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Every October, when I put together the annual Arts Issue for Ventana Monthly, I am struck by the level of talent that flourishes in Ventura County. From ceramicist and “Mama of Dada” Beatrice Wood to contemporary artist Hiroko Yoshimoto; world class composers and musicians such as John Biggs, Yue Deng and Miguel del Aguila; Ventura County Ballet; Gerd Koch; Rubicon Theatre Company… The list of local luminaries and institutions just goes on and on, and all have left a lasting impact on our cultural landscape.

And on our community, too, as seen with the members of the Ventura County Potters’ Guild (Cover Story). This decades-old institution attracts members from across the Central Coast and Southern California, all of whom share a love for this most tactile and earth-bound art form. One of their most anticipated events is the Bowl of Thanks fundraiser, taking place this year Nov. 5-6 in Downtown Ventura. These clay artists donate hand-crafted pottery that can be purchased along with a punch card for food samples at area restaurants. It’s a fun endeavor, linking participants with local business owners and cuisine, and helps raise money for a good cause. This year’s proceeds will support Ventura’s Family Reconnect Program, which serves the local homeless population. 

Another long-standing arts organization is Ojai Studio Artists, whose contributions to the Ojai Valley’s artistic legacy is impossible to overstate. The studio tours are legendary, bringing considerable attention to this vast network of creatives and solidifying the area’s reputation as an arts enclave. The OSA does a lot to foster the next generation of artists, too, through a robust mentorship program, scholarships and involvement with local schools. We spotlight three of the artists adding to OSA’s prestige in Profile.

Ventura College is tending to the future of classical music with its preeminent Miriam and Henry Schwab Music Academy (About Town). This three-week summer program, established in 2019, has quickly become one of the most prestigious of its kind, bringing in renowned faculty to help aspiring performers from all walks of life grow in their musicianship. 

Finally, we have an insightful interview with Donna Granata, founder of Focus on the Masters. As an archivist, historian and photographer, she has spent years carefully documenting the area’s most notable artists – painters, sculptors, photographers, playwrights, you name it. She discusses her deep and abiding love for art in all its forms, and the value it holds for the individual and society, in Conversation.

Powerful stuff, this. I remain in awe of the many talents that have “roused the muse,” as Granata likes to say, in this environment. Just as strawberries and lemons thrive in our fields, so too have artists found spectacularly fertile ground.

– Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

nancy@ventanamonthly.com