelps is currently overseeing the design of the facility and programs at CounterPulse’s new home on Turk Street.


Tomás Riley
Tomás Riley
Executive Director

Tomás Riley brings nearly twenty years of leadership work in community engagement and education throughout California and across the country. Since moving to San Francisco in 2002, he has worked as a bilingual classroom teacher and developed literary programs throughout the Bay Area for leading spoken word organization YouthSpeaks. As Executive Director of ArtsChange, Tomás worked with young people in the East Bay city of Richmond to create youth-centered arts engagement opportunities for teens. Most recently he served as the Director of Experience and Community Engagement at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. Additionally, Tomás is a founding member of the seminal Chicano spoken word collective The Taco Shop Poets and the author of two collections of poetry. Tomás unites both his experience as a leader in community-based arts programming and social-justice driven artistic practice as the new Executive Director of CounterPulse in San Francisco.


Shamsher Virk Photo by Robbie SweenyShamsher Virk
Communications and Engagement Director

Shamsher Virk comes to CounterPulse with a dedication to performance as a language and tool for collaborative community-based arts. As our Communications & Engagement Director, he connects CounterPulse to our neighbors, our city, our media, and our wider community in cyberspace. Prior to CounterPulse, Shamsher worked with Joanna Haigood’s site-specific performance company, Zaccho Dance Theatre. Shamsher graduated from College of the Atlantic in 2007 with a B.A. in Human Ecology, a course of study that immersed him in interdisciplinary communication arts and social research methodology. Shamsher’s experience in the non-profit world includes documentary video production work with Interlock Media in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and administrative work with the Centre for Performance Research in Aberystwyth, Wales.



Zoe Klein Photo by Robbie Sweeny Zoë Klein
Producing Director

Zoë Klein is an international performer, teacher, acrobat, event planner, and lighting designer from Brooklyn, NY.  In NYC she has been Tech Director of Brooklyn Arts Exchange and Danspace Project Inc. and has toured as lighting designer or company manager for Eva Dean Dance, Wally Cardona, and Bebe Miller. Zoë has been Space Manager for Theatre of Yugen at NOHspace, a Master Electrician at ODC Theater, and CounterPulse Technical Director.  She has worked for SF Local 16 Stagehand Union, and  Production Stage Manager for Amy Seiwert & Robert Moses at Oakland Ballet. Zoë has toured 28 countries over 6 continents co-directing acrobatic dance company Paradizo Dance.  Paradizo won multiple 1st place awards in Cabaret competitions, was seen on So You Think You Can Dance, and was a top Finalist on America’s Got Talent.  Zoë currently dances for Epiphany Dance Productions and Ramon Alayo Company while booking circus acts for private events with her company ZoeKleinProductions.


Jeanne Pfeffer Photo by Robbie SweenyJeanne Pfeffer
Development Manager

Jeanne Pfeffer joined the CounterPulse staff in June 2014, after five years of independent performing arts management, producing, and fundraising work in San Francisco. She has worked primarily towards sustainable support for, and professional production of, emerging and mid-career performing artists and their work. In addition to her work at CounterPulse, Jeanne serves on the board of directors for FACT/SF. Previously, she worked as Operations Manager for FACT/SF, Program Director for Jess Curtis/Gravity, House Manager for CounterPulse, and a Fellow with the Emerging Arts Professionals – SF Bay Area. Jeanne has also worked with Quinn Associates, Kate Mitchell, Eye Zen Productions, DRP Dance (MN), Zenon Dance Center (MN), and The American Dance Festival (NC). She graduated with honors from Beloit College with a B.A. in both Sociology and Theater Arts.



Lily Sufi Nikzad. Photo by Robbie Sweeny Lily Sufi Nikzad
Operations Manager

Lily Nikzad joined CounterPulse in October of 2014. She began studying music and performing in theatre at a young age and continues to engage with the arts as a spectator, student, and performer. Lily earned a double Bachelor of Arts degree with High Honors in French Language and Global & International Studies. Her studies at UCSB and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Lyon were focused on post-colonial identity and literary narrative, with an emphasis on former French colonies in the Caribbean. Her creative and academic interests explore cultural identity, living in diaspora, and multiplicity. She brings diverse work experience in tech sales, marketing, and non-profit fundraising to managing operations at CP.




Erica Dixon Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Erica Dixon
Communications Manager

Erica synthesizes her experience in marketing for nonprofits and facilitating socially-intersecting art to serve as CounterPulse’s Communications Manager. Erica strategizes marketing and public relations tools to optimize program accessibility and expand engagement. Erica holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Technology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to working with CounterPulse, Erica worked for arts organizations producing immersive, high-tech art events in Colorado.