Ventana — In a nutshell, what is SCIART?
Michele DePuy Leavitt — SCIART is a true community arts center, the only one of its kind in Ventura County. We recently opened an annex in Oxnard, but the main space is on the campus of Cal State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, where we have three galleries, 23 professional working artist studios, and workshop programs in a number of different areas: sculpture, photography, weaving, and painting, to name just a few…We’re not elitist; we have everything from fabulous professional artist programs to children’s workshops on how to make art from gourds.
What does SCIART offer the community at large, not specifically artists?
The public can come in and watch artists actually make art in the studios. We also have three beautiful exhibition areas. We present exhibitions from nationally renowned artists as well as provide a venue for regional artists. So it gives the Ventura County community an opportunity to see world class exhibits in their own backyard.
Does your membership represent an accurate cross section of the county?
We do get people from all over the county. There’s a huge artist community in the city of Ventura, a population we targeted from the beginning. But our membership base has grown to include all of the communities in Ventura County. Recently, we have reached out to the Newbury Park/Thousand Oaks area… I presented a lecture to the Conejo Valley Arts Center reaching out to their members, and we’ve folded in more Oxnard members through a mailing list exchange with the Ventura County Arts Council and Margaret Travers (Ms. Travers is the executive director of VCAC).
You mentioned an annex in Oxnard.
Our Oxnard annex, SCIART West, is relatively new. It’s at 519 South C Street, right across from Plaza Park. The Downtown Center for the Arts made the building available to us so we may create an Oxnard version of what we do in Camarillo. One of the ways we’re reaching out and partnering with people in the community is by inviting guest curators…the first was a joint effort with Claudia Pardo McFadyen and Pat Richards. JoAnna Steele, the owner of the Studio Gallery, is curating the current exhibition. JoAnna has been in the community for years and has a strong following. She chose the artists—people she’s been working with for years. We are also very pleased to be the recipients of a generous grant for SCIART West from the Martin V. & Martha K. Smith Foundation, a support organization of the Ventura County Community Foundation. The purpose of this grant is for the funding of exhibitions and workshops.
How and when did SCIART begin?
We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this year…When J. Handel Evans, the first president of CSUCI, was being given a tour of the facility before the university opened, he was told the curriculum was not going to include an arts program. He believed to have a well-rounded education there should be one available, so when he saw they were only going to be using about 10% of the available buildings during the first couple of years, he invited our founders over to see if it was viable for an art center. They jumped at the opportunity.
Who were the founders?
The original founders included Pat Richards, Maggie Kildee, Gerd Koch, Peter Cannon, and Roxie Ray Bordelon. Donna Granata, the executive director of Focus on the Masters, was here in the beginning as well. They decided they could achieve a real and true community art center, unlike anything that existed in the county at the time.
Nowadays the space is quite beautiful, but I understand that’s not how they found it.
Well, the place had been sitting vacant for about 20 years. They had to do the cleanup and conversion: to turn it into artists’ studios, galleries, a sculpture garden, and workshop areas. In exchange, SCIART received free rent for a couple of years and currently enjoys a very affordable one.
How is SCIART celebrating its 10th anniversary?
We’ll be celebrating throughout the year, beginning July 14 with a truly museum quality show curated by Gerd Koch. He was the president of the Art Department at Ventura Community College for 30 years, an amazing character. He’s invited some staggeringly important artists—and they’ve all said yes! So it’s going to be a blend of internationally renowned artists and local artists, including some of our founders. John Nava is going to be in the show, Gary Lang, Connie Jenkins, Hiroko Yoshimoto…The list goes on and on.
For more information about SCIART, go to www.StudioChannelIslands.org or call 805.383.1368.
Made in Ojai
Not much time remains to see the prestigious Ojai Studio Artists’ annual spring exhibition, running through July 29 at the Ojai Valley Museum. "The space is a beautiful venue for high quality art in the center of Ojai,” says Richard Amend, OSA Exhibition Chair. “The Museum has hosted our show for four of the last five years, consistent with their support of the local arts."
The nonprofit Ojai Studio Artists organization is comprised of professional artists juried into the group based on quality of work, experience in the field, exhibition history, and commitment to the community. Many are represented nationally and internationally in museum collections. To date, OSA has given more than $110,000 in scholarships to support qualified art students, artists, and arts organizations in the Ojai Valley. These donations are funded through auctions and ticket sales from OSA's annual Studio Tour, held this year October 13 and 14.
For more information, visit www.ojaistudioartists.com.