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Music and Art: Community Collaboration is Converging on Occidental!


Music and Art: Community Collaboration is Converging on Occidental

By Andrea Van Dyke

May is an exciting month for a cultural ‘Harmonic Convergence’ in the West County, as several of Occidental’s favorite community-based organizations collaborate to promote the arts, arts education and community.

Occidental Center for the Arts (O.C.A.), located at the former Harmony School campus, now called Harmony Village, was the brain child of local legends Doris Murphy and Kit Neustader, who envisioned a ‘Home for the Arts’ which would house the Occidental Community Choir and the Redwood Arts Council. Developers Orrin and Terri Thiessen gifted the fledgling non-profit with an auditorium and a classroom, and today O.C.A. is thriving after almost six years of producing a rich variety of music and dance, literary, film, theater and community events and classes; with a fine arts Gallery that hosts exhibits open to the public. On Friday, May 13th O.C.A. welcomes inspirational singer/songwriter/activist Holly Near and Barbara Higbie with Jan Martinelli. Anchor tenant Redwood Arts Council presents Telegraph String Quartet at O.C.A on May 21 ( Doris and Kit are surely smiling!

The Occidental Community Choir, locally famous for thirty-seven years, is soon presenting the Spring 2016 Concerts series: A West County Home Companion: Songs and Stories from the West Pole, opening Saturday April 30 @ 7:30 pm at O.C.A..  This ‘Community First Night’($10 Admission plus Family Sing) features the talented Thiessen Brothers (sons of Orrin and Terri!). Singer/songwriter extraordinaire Teresa Tudury and other guest artists will join the choir in this unique musical celebration of all things West County through May 8 at OCA and other venues. ( Directed by Andrew Del Monte, also Music Director at Analy High School, the choir continues to write it’s own heart-felt original compositions and is expanding in many directions. For the Winter Concert series in December 2016, the PR Committee decided to reach out to the student artists of our local Harmony School District for student artwork to display at these concerts , in recognition of the importance of visual arts in our schools and community culture.

Salmon Creek Charter School (Grades 2-8) sits alongside the relocated Harmony Elementary School on a beautiful 56-acre campus just south of Occidental. With four distinct environmental ‘habitats’ and a working garden, teacher Tanya Turneaure describes the school programs as ‘place-based’, with a focus on environmental studies. When Tanya arrived in 2011, the 7/8th grade had not been included in the parent-docent art program for K-6th; so she started Visual Arts as an Enrichment offering for a 6-week /1 hour a day rotation. Integrating art into humanities studies, Tanya helps the students understand the vital connection between cultures of the worlds and their art forms; as well as basic concepts such as composition, medium, and color. Vibrant rows of mandala-like Aztec designs hang above the desks. 

The  Winter-themed art works have been collected and will be reviewed by members of the Occidental Community Choir in the next two weeks. Selected works will be on display at the Winter Concerts and framed art raffled off to highest bidders, with the funds split between the student artists and the school. In another bit of collaborative luck, some remaining artworks will be submitted to Occidental Center for the Arts Gallery in early May for the annual Salmon Creek Student Art Show. Opening Reception to meet the artists and enjoy refreshments is Friday May 13 at 5:30 pm. As Tanya Turneaure explained: “Much of their art work ends up in a back pack. But when it is framed and mounted, admired and even purchased, it becomes an empowering experience for our student artists”. Collaboration doesn’t get any better than that!