Pomegranate Center was founded in 1986 by artist and community organizer Milenko Matanovic.
Milenko began his career as an experimental artist in the late ’60s in his native Slovenia, exhibiting all over the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as part of the artist collective OHO. At the age of 24, feeling like his art career was no longer helping to push art-making into everyday life – it was living in museums and private collections – Milenko left the artist collective and began learning how art could serve community better.
When Milenko moved to the United States in 1973, he saw growing suburban neighborhoods filled with traffic, waste and lack of imagination. It is from this concern for the isolating direction of modern communities that Pomegranate Center was founded – to bring the creative process to community problem solving.
Today, Pomegranate Center has developed an effective model for helping communities prepare for the future using collective creativity, meaningful engagement and powerful collaboration. Milenko’s intuition has grown into a vibrant organization working on dozens of projects each year to bring people together to build better communities throughout the US and around the globe.
Milenko Matanovic, Executive Director
Milenko is a self-described recovering artist who founded Pomegranate Center in 1986 believing that magic happens when art, creative thinking, and community join forces.
Since then, he has been lucky to work with hundreds of communities across the country and abroad; collaborate with communities to build more than 50 gathering places; speak at more universities, community gatherings and conferences than he can remember; and train remarkable community leaders in the Pomegranate Center model of community building. He has been honored with the Home Shelter Award, the Legacy Leadership Award from the Center for Ethical Leadership and an honorary professorship at the University of Vladivostok, Russia (it’s a long story).
Connecting art with community building and everyday life is just one of the ways Milenko uses his creativity to prepare communities for the future. By combining his talents as a thinker, educator and artist, Milenko hopes to create a world where neither nature nor human talents are wasted. He lives to help communities become wiser by working together to find new and creative ways to push good ideas into action.
As a young man, Milenko left a successful art career as a member of celebrated group OHO in his native Slovenia. (OHO exhibited internationally, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.) He turned his creative energies toward communities — each community becoming a new kind of “studio” where art, collaboration and community building converge. He has been working with cities and towns in the U.S. and abroad ever since, because he believes this is the most efficient, broad-based way to improve society. Through this work he has learned how to listen to others’ ideas so that shared solutions are possible. He believes that when it comes to community, together we always know more.
Right now, Milenko is excited about teaching and speaking about Pomegranate Center’s unique community building model so that more people can collaborate better and be inspired to take action. Milenko is a talented public speaker: contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how to bring him to your next event.
To read his thoughts on modern communities, view Messages from Milenko.
Katya Matanovic, Managing Director
Katya is an organizer with a creative twist. She believes both big ideas and the smallest details need attention to make a great idea come to life. She is passionate about connecting people to where they live and helping them to create strong, livable neighborhoods Mr. Rogers would be proud of.
Katya is in love with nonprofits. As a kid, she decided her life would be great if it included art, learning and service. She is lucky to have all three in her work with Pomegranate Center. Since her father founded Pomegranate Center when she was a child (that’s right, it isn’t a fluke they have a last name in common), she has been moved by the power of people and organizations serving others.
For over a decade, she has been learning how nonprofits can thrive and change lives. She worked with the Washington Women’s Foundation and the Gottman Institute. And she co-founded One By One, an international women’s health organization. She has served on and managed boards, organized fundraisers, developed programs, taught workshops and written websites (not to mention the less glamorous work that keeps nonprofits running – making coffee and vacuuming.) She sits on the board CityClub and the Leadership Tomorrow Curriculum Committee.
Today, she helps keep Pomegranate Center moving forward and making an impact. She loves to work with the amazing board of directors, inspire people to get involved and be the “colorist” for all the building places projects.
She loves hearing from folks curious about how Pomegranate Center can make a difference in their community. Email her at email@example.com to start a conversation.
Caitlin Shields, Development Director
Caitlin is a rainmaker. (Any coincidence that she was born and raised in rainy Seattle, WA?) She connects people’s passions to their giving. And she lives to see faces light up when they realize their gift is making the world a more beautiful, joyful place.
Caitlin has been exploring communities of all kinds her whole life. Her enthusiasm and curiosity for people led her to live abroad not once, but twice during college. And she has visited every state in the continental U.S. before the age of 30. What did she learn from all that travel? People want a way to connect with each other. They want to be seen and feel safe and belong. That is what makes her so excited to bring her energy and enthusiasm to Pomegranate Center’s work!
After travel and college, Caitlin pursued her passion of helping people feel connected in work at the Gates Foundation and the Detlef Schremp Foundation. And when she saw she could do more to care for communities, Caitlin got her Master’s Degree in Organizational Development at Seattle University.
Caitlin is an enthusiastic, committed relationship builder for Pomegranate Center, always ready to learn more about how people can connect their passions to community building. She’s always open for a cup of coffee to hear how you are building your community. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bree Dillon, Project Coordinator Contractor
Bree makes things happen. She is a connector, problem solver, coordinator, project manager. She helps communities learn how to turn their ideas into reality. Ever since she built a four-post trellis with concrete footings on her own at 16, she has loved the process of making things. She feels lucky to be able to help communities build gathering places as a contracted Project Coordinator at Pomegranate Center.
During years of travel and living abroad (she’s fluent in Spanish) she met all sorts of people and saw all sorts of different communities – some more functional than others. Her love for travel and people led her to teaching in Europe and working with nonprofits in Central and South America. All of those experiences led her to discover her passion for building strong communities as an essential foundation for healthy lives. At Pomegranate Center she feels she is addressing a great modern need – the need to transform the disconnected, homogenous and bland communities in the U.S. into unique, welcoming and connected places.
Bree can be found helping the Pomegranate Center team think through all the details for an onsite build, from dimensional lumber to building permits and negotiating with subcontractors. She can sand a log like nobody’s business. And she can be found onsite at projects, with her tool belt on.
Deanna Goldy, Project Assistant
Deanna believes in places – beautiful places that are designed well, make people happy and inspire connections. After an internship at Pomegranate Center years ago, Deanna pursued her dream of becoming an landscape architect – and went to the University of Washington to complete that Masters program. Today, she brings her love for plants and communities and places to projects all over the Seattle area… including Pomegranate Center, where she spends part of her week helping community projects become reality by making sure the details are covered.
Deanna is lucky – she fills her time at Pomegranate Center with a mix of drawing, research, computer time, and meeting wonderful people. Get in touch with her at email@example.com.
Board of Directors
Greg is a principal at The Berger Partnership PS, an award-winning landscape architecture firm. He serves as the partner-in-charge of human resources and design mentorship. Hailing from Iowa, Greg has a Midwestern work ethic and a tolerance for cold temperatures. He earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from Iowa State University in 1988 and a license from the State of Washington in 1991.
Greg joined the Pomegranate Center’s Board after collaborating with Milenko on several projects over the years. He likes being involved with an organization that does so much to bring people together. He has a great interest in experiencing open spaces both in and out of the city. When he’s not working he can be found on long walks with his wife and kids or on his bike touring one of the great cities in the northwest.
Dianne Brudnicki, Secretary
Dianne is owner and teacher at the School of Art and Innovation, a pre-college art and design education program. She holds BFA from the University of Oklahoma and an Associate’s in Fashion Design from FIT. She has worked extensively in the garment industry for The Limited, J Crew, Neiman Marcus, Darryl Alexander and Christian Dior. Dianne began teaching art in 1998. She has also worked to train teachers and build successful art programs in her community. Dianne is serving her second term as council member for City of Duvall.
Stacy D. Kitahata is Program Director with the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship an ecumenical ministry supporting young adults in a life of service. She also serves as an associate with the Kaleidoscope Institute and has helped develop the intercultural training program KI Northwest. Stacy directed the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and taught as professor of Intercultural Studies at Trinity Lutheran College, Everett, Washington. Stacy served as a specialist in multicultural ministry and outreach with the synods of Region 1, as Dean of the Community with the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago and as Associate Director for Global Education with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission. Stacy has degrees from UCLA and McCormick Theological Seminary.
Celeste Tell, President
Celeste Tell is an interdisciplinary design strategist, researcher and innovation planner known for her ability to listen, identify patterns, crystallize a story and develop a coherent roadmap for moving forward. For more than 30 years, she has held leadership roles on a broad range of large, challenging projects and initiatives in, out and around the design and construction industry. Currently, Celeste is a partner in Fair Building Technology, an architectural and construction management consulting firm where she provides research, analysis and planning services to clients, and supports projects requiring complex information structuring, communication planning and deliverables. Celeste serves on the Advisory Board for the Lake Washington Technical College Bachelor of Technology in Applied Design and is an alumna of the Leadership Tomorrow Seattle program. Celeste has a BA, Interior Design from Michigan State University and a Masters in Design (Planning) degree from the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology.
James is a former Mayor (2005-2009) and city council member (2001-2009) of Kirkland, WA. He previously served on Kirkland’s Planning Commission. Before joining government, he was the owner of Kirkland’s Woods Lakeshore Pharmacy and partner in Parkplace Books. He has served as both a board member and chair of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce, Hopelink and Eastside Human Service Forum. James is one of 79 national recipients of the National Association for Community Leadership’s Distinguished Leader Award in 2000.
Joe oversees Vendaria’s global sales organization, which is responsible for establishing new manufacturer, retailer, and service company accounts, growing and servicing current accounts, and building strategic relationships with new and existing business partners. He brings over 20 years of highly relevant professional experience to his role at Vendaria, leveraging a rare blend of expertise in sales & marketing, ecommerce, corporate strategy, entrepreneurship, global management, and financial and analytical acumen – honed at the likes of Procter & Gamble, Harvard Business School, Alliance Consulting Group, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Corbis, and a half-dozen venture and angel-funded Internet commerce start-ups where he was either a co-founder or CEO. Joe brings an “outside-in” methodology to all client opportunities, seeking to deliver the maximum benefit for Vendaria’s clients (and their customers and shoppers) based on an integrated view of markets, products, competitive dynamics, user experience rigor, profit and ROI considerations, available and advanced technologies, multi-channel opportunities, and client budgets.