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Sound Bites - Issue #52- December 2017

On the Cover
Tony Tran - The Brush Strokes of One Man's Journey

Plein Air Watercolor Painting instructor Tony TranPlein Air Watercolor Painting instructor Tony Tran

A watercolor painting of St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, by Tony TranA watercolor painting of St. Monica's Church in Santa Monica, by Tony Tran

Tony's painting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock  House in Los AngelesTony's painting of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House in Los Angeles 


Watercolor painting instructor Tony Tran epitomizes the immigrant success story - and then some. Fleeing with his family at the age of 11 from Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in a harrowing escape, Tran and his family landed six weeks later in a small town in Southern Indiana where they would start a new life.

Tran would go on to adjust quickly to life in America, be chosen as the valedictorian of his high school, and earn a bachelor's degree in Urban Studies and Art History at Stanford University and a Master of Architecture degree at UCLA. He is now an architect, planner, artist, illustrator and teacher. He also plays the violin and performs in orchestra concerts with his son Thilan, also a violinist.

"I am lucky to have been able to find a career that combines several of my passions," Tran says. "And I consider myself very fortunate to have had such a rich, cross-cultural experience. Psychologically and emotionally, I am now comfortable being both Vietnamese and American, and can easily switch back and forth between these spheres."

Tran's love and passion for art, drawing, painting, history and diverse cultures around the world began during childhood in Saigon in the 1960s and early 1970s.

"I would devour and copy from French comic books such as Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Buck Danny and Les Schtroumpfs (The Smurfs)," he says. "Another source of inspiration came from the spellbound hours watching movies such as The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and Once Upon a Time in the West with my parents in Saigon's fabulous, magical old French-style cinema palaces such as the Rex and Eden, which unfortunately no longer exist today."

Tran taught for 15 years in the Landscape Architecture program at UCLA Extension and has been teaching Plein Air Outdoor Water Color Painting at SMC for a year.

"I really enjoy the interaction with the students," he says. "They all have different levels of painting and sketching. I try to help them develop their abilities, but they also learn from each other and I learn a lot from them."

You're a big Bruce Springsteen fan.

When I was 16 years old, I attended a powerful, four-hour Bruce Springsteen rock concert at Notre Dame University in South Bend. That inspiring concert has been one of the central moments of my life, and I have remained a life-long fan of this artist's work.

My first trip to Europe during college in the summer of 1985, I backpacked and followed Springsteen's "Born in the USA" tour into England, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Germany and Italy. I slept in youth hostels, train stations, piazzas and on beaches with fellow travelers and fans, including a memorable overnight stay with a wonderful Irish family in Newcastle.

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

About 10 years ago, I took a large group of family and relatives hiking on the Panorama trail at Yosemite National Park, from Glacier Point down to the Valley floor. The group consisted of diverse ages from 5 to 60, and of various levels of ability. We started late in the morning, became spread out and ended up getting lost on the trail in the dark in desperation and without a flashlight. Miraculously, we somehow all made it back to Housekeeping Camp, with more than one member of the group in panic and in tears. Years later, they still make fun of me for leading them on this unforgettable "Death March."

What is your idea of a perfect day?

An early morning run and then plein air sketching and painting while sightseeing, traveling and exploring new places. Current wish list of destinations: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Havana, Cuba. In the afternoon, visit art and history museums. In the evening, perform with my son at an orchestra concert.

What is one of the best compliments you ever received?

In a letter forwarded to me from the director of UCLA Extension's Landscape Architecture Program, where I was an instructor for more than a decade, a student mentioned how much he appreciated my class in Graphic Communication and commended my skill and ability in teaching what are not easy concepts and techniques to absorb.

Tony Tran will teach Plein Air Outdoor Water Color Painting Jan. 6 through Feb. 10.

What's New
Sampling the Marvels of Dance

Alice Meyering

Roberta Wolin-Tupas with Daniel JimersonRoberta Wolin-Tupas with Daniel Jimerson performing with R Dance Company

Roberta Wolin-TupasModern Dance instructor Roberta Wolin-Tupas

from the desk of Alice Meyering

One of the wonderful aspects of my position at Community Ed is that over time I get to know our instructors in greater depth. Recently I met with Modern Dance instructor Roberta Wolin-Tupas to discuss her class and the other projects she is working on.

First, I will say that Roberta created and leads a unique program through her position as an adjunct dance professor on the main SMC campus in which SMC students teach elementary school children to dance their curriculum. The children dance all kinds of subjects, from the solar system to life under the sea to history, art, literature and more.

I encourage you to read more about this wonderful program in our latest entry on our blog SMC MindSpace.

But for now, I want to focus on the differences - and synergy - between SMC's academic and Community Ed dance courses.

"The idea of my Community Ed class is that the students can have fun learning and a chance to try the class out and enjoy the experience of body awareness, body movement, basic vocabulary and more," Roberta told me. "Students have a chance to enjoy the class without the pressures of academia. On the academic side, the class is more structured and students have tests and papers. Also, the Community Ed class is six weeks while the academic courses are 14 weeks."

But there is a nice synergy between the two sides of the dance coin, so to speak.

"Sometimes people sample the Community Ed class and get excited about it and end up registering for the 14-week academic course," Roberta said.

The other main difference between the two kinds of dance classes is the students. Most of the academic students are young with some dance experience. But Roberta says in her Community Ed class, she gets students ranging in age from 18 to 60s. Some have no dance experience, some are coming back to it after taking a break, some have had experience with other forms of dance, she said.

"Really great people show up for my class," Roberta told me.

And that sums up nicely in many ways what Community Ed is all about and why it attracts "great people," as Roberta says - a combination of talented instructors with an eclectic offering of classes that attracts all kinds of interesting people who are eager to learn.

And on that note, I wish you all the happiest of holidays and a New Year filled with joy, peace and many learning opportunities!

Roberta Wolin-Tupas will teach Beginning Modern Dance at SMC Community Education starting Jan. 2.

Behind the Scenes:
"Lifestyle Portraits" -- People in Everyday Life

Steve AndersonSteve Anderson

A lifestyle portrait - editing at Disney A lifestyle portrait by Steve Anderson

 Lifestyle portrait  - woman & dog on bus Lifestyle portrait by Steve Anderson

SMC Community Ed is excited to announce that it is offering a new photography class this winter, Lifestyle Portraits, and the very talented Steve Anderson will be teaching it.

In the early years at his studio, Steve's photography included a blend of food, high tech, medical and people with clients like Taco Bell, Gateway Computers, and Beckman. However, Steve's love of photographing people eventually evolved into his specialty and the focus of his work. Currently Steve shoots editorial and lifestyle portraits of people, public figures and personalities.

Steve, who graduated with honors from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, says photographing people is his life's passion.

"I am fascinated by the human expression, changing with every fleeting thought," he says.

What exactly is Lifestyle Portraiture?

Photographing people in their everyday life surroundings. It's a single photograph that tells a big story through small details that the viewer "discovers." 

You say in your description of the class that art directors and magazine editors are on the lookout for lifestyle images with a clear story and compelling visual uniqueness. Can you elaborate? What kinds of magazines?

Every magazine today is looking for compelling stories. For example, food magazines want to see images that, say, capture the lifestyle of that small cottage-style life in Portugal overlooking the citrus trees that flavor the hanging prosciutto while old men play checkers and paella is cooked over an open flame.

Who are some famous photographers known for their Lifestyle Portraits? Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus?

Leibovitz being the exception, I wouldn't say these other photographers are lifestyle photographers in today's context. Theirs are great images of life from a long time ago.

The lifestyle image today has a huge commercial application - like seeing a group of young men and women in a cornfield enjoying the sunset and a beer. It represents a life (style) that a commercial brand can connect itself with to sell its product. This is why it is the most sought-after type of image today. Those who are famous to the general audience are the preferred image-makers for advertising agencies. For example, I like the work of Andy Anderson, who has big name clients.

Looking at your website, it appears photography has taken you all over the world. Can you briefly expand on that?

I've been fortunate to travel the states and few countries for several clients. 2014 was especially notable as I went to Kenya for a month shooting for Lewa House safaris, Lamu board of tourism (small Kenyan island), a Kenyan cheese farm tucked away into the foothills north of Nairobi, a bakery and an all-natural health store in a city mall.

The travel gigs aren't always so glamorous, budgets are getting smaller and clients expect more. For example, the last time I flew to Maui for an Aqualung job, we landed at noon (9 a.m. California time), got on a boat and started shooting on the boat, in the water and at several beaches. We didn't stop until the light was gone at about 8 p.m. In the dark we headed back to check into the hotel, have a meal and sleep six hours. At first light we got back on the boat and repeated until early afternoon, then dashed to the car rental return and flew home. Total time on the island was less than 30 hours, but I got amazing photos and that's why I do it.

Lifestyle Portraits will start January 6, 2018. Register now to reserve your spot in this very unique first-time offering.

Holiday Season Reflections

Michelle KingMichelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

2017 kicks-off the beginning of our new Fashion program2017 kicks-off the beginning of our new Fashion program

CommEd website - top creative site of 2017We appreciate the honor of being acknowledged as a "Top Creative Website for 2017"

As we enter the holiday season and come to the end of another year, I find myself reflecting on the 2017 accomplishments and highlights of SMC Community Ed. Although it's been a challenging year to some extent as we adjust workloads and class offerings, we are also proud of the many achievements we've made. And we look forward to more accomplishments in 2018 - all with an eye on doing our best to serve the lifelong learning needs of our community members, whether on a personal or professional level.

Among the highlights of 2017:

  • We launched several new career training programs, including the Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP) program, which is a nationally recognized hospitality industry certification. The hospitality industry is considered a high growth sector for the Los Angeles region and particularly the Santa Monica area, so this program is a natural fit for SMC.  
  • We laid the groundwork for an exciting new program that will begin in January - Fashion! Specifically, we are offering "Tech Pack," Sewing Bootcamp and even Pet Couture which - yes - is a fast growing industry, particularly in Los Angeles.
  • We established new partnerships, including one with SimpliLearn, which will allow us to expand our offerings of career training courses available through the Employee Training Provider List.
  • We were thrilled to learn that Augusoft, Inc., recognized the SMC Community Ed's website as one of the company's top creative websites for 2017. Augusoft told us that our site "was selected for its excellent use of graphics, design layout and navigation."
  • We continued to be so thankful for all our students and instructors, with a special nod to Modern Dance instructor Roberta Wolin-Tupas who, as her role as a dance professor in the SMC academic program, created and has led a wonderful Teaching of Dance for Children program. Under this program, SMC students go into the highly regarded SMASH Elementary School in Santa Monica to teach children to express their academic lessons in movement.
  • Our annual Student Photo Contest was bigger and better than ever this year. Altogether, the contest drew 167 photo submissions from 39 current and former students, almost double the 90 images from 22 participants in 2016. Victoria Bleeden won the contest with her stunning image of a hummingbird that she calls "Golden Flight."
  • This year's Open House was bigger and better than ever - our registration numbers jumped from 81 last year to 128 this year, more than a 50 percent increase!

In 2018, look for an even bigger and better Open House and Photo Contest, along with the launch of new programs and classes. For example, we hope to start offering programs that will give professionals Continuing Education units and to create more training specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Stay tuned for updates on the development of the programs.

My wishes for a very happy holiday season and wonderful learning opportunities in the new year!

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career &
Contract Education