Montecito Kids to Show Art at the Louvre

Montecito brother and sister Gabriel and Colette Speer are among eight other children who have been chosen to exhibit their paintings at the Louvre Museum, in Paris. Gabriel, 9, and Colette, both students at Montecito Union will show their art for a four-day period in May.

“It all started when my wife and I were living in Los Angeles,” the kids’ father, Chris Speer, explains. “Alecia Seidler, a mother in the neighborhood who was also an artist from Brazil, spent one-on-one time with forty-seven children who lived in our neighborhood, ages four through eleven. She gave each child a large canvas (sixteen to twenty square feet), to create a work inspired by his/her imagination. She had paints, crushed glass, beads, feathers, pieces of old toys and several other items available for them.”

Seidler paid for all materials and framing for the works of art. The children’s finished works were then exhibited for six weeks last year by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department.

“It was a big deal; they had local celebrities there and pictures of the kids were taken,” says Chris.

The Speers moved to Montecito three years ago and thought they had already experienced the highlight of their children’s art experience when they recently received some more exciting news. Seidler had been using her international connections to try and get some of the pieces shown in a French museum.

“She didn’t think in her wildest dreams that the Louvre would offer to show these paintings. Something just clicked,” Chris explains.

In all, 10 paintings from Seidler’s original exhibit have been selected for display at the Louvre. The exhibit is sponsored by a French arts organization.

Gabriel's piece is “King Arthur on his White Horse” and according to Chris “was inspired from a book he was reading at the time.” Colette’s is “The Annunciation,” with the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, and “was inspired by the Episcopalian school she attended in Los Angeles,” says Chris.

Chris says he and his wife, Maureen, didn’t do much to push their children into the arts. He and Maureen own a business based in Los Angeles that rents and sells picture and sound equipment to television and movie studios.

“We as parents did nothing more than sign the kids up for an occasional after-school art class,” he explains. “We took them to some places in Italy, mixing museum visits with gelato outings.”

Reflecting on the experience, the proud dad finds it hard to suppress his excitement.

“These are my kids!” he exclaims. “I still can’t believe we are going to Paris at the end of the month to celebrate this accomplishment.”

The Louvre will host a reception for the 10 artists on May 3 and the exhibit will run until May 6. Bon Voyage!

Eva, the One and Only

Eva Smith, who has served All Saints by-the-Sea Parish School with 36 years of service, is retiring at the end of the school year. All Saints parents will honor the outgoing director at the school’s April 28 annual fundraiser, a gathering with the apt theme, “The Sound of Music.”

Eva Marie Soukup was born in Vienna, Austria. She worked for American Express in Switzerland, where she met and married her husband, Samuel Shepherd Smith. She then lived for extended periods in Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Haiti. After her son, David William, was born, she returned to South America to teach bilingual preschool. From the beginning, Eva knew she would have a lifelong profession of teaching children.

“Few people, and I believe I have this gift, know what a child needs,” she says. “This gift has made my life what it is.”

Eva started teaching at All Saints in 1971, six years after the school officially opened. The school serves children 2.5 to 5 years of age. As an educator at a Montecito school, Eva says she’s often felt like a student too.

“You never really know everything and I have had the children, even with all my travels, teach me things as well,” she explains.

One example, she says, was when she was reading a story about a mongoose, prompting students to ask what the animals ate.

“I told them I didn’t know,” Eva recalls. “Then Kenny Loggins’s child [Crosby] told me he had been on a trip and saw mongooses and knew what they ate. Sometimes you can learn from the children.”

Eva goes on: “The church, the school, the children, the parents, my staff – this is why I have stayed so long. I feel blessed for the opportunity.”

Although she feels young inside, Eva says she made the decision to retire after seeing people she taught at All Saints enroll their children at the school.

“Seeing these children told me I was getting old, even though I don’t feel that way,” she says. “It is wonderful to see the children I taught want their children to have the same experience that they had.”

Retirement will be an adventure for Eva, and she has plans to spend more time around the house.

“I traveled when I was young, which is what I wish all people could do,” she says. “I plan to spend time beautifying my home.”

Lucia Engel, a mother of three whose youngest child will be starting All Saints this fall, says it will be hard to find a person who cares as much as Eva.

“She has an amazing dedication to the school,” Engel says. “When I went one evening to set up for a school event, I saw Eva carefully stacking the toys for the kids so they would be organized the next day. After we had our event, Eva was the last person there helping to pick up trash and break down the tables. When I went again the next morning, she was there again! She is beyond being a director of the school.”

The All Saints by-the-Sea Parish School fundraiser, “The Sound of Music,” will be held on April 28, from 5:30 pm to midnight, at the Montecito Country Club, 920 Summit Road. Tickets are $150 and seating is limited. For more info call 969-4946.

‘The Unconscious Actor’

A crowd gathered at Tecolote Book Shop on April 17 not only to listen to lively jazz, sip wine and nosh on hors d’oeuvres from nearby Pane e Vino, but to celebrate the release of Darryl Hickman’s book, “The Unconscious Actor.”

Mainly geared towards actors, the book has great photos and quotes from his days in acting, a career that began when he was 3.5 years old.

The photos of his career show him sharing the screen with the likes of Bing Crosby, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, and the team of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Mr. Hickman also boasts an impressive list of students: Jerry Seinfeld (who gave a quote for the book), Jim Carrey, Bo Derek, Daryl Hannah and Marsha Mason, to name a few.

On his book cover, Mr. Hickman states that his book is for everyone: “We all have the tools to become outstanding performers, demonstrating how to make use of those tools with skill and precision.”

Mr. Hickman is currently writing his next book and working hard to improve his golf swing.

Election 2008 & the Montecito Nexus

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton may make a fundraising appearance in Santa Barbara this year, according to Betty Stephens, a Democratic party activist and Santa Barbara philanthropist who hosted former President Bill Clinton at her Hope Ranch estate.

“Hillary’s people called and asked if they could possibly schedule a fundraiser in May, which I thought was too soon,” Stephens explains. “We are tentatively looking at her coming in the fall.”

In addition to the Clinton camp, Stephens says Barrack Obama’s people have called her for a possible fundraiser. When asked whether she would support both candidates, Stephens replied, “Well, I would certainly consider hosting both events at my home if they both wanted to come here.”

Stephens, who recently attended Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s swearing-in ceremony in Washington, D.C., says the first female House Speaker was looking at a Santa Barbara appearance in July.

“We are very excited about the possibility of her making an appearance,” Stephens explains. “Obviously, her schedule may change but we are targeting July for her to come here.”

On the Republican front, David Lack, CEO and president of Lack Construction, says the Rudy Giuliani benefit in Montecito on March 25 raised a net of $257,250. Because the fundraiser posted no expenses, Lack says Santa Barbara was California’s most efficient county in the Giuliani presidential campaign.

“If more people had efficiency like this, Giuliani would already be president,” Lack joked on the phone on Tuesday.

Giuliani has maintained that he’d spend a good deal of his campaign in California. Lack says the former mayor of New York City will be back in Montecito in October to build funds at a so-far undisclosed estate.