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Seven of Monterey County’s Greatest Artistic Minds will be Honored at the Seventh Annual Champions of the Arts

It’s not the kind of thing you expect to hear from a film professor. 


“Film is one of those industries where if you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t matter what kind of degree you have,” Enid Baxter Blader says. “It just matters what you can do.”


But that’s how Baxter Blader, the chair of California State University Monterey Bay’s Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department, feels. And’s that’s just the kind of progressive thinking that Arts Council for Monterey County believes a champion of the arts should demonstrate. On Saturday, Jan. 21, this year’s champions will be recognized at the Portola Hotel across a range of categories like philanthropy, lifetime achievement and even luminance.


“It’s like holding up our best mirror,” says Arts Council Executive Director Paulette Lynch. “[The event] is about the arts as transformative, powerful and fun.”


For Blader, the honor in the education category came as a surprise.


“I was food shopping when I got the call and I thought they were asking me to introduce one of the champions,” she says. “Then [Lynch] said I was a champion of the arts and I was elated. I’ve moved around a lot and not felt part of a community and this makes me feel like I’m really part of a community.”


So far, in her sixth year at CSUMB, Blader – who teaches community-based media arts with a social justice component and specializes in experimental media arts – has seen two students and one alumnus have their films accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. Many go on to successful careers in the film biz; former students


have even received Emmys and Academy Awards. 


“TAT has come a long way over the past few years in terms of how high profile our students’ work has become and the quality of the work,” she says. “[The faculty and staff] have a good time going out to any mainstream movie and looking at the credits and picking out the alumni names. It’s great to know that we’re preparing students to do something where they can be fulfilled and make a living.”


Last year’s Champions of the Arts emcee Garland Thompson has been a constant presence in the local theater and poetry scenes, and this year, he’ll be deservedly honored with the luminary award. His work with Monterey County high school students led to two winners in the California State Poetry Out Loud: A National Recitation Contest (started by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation) in the past two years.


“Any student who does Poetry Out Loud, because he didn’t shy away from hard work, passion and a chance to better himself, is a champion,” he writes.


For 25 years, the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts – honored with the award for standout nonprofit – has provided free art classes, exhibits and performances in East Salinas. They’re now based out of the newly-renovated Bread Box Recreation Center, and they’ve given at-risk youth positive alternatives to a life of violence that will prepare them for the rest of their lives.


Mari Kloeppel, receiving honors in the professional category, founded Friends, Artists and Neighbors of the Elkhorn Slough, which aims to bring together environmentalists and artists in the name of ecological preservation.


“The slough encompasses 44,000 acres of watershed, but only 10 percent of this is protected,” she says. “This land is deemed a globally important area for over 200 species of birds. If the birds don’t have a place to rest, they could become extinct.”


Volunteer award recipient Sonia Chapa has her helping hands in many different things: In addition to founding several after-school programs in South County, Chapa founded Sol Treasures Arts and Cultural Enrichment Center in King City. In 2010, Chapa said, “We have provided arts experiences, in the last year, for over 2,000 students in the Salinas Valley who would not have had [them] otherwise.” 


And that number grows every year.


Actress, teacher and one of the original board members of the Monterey County Film Commission, Teresa Del Piero, and her husband Dr. Eric Del Piero, vice president of the board of the Monterey Museum of Art, are sharing recognition as art philanthropists of the year. “We involve ourselves in things we care about,” says Teresa, who’s also involved with the Monterey County Theatre Alliance and the Carmel Art & Film Festival. 


Additionally, Big Sur resident Al Jardine, member of the legendary Beach Boys and and owner-operator of Red Barn Recording Studio, will be receiving a lifetime achievement award. Previous winners include Disney animator Ron Dias and acclaimed children’s author Beverly Cleary. 


The honor comes at a perfect time: In April, Jardine and the rest of the surviving Beach Boys will embark on an extensive reunion tour to commemorate 50 years as one of the greatest and most influential rock bands of all time. 


“There will be a surprise at the Grammys [on Feb. 12],” he told English media. “We’ll do something really exciting.”


But first comes the excitement of our own local awards. 


CHAMPIONS OF THE ARTS happens 5-10pm Saturday, Jan. 21, at Portola Hotel and Spa, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey. $95; $150/VIP reception with Al Jardine at 5pm. 622-9060,

Monterey County Weekly

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