Important Message from Our Founder
My Dear FOTM Family,
Thank you for your generous support for FOTM’s Arts Archive & Library over the past year and beyond. It is because of your generosity that we have been able to build a unique archive of primary source material, specific to our region, that will contribute to the legacies of the documented artists and enrich generations to come.
These past years have been increasingly challenging. Not only in the nonprofit sector, but for those of us enduring personal grief, health challenges, and community transformation. For FOTM, at the first sign of unpredictability, we batten down the hatches to minimize any risk to the security of our extraordinary collection. We prioritize our limited resources where they’re needed most- the education of our youth.
Under the exemplary leadership of Aimee French, FOTM’s Learning to See (LTS) Outreach has seen unprecedented growth during the pandemic, reaching more students than we have in our 28-year history. The more than 3,000 students LTS is serving this school year reflects a 220% increase since the first year of the pandemic and prompting the necessity to increase our Teaching Artist team to six. When we teach about the local artists, students gain an understanding of connection to community. The artists are living, breathing role models, that allow these students to aspire to greater heights. The goal of LTS is not to generate a new generation of artists, (although we would love that!) but to generate creative thinkers, problem solvers, and inclusive individuals who celebrate individuality and the diversity of our humanity. For me this has always been the bedrock of FOTM.
Among our major highlights this past year was the Community Impact Project: A collaborative art project and installation giving voice to historically underrepresented populations in Ventura County. Funded by the California Arts Council, the Impact Project culminated in a group art installation featuring collaborative works by members of the Immigrant, LGBTQ+, and Black communities of Ventura County.
The collected artworks were displayed at the Ventura County Government Center in a customized installation, conceived, designed, and built by project participants, local artists and the FOTM team. Workshops were conducted throughout the year to not only produce the work but also engaged leadership from each community informing the fabrication and installation of the work.
Educational panels accompanied the exhibition to help underscore the personal narratives, giving us a broader, more sensitive, and nuanced understanding of our community. To watch a short video about the Community Impact Project, click HERE.
The important work of maintaining FOTM’s Arts Archive & Library continues as many of our beloved artists have passed. FOTM is an invaluable resource that keeps growing every day preserving history for generations to come. As the great archivist, Jean Favier once said, “For archivists the most important thing is not that history can always be written as it happens, but that we should never lose the possibility of writing it.” Together, we truly do capture the history of our cultural community.
FOTM has been working on visioning, sustainability, and succession for years now. I finally found an apprentice, Chelsea Cody, who will be working closely with me as I transition behind the scenes.
Referred to us by FOTM documented artist Elyn Zimmerman, Chelsea joined our team in 2022 as a Learning to See program assistant. Chelsea earned her MFA in Studio Fine Art in 2019 from the Art Center College of Design. With a background in journalism, political theory, and gender studies she carves a circuitous path in pursuit of a more resilient and life-affirming creative existence. Utilizing writing, photography, collage, sculpture, and performance, her interdisciplinary practice is rooted in the confrontation of the commonplace – questioning the status quo. Drawing on her interests in philosophy, social justice, power dynamics and identity, she is continuously asking why, to what end, and most importantly, what else could be? The latter being the most important question for FOTM. She is the ideal candidate to bring FOTM’s next chapter to fruition.
It’s hard to let go of something one deeply loves. But I realize for FOTM to flourish and truly reach the goals we all know are in our future, I must pass the torch to the next generation to bring FOTM to its full potential. This decision was difficult. But my own attention has been consumed by the health and wellbeing of my own family.
In my heart, I am an educator. Passing on my knowledge will be a joy. Seeing the FOTM Arts Archive & Library flourish will be the greatest reward to the years I dedicated to the arts community. After 28 years at the helm, I am ready to transition and pass on my knowledge in the same fashion as my mentors educated me – through experience.
Your SUPPORT now means more than ever. This next year will be a year of apprenticeship, strengthening partnerships and fostering audiences beyond our own community. With your continued support, the foundation on which we all built will flourish.
With love, gratitude, and best wishes for the year to come,
Focus on the Masters Arts Archive & Library