Las Damas provides grants to area schools, charities

Los Alamitos High ceramics teacher Jeff Carthew, McAuliffe Middle School teacher Sherry Tanaka, Las Damas member Monica Brady, Oak Middle School teacher Cathy van der Linden and Huntington Beach High art teacher Garrett Stryker. Photo by Ted Apodaca

More than $20,000 raised from last year’s festival was given out

While the Sunset Beach Art Festival is still a few months away, the impact of the 2019 festival was felt last week as several schools and non-profit charities received grant donations from the Las Damas organization that runs the festival.

More than $20,000 raised from last year’s festival was given out to area schools and organizations, including Los Alamitos High, Casa Youth and Precious Life Shelters. Las Damas is generally a non-profit organization focused on art, so the schools receive grants designated for their art programs. Local schools also included McGaugh Elementary, Oak and McAuliffe Middle schools. Teachers from the school art departments were on hand to accept the checks and also talk about some of the ways the money is used.

Artwork from the students was on display and teachers explained how students benefit and learn from the work. Los Alamitos ceramics teacher Jeff Carthew showed some pieces from students, explaining how they try to find new ways to use the materials provided. Ceramics begin with simple items spun on wheels or molded.

But Carthew challenges students to make pieces that conform to conventional beauty standards for symmetry and design. He displayed a bowl that appeared perfectly round and symmetrical all the way around. Then he explained how he challenged students to look for unconventional beauty in making pieces.

Students made symmetrical bowls again, but this time took the molded clay and slammed it to the ground, flattening and splitting the clay. They would then throw them down onto a ball, causing the clay to wrap round the clay and remold into bowl shapes. The glazed final products resembled dry leaves, cupped and randomly shaped with pointed edges and cracks.

Huntington Beach High ceramics teacher also talked about the different ways that students experiment with clay. He said they had constructed a hand-made salt kiln in the art room. The device allowed students to throw salt and baking soda into the kiln as the ceramic pieces were in the firing process. The salt and soda hit the pieces and create a rough texture that is unique to each piece.

McAuliffe Middle School teacher Sherry Tanaka had painting from students, including a project in which students were required to paint an island that was their own. The students were told to fill the island with everything they would want in their own world.

The non-profit service organizations who received grant funds were Casa Youth Shelter, NAMI of Orange, Precious Life Shelter, Thomas House Family Shelter and Waymakers (HB Youth Center). Smith Elementary in Huntington Beach also received a grant and the school’s principal, Maria Ashton was on hand to accept the donation. During her acceptance, she relayed a story of a child that had come through her school after receiving help from Waymakers. She said the student had been struggling and it was her belief that if not for the intervention of Waymakers, that student may not have even survived. But she reported he had moved on to middle school and was doing very well.

This year’s art festival is scheduled for May 9-10, starting at 9 a.m. each day. The festival is accepting vendor applications until May 4. For more information, call 562-537-8295, or email

Pictured, from left, are Elsa Greenfield of Waymakers, Theresa Murphy, Executive Director Precious Life Shelter, Las Damas member Monica Brady, Evonne Rivera Casa Youth Shelter Communications Manager and Susan Adams of NAMI Orange County. Photo by Ted Apodaca
A McAuliffe Middle School student designed and painted this island, complete with housing, food sources and a soccer stadium, where their team would play. Photo by Ted Apodaca
Las Damas provides grants to area schools, charities