Celebrating 20 Years of Enriching Lives through Art
Award-winning art education programs, an official Poet Laureate and a gallery viewed by thousands of people a month—the arts are thriving in Ventura County, thanks to the Ventura County Arts Council! Marking its 20th anniversary this year, the VCAC is committed to enriching cultural life in Ventura County and increasing public awareness of its work.
As the official arts council for Ventura County, the VCAC supports and strengthens the arts simultaneously within area schools and the local community.
“Arts education is a primary part of our mission because it is critical to our schools and the well-being of our community,” says VCAC Development Director Craig Rosen. “The VCAC offers outstanding programs that integrate arts into local schools. One of the most successful is the Artists in the Classroom teaching residency program, the only multidisciplinary arts residency program available to every K-8 school in the county. AIC offers eight-week residencies in dance, music, poetry, visual and performing arts.”
Says Rosen, “VCAC took over administering the Ventura County Office of Education’s teaching artist residency in 2014 and facilitated a 40% increase. That year saw the hiring of 16 artists and 11 schools in eight districts for 112 residencies, reaching over 3,300 students. And 2015 saw a 20% increase in residencies from the previous year.”
“The success over the past two years is very exciting,” says Rosen. “It’s definitely a program that is very active and we’re trying to grow.”
Arts & Juvenile Justice
VCAC also offers the Arts & Juvenile Justice program, in partnership with the Ventura County Probation Department and the Ventura County Office of Education. Teaching artists work with students at Providence High School in the county’s juvenile detention center. This powerful effort has received grants for the past two years from JUMP StArts, a grant program from the California Arts Council, and “is one out of four programs in the state to be recognized as a model program working with arts and the juvenile justice system,” Rosen says.
Additionally, the Arts Council offers Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest for area high school students, which features county, state and national competitions. Administered locally by the VCAC, the goal is to “advance spoken poetry through oral interpretations of published poems.”
Rosen notes, “The VCAC program has been recognized by the California Arts Council for having one of the more robust POL programs in the state.”
The VCAC also actively promotes literary arts in the community through its Poet Laureate program, established in 2014. The current honoree, Phil Taggart, is an award-winning poet who serves “as an ambassador engaging the public,” fostering “a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”
Through its Elementary School Mini Grants program, the VCAC also supports elementary schools “in partnership with local artists and arts organizations to bring standards-based arts education into classrooms.” Past projects have included a class trip to see a fully staged “Nutcracker” ballet and visits to classrooms by the regional New West Symphony’s Music Van. Rosen encourages schools to apply for mini grants by submitting a proposal through the VCAC website.
The Atrium Gallery
Another VCAC community gem is the Atrium Gallery, one of the largest art galleries in the county. Spanning three floors in the Hall of Administration at the Ventura County Government Center complex, the gallery is viewed by 3,000 visitors and employees each weekday and highlights artwork from local artists. Both competitive and curated shows are hosted throughout the year and may include photographs, oil paintings, stone sculpture, watercolors and fabric arts.
The VCAC board and staff, helmed by Executive Director Margaret Travers, is passionate about expanding their efforts to enhance cultural life in and around Ventura County and is actively looking for those interested in fundraising, donating or serving as a board member. Artist educators are encouraged to apply for teaching opportunities via the VCAC website.
“If you pursue, participate in or appreciate the arts, the Ventura County Arts Council wants to hear from you,” urges Rosen. “We are open to collaboration and ideas that further our mission.”
For information about VCAC programs, upcoming exhibitions or submitting work for a competitive show or curated exhibit, visit VCArtsCouncil.org.