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Local artists banded together to help save The Elite Theater. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, November 19, 2020

By Chris Frost


Oxnard-- Artists coming together to save a local venue was the theme at the Elite Theater, Nov 14 and 15, as the group banded together to sell works of art and raise money to fund the closed theater.


The location was full of unique pieces of art, sculptures, and unique creations. Some of the money collected benefitted the theater.


The Elite Theater is a showcase for local performers who dedicate their time to entertaining residents. Covid-19 has stopped that but has not stopped the bills. 


Dotty Pringle organized the fundraiser and said eight artists and a pianist decided to take on the project.


"We're hoping to raise a little bit of money and keep them afloat," she said. "Some of the small businesses in our area, as well as other areas, have had a hard time. About four or five weeks ago, we did a fundraiser in the parking lot, and we were able to raise a lot of money for Spudnuts, the salon, this theater, The Gallery, and some other businesses here in the Wharf."


Her group plans to focus on the Elite Theater through Nov.


"They haven't been able to open, and they are in one of the last tiers," she said. "Hopefully, this will be successful for them."


Pringle attributes the Elite's success to Patrick Mullin.


"He's been exceptionally wonderful in allowing us to do all this, but they are struggling," Pringle said.


She brought some of her work that she shows at The Studio Gallery, next to the Elite.


"We're trying to help the Elite and make a little money ourselves," she said. "We haven't been able to do the festivals and the senior boutiques or The Shores Art Walk."


Artist/ Photographer RJ Lamendola has traveled worldwide and wanted to bring some of those images to The Elite to help them.


"I've been in photography for 22 years now," he said. "I try to express the light, the colors, and the shapes. Everything from landscapes to nature and photography."


Light, shape, and texture inspire him to pull out his camera and take a picture.


"If I see lighting that's interesting to me, that draws my eye," he said. "I compose the image to have a balance and express my emotion for that light experience."


It was his wife Yvonne who encouraged him to save The Elite.


"We're both immersing ourselves into the art world," RJ said.


Yvonne brought along a picture with some impressive raised images that took her about three hours to paint.


"It took a day for it to dry, so I could seal it after," she said. "I used a medium acrylic (for the ridges) and mixed it and put it on with a spoon. I went on to NextDoor.com, and there are a lot of amazing local artists there. Dotty invited me to join her group. After that, she invited me to come to a fundraiser like this. We weren't able to go the last two times because we have a child."


Seth Lackey said he wanted to raise money for a good cause and show off his photography.


"Dottie Pringle asked me to come, and I am happy to be here," Lackey said. "I am a landscape photographer, primarily, and some of my photos you'll see are abstract nature. I love everything from our local beaches to regional life. I have stuff from the Grand Canyon. I love rust and old cars, but I primarily love our local areas and the sunsets on our beaches."


Every one of his creations starts with Lackey being in the moment.


"This is a hobby for me," he said. "I've traveled around the county for 15 years, and as a color-blind person, that doesn't mean you see only black and white. Color-blind means you have a hard time distinguishing between orange and red and green and brown. When I see a beautiful sunset, especially here on the coast, I see orange clouds and blue skies and the contrast of blacks."


He looks for proper lighting and tries to frame the image perfectly.


"Sometimes when the moment happens, especially right now, in the wintertime around 4:30 to 5, I run out to my beach, and I try to capture the most beautiful sunsets on our local beach at Mandalay in Oxnard and Ventura that I can," he said. "I like to enlarge them, frame them, and then share them with people."


He truly believes in supporting small businesses.


"We moved here seven years ago, and we never knew this little gem, this little bubble (The Elite) existed," he said. "My wife and I are from the Bay Area, and we love this area and want to support it. We heard from Dotty that some of the businesses are struggling because of the pandemic. If we can help in any way by giving a portion of my sales, that would be great. We don't want to see The Elite Theater leave. They provide a cool source of entertainment. We want to keep it here until we're old, and we want to see more shows here."


Gary Zietlow brought a collection of photographs that he's taken pictures of as a hobby.


"When this art show came up, I thought maybe it's time I showed my stuff to get a reaction," he said. "It has been fairly positive, and I'm enjoying it. It might keep me coming back for more art shows."


He, too, picked a theme, wintertime sunsets at the beach.


"Another thing that interests me, and I'd like to do a series, about the workers in the fields," he said. "It intrigues me. They're out there every day. It intrigues me, and it deserves some documentation. Photography has been a hobby since I was 10 years old."


He's new to the area, loves the people, and loves The Elite.


"I'll do what I can to keep this up," he said. "I was on the other side and behind the camera for the last 45 years working on low-budget and normal feature films. Then I switched over to sports television."


David Gardner brought a collection of abstract paintings to The Elite, along with close-up abstract photography.


"I try to look at things in a light that wouldn't normally be seen," he said. "I take gorgeous landscapes with the rays of light coming from the sun."


He'll visit places, and then he'll take up-close pictures of a specific element.


He showed off close up paintings of fire that he brought.


"You have to take 1,000 shots to get one that looks this way," he said about the photo. "Instead of looking at the great big global picture of what's going on in our world, home is right here. I get a lot of that out of my close up photography."


He also loves doing abstracts.


"To tell you what each one of these pictures is would destroy the imagination and beauty," he said. "If I told you a photo was a wadded up piece of newspaper, then the beauty is gone. That's where I go with my photography and my paintings."


The Elite has nothing going on, but they still have to pay their rent.


"As an artist, if you don't support the art world in every way you can, why bother," he said. "Winston Churchill allegedly said during World War II that they wanted to strip the arts funding for them to go into the war effort. Churchill said, what are we fighting for? It allows a certain portion of us to express ourselves. There is nothing more wonderful for an artist to have someone come up and say, oh my God, I love that."


A couple bought a series of pictures, and David asked him to send him a picture of where it hangs in their home.


"It's emotional to me that they're happy," he said. "I want to see how they put it together."


Jeff Reed does abstract work and primarily does modern art.


"I also do sculpting and do bronze sculptures," he said. "Mostly, I do prophetic art, and I feel God is creating through me, and He'll show me the meaning of these things after I create them. Sometimes, some of the most ordinary things have the most unexpected interpretations. I did two murals at Masala Twist, next to Mrs. Olson's."


His previous work leads him to his next project.


"It's almost like the work inspires me," he said. "I look a lot at composition, form, line, and texture."


One creation he brought was full of buttons, and he said he got a craving out of nowhere.


"I was laying down and saw a didgeridoo covered with buttons," he said. "I said, God, if you're creating through me, what are buttons, garments of praise. There's a woman who's been to heaven a number of times. She says, in heaven, when you sing, it becomes a garment that covers you. They also represent four menorahs arranged in a circle. That wasn't what I was thinking of. I just had a craving for buttons, and God would tell me what they mean afterward."


Tony Suleiman from State Farm took temperatures of the people entering, and he proudly supports The Elite Theater.


"I am part of the team helping the community, and I get to showcase some of the great artists that showcase here," he said. "Covid-19 has changed the way we do business. We have to be safer; we have screens in our office, we have masks, sanitizers, and we have to set up meetings via Zoom or at people's houses with safe screens. We have to adjust to make the client feel comfortable."


His wife is an artist, and he doesn't have a favorite piece.


"Every art has a different flavor, and I love it all," he said.


Bill Walthall said The Elite Theater must be saved.


"When you take a look at opportunities for people within the community to have a creative outlet, folks are pretty much on their own," he said. "When you have a community theater, that gives you the ability to have people have that outlet. Whether it's working backstage, acting, or directing, when you're able to put on shows, it brings together creative people, and there is never a downside to that. What's good is that you also get people to come out, congregate in safer times, and form the key to community theater, which is the community. The concept of community theater is integral to bringing the full community of our geographical area together."


If you missed the fundraiser, but you still want to save the Elite, email Dotty at dleiph@gmail.com, and she will help anyone with more information about the individual artists.