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Raising Funds the Artful Way

Auction of works by Picasso, Dali, others kicks off Camarillo school's bid to move.

September 18, 2004|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Searching for money to build a permanent home, the youngsters at University Preparation School in Camarillo on Friday turned to Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and a few other big names for help.

The fledgling charter school kicked off a capital campaign with a glitzy art auction at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the first step toward raising the $15 million it will take to move to the Cal State Channel Islands campus.

More than 200 supporters gathered at the hilltop library near Simi Valley to sip champagne, take guided tours and bid on more than 400 pieces of artwork, including paintings, prints, lithographs and etchings.

"I think it will generate more money than a bake sale," said Jeanne Adams, founder and developer of the charter school launched in 2002 in partnership with Cal State Channel Islands. "It's a good way to get a running start on generating the kind of money we are going to need."

University Preparation School, currently housed at a vacant school in Camarillo, is unlike most others in the state.

It is a place where nearly 450 youngsters, drawn from around Ventura County, are divided not by grade level but by age group, a system said to foster better learning.

It is a school that has set out to become a leader in professional development, a campus where staff members spend an hour a day four days a week just to solve problems together and fine-tune curriculum.

The school provides a rare educational environment in which youngsters routinely receive dual-language instruction and specialized lessons in music, art and drama.

And the school has become a laboratory for teacher training, as evidenced by the 22 Cal State Channel Islands students doing their student teaching this year at the elementary school.

"This school represents the entire county in a lot of ways," said Barbara Thorpe, a university vice president and member of the board of directors of the charter school. "It will be wonderful for the people of Ventura County to have this school centered at the Cal State Channel Islands campus."

Of course, it will take money.

While the elementary school has planned all along to be on the university campus in Camarillo, only recently have supporters settled on a strategy to make it happen. Officials say they will need $20,000 to $25,000 to study the most effective ways to raise the funds. They hope Friday's art auction will cover that cost, although they won't know for a few weeks.

"We're all willing to contribute," said Channel Islands math professor Jorge Garcia, who was on hand during setup for the auction. He is on the board of directors of University Preparation School, which his 5-year-old son, Ohtli, attends.

"I don't know how many more of these auctions we'll need to build the school, but we'll do however many it takes," he said.

Garcia was among more than a dozen professors, students and school supporters who helped prepare for the event. They unloaded crates packed with artwork provided by Michigan-based Park West Gallery. The company conducts auctions throughout the United States and Canada and each year puts on about 200 of the events for charitable organizations, which receive a percentage of the sales.

After setting up, volunteers grabbed paper towels and cleaning products to spiff up the glass covers on the art pieces before buyers arrived.

Eighteen-year-old Channel Islands freshman Blake Toland, among those completing community service projects for an English class, said: "I don't mind working and putting in time to help our school."

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