Keeping arts in education

by Steven Llanusa

This past week has been great for arts education in Claremont. Friday was opening night of a ceramics exhibit in the Ginger Elliott Gallery at the Garner House. Works by students from both Claremont High and El Roble were featured.

Anne Mumper of CHS, Wendy Kubiak of El Roble and their students were helpful docents, explaining the process of multiple firings to create a finished piece. Visitors to the gallery also had an opportunity to glaze a tile that will be used in a new ceramic mural at the CHS garden. Some of the art works on display had been awarded prizes by the ArtReach program at the Fairplex, which showcased submissions from throughout LA and San Bernardino counties. Entries came from special needs students of Molly Goodreau at CHS and Ken Johnson at Danbury.

That Friday was also the first ComedySportz match in the new Don Fruechte Theatre for the Performing Arts, another aspect of our comprehensive arts program in Claremont. The CHS theatre department was also honored last Sunday night at the Jerry Herman High School Musical Theatre Awards of Los Angeles. The recent production of The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee earned First Place for Best Ensemble Performance. Krista Elhai accepted on behalf of the student performers, musical director Joel Wilson and choreographer DJ Gray.

At the Pantages, where the Jerry Herman Awards were presented, Arts Reporter for Channel 7 News George Pennacchio explained how important it was to recognize and preserve arts education in the schools. Although schools throughout LA County were represented, presenters and honorees acknowledged the low priority some districts place on arts curricula.

We are fortunate to have a community that holds art education as an important priority. Earlier this month, work by Melissa Wonacott’s graphic arts students was exhibited during the First Friday Art Walk at the Claremont Chamber of Commerce and Claremont Community Foundation offices. Partnerships with the colleges help to support high school students, who then act as mentors to elementary school students in art creation and appreciation.

Joel Wilson’s choral students performed Monday night at Little Bridges to a crowd so large that the balcony seating had to be opened! Additionally, boosters and parents perform countless hours of volunteer work. Almost every school board meeting includes the hiring of personnel who are paid all or in part by booster contributions.

 This booster and parental support were evident in Tuesday and Wednesday nights’ musical performances at El Roble. The gym was full both nights with friends and family of the student musicians. Students throughout the district, from CHS, El Roble and the elementary schools, came together for 2 nights of performance. As was pointed out by Lucas Critchfield and Melanie Riley-Gonzalez, students matriculate through the different levels of education, becoming increasingly proficient as they stay with the music program. Pat Kuenning and Charlotte Van Ryswyk noted that even first year students had improved vastly over their winter concert just 5 months earlier.

Many of the instruments used were supplied, maintained or subsidized by donations from the Claremont Educational Foundation. CEF is just another example of how our community works to support our arts education programs. Through the Get on the Bus Campaign each fall, the annual Prius raffle and the new eGood purchase program, the community working with CEF helps raise funds for visual, musical and performing arts.

 The next CEF event, in coordination with the Claremont Community Foundation, is “Mi Casa, Su Casa” on Sunday, June 2. Money raised will go not only to arts education, but also to help other programs throughout our community. Some of the student beneficiaries will be performing that night. Besides hearing from some students, guests at this event will also be able to sample wines, beers and edibles from several Claremont vendors. Tickets can still be obtained by visiting


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