Spring 2022 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed about the history behind the development of our foundation by an organization we are collaborating with on an innovative project for art educators. A question was asked if I was inspired by a teacher in my lifetime. Many came to mind, but I told the story about my high school physiology teacher who, with his wife, taught students how to trim bonsai trees on the weekends in their backyard. All were welcome to join on his day off and to learn from him.  He was generous and genuinely loved to teach.

The story I didn’t tell was that of Mrs. Zimmerman. She was my second grade teacher at Chabot Elementary in Oakland where I grew up, in the same house I work in today. Mrs. Zimmerman was the most elegant woman, movie star elegant, with perfectly coiffed hair, suits with skirts and matching shoes. She was statuesque and had the most melodic voice. We were all captivated by her. But that is not what inspired me, well not just that. She was required to teach spelling, reading and mathematics mandated for a second-grade curriculum. However, she taught me so much more.

The school was hosting a science fair for all grades, first through fifth. To a second grader the idea to enter was quite intimidating. But she gently persuaded each one of her students to try, and with her suggestions and encouragement we all did. My project was to see if plants would grow better if you spoke nicely to them. I had two identical plants, one that I spoke to and one I did not. Miraculously, and scientifically proven, the plant I spoke to flourished and the other one wilted and died. Upon my presentation, I was awarded a blue ribbon which I proudly displayed for years. The fact that I failed to water the plant I didn’t speak to was never addressed, nor was it discussed that we all received blue ribbons. It was the sincere feeling of accomplishment that I felt when Mrs. Zimmerman acknowledged my efforts that made the most memorable impression on me. Mrs. Zimmerman was not required to teach science. She was not required to help with projects outside the standard curriculum. She was not required to teach art, or music, or song or courteous etiquette, but she did. The “extra” education that I was so fortunate to get is not so readily taught in schools today.  There are many factors today that constrain public school teachers as they struggle with insufficient budgets, overcrowded classrooms, lack of support for special needs students and differently abled challenges. I think, if given the resources, teachers would love the to teach a colorful rainbow of subjects not just the required primary colors.

I want every student to have a Mrs. Zimmerman. Our mission, to ensure an arts education for all youth is gaining momentum with a very exciting project, described in this newsletter, that we are developing with the Crocker Art Museum. The Mel & Leta Ramos Family Virtual Education Center is coming and teachers around the world will have free access to a multitude of inspirational curriculum projects to support teachers and inspire creativity for kids who should all earn more blue ribbons.

With love,

Rochelle Leininger
Founder and CEO
The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation


ArtMix: CrockerCom

The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation was the proud Title Sponsor of the Crocker Art Museum’s annual CrockerCon festival! After two years of shuttered events, the CrockerCon was back in full force on April 14th with its signature extravaganza celebration featuring its epic cosplay, live music and performances, hands- on demonstrations, artmaking, comic-themed games, and a costume competition. Our own Rochelle Leininger donned a Wonder Woman costume, inspiring youth, and families with her own Pop Art touch in homage to the iconographic work of her father, Mel Ramos.

The Foundation’s participation in this year’s CrockerCon also marked our growing programming with the Crocker, where we announced the forthcoming Mel and Leta Ramos Family Virtual Art Education Center. 

(See more about this exciting new partnership in our Announcements)

Cal State East Bay Rising Student Juried Exhibition: The Mel Ramos and Leta Ramos Awards

As an extension of our long-term relationship with California State University East Bay (formerly California State University Hayward, where Mel taught until his retirement in 1997), The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation supported two art awards at this Spring’s Rising Student juried student exhibition. The Leta Ramos and the Mel Ramos awards were given to two students respectively: Berenice Martinez for her two photographic portraits of her daughter, and Colton Thomas for his thickly textured acrylic on canvas painting.

Leta Ramos Award winner, Berenice Martinez (L.) and Rochelle (R.)
                   Let’s Go Back and In Time, photograph, 2022.

             Mel Ramos Award winner, Colton Thomas, with Ceros, acrylic on canvas, 2021.


— We are excited to announce our *new programming partnership* with the Crocker Art Museum to inaugurate the The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Virtual Art Education Center.

As one of the leading arts education providers in Sacramento, the Crocker will host and administer a newly designed virtual platform for arts educators through a range of programs, trainings and lesson plans grounded in California Core Standards, while expanding engagement through future online offerings.  As one of our special projects focused on our mission to ensure that all youth have access to an arts education, the Mel and Leta Ramos Family Virtual Art Education Center is anticipated to roll out in early 2023. We are currently working to raise funds to support the development of the Center’s programs. Stay tuned for more information or contact us if you’d like to learn about how you can help to support us and the work of the Center.

This spring, we have joined with Art for Oakland Kids (AOK) in their Pop Art Continuum online auction (May 22 through June 5, with an auction preview launching May 16). The online auction — to raise money for one of our treasured East Bay grantees — has been built around two limited-edition Mel Ramos prints— donated from his private collection by The Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation. AOK provides community-funded grants to teaching artists and arts organizations for hands-on arts education programs in Oakland’s most under-resourced public schools. We are proud and honored to support their work with our gift.

To learn more about how you can support AOK and participate in the auction events, please visit them at www.artsforoaklandkids.org/Pop-Art-Continuum     

Gabriel Navar in the Ramos Studio, May 2022  

— Announcing the Inaugural Mel Ramos Artist-in-Residence, Gabriel Navar. Navar is a California artist, poet and college arts educator based in Oakland.  As a former apprentice and dear friend of Mel’s, Navar “feels extremely blessed to have been a student and friend of the great Mel Ramos,” and is committed to carrying on what he has learned as an artist now working in “web and social-media-based awareness,” and as a mentor to a new generation of emerging artists. The opportunity to work in the Ramos Studio creates both continuity between Mel’s work and the work of future generations of artists and teaching artists like Gabe, as well as for artists to be supported by a studio space in which to create. As Navar says, “the only bad thing about working, creating, and expressing in the Ramos Studio is having to leave!” We are happy you are here, Gabe! Mel would be so honored to share the space. To learn more about the artist, visit his website at GabrielNavar.com

Invitation to Join our Circle of Friends

As a small family foundation, we rely on the generosity of supporters, like you, to help us continue to fund our amazing grantees at the frontlines of arts education, and the special projects that keep Mel and Leta’s legacy and art works alive and in circulation for all — in both art world and educational contexts. As our Arts Education Initiative expands its giving potential and programs, we invite you to join us in our mission and goals to share your knowledge and learn how you can contribute to programs of your choice. To discuss the work of the Foundation and how you can support us or offer a tax-deductible donation, please contact: rochelle@melramos.com

By joining our Circle of Friends, you will be joining a passionate group of art supporters & arts education enthusiasts. For more information, please visit our website at: www.ramosfamilyfoundation.org or donate by mailing a check payable to “Ramos Family Foundation” and send to 5941 Ocean View Drive, Oakland, CA 94618  OR directly via our Donor Advised Fund at:  https:// www.ebcf. org/donate/ and click “Mel and Leta Ramos Family Foundation Fund”

At last, we were able to deliver (thanks to artist and friend Joao DeBrito) our taxidermy lioness and hawk donations to the Petaluma Wildlife Museum, the largest student-run museum in the United States. They are “inspiring the next generation of conservationists through environmental education and practical conservation”.