Good and bad news continues to reverberate equally through Ventura County’s arts community as we approach the end of what has been a difficult year for many and promising for some. Michele DePuy Leavitt, executive director of the Thousand Oaks Regional Arts Museum, passed away suddenly two weeks ago, leaving behind a legacy of creativity and generosity in her efforts to advance the visual arts here. In addition to her many achievements, the former executive director of the Studio Channel Islands Art Center is credited with bringing national recognition to its artists. Her impact on people’s lives was as profound as her contribution to the art community. Her absence will be felt for a long while.

Sandra McCullough, owner of Sea Breeze Art Gallery and Studios in Ventura was forced to close her operation, home to upward of 20 artist studios at any given time, for financial reasons. McCullough will spend the rest of the year regrouping before she decides how to proceed, but she says more than 30 artists are looking for studio space and considering going with her to a new location, provided she can find something affordable.

Cal State, Channel Islands (CSUCI) unveiled its state-of-the-art production and post-production studio that will “facilitate the creation of new curriculum related to wide range of areas in the entertainment industry,” according to Jack Reilly, chair of the art program at the university. Thanks to a generous donation by politician, philanthropist and recording artist/producer Mike Curb, plans are in place to expand the art program into new media via the facility upgrade. Three students from CSUCI competed as finalists in the Cal State University Media Arts Festival that was held last week. Oxnard College is also stepping up with its recently completed, $23.7 million, 400-seat performing arts center, black box theater and television studio.

The Ventura County Ballet has teamed up with the Ventura College Orchestra, under the direction of Robert E. Lawson, for this year’s production of The Nutcracker with promises to be “bigger, better and more professional than ever.” Performances are Nov. 20 and 21.

Ojai Music Festival announced soprano Dawn Upshaw as the director for the 2011 event, which will feature the world premiere of a staging by Peter Sellars of George Crumb’s Winds of Destiny. The music festival will take place in June in the newly renovated Libbey Bowl.

The city of Ventura announced that the VCReporter’s own Chris Jay is the recipient of a 2010 city of Ventura Mayor’s Arts Award for emerging artist. Congratulations to Jay and the other recipients: Helen Yunker, arts patron; Jack Halbert, artist in the community; Sylvia White, creative entrepreneur; Margaret Travers, arts leader, and Bob Moskowitz, arts educator. They will receive their awards at a public reception on Nov. 18, 6 p.m. at the Museum of Ventura County.

Ojai Art Center Theater will hold auditions for Annie on Nov. 15 and 16. Actors are required to sing 16 bars of memorized music to show vocal range, and many will also be asked to execute dance steps learned during the audition. Contact Gail Jones by Friday, Nov. 12, at

Elite Theatre Company will hold auditions for Much Ado About Nothing Dec.6, 8, 13 and 14. Auditions are by appointment. Contact Tom Eubanks,

Ventura Improv Company is looking for new performers for its Friday and Saturday night shows in Ventura and for special events. Strong ensemble players versed in improv or experienced actors who want to learn are encouraged to audition on Thursday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m. Contact

Santa Paula Art Museum is looking for docents. This is a volunteer position that includes interfacing with visitors and running the gift shop. Training is provided. Contact Jennifer Heighton, 525-5554, or