Meet the Team

Learn more about the staff that keeps this organization humming along.

Donna Granata

Donna Granata

Founder and Executive Director

Donna Granata is the Founder and Executive Director of Focus on the Masters (FOTM), a highly respected non-profit educational program documenting contemporary artists. Founded in 1994, the goal of FOTM is to demonstrate the importance of the arts to society by bringing highly accomplished artists to the forefront of the community. The program presents its research to a broad public through photographic exhibitions, the Artist Spotlight Series, a video-taped interview series, Learning To See educational outreach to schools and youth centers. Focus on the Masters has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of its outstanding contributions to arts education including the 2005 inaugural Ventura Mayor’s Art Award – Arts Educator and the 2007 Ventura County Arts Council Art Star Award. Focus on the Masters is recognized as one of the leading arts organizations in the state of California.

In addition to her ongoing lecture series for Focus on the Masters, Donna teaches classes for the Road Scholar Elderhostel International including an Introduction to the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Roman Villa. Special lectures trace the careers of photographer LIFE Horace Bristol and painter John Nava, creator of the tapestries commissioned for the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, CA. In addition, she has lectured for the journalism department at UCLA on the ethics of photography. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2005 by Elderhostel International.  Among her most recent awards is the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts from the City of Ojai, CA.

An accomplished artist in her own right, Donna Granata is an internationally published and award winning painter turned photographer.  Her photographs have been displayed across the United States.  Selected works from her FOTM portrait series are housed in the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Artists; in the photographic Collection of the George Eastman House, Rochester, New York and other public institutions that house the personal archives of the artists documented.

Donna received a Bachelor’s of Art Degree and Honorary Masters of Science Degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography where she was an adjunct professor in the Portrait Department. She received a Master’s Degree in Arts Journalism from USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, graduating with honor. Granata is listed in Marquis Who’s Who of American Women.

Aimee French

Aimee French

LTS Youth Outreach Program Coordinator

Aimee French is a lifelong artist whose earliest memories are of being fascinated by shapes, edges and textures. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and drawing from The Ohio State University. Having explored and worked in a wide range of mediums, a painterly quality marks much of her work, even when using the hardest materials. It is process oriented, and symbolism is often used. After many years of painting on silk and with oil, her current mediums are assemblage, felted wool and encaustic.
Aimee joined Focus on the Masters as the Learning to See Outreach Education Director in January 2011. Her extensive arts education experience includes class instruction, program development and management serving populations from all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and learning levels.
Her experience in museum education, certification as a Social/Emotional Arts Facilitator and 7 years working in humane education has given her a broad insight into the importance of how and what we learn manifests in a student’s life. Her goal is to nurture inspiration and trust in one’s unique creative voice. See Aimee’s latest works at www.facebook.com/TheBouStudio/.

Michelle Glass

Michelle Glass

Executive Assistant

Michelle lives in Ventura and has been working in the arts for nearly twenty-five years as an artist, educator and administrator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education with an emphasis in Art Studio Photography from the California State University, Los Angeles and a Master of Fine Arts in Public Practice (Public Art and Social Practice) from Otis College of Art and Design. Most recently she served as the Director of Education at the Santa Paula Art Museum where she built and launched the ArtSPARK School Tour and Outreach program, Teen Open Studio, Family Day, and the Artist in Residence programs. Under her administration, programs expanded allowing the museum to increase arts access and strengthen their partnership with the community. “I am so excited to join the FOTM team in this exciting new chapter of the organization’s growth!” Michelle said. She added, “It is exciting to be able to apply my skills in support of programs that acknowledge and preserve the contributions of accomplished contemporary artists and to be able to share their stories with the community.”

Mariana Peirano, Artist

Mariana Peirano, Artist

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Mariana is an award winning figurative artist living in Ojai, California. Born and raised in Argentina, she has spent most of her life in Southern California. Although mainly self-taught, she received her basic atelier instruction at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art. Her work reflects a passion for beauty in all its forms and a deep concern for the human condition. Preserving the realness of emotions and expressions in the people she paints, she captures humanity in its true form.
Mariana says “Art and teaching have been my life passions. I find the Learning To See program to be enriching and rewarding. Having present day local artists in the classroom brings a unique dynamic to the lessons that helps students gain a greater caring for their community, develop love and understanding of the arts, and gain confidence in their own creative process. To view or purchase her work, please visit her webpage at www.PeiranoArt.com.

Vanessa Wallace

Vanessa Wallace

Learning To See Artist Faculty

Vanessa Wallace-Gonzales is an Afro-Latinx and Ventura, California native artist who uses elements of mythology to explore her identity and personal experiences. This exploration began during her attendance at the Maryland Institute College of Art and carried on in exhibitions in Ventura and Los Angeles, California, New York City, Baltimore, Maryland, and Florence, Italy. Vanessa is attracted to mythology because it rides the line of reality and fantasy to tell the story of a people. Her passion has brought her to think of her own creation. With all the nuances that form her identity, she has come to begin thinking of herself not just as one but a universe of beings in which the entirety is her. Her works consist of figures built from collaging transparent paper, insects, bugs, flowers, leaves while simultaneously playing with body language, distortion, and metaphor. In a visual language exploring the expanses of the human body and mind through a vibrant color palette and organic materials, Vanessa attempts to navigate the complex, imperfect yet beautifully kaleidoscopic nature of a people and thus herself.  Keep up with Vanessa on Instagram @livingrelic. 

Jo Ellen Lee, PhD

Volunteer Office Staff: Executive Assistant

Data Entry, Statistical Analysis
Master Beader, Expert in Medical Genetics, Ret.
Email: JoEllen@FocusOnTheMasters.com

Gale Willhite

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Paralegal, Ret.

Fran Stewart

Volunteer Office Staff: Archive Administration

Accountant, Ret.

Christine Beirne

Volunteer Office Staff: Webmaster

Artist, BA in Studio Art
Community Affiliations: Ojai Studio Artists; Buenaventura Art Association
chris@FocusOnTheMasters.com

Laurie Peterson

Graphic Designer

Peterson Graphics
Community Affiliations: Museum of Ventura County; Ventura County Agriculture Museum

WAYS TO GIVE

Your donations support the programs that are at the heart of the FOTM’s mission…

 to document and archive extraordinary artists and their work through photographic portraits, audio and video interviews and biographical research that encompass each artist’s experiences, artistic reflections and development; and to present this work to a broad public through extensive education outreach to all ages – including at-risk youth through our Learning to See Youth Outreach program, Art & The Creative Spirit Enrichment Program for Seniors, a public monthly Artist Spotlight Series, exhibitions, publications, website and an extensive resource library.

CONTACT

Focus on the Masters Archive & Library
505 Poli Street, Suite 310, Ventura, CA 93001
Phone: 805.653.2501
Email Us

THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation