New Gallery Puts Spotlight on Student Art

It's not the Getty, but it opens earlier, and finding a parking spot is a piece of cake.

Art enthusiasts have a new gallery in Ventura County that they can drop in on for a quick art fix as early as 7:30 a.m. every weekday.

The Schools Art Gallery in Camarillo is permanent and will show works of art by students in Ventura County schools.

The grand opening this week of the gallery, located in a sun-filled atrium at the county superintendent of schools office, showcased dozens of paintings by artists ranging from first-grader Wendy Fierros from Will Rogers Elementary School in Ventura to Ventura High School senior Jayme Vineyard.

This month, 39 artists from the Ventura Unified School District are featured. In future months, other school districts will be in the spotlight.

At the opening, elementary kids brought their moms, dads and grandparents to see their art professionally framed and hung in the gallery. High schoolers brought friends.

County schools chief Charles Weis, in tandem with visual arts educator Patricia Robinson, dreamed up the idea of a countywide schools gallery.

"The arts in public schools have been whittled away," said Weis, whose office is down the hall from the gallery.

He said the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" illustrates the concern he has felt for years about budget reductions.

"In the post-Sputnik era, they dropped the requirement that all teachers had to be able to play at least one musical instrument and focused just on math and science," Weis said. "Consequently, many of our teachers in elementary education today are not trained in the arts."

Recently, though, there is new ammunition as to why more arts education is needed in schools, with the release of a state report that shows that kids who take arts education also do better in math, reading and writing, Weis said.

"So even if you're back-to-basics, the arts are part of it."

The gallery, he said, is a symbol of support for a renaissance in art education.

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