Name: Matthew Stephens, Director
Started at the COF: March 2016
Primary responsibilities: Leader and driver of future success for the Conservatory. Staff/volunteer motivator and primary spokesperson. Director of financial management and fund development.
Education/certifications: B.S. from Illinois State University in Horticulture and M.S. from the University of Delaware in Public Horticulture in the Longwood Graduate Program. Museum Studies Certificate, certified as an Arborist, and certified as a professional facilitator.
Favorite thing at the COF: Our visitors! Our visitors come from down the block and from the other side of the planet. We are so honored to have each and every visitor, and the team at the Conservatory works tirelessly to ensure the Conservatory is open, the plants look great and our visitors have an amazing experience.
Name: Matthew Stephens, Director
Name: Matisse Geenty, Manager of Development
Started at the COF: July 2019
Primary responsibilities: Expand the Conservatory’s fundraising and sponsorship pipelines. Create unique, mutually beneficial opportunities for sponsorship and partnership; further strengthen Membership; and help individuals support a thriving Conservatory through their generosity.
Education/certifications: B.A. from UC Santa Barbara in Music
Favorite thing at the COF: The Conservatory is a complete oasis. Taking the time to appreciate living beauty is soothing and inspiring, especially in our increasingly digital world. While walking the galleries, you can see people soften and connect with one another, or simply enjoy their solitude and be transported. It is a safe-house for beauty and our community.
Name: Sarah Sawtelle, Manager of Engagement
Started at the COF: September 2019
Primary responsibilities: Mobilizing a team of interpretive docents, student program guides, and engagement staff in interpreting the Conservatory’s plant collection through engaging programs, tours, and conversations. Creating opportunities for all Conservatory visitors to connect with tropical plants and discover something amazing during their visit.
Favorite thing at the COF: The color-changing blooms of the Victoria Water Lilies
Name: Drew Risner-Davis, Education & Volunteer Manager
Started at the COF: 2016
Education: Studying Environmental Horticulture at City College of San Francisco
Primary Responsibilities: Managing the special exhibit; Leading tours of the COF’s permanent collection
Favorite thing at the COF: Whether it’s the recipes shared from all corners of the globe or the tales of exotic expeditions in far off places… my favorite thing has to be the stories from our visitors. Through teaching others about the tropics and our plant collection I love learning new things about the world from our incredible guests!
Name: Alice Cuthbert, Event Sales and Partnerships Manager
Started at the COF: September 2017
Primary Responsibilities: Contract all events at the Conservatory of Flowers, bringing people together in a unique environment that creates lasting bonds. Ensuring expectations are exceeded for our private events.
Education/Certifications: Bachelors of Science, Tourism and Recreation Management, Niagara University
Favorite thing at the COF: Joining in on the educational tours to increase my knowledge of the plants. Mother Nature is incredible!
Name: Lillian Brauner, Private Events Manager
Started at the COF: October 2018
Primary responsibilities: Managing private event rentals, working with clients and vendors to ensure each event is just as magical as the Conservatory!
Favorite thing at the COF: I love walking the galleries at night after an event. There is something both serene and eerie about the plants after dark.
Name: Alessandra Chimienti Gibbs, Public Events Producer
Started at the COF: May 2019
Primary responsibilities: The planning and execution of all public facing events taking place at the Conservatory of Flowers. I ensure the smooth execution and highest level of customer service for each event.
Favorite thing at the COF: I love how the Conservatory of Flowers allows people to connect with nature and take “a break” from the business of life in this magical place where time seems to stop. I am fascinated by the fact that, as soon as I walk in, I find myself in a different, greener, and happier world.
Name: Kristen Natoli, Chief Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: September 2016
Primary responsibilities: Steward of our exceptional tropical plant collection and beautiful Victorian conservatory structure.
Education/certifications: B.S. from Cornell University with a focus in Plant Ecology.
Favorite thing at the COF: Each gallery of the Conservatory has a unique character and story to tell. The collections they hold are a captivating way to engage visitors with the diverse, fragile and wondrous tropical ecosystems they represent.
Name: Eric Imperiale, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2007
Primary responsibilities: Highland Tropics Gallery, Pleurothallid orchid collection, cool-growing orchids, special exhibits
Favorite thing at the COF: One of my favorite things about the Conservatory of Flowers is the way in which its aesthetic beauty seamlessly interconnects education and conservation, people and plants, and the past and present.
Name: Janet Spellmann, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2011
Primary responsibilities: Potted Plants Gallery, special exhibits, cultivate, pot and maintain the beautiful begonias, orchids and thousands of other plants in the Potted Plants Gallery.
Favorite thing at the COF: Like the hundreds of people who flock to the Conservatory every time it blooms, I particularly love the Amophophallus konjac (shown at left). The stench of the A. konjac’s inflorescence, while repugnant to humans, is a seductive lure for the beetles and flies that pollinate this beautiful plant.
Name: Mario Vega, Nursery Specialist
Started at the COF: 2007
Primary responsibilities: Lowland Gallery, lobby, special exhibits
Education/Certifications: City College of San Francisco
Favorite plant at the COF: Impatiens niamniamensis, also called “Parrot Impatiens” and “Congo Cockatoo”, was one of the first to catch my eye here at the Conservatory. The flower’s colors are bright and striking, reminiscent of a candy treat or a flock of parrots.
MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
Name: Maryam Nabi, Director of Marketing and Communications
Started at the COF: September 2017
Primary responsibilities: Leading the charge on marketing and communications; bring the voice of COF to life through social media, e-mail marketing, online content, and more!
Education/certifications: B.A. from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature
Favorite thing at the COF: I love to “visitor”-watch. Seeing all the diverse groups, families, couples, and individuals come through the main doors and stroll the galleries is amazing. Visiting the Conservatory is a passed down tradition and seeing all the families that come here to share it with their children is a magical moment!
Name: Bella Montufar, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Started at the COF: April 2020
Primary responsibilities: Supporting marketing and communication with social media, email marketing, event marketing, branding, and more.
Education/certifications: B.A. from San Francisco State University in Communication Studies
Favorite thing at the COF: “Phil”, the 100-year-old philodendron plant that lives inside the Conservatory. It’s fascinating history and the giant leaves makes it a show stopper at the Conservatory.
Name: Vanessa Fajardo, Director of Operations & Administration
Started at the COF: October 2010
Primary responsibilities: Managing and supporting the Guest Services team, purchasing locally sourced gift shop items, design and management of the gift shop
Favorite thing at the COF: I love coming into the Conservatory in the mornings when the rain function is on. It creates the most soothing sounds and smells in the city. There is no place in all of San Francisco more appealing to all five senses than the Conservatory of Flowers.
Name: Elayna Levin, Assistant Operations Manager
Started at the COF: January 2018
Favorite thing at the COF: No matter how many times I walk through the galleries, I always see or learn something new. I encourage guests to take their time and make multiple laps around the building. Spend time looking up, looking own, smelling any plants in bloom – the Conservatory is so full of life and history that it’s impossible to take in everything in one visit.
Name: Greg Peters, Guest Services and Gift Shop Manager
Start date at COF: May 2019
Responsibilities: Creating for our guests an exciting and fulfilling experience, while bringing a fresh and evolving shopping experience that will have our guest leave with a cherished and heartfelt memento of our iconic facility and collections.
Whether you’re a native San Franciscan, a visitor from another side of the world, or a classroom of budding botanists, the Conservatory of Flowers offers an intimate up-close experience with rare and endangered plants unlike any other. Come see what treasures await you!
Golden Gate Park | 100 John F. Kennedy Drive | San Francisco, CA 94118 | 415-831-2090