Westmont Museum Raises Big $ With Small Artworks

 Large crowds flocked to the 5×5 exhibition in 2014, photo courtesy Westmont College.Large crowds flocked to the 5×5 exhibition in 2014, photo courtesy Westmont College.

An update from Westmont College : Small works of art from several hundred artists from around the country will be auctioned during “5X5: Celebrating Westmont College’s 80th Anniversary” at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The online auction will begin Thursday, Jan. 11, at westmontmuseum.org and last until Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. However, due to the destruction in the local community from mudslides, an opening reception will be delayed until Thursday, Jan. 18, from 4-6 p.m. The opening reception, which includes coffee and cake, is free and open to the public. This is the largest fundraiser of the year for the museum.

Several hundred small works of art from artists from around the country will be auctioned during “5X5: Celebrating Westmont College’s 80th Anniversary” at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art from Jan. 11-26.

The online auction kicks off with an opening reception on Thursday, Jan. 11, from 4-6 p.m., and bidding will continue until  Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. The opening reception, which includes refreshments, is free and open to the public.  (Event delayed due to flooding) All proceeds from the event will go towards the museum.Artists were invited to create a unique work of art on a five-inch square piece of paper which they received and returned to the museum by mail.

The exhibition features renowned artists Christo, Charles Arnoldi and Chris Raschka along with local luminaries Tony Askew, Mary Heebner, Penelope Gottlieb, Dane Goodman, Richard Aber and author T.C. Boyle.

In the past, the auction has raised upwards of $20,000 for the museum.

“We have been looking forward to bringing the 5×5 exhibition back and Westmont’s 80th Anniversary is the perfect way to celebrate,” says Judy Larson, R. Anthony Askew professor of art history and museum director. “It’s a great opportunity to support the museum’s programs, meet new artists and connect with old friends.”

For more information, visit westmontmuseum.org or contact the museum at 805/565-6162. Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art is located at 955 La Paz Rd. It is free and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed Sundays and college holidays.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 11, 2018.

Poetry: William Stafford Community Reading

William Stafford, courtesy photo.

William Stafford, courtesy photo.

The 11th annual  William Stafford Community Reading takes place at the First Crossing Day Use Area on Paradise Road in Los Padres National Forest at 2 pm on Saturday, January 28.

“This year’s featured readers are Enid Osborn, Ron Alexander, and the inspiring student poets from the Los Prietos Boys Camp,” says organizer Paul J. Willis, former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate and Westmont College Professor of English. 

“There are always a couple of featured readers, but anyone in attendance is also welcome to read a Stafford poem aloud,” Willis says.

Since 2007, Willis has hosted the Los Prietos Stafford Readings, an annual community reading of the poems of William Stafford at the First Crossing Day Use Area on Paradise Road in Los Padres National Forest. This is the former site of the Los Prietos Civilian Public Service Camp, where Stafford served as a conscientious objector during World War II. The First Crossing Day Use Area does not have an address, but it is almost directly across the road from the Los Prietos Boys Camp, 3900 Paradise Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93105. (In case of rain, meet a mile down the road at the Los Prietos Ranger Station, 3505 Paradise Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93105.)

Also on the horizon at 7:30 pm on Thursday, February 16, the young adult novelist Sara Zarr will read and speak in Kerrwood Hall at Westmont College (955 La Paz Rd.).  Zarr is the author of six novels, the first of which, Story of a Girl, was nominated for the National Book Award.

Both of these readings are free and open to the public. 

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 26, 2017.

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Gayle Beebe

Gayle Beebe, courtesy Westmont College

Gayle Beebe, courtesy Westmont College

When Gayle Beebe is inaugurated as the eighth president of Westmont College this weekend, he’ll speak on a subject dear to his heart: Global Education. But prior to that, he spoke to us about life at the college, his family, how he’s adapting to Santa Barbara, and Westmont’s facility upgrades.

LD: How did you end up in Santa Barbara?

GB: Years ago I was a consortium exchange student here … I really liked it and it really gave me a great vision for what my life could be. I never dreamed I would come back in this capacity, but quite a way down the road a position opened up. I was in a presidency at Spring Arbor University in Michigan. … I have always been kind of intrigued with Westmont, so it was just a great opportunity to serve others.

LD: Have you always felt you were called to academia?

GB: You know, not initially. I actually started out in ministry. I went to Princeton Theological Seminary after I was a student here and I was a pastor for five years …then did a dual degree in philosophy of religion and theology and business administration and strategic management at Claremont Graduate University.

… In 1992 I started working with Azusa Pacific University (as dean of the graduate school of theology) … that’s when I starting thinking academics and really enjoyed it a ton and then went from being a dean to being the president of Spring Arbor in 2000 and just enjoyed that kind of work.

LD: It’s interesting hearing about your background because it seems like a perfect fit for where you are now.

GB: Westmont has so many great strengths and first and foremost …it’s been a great experience, wonderful faculty, great students and a strong financial base. We need to strengthen the endowment but it’s strong. It’s a beautiful campus, with phase one construction coming, we’re excited to have an even more beautiful campus, great location, you know every constituent really loves Westmont. The community does, the board of trustees does, the alums do. … It’s just neat.

LD: So you’re in phase one of the construction?

GB: The beginning of that. We’re hoping to start construction this October and you know, there’s been litigation. We have a group that’s opposing us and we’re just working through all of that.

LD: Is it basically a facility upgrade as opposed to an expansion?

GB: We are not allowed to add any students. It is truly an effort to get a state-of-the-art campus. It’ll be marvelous but there is no interest, no conversation about raising the enrollment to above 1,200. I would like to long-term see us strengthen our global program because we have had some really unique distinct global programs and I’d just like to see us build those out more, but in terms of what happens in Montecito, we have 1,200 students.

LD: Assuming the lawsuit gets resolved, what visible changes will we be able to see on campus in the near future?

GB: We would like to get Adams Center for visual arts, our art program and studio. There will be a new chapel, the observatory, and a hall for math and science. Those will be additions. And then we’ll also be adding a dorm. We have a couple hundred students right now in triples and so we want to build an additional dorm so that we can have students housed in more conventional two to a room.

LD: Do all the students live here?

GB: Yes, they do. It’s one of our five planks in the mission statement … That residential piece I think is just so critical, it’s really important that the faculty live near the students so that they can have not just the contact during class but the informal contact with them away from class.

LD: Since you’ve taken over at the college, what’s been your biggest surprise so far?

GB: You know there’s no earth shattering surprises. The biggest surprise has been all of the conditions with phase one construction. I believe there are 116 conditions and it’s the way that they work out with each other. …They didn’t all get negotiated at once; they got negotiated over a seven-year period. I mean it’s a true act of perseverance that we got to this point.

LD: Do you have is there a facilities manager that oversees this?

GB: Yes, Randy Jones is our campus architect. The people who were here, Stan Gaede was the president and Ron Cronk was the VP of Finance. Ron really ran point on this and really shepherded it. Cliff Lundberg, the executive vice president has been deeply involved in it and Cliff is still here, and then my new VP of finance, Doug Jones, has really taken major responsibility for the operation of phase one. Doug came with me from Michigan. He’s just a brilliant, guy, great judgment, really hard worker.

LD: That’s a big project to take on.

GB: It is. We did a ton of building at Spring Arbor, we added 14 new buildings and remodeled 11 others and Doug oversaw all of those.

LD: Other than this the construction, what do you see as your biggest challenge?

GB: Every place has unique challenges and I think that there’s no reason to overreact … I think what we have to do is figure out how we’re going to space this so we have enough time to give us the biggest opportunity of raising the money we need and not for so long that one of the problems with building is you get inflation. If you don’t start building, eventually you lose so much from year to year that you will never catch up.

LD: It sounds like you’re very busy working, but what else do you like to do when you’re not working?

GB: Well I love being with my family, my children and being part of their sports and their academics, along with my wife. We enjoy going to the movies and I enjoy golfing. I enjoy going to the beach. … If I can find an excuse to drive Cabrillo along the beach from downtown I will, because I just love driving even that little stretch of East Beach. It’s just so inspiring.

LD: Is there sort of a first lady role for your wife at Westmont?

GB: There is and she helps and is the presence of the college at different events and on boards and committees. That hasn’t started in a huge way yet, but by the time we were done in Michigan that was a huge part of her job. I know her time here will continue to become more and more committed. It’s been great to have her more available this first year. She does a great job and to my benefit she just loves family and she’s great with people. People just love her and she’s great with them.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

GB: Energetic, fun loving and determined.

LD: If you could be invisible anywhere in Santa Barbara, where would you go and what would you do?

GB: I would probably go to East Beach and read a book

Vital Stats: Gayle Beebe

Born: Born and raised in Eugene, Oregon.

Family: Wife Pam; children Anna, age 15; Elizabeth (Liz), age 13; and Richard (Ricky), age 9.

Civic Involvement: The Channel Club, Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

Professional Accomplishments: President of Westmont College; former President of Spring Arbor University; former Dean of the graduate school of theology at Azusa Pacific University.

Little Known Fact: “I played the cello for seven years, I also play the piano.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on April 7, 2008

SB People: Randall J. VanderMey

Randall Vandermey in Santa Barbara Magazine

Randall Vandermey in Santa Barbara Magazine

Westmont College‘s popular English professor is more of a modern Renaissance man than a typical academic. With a blue-eyed twinkle and a sparkling turn of phrase, this Grand Rapids, Michigan, native who’s been at Westmont since 1990 can engage you in intellectual conversations about art, poetry and religion as fluidly and captivatingly as he can turn the dialogue toward the joys of getting down on the floor to play blocks with his 2-year-old granddaughter, Jasmine Marie.

Despite his many literary accomplishments–he’s written eight books, published short fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and produced three plays–VanderMey is really a teacher at heart, who describes the Christian liberal arts college as having “an atmosphere that’s really quite filled with trust and joy.”

It wasn’t always that way. “When I came to Westmont 16 years ago, I would say that, at best, the spiritual climate was sketchy,” says VanderMey, who credits the leadership of former President Stan Gaede (who left in 2005) for much of the turnaround.

These days, “People’s politics differ and religiously differ, maybe academic politics differ. But still my colleagues are people I could have lunch with, talk with, respect.”

A highlight of VanderMey’s professional and personal life was escorting 43 students through a semester in Europe in 2003, where they spent four months traveling through 23 cities in 12 countries. One of the best parts of the trip was spending a week each in four different religious communities: the abbey on the Isle of Iona in Scotland, where Celtic monks are believed to have produced the Book of Kells, a marvelous example of medieval illumination; Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in the United Kingdom; a Catholic monastery in Teze, France; and the Schloss Mittersill Study Centre in Austria, which VanderMey describes as a castle housing a Protestant evangelical community.

As a professor, VanderMey prizes and encourages independent thought. “I guess I have a model in my mind of what kind of student I want to produce–a student who’s a little bit contrary. They should be willing to stand up for themselves against what they read, not to be hostile to it, but to think for themselves,” says VanderMey. This idea, he acknowledges, “might surprise people who think of a Christian college as a place where students are taught to think in lock step. But that’s not how Westmont is and that’s not how I am at Westmont. I want to make them better critical thinkers and open-minded. I mean, if the Christian faith can’t stand up to critical thinking, why embrace it?”

That critical examination of faith is a recurring theme in VanderMey’s work. “I’m writing out of my core convictions, which is why things germinate for 10 years before I write them,” he says, over lattes at downtown’s Finestra cafe. While certainly heartfelt, his work is also a bit irreverent. For example, his 1993 book, God Talk, is a critical look at “the triteness and truth in Christian cliches,” taking on routine phrases such as, “God wants you to succeed,” “Act of God,” and “There must be a reason,” and examining what people really mean when they use them. Writes VanderMey: “The habit of using stock phrases can sometimes be not only a symptom, but also a cause of spiritual paralysis.”

Language, both spiritual and otherwise, is a topic close to VanderMey’s heart. He’s the author of The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing and Researching, which is now in its second edition. And locals may know VanderMey’s work from the 2004 production Kenosis, a theatrical staging of his spiritual poetry set to contemporary music, which played at the Center Stage Theater. He has also taught poetry writing classes (partnering with Peri Longo) at Hospice of Santa Barbara and is currently at work on another textbook, with the working title of The Contrary Reader.

He writes and teaches with the same zest for life he embraces with his family. VanderMey–who loves golfing and bowling–is an enthusiastic grandpa and 54-year-old father and stepfather to four grown children (Gabrielle VanderMey, Julia and Jason Clark, and Mike Sakkers), as well as the self-proclaimed “biggest fan” of his wife Dana VanderMey, who is the supervisor of volunteers for Hospice of Santa Barbara.

There’s never a dull moment at home, says VanderMey, whose daughter Gabrielle and stepdaughter Julia were both married in Santa Barbara this summer, coincidentally to two young men named Matt.

VanderMey, who once considered writing a book about marriage communication, chuckles at what kind of advice he might offer the newlyweds. An editor discouraged him from writing the book, asking why– with so many experts–they would want a marriage book from him.

There’s that twinkle in VanderMey’s eyes again. “I’m thinking about making it a humor book,” he says. “My wife (who can sometimes be found doing stand up comedy at Soho) is a very funny lady.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine

SB Magazine story on Randall Vandermey