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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Davis Art Center improves business with grant money

The Davis Art Center (DAC), located on 1919 F St., has steadily been professionalizing its programs. About a year and a half ago the James Irvine Foundation – a provider of grants to nonprofit organizations across California – awarded the center with $225,000 over a course of three years.

“We have a new mission,” said Executive Director of the DAC Erie Vitiello. “The original mission started in 1959 and was a loose collection of artists and their students; it was really about teachers teaching art and students learning about art.”

Vitiello said the DAC is more of a hub for creativity to thrive.

“The Davis Art Center is a gathering place for dynamic engagement of the arts,” she said. “For multidisciplinary classes and programs for the regional community the art center inspires creative expression in people of all ages and fosters an environment for the arts to flourish.”

As a multidisciplinary arts center, visual arts classes along with dance and drama classes are offered over a span of three semesters — fall, winter/spring and summer. The center’s more popular classes consist of ballet, ceramics and general visual arts.

“We have all kinds of different classes for all ages,” Vitiello said. “It’s always been for kids all the way to seniors.”

Vitiello said that is what makes the center somewhat unusual.

“There are very few places in this region that have all of those disciplines together,” she said.

This summer the DAC will host Discovery Art — an interactive art exhibit designed to incorporate families and the community.

“The first year of the grant was mainly to pay for a consultant to write a five-year strategic plan,” Vitiello said. “The second year of the grant [is] mainly to do a pilot program of the Discovery Art program. And the third year of the grant, which starts this coming October, would be to continue that new family programming based on some evaluations we will do with the pilot program and to redesign our website.”

Publicity and Development Manager for the DAC Crystal Lee said the launching of the Discovery Art program was based on users’ survey results.

“This year’s theme is ‘Cross-Pollination’,” Lee said. “It will be a free, interactive family program that will last several weeks.”

Lee said the center plans to continue the Discovery Art program annually with a different theme every year.

According to Vitiello, there are about 65 teachers who teach year-round and 300 classes per semester. The teachers are independent contractors and plan their own fees and class times.

“One of the things that’s interesting about the art center and why the center has survived these 52 years is because our teachers are not employees of the art center,” Vitiello said. “They get 60 percent of the class fees and the center gets 40 percent.”

Linda Fitz Gibbon, a ceramics teacher at the DAC, said she enjoys working with different age groups.

“In general, I encourage students to work individually; no two pieces look the same,” Fitz Gibbon said in an e-mail. “It is rewarding to help people to be creative in their own way. Working in clay can be therapeutic and the results, whether functional or sculptural, are empowering.”

Vitiello said the center is looking into creating satellite locations in Downtown Davis.

“I’d love for the art center to have a location downtown — a satellite location for adult and college student art classes,” she said. “But figuring out how to make a business model to make that work is a long-range goal of ours.”

Vitiello said they would like to have UC Davis students volunteering or taking part at the center.

“It’s not just for families, old people or kids,” Vitiello said. “It’s for everybody.”

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org

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