I hope you are all well. I want to introduce you to The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation, which together with my late parents, Mel and Leta Ramos, was created in 2017 as a way to carry on the legacy of their work as artists and art educators.
I was raised in a home with African tribal masks, a ceramic burping bowl, gumball machines, a taxidermy lioness and lots of love. This eclectic environment was my normal. My parents were artists, their friends were artists, our neighbors were artists. It was when I was in college that I became more aware of how fortunate I was to be exposed to creative expression and the freedom, tolerance and compassion that ultimately formed my core values. Art, in all of its forms, ties us together through appreciation for the joy it cultivates in us, without explanation or reason. Art is pure, provocative and sensational and should be accessible to all. It is with my whole heart that I hope to encourage and support the importance of art education in our youth, so that as they grow they will continue to teach, create, exhibit and experience the invaluable benefits of creativity, self-expression, exploration and discovery of their own passions.
When my father passed away in 2018, it became my intention to carry on his legacy as a contemporary artist, and his passion for teaching and mentoring young artists. My mother, who passed away this March, was an equal champion of making art accessible to all through her teaching and support of under-served youth and adults with special needs. It is with them in mind that I now share with you some of the initial milestones in our newly established Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation with a re-focus on the issues that mattered most to them.
Mel and Leta’s passion for art, especially the visual arts, coupled with their responsibility to help further arts education in areas most needed, will be the main focus of the Foundation and its dedicated family of board members. (See a short summary below of our Arts Education Initiative.) It has been a very emotional transition to forge ahead without the guidance and direction of Mel and Leta, but the intention to honor their gifts and passions will steer us in the directions I know they would smile upon with their blessing.
Just when we had our inaugural pilot project on track, the COVID 19 pandemic put up a roadblock. The initial project is collaboration with California State University East Bay (formerly Cal State Hayward) to grant a paid internship to an eligible student identified by the Art Department, and who exhibits a commitment to their art education, as well as one who also shows financial need. The grant will be paid to one student each semester with their commitment to teach art classes in the Hayward Promise School district, identified as a need-based school with little or no art programming. Our first award recipient was selected, but the closing of the schools has put our project on hold until Fall semester.
In this new environment of “shelter-in-place,” we quickly shifted our focus to what we can do to address the needs of this unprecedented time. Through our newly established partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation, we directed funds to Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA). This first-time gift will help to support 500 school children in need of art supplies for MOCHA’s forward-thinking online art classes and art camp. This gift is in keeping with my parents’ ideals, and it makes me proud and humbled to be able to contribute to such worthy programs in their name. If you would like to help support us in furthering donations to programs like these, please donate or contact me through the information below.
Please read on to learn more. You are receiving this Newsletter because you are a trusted and welcomed friend and supporter of my parents, their work, and their vision for an equitable world where art is not a privilege, but a human value shared and needed by us all.
The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation’s Arts Education Initiative
The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation’s Arts Education Initiative is modeled after other national initiatives of its kind which foreground arts education as critical to the development of arts leadership. Research in the creative fields has shown that an arts education leads to greater student success in general, and an engaged and more prosperous citizenship. While other arts organizations focus on arts programming in general, and many philanthropies incorporate arts education as a program strand of their overall funding agenda, few focus on arts education as a primary need. In under-funded urban neighborhoods and communities, our youth often lack access to ongoing immersion in, or even exposure to, the arts than more economically privileged children and teens enjoy, both in school and after school programs, in private instruction and civic engagement. We believe that public institutions, such as schools, universities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, can play a critical role in offering quality arts education to all young people by providing programs and partnerships to further these objectives. For these reasons, the Foundation’s flagship Arts Education Initiative will have as its focus the development of programs that foster the arts through community-based and educational service learning.
For more information about our funding priorities, community impact, or how you can support the Arts Education Initiative as a donor or partner, please contact me at Rochelle@melramos.com