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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Art Summit

Uploaded: Oct 19, 2012
Wednesday night, October 17th, the Arts Advisory Committee held an Art Summit at the San Ramon Community Center. The purpose of this was to meet with members of the artistic community in San Ramon to improve how the City encourages and supports art-related programs and businesses in and around San Ramon.

The "Summit" opened with a Pin Map Project. Each person who entered placed colored pins on a map to show where they live, where they make art happen, and where they think art should be happening in the future. The results of this exercise will be forthcoming.

The next exercise was to write the 10 words that describe what is important to you when it comes to Art. The lists were entered into a Word Cloud program that produced a graphic result at the end of the meeting. I wanted to include a copy of it with this blog, but Recreation Coordinator, Suzy Chow, was still improving it when I called on Thursday morning. The final version will be released on the City's website.

However the meat of the meeting was in the "Breakout Sessions." Tables were set up around the Fountain Room of the Community Center with a Breakout focus for each numbered table.

1. Increasing Visibility and Marketing for the Arts & Identifying San Ramon as a Cultural Hub
2. Increase Art Education and Cultural Art Classes
3. Funding for the arts and maintaining the arts in bad economic times
4. Partnerships with the City and or other arts organizations/businesses
5. Support for Professional & Amateur Artists

I was at Table #2 to discuss Increase Art Education and Cultural Art Classes. There was enough interest in this topic that another table was added to my table to expand the discussion on Art Education. Carol Lopez, from the Parks and Community Services Commission, moderated this large group which resulted in a very productive session. I took the notes, and here is my summary of the Breakout session.

Most of the folks at the tables were instructors in the Parks and Community Services Recreation programs. Sharon Baker, who teaches Visual Arts for toddlers 2-5 and children 4-6, said she has more ideas for classes, but the city budget limits the number of classes she can teach.

Other folks at the table brought up issues of cost of classes for parents, cost of facilities for the city, minimum enrollment requirements, and scheduling classes by the age or grade level of students.

There were also questions about how art and music are taught in the schools, and if a class could be held at one school with students transported from other schools to fill it up. Since the School District is separate from the City, this question would have to go to the School Board.

Marvin Ibe, who teaches guitar, asked if San Ramon has a higher percent of children in the population. Carol Lopez said the concentration of children is in Dougherty Valley where two families often occupy one house.

I've noticed more young families moving into my neighborhood as the original owners and empty nesters are moving out. Since many of the Arts programs in the City's Recreation Guide are for children, this demographic would be useful to know.

Ibe feels the charge for children's classes is too much for families to afford in this economy. Lopez said there are scholarships for low income children, but that isn't where Ibe was going with this. He explained that when the cost is too high, enrollment drops and classes are cancelled. If the cost could be brought down, or subsidized, then more children could attend a class and the class would be held.

Hema Belaji, who teaches music, said that the classes should not be arranged by age or grade but by ability. That way more students could be put together in classes, which would make the classes easier to teach and more cost effective.

Rita Young, Director of the Marvegos Fine Arts School, has her own studio in the Market Place in San Ramon and in several other Bay Area cities. She described her arrangement with San Mateo, where the Recreation Department there advertises her classes and enrolls the students, but she holds the classes in her own facility. San Mateo gets a percent of the fee, but none of the expenses of holding the classes.

Young told her idea to Parks and Community Services Commission President Dominique Yancey who thought it is a good idea and worth looking into.

Nick Vitalis, a longtime resident, explained that when he and his wife, Colleen, moved to San Ramon many years ago they wanted to join a singing group. There were no Recreational Services then. Instead there was a Community Services Group in Danville funded through the United Way.

Vitalis asked the Community Services Group if there was a Community Chorus they could join. Someone there told him, "There isn't but why don't you start one?" So they did, and Nick and Colleen still hold Community Chorus Classes in the San Ramon Activities Guide. His point was that if the city doesn't have a budget for starting new classes or programs, a private party or non-profit agency could.

So there were good ideas presented on changing how existing classes are held or scheduled to make them more homogeneous, easier to teach, and less expensive to hold or attend. The Arts Advisory Committee and Parks and Community Services Commission will review the results of all of the Breakout sessions for eventual incorporation into a Cultural Plan for the City.
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