New center would bring arts, technology and culture to the Salinas Valley.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
South county artists and community organizers are setting out to prove that the paintbrush and computer mouse are mightier than the sword (or gun, as the case may be). To this end, the Arts Council for Monterey County is partnering with the Center for Employment Training to create a hub for art and technology in Soledad.
On Dec. 11, the Arts Council and other community and business organizations will launch the South Monterey County Arts and Technology Center. In the future, organizers want the center to include a theater and space for animation, video and painting classes. They say the community benefits are many: art and tech career development, exposure to culture, alternatives to gang violence and economic stimulus for the Salinas Valley.
“We are hoping it will encompass from San Ardo all the way to Chualar,” says Carla Grace Baldassari, a retired principal leading the task force for the center. “We want to encompass everyone from all these small towns so that south county has an alternative instead of just hanging out in the streets and not doing anything constructive.”
Kira Carrillo Corser, director of arts and education for the Arts Council, says the center is much needed, especially since some schools have pared down art programs.
For the past three years, the Arts Council and Poder Popular have been supplementing the void in south county art education by organizing community art classes in Greenfield. In October the council helped bring the collaborative art classes to Soledad.
Soledad painter Sergio Sanchez was teaching through the Art Council’s innovative Professional Artists in the Schools program in Greenfield, but wanted to teach in his sleepy hometown. “That was my dream to do something here in Soledad because that is my community,” he says.
After reading about Sanchez’s dream in a newspaper article, Jacob Ruelas, director of CET in Soledad, called Sanchez and offered him a classroom. Inspired by the success of the Wednesday night class, Ruelas now wants to integrate art education into a new office building CET is developing next to the current facility at 930 Los Coches Drive.
“I want to get Soledad and this whole valley down here involved in culture,” Ruelas says. “We are going to teach kids that it is not wrong to be underneath a zebra suit. We have to open up their minds.”
Ruelas says art acts as a powerful substitute to gang violence, adding that the Dec. 2 shooting at a King City soccer game that left two sibling students wounded is a potent reminder of that challenge. “We are never going to stop violence,” he says, “but at least we can try to do our part.”
Ruelas says CET plans to build the new center within two years. The Arts Council and partnering organizations can use CET’s classrooms, but Baldassari says they will need grants and donations to cover the art programs.
Sanchez is already thinking big. “I know there are a lot of different students that want to draw. There are others that want to paint. There are others that like to sing. I want to have an art center with different classes.”
For now though, Sanchez’s students continue honing their painting skills in CET’s warehouse. They will exhibit their works for the first time Dec. 11 as community leaders launch the art center.