2023 Sandcastle Classic Judges


Kristina is an artist, teacher and community arts leader living in Napa, California. Since 2000, she has worked with non-profit, private, local government and educational entities to develop, manage and advocate for arts programing and accessibility.

She owns Studio KLY LLC where she creates collaborative, large-scale murals, mosaics and public art for private and commercial clients. She is also the lead artist and manager of the Napa Quake Mosaic, a public art installation commemorating the 2014 Napa Earthquake planned to be installed in downtown Napa.

She has designed and taught youth programs at Berkeley Art Center, Nimbus Arts, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, Cline Olé, On the Move Bay Area, Napa Valley Museum, as well as several public and private schools in Napa Valley including St. John’s Lutheran School, Yountville Elementary, Blue Oak School and Salvador Elementary where she co-created their Arts Integration Program.

She has exhibited her work at group shows at Off the Preserve! (part of di Rosa’s off site exhibition program in downtown Napa), Napa Valley Museum, Yountville, CA and Oaklandish Gallery, Oakland, CA.

Her work is represented in numerous private collections as well as di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art. Her public art clients include The Peter A. & Vernice H. Gasser Foundation, Napa River Inn, Ca’Momi Osteria, Bistro Don Giovanni, Napa Makes, Burbank Housing, Monarch Justice Center, Ronmor Developers, Inc., and Aldea Children & Family Services.


Returning Sandcastle Judge (and former, Leap Board, Sandcastle Event Committee Member, Team Captain & Teaching Artist), Samee Sheikh, is no stranger to the World of Leap! With 15 years of Sandcastle events, and several best in shows in the bag, he knows how much creativity, energy, effort and fun goes into crafting an amazing sand creation, and is excited about this years ‘spooky sculptures’.

Originally from London, he’s called San Francisco home since 2005. A former Architect, and now a product designer, he works on the user experience for Presence, an award winning tele-therapy platform for kids with learning needs.


Matt Pauly is a Bay Area architect who works for Multistudio. He believes that the built environment can positively impact individuals and communities to bring about real change in the world. Much of his career has focused on emphasizing personal lived experiences in large scale international commercial and residential developments such as in his role as a design architect on Chorus, a mixed-use residential high-rise tower in San Francisco; and the upcoming 395 3 rd Street tower in SOMA. Matt excels at taking conceptual thinking and making it an efficient, quality, on-budget reality; through expertise in design technology management and creative collaboration.

Matt has worked and researched internationally; living in France and Denmark; and working and researching in South Korea and Kenya. In the past he has been an Adjunct Professor and Lecturer at Columbia University and the University of Kansas.

Growing up on a farm in Kansas, 900 miles from the nearest beach, he is uniquely qualified to be a sandcastle judge. He is excited about this year’s theme; in his free time you will find him playing a spooky game of Dungeons and Dragons or doodling monsters in his sketchbook. You will find him and his family most Saturday mornings eating donuts on Crown Beach in Alameda.

2022 Sandcastle Classic Judges


Samee Sheikh, is no stranger to Leap or the Sandcastle Classic. Soon after moving to San Francisco in 2005, he captained his first sandcastle team and was hooked. The following year he joined the Sandcastle Event Committee, and ‘Beach Day’ soon became a regular fixture in his calendar for the next 15 yrs. He joined Leap’s Board of Directors in 2014, which he was part of for 7 yrs, with the last two serving as Board Chair. During his tenure with the board, he also served as a Leap Teaching Artist, bringing Architecture and Design to 3rd-5th graders in schools in SF. A former architect, turned product designer, he now works for Presence, working on an award winning tele-therapy platform for kids with learning needs.

He’s excited to return to the beach this year for Leap’s 40th Sandcastle Classic, as a judge, after having been part of several amazing teams that had scored some of the top prizes at the event (Best in Show, Best Student Collaboration, to name a few). Additionally, he lead the much loved Sandcastle 101 class for many years, as well as teaching Sandcastle Building at the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Big Art Festival.

Legend has it you can still hear kids yelling “We need moar wo-tah” in their best English accents at the beach.


Julie McDonald currently works as a Registered Nurse with the Department of Health in Lihue, Hawaii (on the westernmost island of Kauai). Previous to becoming an RN, Julie spent 10 years as Leap’s Executive Director from 2005-2015. She is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such an amazing organization, and remains passionate about the arts, creativity, and social justice. Leap’s Sandcastle Classic will always have a special place in her heart, and she is honored to return to this year’s event as a judge.


Gordon Huether was born in Rochester, NY and learned art composition and appreciation at an early age from his father. In the course of his initial artistic explorations, Huether was resolved to create a lasting impact on the world around him through the creation of large-scale works of art. He took a deliberate step towards this goal in 1987 when Huether founded his studio in Napa, California.

Heuther has created many awarding winning public art projects around the globe, which have included art installations for private corporations, airports, transportation centers, parking garages, hotels, universities, hospitals, recreation centers, civic buildings, libraries, and museums. His work is about communicating a story, not just creating objects of beauty.

While his core skills are in glass design, Huether also has extensive experience in working with many other media including steel, repurposing salvaged materials, resins and composite materials. Until this day, much of his work is inspired by the effects nature has on man-made materials such as the rusty patterns present in deteriorating metal. These materials, translated into works of art, serve as a reminder of the temporal character of man’s achievements and the awe-inspiring forces of nature.
Huether’s work has been exhibited at museums and galleries, and collected across the United States, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. He has received more than 70 public art commissions and more than 175 private commissions. Learn more about his work and studio: https://gordonhuether.com

2021 Sandcastle Classic Judges


Mikey Kelly is an artist specializing in abstract paintings, drawings, metal sculptures and murals. His work explores the use of cryptography, language and mathematics to design neurally and retinally challenging geometric abstractions. His interest in systems, patterns, color theory and visual perception are also evident in his work. With an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, his work has led to him being included in events like POW! WOW! mural festivals and residencies at Kala Art Institute and Lucid Art Foundation.

Mikey exhibits regularly, including shows at Slate Art (Oakland. CA), Chandra Cerrito Contemporary (Oakland, CA), Art Market (San Francisco, CA), Miami Project (Miami, FL), Franklin Parrasch Gallery (New York, NY), Cranbrook Art Museum (Bloomfield Hills, MI), Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, CA). His work has been shown nationally and is included in many public and corporate collections


Former Vogue editor and Bay Area native Emily Holt founded Hero Shop in 2016 in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. She wanted to bridge the gap between the designers she was featuring in the magazine and what was actually available in Bay Area stores. By bringing in labels from Vans and Levis to The Elder Statesman and Dries Van Noten, Emily’s curated a mix that embodies Northern California’s high-low casual elegance.

When she’s not in Hero Shop’s newly renovated flagship at the Marin Country Mart, Emily’s at home in Ocean Beach. Her writing has also appeared in W, The Wall Street Journal, Women’s Wear Daily, Architectural Digest and Bon Appetit among others. Her commitment to the Bay Area extends to her support of organizations including Raphael House, 826 Valencia, Compass Family Services and Creative Growth. Emily currently lives across the street from the beach in San Francisco. 


Lydia Tan is a real estate professional with more than 3 decades of experience in the development of large multi-family and mixed-use communities. She currently provides consulting services on a range of assignments, including managing large scale redevelopment efforts, governance and organizational development, capital/fundraising, business development and pipeline management, entitlement strategy, in addition to deal specific transactions.

Prior to establishing Tan Consulting, Lydia was Managing Director, Real Estate for Oakland A’s, where she led the efforts to create a new ballpark district at Howard Terminal and redevelopment of the Oakland Coliseum. Prior to this she was the Senior Vice President, Head of Development of Bentall Kennedy in the United States, overseeing real estate development activity for the company, which was comprised of a variety of asset types throughout the U.S. Other experience includes EVP, Director of Northern California Operations at Related California where she spearheaded the development of a $2 billion pipeline of mixed income, mixed use projects, and EVP in charge of Development at BRIDGE Housing Corporation, where she oversaw the production of $2.4 billion in assets, participated as part of the executive management team, and co-led an investment partnership with CalPERS. With more than 30 years’ experience, she has had key involvement in conceptualizing, entitling, financing and constructing several large-scale public/private redevelopment efforts in the Western U.S.

Lydia holds an AB Architecture degree from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford University, and is a registered Architect in California. She is lecturer at UC Berkeley, a member of the Stanford Real Estate Council and ULI, and serves on the board of directors of Thoits Brothers Inc., San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund and the S.H. Cowell Foundation. She also serves as a Resident Fellow at Stanford University, fostering learning and community at a student dorm on campus.


Cara Kuroda AIA, is a California licensed architect, whose passion is architecture and design, and she is also a Leap Teaching Artist! Cara would draw city layouts and house plans as a child and considers herself lucky to have her passion be her career. Cara has over 20 years experience as a designer and has worked for award-winning architectural firms in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Denver and Philadelphia. Her work as a designer has included a variety of project types including residential, corporate campuses and interiors, chapel design, preschool rooms, to the transformation of a warehouse into a progressive nonprofit high school.

She believes strongly in community service. Her education, work experience, travels and time spent in Finland studying architecture has influenced how she integrates site and environmental conditions with new buildings and additions, articulates the use of materiality and incorporates light and form. Cara has a Master’s degree in Architecture and an undergraduate degree in Interior Design. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she currently resides with her husband and two children.

2019 Sandcastle Classic Judges

Lucia Castello

Lucia Castello is a community-inspired designer and an artist at heart, who loves the harmonious blends of both logic/imagination and thinking/feeling in the practice of architecture.  With a B.Arch degree from Cal Poly SLO, she designs and manages urban infill and adaptive reuse projects at Flynn Architecture in Oakland. She is also a graduate of the 2018-2019 Pathways to Equity Fellowship and continues to participate as a member of the Equity Research Team in collaboration with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Lucia joined Leap as a Teaching Artist in 2019 for the architecture program at Redding Elementary School. Her superpower is making chocolate disappear.

Jill Eickmann

Jill Eickmann is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Leela, a holistic San Francisco based improvisational theater and training center. She is also a Producer/Board Member for The San Francisco Improv Festival and Executive Producer for Femprovisor Fest: SF’s all womxn’s improv festival. Jill has directed over 100 original productions. She has taught her signature style of improvisation to thousands of improvisors of all ages and walks of life. 

Jill currently performs in Leela’s Armando Company and multiple duo projects with improvisors across the nation. She has directed many ensembles through Leela’s Performing Improv Ensembles (PIE) Program. Most notably, she taught a private improv class to cast members of Disney’s The Lion King – Broadway Tour.  She studied in New York and Chicago with some of the best from Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB), The Second City, IO (Formerly Improv Olympic), and Annoyance Productions. 

Jill is also a licensed psychotherapist and drama therapist who continues to research and teach the psychological implications and therapeutic benefits of improvisation. She enjoys facilitating workshops with SF local start-ups, established companies, and business leaders to support a positive working environment while fostering boundless collective creativity. Past clients include The Clorox Company, Adobe, LinkedIn, Facebook, Salesforce, Youtube, and Google (among others.)

Paul Keys

Paul Keys has been on Teach for America staff since 2010 as a member of the national Senior Leadership Team. More recently, he served as the Executive Vice President of Regional Operations where he co-led work across all 52 Teach For America regions. In 2016, Paul became the Executive Director in the Bay Area, the community he has called home for the past 2 decades since moving from Ireland. As a native of Derry, the birthplace of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, the change that Paul witnessed over the years in his hometown fuels his conviction that education is one of the most powerful tools to fight for social and economic justice.

Prior to Teach For America, Paul began his career as a consultant working with organizations in the nonprofit sector. He has held senior leadership roles at companies focused on career and college readiness for first generation college students. He is an Aspen Education Fellow and has an MA in the Economics of Education.

Ben Liu

Ben Liu is the CEO of Pocket Gems, a mobile games and interactive entertainment company backed by Sequoia Capital and Tencent. Pocket Gems is a pioneer of the industry and one of the first to ever create games for smartphones. The company’s titles have been downloaded more than 450 million times and the company has grown to over 250 people based in San Francisco. Pocket Gems’ Episode and War Dragons franchises are beloved by players all around the world.

Ben has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University, as well as an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.

2018 Sandcastle Classic Judges

Michael Bade

Mr. Bade is a California registered architect with an M. Arch and a B. Sci. from UC Berkeley and is Associate Vice Chancellor – Capital Programs at the University of California San Francisco. Mr. Bade is a key participant in UCSF’s physical and capital planning processes, and oversees design standards and design outcomes for a program commitment of over $2.5 billion over 10 years, including over $400 million for seismic remediation projects.

Prior to joining UC, Mr. Bade spent nearly 12 years in Tokyo, Japan engaged in architectural design, project management, and program delivery for a wide range of international companies in the high-technology, international banking, software, pharmaceuticals, and photographic imaging industries. In Japan, he was exposed to cutting-edge practices in building technology, design-build project delivery, and construction quality. These made a lasting impression, and motivated him to explore lean design and construction methods upon his return to California.

He is past Chair of the Board of the Lean Construction Institute, and also past President of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (2011), and a past member of the California Council of the AIA (2012-13). He has worked in the University of California Office of the President, providing coordination and oversight services for projects system-wide. In his spare time (assuming he has any) he enjoys photography, travel, hiking in wild nature, music, and long dinners with friends.

Todd Berman

Todd Berman has been using his art to explore what makes San Francisco so special ever since arriving here from New York in 1998. He creates scenes that capture a chaotic sense of community in bright, expressionistic drawings and collaborative collages. You may have seen his crowd-sourced City of Awesome paintings in public buses as part of the SF Beautiful Muni Art project or online at TheArtDontStop.com. He also uses his art as an educator for museums, city programs, curriculum development, teacher trainings, and in classrooms throughout the San Francisco Unified School District since 2000. Todd manages the Where Art Lives program with funding from the San Francisco Arts Commission and San Francisco Public Works and is the director of the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area.

2017 Sandcastle Classic Judges 

Bridget Maley

Bridget Maley is an architectural historian and a writer. Through her practice, architecture + history, llc, Bridget provides clients with a broader understanding of our built environment through focused historical research and building assessments. She has participated in urban preservation projects in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and on the Monterey Peninsula. Bridget’s portfolio also includes projects in many western National Parks, for state, local, and regional park systems, and in university and campus settings. Her an all-time favorite San Francisco project involved researching the history of the Conservatory of Flowers. Recently, Bridget researched and documented John Carl Warnecke’s modern additions to Julia Morgan’s landmark Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.

As a writer, Bridget creates engaging stories that bridge the history of architecture with contemporary design and urban planning. She contributes a monthly column to the Pacific Heights neighborhood rag, The New Fillmore, focusing on the area’s architecture, parks and streetscapes.

Bridget has a Master of Arts from the University of Virginia where she remains active as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Architecture. She is a past President of the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and is a former board member of the Chicago-based Society of Architectural Historians. Currently, Bridget serves on the Buildings and Grounds Committee at Grace Cathedral. She resides in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood with her husband, their ten-year old son, and a family cat, Tallulah. Bridget is a past participant in the Leap Sandcastle Classic and is absolutely thrilled to be back on the beach as a judge!

David Dell’Agostino

David Dell’Agostino is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for The Walt Disney Family Museum.

With a background in academia, David began his career as a web developer before transitioning to experience design. He has lead research and strategy on the production of a variety of assets, from enterprise application software to award-winning social marketing campaigns.

For the museum, David identifies and sets goals that extend the museum’s mission as well as the legacy of Walt Disney. David also teaches philosophy for the City College of San Francisco. Outside of work, David enjoys life with his family near San Francisco’s historic Golden Gate Park.

Serena Zanello

Serena Zanello specializes in commercial and residential interior design, and innovative product design. Merging the world of art, design and architecture, Serena’s work is known for its artistic glamour, creative and innovative vision.

Serena was born and raised in Ivrea, Italy where she earned her bachelor degree in architecture at the Facoltà di Architettura, Polytechnic of Turin, Italy in December 2003. Since graduating from the University of Architecture in Turin and getting her architecture license in Europe, Serena has worked for renowned clients such as Pininfarina Extra, Tryar Hospitality, The Keating management Group, Starbucks Coffee Company, Paul Wylde Agency, Alaska Airlines, Alaurino Design.

She is currently pursuing her passion for architecture and design as Creative Director at her own firm Serena Zanello Design, and teaching interior architecture and furniture design at the Academy of Art University. Serena just launched a new design and home decor collection called since1984 based on a modular furniture system. www.dpmndesign.com

2016 Sandcastle Classic Judges

Donald MacDonald

judge-donaldmacdonaldDonald MacDonald, owner and principal of Donald MacDonald Architects, is an international award-winning architect with over 40 years of architecture experience. He has won over 100 international, national, and regional awards. Donald has expertise in many facets of architecture, including urban village design, suburban village design, and affordable housing.

For the last 20 years, the majority of his work has been in bridge design on an international level including transportation operations with federal, state, and regional agencies and public participation. He has a record of successful collaboration with engineers and other technical professionals on complex, urban building forms and signature bridges, such as the design-build of the $750 million Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, SC (the longest cable stayed bridge in the United States); the 524-meter Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland, OR (the largest car-free bridge in the United States for light-rail, pedestrians, and bicycles); and the $6.2 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge project (the largest self-anchoring suspension bridge in the world).

MacDonald lectures on architectural design worldwide and holds an AIA Fellowship in design. He is the author of numerous articles on aesthetics and design, as well as several books including Democratic Architecture, Alcatraz: History and Design of a Landmark, Golden Gate Bridge: History and Design of an Icon and, most recently, Bay Bridge: History and Design of a New Icon.

Supervisor Eric Mar

judge-ericmarSF Supervisor Eric Mar was elected in November 2008 to represent District 1, the Richmond District. In 2012, he was re-elected for a second term. For over two decades, Eric has been a dedicated and responsive advocate for working families, youth and seniors, small businesses and all the diverse residents of the Richmond District and San Francisco. He has lived in the Richmond District since 1986.

From 2000 to 2008, Eric served as a Commissioner and past President of the San Francisco Board of Education. He led efforts to clean up corruption and financial mismanagement, close the achievement gap, strengthen parental involvement in educational policy-making and increase resources for public education.

From 1992 to 2008, Eric taught Asian American and Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University where he mentored and supported hundreds of young people to become active in their communities and the political process. He is also an elected member and past Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party’s Central Committee. Eric has worked to strengthen the local Democratic Party and build bridges with grassroots communities.

Emily Holt


Emily Holt is the founder of Hero Shop, a fashion and lifestyle concept store in San Francisco. It offers a carefully-edited and accessible mix of ready-to- wear, jewelry, shoes, bags, home and gift items from established brands and local California designers. Prior to opening the store, Emily spent more than a decade working as an editor at Vogue, W, and WWD in New York City, and her writing has appeared in Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal and WSJ., Elle, Bon Appetit, Cherry Bombe and C magazine, among other titles. She received her masters degree in journalism from New York University and currently lives across the street from the beach in San Francisco.

Justin Beadle


Justin is architect and founder at Thing One – an architecture firm that believes meaningful buildings result from simple ideas and a collaborative process. As a LEAP Artist-in-Residence he works with elementary school students to demystify architecture by connecting spaces to the ideas, users and constraints that create them.

Justin believes the ideal sandcastle employs innovative construction techniques and novel ideas to achieve the perfect balance of practical and aspirational design.