VCCF Donor Spotlight: Interview with Armando Lopez

 In Blog

Headshot of Armando LopezArmando Lopez, one of VCCF’s first Board members and a lifelong Ventura County resident, is helping to bring the arts to our community’s kids with The Children’s Workshop, now an endowment at VCCF.

Born in Oxnard in 1945 to a farm-working family, Armando grew up in a monolingual Spanish household of seven. Both of his parents were major proponents for his education and would attend PTA meetings with neighbors along as interpreters so they could participate in their son’s education. Even growing up in a home without books or television, Armando was an early appreciator of the arts, taking his family’s religious calendars and cutting off the illustrations to pin them up on his room’s walls.

Originally founded in 2014, Armando and his Board of Directors that now includes Daisy Tatum, Christine Martinez, Priscilla Herrera and Sharon Cardiel recently transitioned The Children’s Workshop to VCCF as an endowment fund to support children’s arts programs at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Armando often cites the research that children who develop an interest in and participate in art perform higher in academics than those without the exposure. Armando worked with VCCF to ensure that The Children’s Workshop lives beyond him and his Board.

“It’s very important to me and I’m very happy to have such a responsible, strong organization to have my endowment there,” Armando said.

Armando Lopez and his wife Lourdes with the VCCF Board of Directors

Armando Lopez and his wife Lourdes with the VCCF Board of Directors

How did you get involved in the arts?

I went into real estate with my partner Dave White and proposed to him that we give back to the community by providing financial support to the arts.

We paid to bring the Cheech Marin travelling art exhibit to Oxnard and made it available for the community to come see the artwork. We were bringing kids in from different school. We even brought in kids from juvenile hall. And they walked through and saw all the artwork that was produced by nationally recognized Latino artists. And then, we showed them a film where these artists spoke about their background in East LA, growing up poor, and their dedication to their work and how it paid off. But it required focus, passion and hard work. We had it for a month, and because it was Cheech, we were able to staff with volunteers. We also highlighted Latino artists, women artists, African American artists and others. We tried to highlight a diversity of artists from the art world.

 Can you tell me about The Children’s Workshop?

At that time, it was called Downtown Center for the Arts. We would provide children with free art classes. We brought from Mexico an orchestra that used indigenous instruments and co-sponsored a concert at Oxnard College, and also helped sponsor an opera singer from Mexico who was one of the performers with the Ventura Music Festival.

It was after that that the Board of Director approved a name change to The Children’s Workshop and focus just on children. I later met with the Ventura County Arts Council, and we made plans to participate in their Artists in the Classroom program, where we would send artists into the classroom at low-income schools to give art instruction to the children. We were ready to go when COVID hit. So, we were unable to launch the program. We also created a series of videos giving art instruction that are on YouTube on writing, poetry, drawing, different things that children anywhere in the world have access to.

The Board of Directors and I became concerned about the future of The Children’s Workshop. At that time, I proposed to the Board that we establish an endowment found at VCCF, which the Board approved. My wife and I have a scholarship fund there for the children of farm workers that will be attending the CSU Channel Islands. So, I talked to them about setting up an endowment that would take on a life of its own, and the interest earned from the endowment would go to the Oxnard Performing Arts Center for their children’s arts program. Everything came together, and I’m very happy now that it’s in the hands of a reputable organization like the VCCF.

How did your view on your legacy in Ventura County change after your cancer diagnosis?

I don’t think about the legacy so much, but I would say everybody has their day under the sun if they choose to take it. The main thing is you need to make room. The only legacy that I do think about is that I just want my daughters to remember me as having been a good father, and having instilled in them positive values, and one of them is caring about people. That, to me, is more important.

The children that are being helped that’s our organizations legacy, even if they don’t know who we are. It was important for me that the organization survive, and I’m really happy that it will survive.

Do you have anything else you’d like to say that you didn’t get a chance to?

I learned a long time ago that some people don’t want to give because they feel there’s already someone giving to a certain cause. I also learned that there’s no such thing as duplication. The need is great. And so never let it hold you back, that somebody’s already doing that. Give, you know, give. Nobody meets the need completely, and then there are so many needs. Look at the lineup of who the VCCF represents and whose funds they have under their responsible management and give.

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