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Southwest High School senior Bethany Beltran pipes cream onto just one of "too many" tres leches desserts to be served at Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Imperial Valley Students’ Artistry Steals the Evening

Painting, Music, Food and More Put Arts Education on Display During ICOE Foundation for Education’s First Fundraiser

EL CENTRO — Finding beauty in nature isn’t hard to do, but capturing the beauty in cows, that takes some artistry.

When Brawley Union High senior Bella Rebollar was asked by her art teacher to enter a piece for a silent auction to raise money for scholarship, she whipped up a piece to represent the beef industry of the Imperial Valley, “Las Vacas Bellas.”

Potential buyers and patrons of student art admire the work showcased in the silent auction at Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. They were looking at Brawley Union High senior Bella Rebollar’s painting, “Las Vacas Bellas.” | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

“I love art. I’ve been doing it since I was 6 years old, and it’s something I’ve never gotten tired of. It’s just a stress reliever, an escape from everything, and I can paint for hours on end,” Bella said on Thursday night, Oct. 7. “It’s a hard thing to describe, but it’s something I feel really connected to.”

Seeing people examine and debate putting down bids for her piece made Bella’s nerves spike and her stomach hurt, but she was excited to see people appreciate and want to see her artwork.

The artistry and talent of many Imperial Valley students in all forms — visual art, music, sculpture and woodworking, and food — were the backdrop for the inaugural Autumn and Arts event on Thursday night hosted by the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education in support and showcasing the importance of arts in education.

Hosted in the new ICOE conference center on the west side of Sperber Road, the festival was just a taste of what the youths of the Imperial Valley have to offer, and at the center of it all was the silent auction of both former and current student artwork from Brawley, Central Union, Southwest and Imperial high schools, Imperial Valley Alternative Education, McCabe Elementary, Imperial Pathways Charter School, and San Pasqual school.

Ceramic vases crafted by McCabe students and gift baskets in wooden crates laser etched by Southwest students were also sold.

Half of the money raised for each piece of artwork will go toward the student artist to be put toward a scholarship. The rest of the proceeds as well as ticket sales go to a larger scholarship program for at-risk students and students with special needs.

Gloria Santillan considers putting a bid down for one of former Central Union High student Priscila Jimenez’s paintings at the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Bella plans to continue to pursue art into college with a focus on applying it through counseling and therapy, and every little bit helps to pay for that education.

ICOE’s Foundation for Education had been wanting to host an autumn event for a while, Superintendent of Schools and foundation president Dr. Todd Finnell said during the event. When planning the fundraiser, Finnell said ICOE wants to provide some way to encourage the arts so that “every child can have a rich arts education.”

“We’re promoting and encouraging people to think about the importance of art in education,” Finnell said. “We’re really trying to turn everyone in here into an ambassador for arts education.”

“It’s all about kids, how we support them, and this community has always come out to support kids,” Imperial County Board of Education President Dr. Victor Jaime said. “This but one example of the performing arts.”

Brawley Union High student Jessie Garcia serves up soup for guests at the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

And it really was about the kids on Thursday as their creativity and talent permeated every aspect of the evening. Dinner was cooked and served by Brawley Union High School culinary students while dessert was handled by Southwest High School culinary students. Southwest students were on site piping and building tres leches desserts for guests.

BUHS culinary student Dereck Ramos said he was inspired to get into cooking from his mother and has since been in culinary arts with his friends. Ramos is thinking about using his skills in his future.

“I like the fact that I’ll be able to eventually take this skill later in my life,” Dereck said. “I feel honored that I’m able to cook for people and that my cooking throughout the culinary class is able to help and let other people enjoy my food.”

Southwest culinary student Diana Laura Sandoval said her cooking interest was started and fueled by her older brother and has taken off since she joined the program. She said it has been fun to eat whatever she cooks in class, but more important, she likes gaining experience for her future.

Diana said she dreams of being hired at Carlo’s Bakery from television’s “Cake Boss” fame.

“I think just being ready to serve other people and being able to cook for yourself, this is a good way to learn. The experience as well, we get to have a lot of catering experience and it prepares you for jobs,” Diana said. “This is giving me a look into what I can expect in my future.”

David Taylor writes a bid for former Central Union High student Priscila Jimenez’s “At the Aquarium” piece during the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Performances were by Southwest Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts Music and Southwest Orchestra. Preview songs for SAVAPA’s upcoming Dia de los Muertos performance were also sung by both the larger choral group and soloists.

“I like how music lets you express yourself. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sad song or a happy song,” said SAVAPA student Victor Leyva, one of the night’s soloists. “It’s a great feeling overall.”

Lorelei Lara concentrates on her music while performing with the Southwest Orchestra strings at the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

SAVAPA Music president Andrea Diaz said the program is more like a family than a club. All the members support each other and push her to do her best. Diaz hopes to take music into her future as a music teacher.

“It’s pretty fun, we have a lot of fun there,” Andrea said. “I like singing because it’s a good way to express how I feel, because I have a hard time expressing my feelings and it’s a great way to express them.”

Southwest senior and violinist Lorelei Lara said her program is always backing her and her fellow musicians with support.

“I love how we collectively make a sound. It always sounds harmonious and it helps me not stress out,” Lorelei said. “I was really nervous but excited. It felt really great to represent our school and other orchestras.”

A live auction for five large community-donated items was held at the end of the evening, including two statues donated by Deb Smerdon of DS Arts Studio, two sets of photographs from Letty Guerra of Monarch Photography, an art piece by Jennifer De’roma, and a Adirondack chair built and assembled by Central Union High students and donated by the Rainforest Art Project.

ICOE’s Foundation for Education is planning its next large fundraising event for the spring. It will be a golf tournament.

One of two angel statues donated by Debi Smerdon is auctioned off during the live auction portion of the night the Imperial County Office of Education’s Foundation for Education Autumn & the Arts fundraiser on Thursday night, Oct. 7, in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO
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