The current incarnation of one of Agoura Hills oldest art studios is housed in a strip mall off of Canwood Street, just off the 101 Freeway. The school’s instructor, Celeste Frederickson, designed the custom-built space, which has been open for a year-and-a-half, to better meet the needs of her students.
has been a part of the local scene for the past 30 years. “I was born into it,” said Frederickson, describing her entree into the art world.
Her grandfather, Michael Ward, founded the business in 1963 in Ventura County, calling it Michael Ward Studio.
Grandfather and granddaughter worked side by side for 18 years. Frederickson inherited not only his artistic and teaching skills, but also his business acumen.
Upon Ward’s retirement in 2005, Frederickson took over and changed the name.
“You could call me self-taught in all aspects, but I also had 18 years of apprenticeship under my grandfather,” said Frederickson, a mother of two.
The studio has been around so long that some current students still remember Ward and the space he used to occupy towards the back of the same strip mall.
Former Agoura Hills resident Meryl Zinn remembers taking her first art lessons under Ward 20 years ago.
“I got busy raising kids then I moved away, but I’m back,” said the Malibu resident, who is currently one of about eight students taking a three-hour class for adults on Tuesdays.
Zinn is working on a scene featuring a Western-style cabin, from a magazine clipping she stumbled upon. “I’m still working on a title,” said Zinn, estimating that it will take another one to two weeks to complete her project.
“It’s just a hobby so I only get to work on it once a week for three hours,” she said. “We all go at our own pace here; there is no judgment.”
Everyone uses oil as a medium and most of the students have no art backgrounds. “It’s a hobby for some adults or an after-school activity for kids,” said Frederickson, whose students’ ages range anywhere from 6 to 83.
“That would be me,” said 83-year-old Gilda Crisp, in response to Frederickson’s estimation.
Crisp, of West Hills, has been taking art lessons since the 1960s. “I started with acrylic but now I use oil,” she said, hard at work on her rendition of a New York skating rink.
Like Zinn, Crisp only comes once a week. The New York skating rink scene has been a three-month work in progress but she is in no hurry.
“Call me a slow painter but I’m precise and exacting. Okay, I take my time because as you can see, this scene is so intricate and detailed,” she said, pointing out the colorful outfits and headgear of the skaters in the crowded rink.
“A lot of my adult students are retirees, stay-at-home parents, empty nesters – who are discovering or rediscovering art,” Frederickson said.
At her Wednesday afternoon kids’ class, Rachel Lee, 13, a new student, is working on her second painting. “I’ve been painting since I was small, “ said Lee. “But at For Art’s Sake, they have a lot of really great techniques … I’ve always had some talent but haven’t been able to paint as well as I do here.”
In working with children, Frederickson uses a very specific technique to get them going. “I have them each start out with a trial class painting the same floral,” she said. “It’s really a way for me to gauge where [the student] is at … From there, they do a landscape and we work on further developing their skills.”
There are currently two adult classes and eight classes for children this fall. Classes are constantly being added to adjust to the growing demand of a clientele from as far as Los Angeles and Ojai.
Though summer camp has just wrapped up for the season, Frederickson is gearing up for private lessons, birthday parties and expanding the framing side of the business to continue the legacy.
-- In honor of Agoura's 30th anniversary, we will be highlighting businesses, places and programs that have made their indelible mark on the city.