Meet our Learning To See Outreach Teaching Artists!

All LTS Teaching Artists are professional, practicing artists with extensive educational experience.  This powerful combination enables us to impart a deeper understanding of the art making process on each student.  Learn more about Learning To See Outreach HERE.

Aimee French is a lifelong artist whose earliest memories are of being fascinated by shapes, edges and textures. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Having explored and worked in a wide range of mediums, a painterly quality marks much of her work, even when using the hardest materials. It is process oriented, and symbolism is often used. After many years of painting on silk and with oil, her current mediums are assemblage, felted wool and encaustic.  Aimee joined Focus on the Masters as the Learning to See Outreach Education Director in January 2011. Her extensive arts education experience includes class instruction, program development and management serving populations from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning levels.  Her experience in museum education, certification as a Social/Emotional Arts Facilitator and 7 years working in humane education has given her a broad insight into the importance of how and what we learn manifests in a student’s life. Her goal is to nurture inspiration and trust in one’s unique creative voice.

Visit Aimee at www.facebook.com/TheBouStudio/.

What led you to become an art teacher?
I wasn’t planning on teaching at all. I got pulled into it little by little. The rewards have been priceless.
What inspires you to make art?
I just love the process of creating something new. Feeling the textures, watching the colors blend and change depending on what you put next to it, getting my hands dirty. Being surprised.

Jessica Diaz is an artist currently attending California State University of Channel Islands majoring in art with an emphasis in animation. Narratives and story are her favorite aids to the arts, which are reflected in the of personality and character story of her work. She also works with the Santa Paula Art Museum as the current Assistant Art Educator. Growing up in Santa Paula, she acquired influence from the life of agriculture and a California setting. Her introduction into arts education came alongside her interest in museum culture, wanting to know the process of the artist’s work and their exhibitions in museums. She has taught in classrooms through Artist In Residency programs with elementary students, led school tours for k-12 grades, and taught children’s art classes through the Cole Creativity Center.

What led you to become an art teacher?  My biggest supporters in my artistic endeavor were my art teachers from elementary to high school, they left a big impact. Without their little push of guidance, I could’ve missed my chance at becoming an artist! Being an art teacher means I can be that beacon for the students who have yet to acknowledge their artistic persona. There is no greater gift than helping younger generations realize their creativity and the power they hold.

Why do you practice your chosen medium(s)?  I’m an artist who values studies over a final render; I like using watercolors, dry mediums like graphite and pastels, because they are done instantly unlike oil paints. Like impressionism they can give me a chance to color in the moment.

Gabriel Islas grew up in the coastal city of Oxnard, California. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting from Academy of Art University, San Francisco. After graduating, he moved back to his roots in Ventura County where he teaches oil painting courses for adults, teen art programs and workshops for kids through VITA Art Center, The Santa Paula Art Museum and the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Gabriel is a member of the California Art Club and has exhibited at the Santa Paula Art Museum’s ‘12th Annual Art About Agriculture’, the CAC virtual exhibit ‘Welcome toCalifornia’, and a dual-solo show at the Conejo Valley Art Museum. His current work expresses the drama of the Southern Californian atmosphere across the local landscape. Gabriel joined the Learning To See team in 2021.

Visit his webpage at gabrielislasart.com.

What led you to become an art teacher?  It was an early opportunity for me to surround myself in a professional artist environment where I could grow and help others in expressing themselves. 

What inspires you to make art?  Natural displays of light and color.  Capturing the dynamic interplay between light and shadow across the local landscape. 

Hobbies, interests outside of art?  Photography, Bass guitar and hiking.

Born and raised in Artesia, California, Jem Morris moved to San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art University. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in oil painting.  Throughout her collegiate career, Jem developed a fixation on the art of expression, particularly through traditional illustration, imaginative realism, and abstraction. She won 1st place at the Academy of Art University’s Spring show in the Undergraduate Abstraction category. In November 2019, Jem moved back to Southern California to pursue a full time career in art, eventually moving to Ventura to teach at various locations including Vita Art Center, Cole Creativity Center, and the Oxnard Performing Art Center. 

Visit Jem at instagram.com/jemfinearts.

Why do yo practice your chosen medium(s)?  I love the quality and viscosity of oils as well as its lengthy dry time. It allows me to make easy corrections and render with plenty of implied texture. 

What inspires you to make art?  As early as I can remember, I have felt like an artist. I remember writing in 1st grade that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. It has always been a lifestyle for me to create, and a healthy method of expressing what is important to me in this world. 

Jann Realica

What inspires you to make art? Nature, cultural traditions from the Philippines, and my social environment. Growing up in Oxnard and in Las Vegas, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different art styles. Being around other artists inspires me to create work.

Why do yo practice your chosen medium(s)? I am a multidisciplinary artist that works with yarn, acrylic paint, graphite, wood, and even skin. I’m currently a tattoo apprentice and learning how to perform body art. As well as being a student at California State University Northridge, I’m encouraged to explore different mediums.

What led you to become an art teacher?
As a former dancer and leader, I enjoyed watching myself and others grow. One of my former professors, Christine Morla, has inspired me to pursue art education as well. I love having the opportunity to help others achieve their goals and aspire more creativity.
What is the latest thing you’ve been working on?
I’ve been working on a series of wooden pieces that illustrate Filipino culture. Two of which, along with other works, have been included with Oxnard College’s permanent collection. My goal is to showcase more Filipino narratives that usually go underrepresented.
Hobbies, interests outside of art?
Dancing, gardening, weight lifting

Elizabeth Souza life’s path has given her the opportunity to work in many artistic genres. She is a painter, fiber artist, craft teacher, published writer, and dancer. Her work is influenced by her diverse cultural background as an immigrant from the Netherlands of mixed ancestory. She holds a BA in Art with an emphasis in painting from California State University Channel Islands, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree from California State University Northridge.  

Visit Elizabeth at elizartist.cominstagram.com/elizabethsouzaartist and facebook.com/ElizabethMahinaMakesStuff

What led you to become an art teacher? I’ve always wanted to teach art, probably because when I was in high school I had such an inspiring teacher.  Pass it forward right? I’d like to share that kind of experience with other people.
What is the latest thing you’ve been working on? Right now, a lot of water color paintings. I’m also drawing a lot, which I compare to ballet for dancers, it’s the basic training that keeps you sharp.
Hobbies, interests outside of art? Knitting! I love knitting. I’m making a sweater, and a hat. And also spinning yarn, which is a very meditative activity.

WAYS TO GIVE

Your donations support the programs that are at the heart of the FOTM’s mission…

 to document and archive extraordinary artists and their work through photographic portraits, audio and video interviews and biographical research that encompass each artist’s experiences, artistic reflections and development; and to present this work to a broad public through extensive education outreach to all ages – including at-risk youth through our Learning to See Youth Outreach program, Art & The Creative Spirit Enrichment Program for Seniors, a public monthly Artist Spotlight Series, exhibitions, publications, website and an extensive resource library.

CONTACT

Focus on the Masters Archive & Library
505 Poli Street, Suite 310, Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 805.653.2501
Email Us

CONTACT

Focus on the Masters Archive & Library
505 Poli Street, Suite 310, Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 805.653.2501
Email Us

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

Donna Granata

Donna Granata

Founder and Executive Director

Donna Granata is the Founder and Executive Director of Focus on the Masters (FOTM), a highly respected non-profit educational program documenting contemporary artists. Founded in 1994, the goal of FOTM is to demonstrate the importance of the arts to society by bringing highly accomplished artists to the forefront of the community. The program presents its research to a broad public through photographic exhibitions, the Artist Spotlight Series, a video-taped interview series, Learning To See educational outreach to schools and youth centers. Focus on the Masters has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of its outstanding contributions to arts education including the 2005 inaugural Ventura Mayor’s Art Award – Arts Educator and the 2007 Ventura County Arts Council Art Star Award. Focus on the Masters is recognized as one of the leading arts organizations in the state of California.

In addition to her ongoing lecture series for Focus on the Masters, Donna teaches classes for the Road Scholar Elderhostel International including an Introduction to the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Roman Villa. Special lectures trace the careers of photographer LIFE Horace Bristol and painter John Nava, creator of the tapestries commissioned for the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA. In addition, she has lectured for the journalism department at UCLA on the ethics of photography. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2005 by Elderhostel International.  Among her most recent awards is the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the City of Ojai, CA.

An accomplished artist in her own right, Donna Granata is an internationally published and award winning painter turned photographer.  Her photographs have been displayed across the United States.  Selected works from her FOTM portrait series are housed in the Smithsonian's Archive of American Artists; in the photographic Collection of the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York and other public institutions that house the personal archives of the artists documented.

Donna received a Bachelor’s of Art Degree and Honorary Masters of Science Degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography where she was an adjunct professor in the Portrait Department. She received a Master’s Degree in Arts Journalism from USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, graduating with honor. Granata is listed in Marquis Who’s Who of American Women.

Aimee French

Aimee French

LTS Education Director

Aimee French is a lifelong artist whose earliest memories are of being fascinated by shapes, edges and textures. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Having explored and worked in a wide range of mediums, a painterly quality marks much of her work, even when using the hardest materials. It is process oriented, and symbolism is often used. After many years of painting on silk and with oil, her current mediums are assemblage, felted wool and encaustic.
Aimee joined Focus on the Masters as the Learning to See Outreach Education Director in January 2011. Her extensive arts education experience includes class instruction, program development and management serving populations from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning levels.
Her experience in museum education, certification as a Social/Emotional Arts Facilitator and 7 years working in humane education has given her a broad insight into the importance of how and what we learn manifests in a student’s life. Her goal is to nurture inspiration and trust in one’s unique creative voice. See Aimee’s latest works at www.facebook.com/TheBouStudio/.

Christine Beirne

Christine Beirne

Office Manager

Chris has been volunteering for FOTM off and on for the last 27 years. She was the marketing director for a horticultural firm and then, once she earned her B.A. in Studio Art, she became the marketing director for Buenaventura Art Association. After a few years, she was offered the position of Executive Director and utilized her management, artistic and computer skills to grow fundraising and membership. She is currently an Ojai Studio Artist and is on the board as well. When Chris isn't working on the computer, she's painting. You can view her work at www.ChristineBeirne.com.

Jessica Diaz

Jessica Diaz

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Jessica Diaz is an artist currently attending California State University of Channel Islands majoring in art with an emphasis in animation. Narratives and story are her favorite aids to the arts, which are reflected in the of personality and character story of her work. She also works with the Santa Paula Art Museum as the current Assistant Art Educator. Growing up in Santa Paula, she acquired influence from the life of agriculture and a California setting. Her introduction into arts education came alongside her interest in museum culture, wanting to know the process of the artist's work and their exhibitions in museums. She has taught in classrooms through Artist In Residency programs with elementary students, led school tours ranging from k-12 grades, and taught children’s art classes through the Cole Creativity Center.

Gabriel Islas

Gabriel Islas

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Gabriel Islas grew up in the coastal city of Oxnard, California. He obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting from Academy of Art University, San Francisco. After graduating, he moved back to his roots in Ventura County where he teaches oil painting courses for adults, teen art programs and workshops for kids through VITA Art Center, The Santa Paula Art Museum and the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Gabriel is a member of the California Art Club and has exhibited at the Santa Paula Art Museum’s ‘12th Annual Art About Agriculture’, the CAC virtual exhibit ‘Welcome toCalifornia’, and a dual-solo show at the Conejo Valley Art Museum. His current work expresses the drama of the Southern Californian atmosphere across the local landscape. Gabriel joined the Learning To See team in 2021. Visit his webpage at gabrielislasart.com.

Jamie (Jem) Morris

Jamie (Jem) Morris

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Born and raised in Artesia, California, Jem Morris moved to San Francisco to study at the Academy of Art University. She obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in oil painting.  Throughout her collegiate career, Jem developed a fixation on the art of expression, particularly through traditional illustration, imaginative realism, and abstraction. She won 1st place at the Academy of Art University’s Spring show in the Undergraduate Abstraction category. In November 2019, Jem moved back to Southern California to pursue a full time career in art, eventually moving to Ventura to teach at various locations including Vita Art Center, Cole Creativity Center, and the Oxnard Performing Art Center.  Visit Jem at instagram.com/jemfinearts.

Elizabeth Souza

Elizabeth Souza

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Elizabeth Souza life’s path has given her the opportunity to work in many artistic genres. She is a painter, fiber artist, craft teacher, published writer, and dancer. Her work is influenced by her diverse cultural background as an immigrant from the Netherlands of mixed ancestory. She holds a BA in Art with an emphasis in painting from California State University Channel Islands, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree from California State University Northridge.  Visit her webpage at www.elizartist.com.

Jo Ellen Lee, PhD

Jo Ellen Lee, PhD

Volunteer Office Staff: Executive Assistant

Data Entry, Statistical Analysis
Master Beader, Expert in Medical Genetics, Ret.
Email: JoEllen@FocusOnTheMasters.com

Gale Willhite

Gale Willhite

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Paralegal, Ret.

Fran Stewart

Fran Stewart

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Accountant, Ret.

Laurie Peterson

Graphic Designer

Peterson Graphics
Community Affiliations: Museum of Ventura County; Ventura County Agriculture Museum

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation