The creative forces who brought life to Claremont in 2019

COURIER readers had another year of eclectic variation in their art and entertainment coverage, with everything from the retirement of local art collective the Gypsy Sisters to actor Martin Sheen gracing our pages.

The year began with the introduction of Chaparral Elementary School Principal Ann O’Connor, who spent 14 years at Sycamore Elementary, first teaching kindergarten, and then a second/third grade multi-age class.

January also saw our profile of David and Julie Armstrong, Claremont residents and founders of the American Museum of Ceramic Art, which opened its doors in 2004. For more than 60 years the Armstrongs have been building a world-class ceramics collection that is both comprehensive and eclectic.

In February we covered the Gypsy Sisters’ retirement, a story particularly close to us, given that one them—Jan Wheatcroft—is a longtime COURIER columnist. She and her art partner of 28 years, Helen Fuller, turned over the management of the collective to their friend and fellow Gypsy, Aleta Jacobson.

In March El Roble Intermediate School’s instrumental music program was dealt a blow when its enthusiastic young director, Taylor Estep, resigned after the cancellation of an ambitious—some say overly ambitious—trip to London. The scuttled excursion to take part in the 2020 London News Year’s Day Parade was to cost $740,000.

In May, Claremont native and current London resident Andrew Wenrick returned for his first hometown show, “Displacement Zero,” at Claremont Museum of Art. Imagine the most labor intensive work you’ve ever done, then shrink it down to the size of a millimeter and multiply that by several thousand, and you get the idea of the complexity of Mr. Wenrick’s art.

Also in May, the 11th Claremont Film Festival featured Earthrise, a documentary about the iconic photograph of the same name taken from lunar orbit by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders. The film documented the profound effect the Earthrise photo—released on Christmas Eve 1968—had on the Apollo 8 crew and the rest of the world. “It really undercut my religious beliefs,” Mr. Anders said.

As summer peeked around the corner, local nonprofit Crossroads brought celebrated actor Martin Sheen for a fundraiser at Claremont School of Theology. Mr. Sheen touted the power of faith, and the immeasurable positivity that can be unleashed when one “cracks their heart open” to do good for the oppressed, voiceless and underserved.

The COURIER saluted Claremont’s Honored Citizen Cindy Sullivan, who was feted as part of the city’s Fourth of July parade. Ms. Sullivan has been a familiar face around Claremont since arriving in 1983, logging countless hours as a volunteer for a wide spectrum of local nonprofits as well as civic and city organizations.

In July we read about Claremont City Councilmember and immigration lawyer Jed Leano’s work in Tijuana, Mexico with volunteer attorneys Al Otro Lado (“to the other side”). The nonprofit is a direct legal services organization that helps indigent deportees, migrants and refugees navigate the impacted and complex legal maze of seeking asylum in the United States.

In front of the new school year, we read about El Roble’s new music director Jeff Brown. He was raised in Claremont, grew up near the Village, attended El Roble, and graduated Claremont High in 1999. “I’m excited to be here,” Mr. Brown said. “This was the job I’ve been hoping to get since I started teaching.”

Acclaimed Los Angeles duo Dead Rock West—Cindy Wasserman and Frank Lee Drennen—brought their soulful country-rock-folk hybrid harmony to the Folk Music Center in August.

We got a real feel good story in September when we read about Sumner Danbury Elementary School’s brand-new, fully inclusive playground. “It’s been really wonderful to watch, to be out on the playground and have so many more of our students with mobility support to be able to access it,” said third-year Sumner Danbury Principal Brenda Hamlett. The school is home to more than 500 students, about 60 of whom have orthopedic and/or other health impairments.

Also in September Amy and Matt Burchell told us their moving story about undergoing gastric bypass surgery. Ms. Burchell recalled a pivotal discussion with her eight-year-old daughter. “I just told her, ‘You don’t want to be embarrassed of your mom, do you? All the other moms are fit, and they all go to school in yoga pants and look great.’ Well, I didn’t look like that. So I told the girls, ‘Mom’s going to be a lot healthier and we’ll be able to go places.’ It was just a no-brainer at that point. Everything had to change, just everything.”

In October Claremont based nonprofit Community Home Energy Retrofit Project, or CHERP, celebrated its most ambitious endeavor: the launch of the world’s first nonprofit solar panel assembly facility in Pomona. It will create some 200 living wage through high-level management position jobs, with entry-level workers making between $15 and $20 per hour.

Married Claremont residents Maggie Parkins and Jeff Gauthier’s band The Smudges made its local debut at The Press in November. With Ms. Parkins on cello and Mr. Gauthier on violin and electronics, the group combines original classical and jazz music with improvisation.

As the year wound down the COURIER published profiles of two local businesses: one just being born and another that has been going strong since 1978.

We Olive and Wine Bar opened its doors in the Village in November in the former Bamboo Tea House location. The store stocks California-grown olive oils sourced from small, family-owned farms, as well as balsamic vinegars.

In December we profiled Pomona’s Styles Music, which opened in 1978. Founder Lou Styles, who will turn 92 tomorrow—happy birthday Lou!—has been there since day one. His sons Lou Jr. and Gregg run the store today. “I started this store and I’ve been lucky enough to have two of the best sons that work their butts off for me,” Lou Sr. said. “I only come in to visit and say hello. They make all the decisions, especially this guy,” he said, gesturing to Lou Jr., “He’s my right hand man. And Gregg is my left hand man. And between the two of ‘em…” “…You don’t need no hands,” Lou Jr. joked.

—Mick Rhodes



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