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Laguna Blanca Art Teacher Dug Uyesaka featured at Westmont’s Ridley-Tree Museum of Art

Exhibit includes a body of work from Uyesaka’s childhood through the present

Laguna Blanca School Laguna Blanca Middle and Upper School Art Teacher Dug Uyesaka’s work is appearing in a mid-career retrospective at the Westmont RidleyTree Museum of Art in Santa Barbara this fall.

The installation, which runs Oct. 20 through Jan. 14, includes a variety of paintings, prints and assemblage from Uyesaka’s childhood through the present day.

An opening reception will be from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Westmont's Ridley-Tree Museum of Art. The reception is free and open to the public.

Laguna Blanca art teacher Dug Uyesaka. Click to view larger
Laguna Blanca art teacher Dug Uyesaka. (Laguna Blanca)

“Artists can be unassuming about their work and Dug seems reserved when it comes to promoting his art,” said Judy Larson, director of the museum. “But the art itself is anything but quiet. Dug’s assemblages and collages exude a boldness that ‘packs a punch.’ His prints, drawings, and paintings range from expressions of untapped energy to nuanced poetry. There could not be a better time to feature Dug Uyesaka’s work. Career-wise, his work is as good as it gets.”

Uyesaka grew up as a third-generation Japanese American in Clovis, Calif., just outside of Fresno, nestled in the San Joaquin Valley. Coming from a blue-collar agricultural background, he says he never anticipated pursuing a career in art —most specifically, art education.

“I always loved drawing and making things with my hands,” he said. “I’d never even been to a museum until I was in high school. My family definitely had concerns about me pursuing something like art as a career.”

But eventually, Uyesaka’s passion won them over, and he went on to pursue an arts degree at UCSB in 1975. He has been a staple in the Santa Barbara arts community ever since, later taking up freelance graphic design and even working with a local film production company as he continued his craft.

He taught afterschool art programs and art workshops. Still, it wasn’t until he joined Laguna’s staff in 2000 that he felt comfortable wearing the hat of a teacher.

“The university art curriculum was not as career-minded then as it is now,” he said. “I felt I had nothing valuable to share as an art instructor at such a young age. But now — many years later — I see the incredible value that art provides to our children. Art allows you to imagine and create, and to develop the craftsmanship to actually execute your ideas. Most of life is problem-solving, and art allows students to do that hands-on.”

In 2009, Uyesaka received the Laguna Blanca School Faculty Excellence Award in addition to a William T. Colville Grant. In 2010, he received an Arts Fund of Santa Barbara, Individual Artist Award for Collage and Assemblage.

For Uyesaka, the Westmont exhibition allows for the added thrill of sharing with his students the artwork that he created in his youth.

“Art is the light, joy, and energy in our everyday lives,” Uyesaka said. “It enhances everything around us, and I am so grateful to share my art with my kids here at Laguna, at Westmont, and throughout the greater Santa Barbara community."

For more information, please visit www.lagunablanca.org.

— Tara Broucqsault  for Laguna Blanca.

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