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Local School District Seeks to Make Deal

on December 2nd, 2008 by mark

Originally published in Ventura County Star, November, 2008

Camarillo City officials confirmed that they are in preliminary negotiations with the Pleasant Valley School District regarding the future use of the former Pleasant Valley School site on Ventura Boulevard in Camarillo.
The abandoned school building has been tapped by the Studio Channel Islands Art Center or SCIART as its next possible home. “We’re working to get into the old Pleasant Valley School site. We think that would be a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Michelle DePuy-Leaviitt, the gallery director for SCIART. “We are working with the city, our board members and our relocation team to find a new home, but there’s no doubt that our number one choice is Old Town.” Currently, SCIART is located on the Cal State Channel Islands campus where it has been for 10 years leasing a small building there, though they are not affiliated with the university in any other way. “They’ve been very gracious to us, but we’re sort of out of the way out here,” said DePuy-Leavitt.
Old Town Camarillo has been undergoing renovations for the past 12 years with mixed results. Much of the frustration centers around the abandoned school site. “We would be very pleased to have the art studio come to Old Town,” said Jerry Bankston, Camarillo’s City Manager. “We’ve met with them and discussed it and we’ve had preliminary meetings with the school district as well.” Bankston commented that the school site is large enough to house several groups. “We’ve talked about having various kinds of groups including a performing arts center and some other things,” Bankston said. He also indicated that talks with the school district are going very slow. “Working through their bureaucracy can at times be limiting. Understandably, they’ve been pretty focused on unification and this issue isn’t at the top of their agenda just yet,” he added.
“We’re encouraging partnership with some other groups,” said DePuy-Leavitt. “It could be home to three or more groups and really become a focal point for arts in Camarillo.” As of yet, SCIART is discussing partnership with several other arts groups including the Rubicon Theater Company, though nothing has yet been decided.
SCIART is the primary sponsor of the Camarillo Art and Jazz Festival, which was held this year on Ventura Boulevard. Founder and SCIART board member Maggie Kildee considers the event a success. “We drew in about 10,000 people to Old Town with the festival and we got a lot of feedback from the restaurants and the businesses telling us they sold a lot more meals or had a lot more foot traffic,” said Kildee. “We want to support Old Town merchants,” Kildee added. “And if we were situated in that school, we’d draw in more people.”
Kildee pointed to the growth of Cal State Channel Islands as another motivation for moving. “The university is growing and we’re going to lose the building we’re in here. They’ve offered us another building, but that’s more temporary,” she said. “We’d have to do a lot of upgrading of that building and besides, the university will continue to grow. We feel we’d be better off in Old Town.”
SCIART offers art classes for adults and children, seminars and field trips for students, artist talks and presentations and works with local schools and colleges to bring art education to the public.

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