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Sound Bites - Issue #66 - February 2019 #306

On the Cover
The Rapid Rise of an Artist - Francisca Vergara

Vergara's painting that was selected for the "Mirrors of the Mind" exhibit

Vergara's work was recently featured in Venice, Italy

A Francisca Vergara painting

Francisca Vergara has gone from social worker to artist remarkably quickly. Though the Community Ed student just started painting in 2010 - and really buckled down in summer 2018 - she has already had her work exhibited in three places in rapid succession the past three months - in Venice, Italy; Santa Monica; and South Los Angeles, where the art show is currently on display.

Her beginnings as an artist were serendipitous. During a stay in Chile in 2010, she was walking down a street and happened to glance in the window of an art store/studio that offered classes. The teacher there saw her and encouraged Vergara to take lessons with her.

"I hadn't really thought about art before then," Vergara said.

Her Chilean teacher liked Vergara's work and took her under her wing, giving her private lessons three to four times a week. When Vergara returned to the U.S., she continued with her artwork when she had the time and energy - she says her social work job was intense and demanding.

But it wasn't until last year that she made a major life change and committed to painting in excess of eight hours a day. She had a stressful social work job at the YWCA in Compton and decided it was best for her to quit. She still does occasional social work, or teaching at Cal State Northridge, or taking on life coaching clients. But mostly, she paints.

She has taken several classes at Community Ed, including a Creativity Workshop (now retooled as Integrative Art Workshop) and Colored Pencil Techniques. But she particularly liked the Paint Anything! class, which she took in Fall 2018 and Winter 2019.

That class, taught by Bryan Ricci, helped her "find out what you should be putting on the canvas," she said. "That's the key - do your thing and go with it."

Suddenly, her art career started to take off. A painting of hers was selected for the show "Mirrors of the Mind 7: The Psychotherapist as Artist" that ran from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1, 2018 in the Santa Monica Art Studios. Then, her work was included in "Itsliquid International Show" at The Room Contemporary Art Space in Venice, Italy. And she currently has work being exhibited in "nourish: love and friends" at Mercado La Paloma, a community gathering space in the Figueroa Corridor of South Los Angeles. (That exhibit closes at the end of this month.)

"Francisca adds to our community dynamic in a big way," said Ricci. "She's active in the art world outside of class, she goes to contemporary art shows around town and has started showing her work recently. She sees a lot of painting shows and picks up on aspects of other people's work that piques her interest and isn't afraid to experiment with different materials and methods. She's a pleasure to work with!"

Although she has painted a variety of paintings, she gravitates to abstract because "it's more my personality," she said.

Vergara said she is thinking about taking academic art classes on the main SMC campus, and she hopes eventually to make a living solely from her painting.

"I really entered the art world with the same passion and work ethic as a regular job. I knew what I wanted and went after it," Vergara said. "As the saying goes, if it's important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find excuses. I took risks in applying to shows with little experience. I've shared my story with others and valued the process of reinventing myself."

If you want to know the origin of “Paint Anything,” keep reading the next article!

What's New
The Power to Create Classes - It's in You!

Alice Meyering

Italian instructor Silvia Masera promoting new class created with students

Painting instructor Bryan Ricci teaches the popular Paint Anything!

from the desk of Alice Meyering

Attention students and instructors: You have more power than you think. In fact, you have the power to give birth to a class - virtually any class your imagination can conjure up for you.

But there's a catch: Show us the money.

This might seem a bit crass, but it has to work this way. The good news is that new learning opportunities, new ways to express your creative self, and new classes that will take you to a higher level of accomplishment are being created out of student demand - and will continue to be offered.

For example, instructor Silvia Masera has taught Italian I and II, as well as Italian for Travelers, for several years. But that wasn't enough for her devoted students. So they asked Silvia for new classes that would take them to the next level, and she created Italian for Continuing Students, which debuted last summer.  But as more students clamored for more Italian, More Italian for Continuing Students was born, which began this week, because the students are willing to show their commitment to the class with payments.

Have you ever looked at art classes, and thought "Paint Anything!" sounds a little quaint?  Well, here is the story behind that class: in 2014, our art students requested to have an additional painting class -- any kind of painting class, it didn’t matter, and they gave us the tuition ahead of time to show their commitment and thus convinced their instructor they really wanted it. So, we found them a room and created this class which has been a grand success for the past four years.

In other instances, students have petitioned their instructors to teach a particular course but when it was time to sign up for the class, the 20 students who had expressed keen interest suddenly dwindled to one or two. That means the class had to be canceled and refunds had to be processed. And the two students who signed up were left with disappointment.

The simple fact is Community Ed is a self-sustaining program, which means we have to get enough enrollments to cover the cost of the instructors’ pay.

But think about it: If you like a class we offer and want more of it, and that enough of your fellow students feels the same way and willing to commit with payments to convince the  instructor who is available and willing, the class can happen! (Or, if you are an instructor with an idea and can get students, you, too, can start a class you’ve always wanted to teach.) You see what I mean by having power?

Behind the Scenes:
Everyone Has Trouble with Zippers!

Barbara Rain will be teaching Zippers and Collars classes

Sewing instructor Barbara Rain (left) working with student

Barbara Rain's SMC student's work at LA Mode, the annual SMC fashion show

For anyone who watches "Project Runway," it doesn't take long to find out that even the most experienced designers and skilled sewers have trouble with zippers. Collars can be equally problematic.

But beginning in March, anyone can take on the vexing challenge of zippers and/or collars in two new classes at SMC Community Ed.

Instructor Barbara Rain said the classes grew out of demand from the students in her popular Sewing Machine Boot Camp course. They wanted to take their sewing skills to a new level.

"Everyone has trouble with zippers," Rain said. "And collars can be tricky, and there are all kinds of collars."

Indeed. In the Collar Sewing Boot Camp description, three collar types are mentioned: the convertible collar, Mandarin collar, and classic two-piece shirt collar. (Who knew?). Similarly, the Zipper Intensive class description mentions a lapped zipper, a railroad zipper, and an exposed zipper.

Rain, who has taught Apparel Construction and Pattern Making in SMC's academic fashion program since 2007 and has taught Sewing Machine Boot Camp at Community Ed for more than a year, has an extensive background in constructing garments. Among other things, she a free-lance pattern maker and fit specialist but has also been teaching sewing in high school, college and other locations since 1984. She is also the Costume Designer and Coordinator for SMC's Synapse Dance Theater.

Rain said her Community Ed students come from a variety of backgrounds.

"Some are in the degree program at SMC," she said, "but most are in the community who are looking for something fun to do. I've even had several married couples take the class together, looking for something fun to do together."

The Zipper Intensive class begins March 2 and the Collar Sewing Boot Camp begins March 30.

In Spite of Rain, Open House a Great Success!

Michelle KingMichelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

Jonathan Leigh Solomon (right) shares a laugh with student at Open House

Instructor Barry Brennan shows drone to student Lucie Hronek

Despite the heavy rain, our 5th Annual Open House was a great success, with community members and students having an opportunity to meet instructors, watch mini-presentations on many classes, and receive 15 percent discounts for registering for a Spring Semester class that day.

In fact, 90 people attended the Open House, and registration revenues totaled more than $10,000 in the four hours we held the event Feb. 2 at our Bundy campus! We had food, we raffled off items, and we admittedly got a bit emotional to see the outpouring of support and affection for our program from the community.

We also got to hear directly from students who are fans of our program.

"I retired last April, so I'm really happy I can take these classes," said Ginny Tal of Santa Monica, who has taken Stone Carving and French classes at Community Ed and plans to take Italian and Poetry courses. "As a retired licensed social worker, I really value staying active, learning, and continuing to grow. If you just stay in your house, you're not going to age gracefully. You'll get depressed and unhealthy."

She said she also loves meeting her fellow students, where friendships can blossom.

Glenn Abbott, an award-winning writer for film and television, has taken several writing classes. He said the courses required him to persist with writing because he has to meet homework deadlines weekly. The Playa del Rey resident enjoys meeting fellow students and hearing their stories.

Abbott said he has taken screenwriting, blogging and comedy writing classes at Community Ed. He also took Jonathan Leigh Solomon's Stand-Up Comedy Workshop with Graduation Show and got to perform at The Hollywood Improv, the video of which he uploaded onto YouTube that has so far received more than 200 views without doing any promotion.

The more I get to talk to students, the more I find they have such extraordinary stories. And I am so gratified that our program is so valued - dare I say, even cherished - in our community.

Don't worry, if you missed our Open House, we still have plenty of classes lined up throughout our Spring Semester, which began a few days ago. Classes are staggered throughout the semester, so you have plenty of choices between now and June.

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career &
Contract Education


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