Elya Braden: Founder & President
From an early age, Elya was drawn to the expressive arts— writing poetry, singing and acting, dancing, and exploring various arts and crafts. However, after earning her B.A. in Religion at Duke University and her J.D. at Stanford Law School, Elya took a detour from her creative endeavors to practice law, eventually serving as General Counsel of two public companies.
Following her legal career, Elya launched and led AWARE™, a networking group for experienced women lawyers in the Seattle area. Under her leadership, AWARE™ incorporated as a non-profit organization and expanded from 35 members to over 200. During that time, Elya served on boards of both non-profit and for-profit businesses. Elya also pursued her love of singing and acting, performing in jazz, cabaret and rock shows around Seattle, as well as in musicals, plays, independent films and TV commercials.
In 2008, Elya returned to her hometown of Los Angeles where she focused on her writing. Her poetry has been widely published in literary journals and magazines in the United States and internationally. She is now Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her chapbook, Open The Fist, a poetic exploration of her own experience of abuse and healing, was published by Finishing Line Press in June 2020.
More recently, Elya has explored her passion for collage and mixed media, creating works in a variety of mediums. She trained as a NIA dance instructor and has since led workshops interweaving poetry/visual art and poetry/music/movement. Elya has also completed the Certification Program in Social Emotional Arts (SEA) with UCLArts & Healing.
Following her return to Los Angeles, Elya volunteered extensively with Insight Seminars and Free Arts for Abused Children and, for three years, served on the Board of The Safe House Education (S.H.E.) Fund, a nonprofit raising funds to send Maasai girls from rescue centers in Narok, Kenya to college/university.
After experiencing the power of the expressive arts in her own healing journey, Elya launched HaGomel Foundation to help provide free expressive arts programs to other women who have experienced sexual trauma.