Arts Live Grants Benefit Ojai Artists

Ventura Arts Council Awards $12,769 to Amend, Bennett, and Rowe

What do an area hospital, at-risk youth, and threatened wildlife have in common? They will all benefit from the grants given by the Ventura County Arts Council last Thursday evening to eight local artists. The artists each designed an art program and partnered with a non-arts organization to receive the grants. The grants were all designed to address different community issues. Three of the Arts LIVE grants totaling $12,769 went to Richard Amend, Dianne Bennett, and Teal Rowe, all Ojai artists.

Teal Rowe, Richard Amend, and Dianne Bennett
Click to enlarge photo

Linda Harmon

Teal Rowe, Richard Amend, and Dianne Bennett

According to Amend, who had already been working with Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s “Operation Picasso” program, it seemed like a good fit. The program purchases local art to be hung in the hospital corridors and Amend will use his grant for the many hours required to curate and preserve the collection.

“Every time I go into the hospital, people gather and ask me questions about the art,” said Amend, who received a $5,000 grant. A successful artist in his own right, Amend added, “It’s rewarding to get a stipend and be recognized for the project. It means a lot.”

Bennett, who is partnered with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and the Ormond Beach Wetlands Preserve, received a $4,000 grant to complete paintings of threatened wildlife, which will later be published as prints and sold to benefit the organizations.

“I am doing the paintings on the back of an old oil sign I found,” said Bennett, noting the irony referring to the ongoing Gulf oil spill. She hopes her work will spotlight the importance of the rehabilitation and preservation of wildlife and our open spaces.

Rowe, who primarily works in glass, will partner with Oxnard community activist Armando Lopez to provide art classes for at-risk youth at Oxnard’s Downtown Center for the Arts.

“It will mainly be process painting,” said Rowe, who received a $3,769 grant and hopes to help students get at some of their problems and get their frustrations out. “I’ve been teaching at Juvenile Hall for over six months now and have seen some of the kids come through more than once. I felt there was a need to address these kids’ creativity on the outside. They can do some tremendous work, which comes straight from the heart.”

According to Hugh Ralston, the president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, the Arts Live program gave out more than $30,000 to eight individual artists’ collaborative projects and more than $90,000 to 15 nonprofits, recognizing outstanding performing, folk, and traditional arts projects.

Other artists included Michael Arndt, Joseph Castaneda, Toni Jannptta, Tesi Sanchrez-Halpert, and Andrea Vargas-Mendoza.

Two Ojai arts organizations won grants focused on performing, folk, and traditional arts. Brian Bemel and his program “Performances to Grow On” won a $3,500 grant for his “Together We Can Make a Difference In Story” project with Oxnard schoolchildren, and Theatre 150 Inc. won a $7,500 grant for an awareness campaign and ticket subsidies for Shakespeare in the Bowl. The other arts organizations grant winners were Bell Arts Factory, Bells Arts Factory for Vita Arts Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, Channelaire Chorus/Sweet Adelines International, City of Moorpark’s Active Adult Center, Conejo Valley Senior Concerns, Etc. Etc. Etc./Elite Theater Company, Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, Los Robles Master Chorale, Save Our Kid’s Music, Teatro de la Americas, Thousand Oaks Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Santa Paula Art Museum.

The Arts LIVE grant program was made possible in part by the James Irvine Foundation’s Communities Advancing the Arts and VCCF’s Community Response Fund. The Ventura County Arts Council is a nonprofit committed to supporting and strengthening the arts throughout Ventura County. To find out more, go to To find out more about the artists go to, and to find out more about Bemel’s organization go to

Information provided by Linda Harmon

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