Board of Directors
Dr. John Slifko, Co-Founder & Chair
John Slifko, PhD, has dedicated his work to issues around the world for democratic civil societies with major contributions to global efforts in improving the education of young women. Dr. Slifko has worked for the Los Angeles City Council and United States Congress, engaging in environmental issues and technology policy. He is a founding member and on the Board of Advisers at the Hannah Mather Crocker Society, Notre Dame University, and C3 Advisory Group. He is also a co-Director of the Roosevelt Center for the Study of Civil Society and Freemasonry. He has contributed to international publications on numerous subjects, including “The Moral Imagination of an Informed Citizenry, Crocker, Hall and Freemasonry”, “A Historical Geography of Louis Goaziou and the Early Years of L’Ordre Masconnique Mixte et International ‘Le Droit Humain’”, “American Federation of Human Rights: the Significance of the Industrial Monongahela Valley of Western Pennsylvania”, and “Worlds of Print: The Moral Imagination of an Informed Citizenry, 1734 to 1839”. Dr. Slifko is a co-Founder of project AWE.
Zhenya Gershman, Co-Founder & President
Zhenya Gershman, MFA, is an art historian, artist and museum educator. As a co-Founder of Project Awe she has dedicated her scholarly and charitable work to examine the influence of Esotericism on the Arts. Gershman seeks to provide new dimensions to understanding and experiencing the cultural icons of Western European heritage.
Gershman’s specific area of study and expertise is in the life and work of Rembrandt. In her pioneering article Rembrandt: Turn of the Key, published by Arion and featured by Huffington Post, Gershman was able to reveal the evidence for Rembrandt’s involvement with the early pre-Grand Lodge Freemason fraternity, bringing new light to understanding of this great master. She has worked for over a decade in the internationally acclaimed J. Paul Getty Museum, and has contributed to such exhibitions as Rembrandt's Late Religious Portraits and Rembrandt: Telling the Difference. Gershman’s groundbreaking discovery regarding the presence of a hidden Rembrandt self portrait was published by Arion, Boston University and was brought to European audiences by Le Monde.
Dr. Michael Pearce, Secretary
Michael Pearce, Phd, is an associate professor at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, where he teaches figurative drawing and painting. In 2010 he introduced an atelier-style system to the CLU Art Department, in which each faculty member was provided with their own studio space on campus, welcoming their students to study alongside them as they lead by example in the production of their own work. He served as Chair of the Art Department between 2008 - 2013.
Between 2005 - 2016 Pearce was curator of CLU's Kwan Fong Gallery where his programming emphasized the work of representational artists and interdisciplinary exhibits. In December 2014 the California Art Club named Pearce "man of the year" and presented him with the William & Julia Bracken Wendt Award for his service to representational art.
Michael Stetka, CFO
Michael Stetka is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, a student of philosophy and Western esotericism, and a working professional in banking and finance with strengths in business development and client engagement. This combination of experience and interests produces the wide-ranging convergence by which Michael brings his unique knowledge to Project AWE as the Chief Financial Officer. Michael is proficient with working specifically with non-profit community organizations. Additionally, he has helped the Public Schools Advisory Council in San Francisco by raising scholarship funds for high school students on their way to college, many of whom are the first in their family to pursue higher education. Based in San Francisco, Michael feels a personal responsibility to extend his love and appreciation for the arts from his own family and children to community at large to ensure the arts are both accessible and applicable to all that would seek them out.
Dr. Evan D. Pepper, Treasurer
Evan D. Pepper, PhD, is the Chair of Science at West Coast University. He received his Doctorate of Philosophy at University of Southern California. Dr. Pepper was awarded an NIH Fellowship for gerontological studies and has published extensively on molecular processes that contribute to Alzheimer's disease, antibiotic resistance, and DNA repair. These studies have implications for treatments of neurological disorders, infection, and cancer. Dr. Pepper is also Associate Faculty at Santa Monica College and has taught courses in Microbiology, Public Health Epidemiology, Environmental Science, and Chemistry. He is a long standing member of the American Society for Microbiology and has presented at Biological conferences throughout the United States.
Corine Couwenberg, Curator
Corine Couwenberg, managing partner of Full Circle Entertainment Group (FCEG) was named Director of the Project AWE Gallery by its founders Zhenya Gershman and John Slifko shortly after its inception in 2015. Corine brings over 25 years of experience in the arts and entertainment field to the AWE team, by adding marketing, financial development and exhibition opportunities to its internal dynamic. As a student of both the arts and Western esotericism, she is uniquely qualified to lead the Galley into the future while utilizing her extensive background in the non-profit arena as a cornerstone to insuring its viability and growth in the present.