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Sound Bites - Issue #37 - September 2016

On the Cover 
Scott Zaragoza. Life as Pop Art

Scott ZaragozaScott Zaragoza

Scott painting a catScott painting a cat

Scott's painting 'Boxer'Scott's painting 'Boxer'

Scott Zaragoza might be best known as a photo-realist painter, but one look at his prolific body of work and you see much more, including abstracts and what could be cels for Disney animated films.

“I’m always trying to experiment with different styles,” the SMC Community Ed art instructor said. “This year, in particular, I’m exploring so many concepts.”

View images of Scott Zaragoza’s work

Whatever his style, Zaragoza is a hugely popular instructor who in his three years at Community Ed has attracted a loyal fan base.

“Scott Zaragoza is the best teacher I’ve ever had, and I have taken art classes for 60 years,” said student Dorie Zucerman. “I wish everyone could see the portraits which were done during this class, some by very beginning artists. The work produced under the guidance of Scott Zaragoza was really amazing. He was so invested in each student and made us do our very best.”

Originally hired to teach Figure Drawing (Basic Life Drawing), he’s added three new classes over the past three years – Intro to Portraiture, Exploring Still Life Drawing (Color), and Exploring Still Life Drawing (Black & White Media).

Zaragoza studied art at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, where he has been teaching for the past 15 years. He has also taught art to high school students in London.

Zaragoza, who specializes in both drawing and painting, has had his work exhibited nationally and internationally with shows in the U.K. and Los Angeles, and he has been featured in publications such as Flaunt Magazine, Juxtapoz and recently in the L.A. Weekly and L.A. Times. As an artist drawn to create the likeness of form, whether it be animals, people or objects, his goal has been to understand the nature of seeing both objectively and subjectively.

He brings this approach into the classroom where he engages students with critical thinking and technique. Scott has learned the most about art-making through exploring materials, and he encourages students to investigate and to push the limits by thinking traditionally and non-traditionally about materials, which helps students to create a new way of seeing and in turn broadens their visual vocabulary.

Tell us briefly about your SMC Community Ed students. How are they similar and different from your Otis students?

It's always wonderful to be able to work with such a diverse group of students, and SMC Community Ed is no exception. The main difference between Otis and SMC students is that for SMC students, the choice to take an art class may not just be for career purposes. In most cases Community Education provides an outlet for artist and creative types who may already have a career or job that is not in the arts.

Tell us one to three things that most people don’t know about you.

Hmmm, well most people may not know that…

  1. I still watch way too much reality TV.
  2. I spent an entire day as a guest at Neverland Ranch (the late Michael Jackson’s estate in north Santa Barbara County).
  3. The night just before I teach a new class I'm unable to sleep and my stomach is in knots.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Lol! That might be far too revealing. I'll try and keep it PG13. I once decided to move up to the Evergreen Forest in Olympia, Wash. for almost a year to paint. Maybe not that crazy but there were definitely some crazy moments involved.

Who are some of the people/organizations/businesses that have commissioned your work? What kinds of paintings do they generally want? Have there been favorites for you?

Oh wow where do I begin? I have been very fortunate to have worked with many different types of people and organizations in either collaboration or commission. Some of my highlighted moments have been working with artist Meg Cranston and Larry Johnson. Not too long ago I was asked to do a series of paintings of celebrity cats for Flaunt Magazine's 9 Lives issue which then led me to being a part of this year’s Cat Art Show LA. Now that was a wacky and random experience! Whether it’s an intimate commission or one that is for a larger audience, I find them all to be just as challenging.

Is there a story behind the portrait of the boxer? 

The painting you're referring to is of the Russian Boxer Klitschko. His expression to me symbolizes the very essence of devotion. It is also a metaphor of an artist experience. In some ways I also feel like I've taken a good beating both from life and for pursuing a career as an artist. The other quality that I gathered from his pic was one that linked me directly to the Flemish masters and why oil paint was invented to create the perfect substance for replicating flesh. 

This year you’ve been exploring many concepts in your artwork. Tell us a little about that.

I write a lot about possible art ideas and theories in regards to my painting practice and I thought perhaps this would be a good year just to make whatever I felt was worth making big or small. So I set off on an exploration of some concepts I've had on back burner for quite some time. I decided to approach painting like a poet approaches a haiku, devouring an idea in one swift move, then walking away untethered. On a more practical note it has been a clearing out or house cleaning of ideas. Now I'm just about ready to dive back in to a very long and large body of work.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

A perfect day to me is one that has a flow from beginning until nightfall. Like teaching a class where the momentum feels in sync or driving on the 405 when you've suddenly tapped into an open window of traffic. Or maybe it’s spending a day with my closest friends sitting, laughing and complaining and all the while I know that I'm living it to the fullest. Also see lyrics from “Make You Feel That Way” by Blackalicious. That sums it up.

What is one of the best compliments you ever received?

Being called a Mensch.

What book(s) are on your nightstand now?

Books on the painters Peter Doig, Francis Bacon and Canaletto, as well as Mary Shelley's “Frankenstein” and “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das.

What's New
Sound Bites, 3 Years and Counting!

Alice Meyering

March 2016 cover of Sound BitesMarch 2016 cover of Sound Bites

from the desk of Alice Meyering
This month marks the third anniversary of our newsletter, Sound Bites, and I’m proud of the quality of its content and images. To those of you who read this publication regularly, we hope it’s been informative and engaging, and we thank you for your continued interest in our program.

The newsletter originated simply as a wish to bring the community closer together. Through articles and photos of our instructors, students, events, classes, workshops and more, we believe that by telling our stories, we are engaging in a dialogue with our community, and good and transparent communication is critical if we want to serve our community in the best way possible. I believe through 36 issues of Sound Bites, month after month, we have proven that our vision works.

On a greater scale, Sound Bites is but one of the many platforms that we created as we respond to the general public’s wishes for classes, programming and more. Our robust social media presence (FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and LinkedIn) reaches people across the globe and brings other communities to us.

Our 2-year-old blog, SMC MindSpace, chronicles special tidbits and seeks to engage community members. Our annual Open House, next scheduled for January 21, 2017, has received praise from our community, for which we are truly grateful. Last but not least, our annual Photo Contest not only displays the talents of our photography students, but the public voting process ensures that our community members are stakeholders in how our program should be represented. From the response we received for the past two years, I’d say that our public takes that responsibility very seriously.

On our three-year Sound Bites anniversary, I’d say that our initial effort to outreach into the community is a success. What is unexpected, but equally delightful, is that we’ve come to expand our definition of community to include not just the Westside, but beyond. We have students who come to our program from as far away as Palmdale and Glendale. Recently, I got an inquiry from a Belgian who told me she wants to take classes with us because she will be in L.A. next winter. It is inquiries like this that fuels me every day and encourages me: to know that we make learning accessible to almost everyone – and for that, we take great pride.

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"Why I Love Community Ed" Essay Contest Winners!

Amy SasakiAngela Young

LaWeen Salvo LaWeen Salvo (center)

Mark WatsonMark Watson

Tyrone DyseTyrone Dyse

It’s the beginning of a new school year, an always exciting time for Community Ed as it brings in new students, new classes, new dynamics. We hear over and over from students how our program has uncovered new talents, stimulated minds and bodies, opened up new possibilities – even changed lives.

And so, because we are in a celebratory mood as the academic year begins, we decided to hold a Short Essay Contest on “Why I Love SMC Community Education.”

The results thrilled us, and we picked four winners, each with his or her unique perspective. The winners come from as far away as Palmdale and as near as Santa Monica. They come from all ethnic backgrounds and all walks of life.

Each of the contestants will receive a special Community Education gift basket – as well as a credit voucher of $20, good until June 30, 2017, to use for Community Education classes.

Please enjoy the following Short Essay Contest winning entries.

Amy Sasaki, Culver City

I am originally from Japan and one thing that I liked about living in the U.S. is that there are so many opportunities to learn at ANY age. I took classes from both Santa Monica College and its Community Education program. The classes are offered in many different areas, and I particularly enjoyed studying subjects such as Graphic Design, Computer Programming, Hawaiian Dancing, Sewing and Sushi Making (the instructor was a Caucasian woman who learned how to make sushi in Japan, and I was the only Japanese student in my class. Cool, right?). SMC consistently keeps adding new, exciting classes and it’s always fun to check what’s new. Thank you SMC!

Amy, a former project manager currently studying to become a CPA, has taken classes at SMC Community Ed since 1999. She says, “I believe education is the most powerful tool. Taking one class won't change your life instantly but ‘lifelong learning’ does.”

Mark Watson, Palmdale

I love the SMC Community Education program because the classes have instant impact. Back in July, I went to Tourist for A Day: Cellphone Photography, taught by Brian Leng. He gave us tricks and techniques for maximizing our cellphone camera capabilities when taking photographs, like using the self-timer and burst mode to get a better picture. Two weeks later I went on my summer vacation to the New England area. Immediately I could apply my newfound knowledge, and snapped some awesome memories. I can’t wait to take my next class from SMC Community Education.

Mark, a manager at an IT company, says he is a budding photographer approaching his retirement years. He’s looking forward to traveling more, so he is learning how to capture those trip moments with his camera and phone.

LaWeen Salvo, Santa Monica

Shortly after retiring, I was fortunate to discover SMC Community Education with all its possibilities – indulge in the arts, become a notary, dabble in writing, for starters. I signed up for Carmelo Fiannaca’s Mosaic Class, and from day one I was hooked. An artist himself, Carmelo knows his stuff – design, material, technique – and he shares generously of that knowledge. He encourages each of us to tap into our own creative well, and he creates a supportive atmosphere for doing so, for getting lost in the process. I’ll branch out one day and take other SMC Community Ed classes, once I manage to unhook myself from mosaic art!

LaWeen, a retired elementary school teacher, took her first class at SMC Community Ed in January 2014. She enjoys gardening, camping in the Sierras, walking/sitting at the beach, reading, learning languages (at the moment, Italian), and doing mosaic work.

Tyrone Dyse, Venice

I love SMC Community Education because it has the highest ethical, conscious, intelligent worldview of education in the world. The reason it has these qualities is because SMC Community Education hires great teachers, and our whole community surrounding the college is of a very high level philosophically. Our college and community take a real-world view of our community, which is filled with people from all walks of life from all over the world and cultures. As a result, the college and community together have created a very intellectual environment that is without bias or prejudging.

Our beach community and SMC education community are dedicated to intelligence, the sharing of ideas, cultures and disciplines, and we strive to keep an open-minded approach to education. Education in its best form is here with some of the best teachers you can find in the world.

Tyrone works as a manager in standards compliance in industry and commerce. He attended SMC and received a B.A. cum laude in Philosophy from Lincoln University of Missouri and did graduate work at the University of Kansas. He also teaches Chen style tai chi, Lan su Kung Fu and Yoga.

A Mother & Her Advice

Michelle King Michelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

Michelle King with daughter EmilyMichelle King with daughter Emily

Every new school year is exciting for us at SMC Community Ed, but the start of this academic year has been particularly different for me. About a month ago I helped my daughter Emily move into her dorm room; she is now away at college. It’s a new chapter for us both – she is adjusting to new responsibilities and freedom and I’m adjusting to a quieter house and more “me” time.

As the case with most parents, this time of transition has stirred a full range of emotions and concerns for me. High on my list of concerns is whether she is aptly prepared. But since she is an independent adult now and the last thing she wants is advice from her mother, I made a conscious effort to adjust my thinking to focus on communicating an over-arching positive message – in the form of a suggestion of course.

In summary my broad message to her is to practice and embrace the notion of “lifelong learning.” I’ve encouraged her to take a variety of classes, try learning new skills, and engage with people unlike herself. In short, I’m hoping her college experience will serve to foster an appreciation for lifelong learning.

Which brings me back to the College and Community Education, in particular, which is committed to fostering a passion for lifelong learning. We have hundreds of students who take any number of different classes and workshops, all in the pursuit of an opportunity to learn. Our students often share with us how a Community Education class has enriched and even changed their lives.

And so, as I resist the urge to be a “helicopter mom” with my daughter, I will continue to passionately promote to my family, friends, and to the community the value of lifelong learning.

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career & Contract Education