Making Waves: Save the Art Culture (S.T.A.C.)

imagejpeg_0_26By Sahhar Tashakori

In the world of art and its culture, there are people who see it being neglected. Many of them are artists who know  change has to happen to preserve what they love so deeply.  However, there aren’t enough who are willing to put forth the effort to ignite an interest for their work.

One of the few who are fighting to change this is Save the Art Culture (S.T.A.C.) founder, Angelina (Gee Gee) Ontiveros.  She is an Oxnard native who has lived her entire life in Ventura County.  She’s seen the struggles firsthand in her fellow artists.

The inspiration for founding S.T.A.C. came in 2011 when Ontiveros’ good friend, Carlos Gonzalez Sr., ASG Student President for Oxnard College, revealed the Board of Directors made the decision to cut a large portion of classes from the college to offset budget cuts. Her art department was one of the casualties. “He told me that I needed to ‘start doing something about it’,” she said. “He urged me to start talking to the people on campus.”

She knew that change was necessary but was reluctant to put herself into the limelight.  “I didn’t think I had the power to make this sort of change,” Ontiveros admits. “I kept thinking that somebody else could do it. Somebody else would get out there and make it happen.”

However, she would quickly realize that this wasn’t the case. Oxnard College classes such as art, business, accounting,  dental hygiene, automotive, law, physical

Angelina (Gee Gee) Ontiveros - Founder S.T.A.C.

Angelina (Gee Gee) Ontiveros – Founder S.T.A.C.

education, film, music, and ceramics were still threatened with the budget cuts, and no one was moving to save them. With encouragement from the student body president, Gee Gee Ontiveros started spreading the word, sneaking into art rooms between classes, putting up colorful posters she made herself, boldly stating: “Save the Art Classes” and “Peace of Art”. Students didn’t know they could lose these classes.

“Nobody knew who had put the signs up,” Gee Gee says with a nostalgic smile, “but people started talking about it and all of the sudden everybody seemed to know. People were even going door-to-door in the surrounding neighborhoods telling people. It even came up in class one day, so I admitted to my friends that I was the one that had put them up.”

A petition was started to save the classes, and people all throughout the community rallied around her newly formed Save the Art Culture group – an organization dedicated to protecting the art and artists of Ventura County. The petition accumulated over one thousand signatures.

On November 17, 2011, the “We Love Oxnard College” forum with the Legislators, Trustees and the Administrators, was held and the subject of the threatened classes came up. Over five hundred people gathered to witness the exchange.

As a result of the awareness Ontiveros and S.T.A.C raised between the months of September and December of that year, the Art Department and automotive classes were saved, along with dental hygiene, law, and business classes. Ceramics and music unfortunately, were cut a year later.

“I can’t believe they wanted to cut business classes,” she said. “How can we teach the students of our community how to support themselves and make good business choices without business classes? It’s ridiculous.”

Ever since it’s founding, S.T.A.C. has been making waves in the Ventura County community. Before the victory for Oxnard College classes, Save the Art Culture has hosted countless events, including the one in December of 2011 called ‘Peace of Art’, a four-room, self-funded, unadvertised collage of over fifty artists from Oxnard and Ventura that was featured in the winter Oxnard Art Walk, which over two hundred people came to see.  In 2012 S.T.A.C. became active in ‘Boulevard Nights’ in Thousand Oaks every month, where local artists and musicians showcase their talents, along with a giant Halloween glow-in-the-dark maze in October. March of 2013 saw S.T.A.C. celebrating women with their event ‘Las Diosas’, which brought attention to the female artists in the Ventura County area. 2013 also saw the founding of Save the Art Culture: Kids, or S.T.A.C.K., which is focused on exposing the younger generations to art through events featuring story time, art classes and theater.

2014 sees the members of S.T.A.C. (which is estimated at twenty-five official and forty unofficial members) being busier than ever. Just in the first two months of 2014 held a February Valentine’s Day showcase called “Love, Hate, and Everything in Between” in Oxnard, where they collaborated with three Oxnard College clubs (Club Mecha, OC Fashion Club, and Oxnard Student Digital Film Fest) to bring delights to the showcase such as “The Dating Game”, sellable and edible gifts made by the clubs, and a free photo booth. February also found S.T.A.C. fighting for the rights of artists again when they gathered at Oxnard City Hall, where they secured twenty-five thousand dollars in grants for Oxnard artists.

From Ontivero’s speech given at the Oxnard City Council: “Many artists in our city need a little help to get on our feet. We need an opportunity within our own city. I have so many amazing and talented artists have to leave to have a chance at success. But I have also heard some people say that Oxnard has many incredible artists and that our art community is wonderful. I want to make sure it not only keeps that reputation but that our art community flourishes even more.”

Ontiveros said: “We’ve been to Santa Barbara, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Ventura – S.T.A.C. has been everywhere, spreading the message of art and showing people that art and artists exist in every aspect of the community, not just in museums. We’ve even brought in artists that aren’t majoring in art. We awakened something within them and they wanted to be a part of it. That’s what art does. It brings people together.”

Future events include S.T.A.C. Kids collaborative project in March, “Homeless Children Awareness” which will take homeless children in the community and not only raise awareness of their situations, but give them free art instruction.  In April it’s a “‘Rock Show”, which will explore the different types of rock music and how it’s evolved through the years along with body painting, live models, and a custom bike show featuring local designers.

As for the future of S.T.A.C.,  Ontiveros hopes it will become a non-profit organization – an “artist sanctuary, where people can come together and build opportunity through a love of art.”

S.TA.C.’s upcoming event on March 22nd:


Sahhar Tashakori, a Ventura local, is an avid member of both the art and flow communities, writing, playing, and always willing to share the joy she feels through art and all its forms every day.

 Angelina “Gee Gee” Ontiveros, is an Artist and Event Coordinator, born and raised in Oxnard, California. She is also CEO/ Founder of S.T.A.C.: Save the Art Culture, with a dream and passion to rebuild and preserve the art culture of her humble community.

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George miller

Sahhar- nice job- very informative