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Events
  • Otis Community Banquet

    Oct 22| Special Event
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    In conjunction with the exhibition Food - Water - Life / Lucy + Jorge Orta
    Wednesday, October 22 | Bobrow Green
    11:30am – 12:30pm: Banquet for participating classes
    12:30 – 1:15pm: Open to Otis Community to view class projects created for Banquet, and sample soup and fruit-infused water

  • Graduate Fine Arts, Visiting Artist Lecture Series presents artists Lucy + Jorge Orta.

    Thursday, October 23rd, 10am

    Graduate Studios: 10455 Jefferson Blvd Culver City CA 90230

  • Artists Lucy + Jorge Orta in conversation with the curators Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox of the traveling exhibition Food - Water - Life / Lucy + Jorge Orta. The conversation is followed by a reception. Food - Water - Life / Lucy + Jorge Orta is on view in the Ben Maltz Gallery through December 6, 2014.

  • JP Munro

    Oct 28| Lectures
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    Born 1975, Inglewood, CA. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

    chinaartobjects.com/artists/jp-munro/

  • Minor Declaration

    Oct 29| Student Event
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    Highly Recommended for Sophomores

  • Rob Spillman

    Oct 29| Lectures
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    Rob Spillman is Editor and co-founder of Tin House, which has been honored in Best American Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, O’Henry Prize Stories, the Pushcart Prize Anthology and numerous other anthologies. He is also Executive Editor of Tin House Books and co-founder of the Tin House Literary Festival. His writing has appeared in BookForum, the Boston Review, Connoisseur, Details, GQ, Nerve, the New York Times Book Review, Rolling Stone, Salon, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and elsewhere.

  • Phillip Zach

    Oct 30| Lectures
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    Graduate Fine Arts, Visiting Artist Lecture Series presents artist, Phillip Zach.

    Thursday, October 30th 11:15am - 12:30pm

    Graduate Studios: 10455 Jefferson Blvd Culver City CA 90230

     

O-Tube

Alex Donis ‘94 MFA, Sri Lanka

Dec 16, 2013
Spotlight Category: Alumni
Although my sister and I hadn’t traveled together since 1996, when we trekked through Nepal and India, we had heard great things about Sri Lanka, and had always wanted to travel to this primarily Buddhist country. Ever since the 2004 tsunami devastated  much of this country’s coastal region, we knew we wanted to help out through some kind of volunteer work. This led us to contact the long-standing organization Volunteers for Peace that helped organize and place us with a local school near the town of Hatton.
 
After soaking up the sun on the powdery beaches of Unawatuna, and  leopard-spotting at Yala National Wildlife Reserve, we arrived in the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, known for its moun tainous terrain and manicured tea estates. Getting past several unanswered cell-phone calls and missed pick-up points, we arrived haphazardly at the town of Bogawantalawa. The K-12 government Tientsin Tamil School perches high above the tea plantations amidst low-flying clouds. My sister’s plan was to teach English, and I intended to teach drawing and painting.
 
The day we arrived, we met our team leader Victor, who enthusiastically greeted us with a warm embrace. He was originally  from the region but had moved to India as a boy. A group of South Korean high school and college students had arrived a week earlier to do various volunteer projects around the school. We met them in the principal’s office as they painted it a paler shade of lavender. We exchanged many a vanucam, which means hello and/or welcome in the Tamil language.
 
Later that evening, we hiked down the hill and met the local family hosts:  Kala, her husband, and their three beautiful daughters, along with grandma (whom I fell in love with) and the mischievous servant boy, Tambie. They were a gracious Tamil family who ran a local shop named ‘Sathiyas.’ Although the  accommodations weren’t exactly five-star, the early morning cold- bucket showers were warmed by Kala’s sweet smile, milk tea and delicious curries.
 
My first day of teaching was a bit of a shocker. To my surprise,  the students all stood when I entered the class and did not sit until I told them that they were allowed to do so. I’d like to try this on a particular group of Westside 9th-graders (ha!). At Crossroads School, where I teach in Santa Monica, I whine when I get 15 students in a class. Here, I faced 40 students, plus all the onlookers at the windows who wanted in on the class as soon as they saw me passing out watercolor sets. I began with my staple self-portrait lesson and had a sweet exchange with the students, translating facial parts and colors into the Tamil language. After the class was over, I was ushered to the science lab, past a group of Korean students who were doing a an outdoor mural featuring hand-holding  students in front of a globe with a ‘We love Sri Lanka banner.’ “Poor kids,” I mused. “Murals are such a pain.” 
 
I was introduced to the science teacher, a sweet lady in a bright yellow sari, and she asked me if I was a “professional artist.”  I assured her that I was, and thought to say, “Lady, please.I went to Otis!”  but I figured that wouldn’t get too far in these parts. She gestured toward the large wall at the back of the science lab,  and said she needed a mural that the students could learn from. “How ‘bout a Tamil Tiger and a Sri Lankan soldier doing a Bollywood dance together?” I thought. Probably not, Sri Lanka doesn’t need another civil war. After looking at  several science books, we agreed on the cycle of life of a tadpole turning into a frog, and the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. 
 
Never having done a mural, I pulled up my knickers, tied a pencil to a long stick and thought to myself, “What would Gronkdo?  Does Kent Twitchell ask for a contract? Would Judy Chicago hold out for a press release?” Time to leave my ego at the bottom of the hill and just do the work. Besides, there was a butterfly in the making and possibly a lotus. I’d try to make Roy (Dowell, Chair of Graduate Fine Arts) and Lari (Pittman, his partner)  proud.
 
Since the Korean students had used almost all the supplies for their mural, there was very little paint left. Also, the lacquer paint and the thinner had been left out in the rain, so I had to find kerosene  and diesel fuel in order to salvage the remaining supplies. They had forgotten to leave the brushes soaking overnight in paint thinner, so I had to use some of the preschool brushes that I had brought to donate.
 
I blocked in the mural using ground-up watercolor sets mixed with the white latex paint that was used to whitewash the classrooms. We soon got the supplies straightened out, and I was off and running, with many of the students poking their heads in through the windows, sharing smiles and helping out with a few brushstrokes. Later in the week, on their last day, the Korean students gave a performance, complete with music, dance and fashion show. The Tamil students also sang and performed traditional dances. My sister and I were honored with flowered wreathes and I was repeatedly called “the greatest artist ever.” Later that  evening, we all gathered in the science lab, and the Korean students passed out many bottles of ginseng sake. 
 
During our last few days, my sister helped me with the mural, and the school  brought in in a local temple painter named Desh, who was very patient. On our last day, I completed the giant butterfly that loomed over the pond. We returned to the science lab to share our last goodbyes, hear my sister sing a few Spanish songs to the faculty, and watch “the greatest artist ever” dedicate his first mural “To the Children of Tientsen Tamil School.”