by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Help The Collection honor local heroes

The Collection at RiverPark invites the local community to contribute to a planned monument wall honoring essential employees who continue to work outside the home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Collection is collecting photos and messages of appreciation for hospital staff, grocery store employees, gas station workers, police officers, firefighters and all other essential employees. Photos and messages can be emailed to through May 22. For submission guidelines, rules and more information, visit

Camp Quarantine

High Street Art Center’s April production of In the Heights has been canceled, but the show goes on for theater-loving kids with Camp Quarantine. High Street has transitioned its youth theater

High Street Arts Center remains empty save for a single ghost light, but has a full schedule of classes available online.

program online, with limited class sizes and the use of tools like Zoom and Google Classroom for learning and participation. “All sessions are recorded, both to capture unexpected inspirations and for us to learn how to be better,” General Manager Ken Rayzor explained in an April 29 email. Some of the details are still being worked out, and adjustments will undoubtedly be made along the way, but classes currently available are Beginning Acting, Intermediate Acting, Advanced Acting, Beginning Musical Theater Dance, Intermediate/Advanced Musical Theater Dance and Comedy and Stand-Up. Private music instruction will be offered as well. 

As far as reopening goes, High Street is relying on a “rolling start” model for its “return season.” Matilda is on schedule for October, but if the theater can’t operate as planned in the fall, it will move its start date to December with Christmas Magic, January with The Sound of Music, and so on. 2020/2021 season tickets are now half off; return season subscription packages will be announced soon. High Street will continue to plan productions into 2022.

For more information, visit, check out the theater’s Facebook page or call 805-529-8700.

Vita Art Center is accepting submissions for its Truly Exquisite collaborative art exhibit.

Exquisite Ventura County

Vita Art Center is currently looking for artists to participate in Truly Exquisite 2020: A Community Collaborative Art Project and Exhibition. It is based on the Surrealist art game Exquisite Corpse, whereby words or images by a variety of collaborators are collectively assembled.

Participants will be provided with four 8-inch-by-10-inch canvas panels, instructions and a template for each section of a figure (head, upper torso, lower torso, feet). Artists can create any image in any medium as long as they follow the templates to maintain continuity.

Pieces displayed in Truly Exquisite will be made up of four panels, each of which is made by a different artist. Final pieces will be revealed on June 27 online and at Vita Art Center’s pop-up gallery, as safety regulations permit. 

To register and for more information, visit




Touching base with ACCV

The Arts Council of the Conejo Valley is reaching out to its local art community for stories, creative solutions, advice on dealing with the current restrictions and stresses caused by the COVID-19 health crisis and the kinds of help or assistance that would be most valuable at this time. 

“We’d like to gather this information to share with all of our members so that we can learn from each other as we manage through this crisis,” said Ed Smart, ACCV president, via email. While Smart noted that many events — including the Conejo Arts Jubilee and the Conejo Cottontail celebrations — have been cancelled or rescheduled, Legacy Scholarships will still be awarded in time for the 2020-21 academic year. 

Conejo Valley artists can share their thoughts with Smart by emailing him at For more information, visit

Cataloging history

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our community and way of life, and the Museum of Ventura County aims to catalog this historic event through its Rapid Response Collecting initiative. It is asking Ventura County residents to submit stories, videos, photos and other artifacts that it can use to document how our county is dealing with this crisis — the ways we communicate, work, learn, teach, celebrate and mourn.

Examples of digital content the museum is interested in include websites, blogs, home movies, social media posts, sound and film recordings and digital images. Due to safety concerns, the museum is not currently collecting physical items, but it hopes to do so in the future, and suggests modified takeout menus, signage, home lesson plans and grocery lists as potential artifacts of interest.

For more information on the Rapid Response Collecting initiative, items of interest, guidelines and ways to contribute, visit

In addition, the museum is currently accepting applications for the 2020 Bonita C. McFarland visual arts scholarships. Scholarships are available to high school seniors preparing to enter college in the fall of 2020 or continuing college-level students of the visual arts who are residents of Ventura County. Submission deadline is June 19. For submission rules and information and to apply online, visit

Educational packet available at California Oil Museum

On Saturday, May 9, starting at 11 a.m., the California Oil Museum will give away a bag of educational goodies — rocks, word puzzles, activities and more — for children to support learning at home. Bags will be distributed at the museum’s back parking lot at 1001 E. Main Street in Santa Paula. Social distancing will be practiced and there’s no need to exit the car. The monthly giveaway is part of the #MuseumFromHome initiative, which also includes educational content posted to Instagram three times a week: Mineral Mondays, Women in STEM Wednesdays and Fossil Fridays. For more information, visit or follow @caoilmuseum.

Anniversary and name change for SPAWN

The Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and the Ojai-based literary nonprofit is ushering in a new chapter with a name change. It will now be known as the Writers and Publishers Network (WPN), to reflect its growing focus on writers and small publishers. 

“We still support artists,” said Kathleen Kaiser, president, “but our primary members as of now are indie authors, freelance writers and small publishers, along with book marketers and those offering publishing services such as cover design, interior layout and more.”

Writers and Publishers Network’s new website will be live by June 1 at Among its new programs will be a webinar series (focusing on business writing, book marketing, and similar topics by publishing professionals), online writing critique groups, weekly podcasts and Authors Helping Authors.

For more information, visit

OPC news

The Ojai Playwrights Conference has seen some significant losses in 2020.

Playwright Terrence McNally (1938-2020) produced two plays with the Ojai Playwrights Conference and received the OPC Award in 2010.

In March, it was saddened to learn of the passing of playwright Terrence McNally, who died March 24 from coronavirus-related complications. McNally was known for books for the musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime, and for the plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class — all four of which earned him Tony Awards. McNally produced two plays with OPC and was the recipient of the 2010 OPC Award.

In addition, the OPC paid tribute to two other theatre luminaries through its new OPC Onward Together project, whereby friends and artists of OPC share “memorable theatre experiences” about the people, works and events that have inspired them.

In April, the inaugural “scene” featured a celebratory remembrance of renowned actress, playwright, director and producer Diane Rodriguez, associate artistic director of Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles and a longtime friend of the OPC (her husband, Jose Delgado, is OPC’s producing director). Rodriguez passed on April 10 following a battle with cancer. The May 1 Onward Together was dedicated to the memory of beloved pediatrician, OPC board member and theater enthusiast Dr. Kerry English, who passed away on April 30.

In other OPC news, the organization recently received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle’s Gordon Davidson Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatrical Community. 

More information at

Opportunities for artists, writers

Hwy 33 playwriting competition opens

On May 1, the Ojai Valley Artists Theatre Ensemble (OVATE) and a Muse of Fire Conservatory started accepting submissions for its first annual Hwy 33 One-Act Comedic Play Contest. The theme is “6 Feet of Separation,” and there are categories for teens (ages 13-19 at time of submission) and adults. Plays must be original, consist of only one act with 2-7 characters and be no longer than 33 pages in length. Authors may submit up to three plays for consideration.

For full details and submission guidelines, visit Submission deadline is June 3 at midnight.

Still time to join Ojai Film Festival

The Ojai Film Festival is still accepting submissions for its 21st annual festival, scheduled to take place Nov. 5-15. Filmmakers have until June 1 ($55 entry free for features, $50 entry fee for shorts) to make the “late dealine,” and until July 1 ($65, $60) for the “extended deadline.” Deadlines for screenplays are May 31 ($45/$35 students) and June 30 (($55/$45 students). For rules, submission guidelines and more information, visit

2019 Duck Stamp Art Contest winning entry by Frank Dolphens Jr. Submissions for the 2020 contest will be accepted through May 29.

CDFW Duck Stamp Contest

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife invites artists to submit their original artwork for the 2020-21 California Duck Stamp Art Contest. The contest is open to U.S. residents aged 18 or older as of Feb. 27, 2020. Artwork must be original, hand-drawn, full-color and feature the canvasback diving duck, genus Aythya. The winning entry will be reproduced on the 2020-21 stamp. Submission deadline: May 29. For full details, rules and submission guidelines, visit