The ArtWalk Ventura Artist of Distinction Award annually recognizes an established individual artist (in any discipline) for artistic excellence and efforts in contributing to Ventura's art community. The all-volunteer ArtWalk Steering Committee reviewed numerous community nominations this year, and made their determination weighing the significance and magnitude of the nominee's contributions, leadership in the arts community and commitment to service to the arts.
For these reasons, Michele is an ideal selection.
Michele has been a working California artist and outspoken arts advocate for more than 30 years. Michele works as a community arts activist, teacher and stone sculptor creating public and private commissions at Stoneworks Studio off Ventura Avenue in the heart of Ventura's Westside Cultural District.
Michele's extensive service to the community includes six years teaching stone sculpture to youth-at-risk from Brighton Academy, hosting carving field trips and workshops at her studio with Art Trek, Charter School, Saticoy Elementary, Buenaventura High, and the Vita Art Center. She has worked as Artist In the Classroom with youth-at-risk at the California Youth Authority, Colston Youth Facility, and with clients from the Turning Point Foundation.
An avid supporter of ArtWalk and First Fridays Ventura, Michele hosts an ongoing monthly venue at Stoneworks Studios, when she regularly opens her space showcasing hundreds of artists and musicians both known and emerging. She uses her venue on Ventura's Westside, known locally as "The Avenue," to curate diversified exhibitions of art created by all ages, free of charge.
Michele has regularly offered her sculptures at fundraising auctions for numerous local nonprofits and Museums. In 2009, Michele received the City of Ventura Mayors Art Star Award, and in 2011 the Ventura County Arts Council Salvador Bravo Award for her art and community achievements.
For the Harvest ArtWalk in 2008, Michele created the "West Side Shoe Project" consisting of art pieces utilizing shoes by local artists and children. This project culminated with an installation of over 200 pairs that were distributed to folks in need through Catholic Charities. For the 2009 Spring Art Walk, Michele sponsored and installed "West Side Door Project." This project involved collecting and redistributing recycled doors, which the community turned into portable murals for display and sale. Ventura's City Council presented Michele with its Beautify Ventura Award in April 2009.
A highly accomplished artist, Michele attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and was a founding member of the Santa Cruz Art Center. She moved to Ventura in 1987 and joined the arts collective, Art City, where she began a short stone carving apprenticeship with Central Coast sculptors, Paul Lindhard and Joanne Duby. In 1989, she founded Stoneworks Studios where she carved a monumental granite fountain with a 39-inch diameter floating sphere for the U.S. Sales Corporation on Science Drive in Moorpark.
During her career in Ventura, Michele has received numerous awards, grants from the City of Ventura, and commissions including "Best of Show" awards at Ojai's Art In The Park, "People's Choice" awards at the Golden State Sculpture Competition, and three "Best of Show" awards at the Ventura County Fair, First Place Sculpture at the Thousand Oaks ArtWalk and First Place Sculpture at the Malibu Fine Arts Festival. Her piece "Desert Flower" was purchased as one of the first pieces in the Ventura Municipal Art Collection, on permanent display at City Hall. Michele had a solo exhibit of her sculptures at the reopening of the Museum of Ventura County (formerly the Ventura County Museum of History and Art) in 2010 and a sculpture was purchased for the permanent collection.
In 2013, Michele exhibited in the Santa Paula Museum of Art with painter Susan Petty. In 2014, she had a solo exhibit in Los Angeles, titled "Chasing Beauty" at the Minan Gallery. Stoneworks Studios and gallery is open year-round for exhibits, carving classes and by appointment.