From the Head of School
A few years ago, we lost a huge oak tree near the Pavilion. Losing this tree was a particular hardship as it provided a perfectly-situated screen to the arc path of the spring sun. Spring is when we have many large assemblies and performances. Without the oak, the glare and heat of the sun becomes extreme for both those on stage and those sitting in the audience. After careful consideration, we decided to plant another oak where the previous one had been. To promote faster growth, we planted a nurse tree next to it. A nurse tree, if you don’t already know, is a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a small, slower-growing tree. The nurse tree can provide shade, shelter from wind, or protection from animals. Our nurse tree is a Tipu Tipu. This morning, I noticed how tall and strong both trees have become. It almost appears that the oak is leaning or reaching toward its Tipu Tipu nurse. I began thinking about what a lovely metaphor this partnership offers.
During the month of December, even whilst navigating the chaos and trauma caused by the fire, Oak Grove received generous financial gifts from parents, alumni, staff, and our philosophical donors. It is so clear that these financial gifts allow our school to strengthen and grow in a way that would not be possible otherwise. So much of what has been done over the past few years has been possible from these ever-growing gifts.
Oak Grove recently received an extraordinary art collection from the estate of David Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez was an art teacher at the American International Secondary School in Germany and early on developed a lifelong interest in art. Mr. Rodriguez first heard Krishnamurti speak at Saanen, Switzerland in the mid-1960s. Mark Lee recalls meeting David throughout many decades at various Krishnamurti talks in India, Switzerland, England, and in the United States.
The rather large collection contains fine art, Tibetan antiquities, folk-art, and other artifacts from around the world. Some items are of sentimental value, while others are relatively precious. It was David’s expressed wish that Oak Grove maintain the collection as a whole and requested we not sell or donate any or all of the collection. We are hoping that the collection will serve an educational purpose — introducing our students to art they may otherwise not have encountered — and at the same time raising profound questions about the role of art in the world, the relationship between art and religious ideas, and practical questions about how art is preserved and displayed.
With this educational purpose in mind, and in considering how to best understand and display the collection, we hired Oak Grove alumna Liza Shapiro, who has her own collections care and management company. Liza graduated from Oak Grove in 2006. Since then, she studied art restoration and art history at Lorenzo De’ Medici, Florence, Italy, Art Conservation at Camberwell College of Art, London, and Museum Studies at University College London.
Liza has broad experience in London’s foremost museums and galleries, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Modern, where she assisted in the Exhibition and Conservation departments. She also worked at the Redfern Gallery as a studio assistant and at Paul Stolper gallery supporting a Damien Hirst exhibition. Additionally, Liza worked for Lock & Co. as an Exhibition Registrar. Liza has recently relocated to Los Angeles, where she currently manages and cares for private art collections.
Liza has catalogued the collection we received and is working closely with Oak Grove staff to determine the best way to share and protect this generous and thoughtful legacy gift. Some of the less valuable artifacts may be displayed at the campus for students and others to enjoy, while the more precious items will likely be loaned to museums that have the ability to properly care for them while making them available to a larger audience.
A legacy gift of this magnitude has a large impact on a small school like Oak Grove. To honor this gift and the desires of the late Mr. David Rodriguez, we are working to preserve his collection and make it available for many years to come.
More about David:
David Evan Rodriguez was born on July 1, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Lane Technical High School, where he took art classes in oil and watercolor painting. After enrolling in Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, he was granted a four-year scholarship, where he completed a BA in Art Education.
Pursuing his interest in teaching, David moved to Berlin in the early ‘70s, where he served as an art teacher at the Berlin American Elementary (Thomas A. Toberts) School and then at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK). David’s eclectic group of friends included the German artist Eberhard Franke, with whom he had a close friendship that spanned decades. When David retired and moved to Florida, the two men kept in touch through many long letters and postcards. Through these letters, one gets a deep sense of David as a human being and friend: kind, loyal, caring, and profoundly intelligent.
David Rodriguez traveled throughout the world, to Europe, North and South America, and India, where he became familiar with J. Krishnamurti, whom he met several times. At one of Krishnamurti’s talks in Switzerland, David met Mark Lee, the first Director of Oak Grove School. After traveling to the Rishi Valley School in India, where he saw Mark once again, David decided to make the trip to Ojai, where he discovered the beauty of Oak Grove School. Feeling a deep connection to Krishnamurti, David believed that the school would be the ideal place to bequeath his extensive art collection so that he could continue to inspire students.
David Rodriguez was an independent, free thinker whose unique art collection includes Asian antiquities, paintings, prints, and many of his own artworks. Oak Grove is deeply grateful to have the opportunity to house his art collection, with hopes to inspire the students and community for many years to come.
Run for the Hills – 5K RUN
Kick off Earth Week, Sunday, April 15, at Oak Grove School. This is a community event to benefit the OVLC hillside restoration efforts.
- Half mile run for kids at 9:30am
- 5K campus trail run at 10:00am
This family-friendly event will include numerous schools from the Ojai Valley. The 5K course will span Oak Grove School property.
After completing the run, stay and enjoy our post-race community activities:
Music • Yoga • Food Trucks • Environmental Speakers • Student Booths • Leisure Games • Chalk4Peace • and more
Hosted by the Green Schools Student Collective: Besant Hill School, Thacher School, Oak Grove School.
Proceeds benefiting local hillside restoration efforts by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.
UPDATE: May 20, 2018
In a follow-up from last month’s Run for the Hills fundraiser, the high school students, as part of the Green Schools Student Collective, along with the help of teachers and volunteers, raised over $4,500. The proceeds will benefit the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.
This event and the Seed Propagation Project that was initiated earlier in the year are an ongoing effort by our student community to help restore the surrounding hills following the Thomas fire.
Transcript of Speech given by Simone Noble
Good Morning everyone. My name is Simone Noble. My two children attend this school – Jonah is in 8th grade and Danielle is in 5th grade. This is their third year as Oak Grove School students.
Jonah and Danielle may tell you that I annoy them by following them around with a camera … not all the time of course but I do see a value in capturing those moments that may seem ordinary to them, but they will remember as contributing to the rich fabric of their lives. I hope that in this beautiful valley we are creating a life they will look back on as worthwhile … and no matter where they choose to travel or live in the world, they will feel a tug for the soft light, long days, and simplicity of easy friendship. And just in case they don’t, they will have some photographs to remind them.
When we evacuated Ojai just weeks ago, it was an easy choice to take the few photo albums from my own childhood in South Africa. These albums don’t contain any works of art; the glue is peeling and the pictures are of a poor quality by today’s standards. But what they do contain is a legacy of family, and proof that there were happy moments; and parents who loved their kids; and grandparents who were present; and Sunday afternoons just hanging out together.
One of the photographs on those yellowing pages is of my sister and myself as very young children playing in an inflatable kiddie pool. Sitting next to us is a woman in her sixties, smiling with her arms outstretched should either of us need help in the three inches of water. Her name was Robbie and she was a much older friend of my mother, who had fostered a special friendship with me. She took me swimming to the public pool and I loved spending time in her bachelor apartment because the bedroom and kitchen were in the same room, that overlooked the Atlantic ocean, and I knew no-one else who lived like that. She taught me many things including how to stretch my body and about a country called Switzerland that she would visit each year. She talked about healthy food and the value of eating a baked potato every day. I didn’t realize it at the time but Robbie was also teaching my mom, specifically about yoga and vegetarianism. My parents, as a result, adopted this lifestyle for many years, which was pretty progressive in South Africa in the 70’s. Although their own practices changed eventually, those teachings continue to define my own life. Robbie was not part of my life for very long but I always remembered her and would think of her sporadically.
Some almost 40 years later I was looking to depart from the life we had been living in Cleveland, Ohio, for a new start that felt more authentic to who I was, and the aspirations I had for raising Jonah and Danielle. In search of some breathing room, I rented a little cottage in Ojai for a month one summer and brought the kids out for a change of scenery and sunshine. I enrolled them in a science and surfing camp that Oak Grove was offering.
To say I was enthralled with the campus would be an understatement. I was captivated by the energy of the school, by the beauty and the softness. I felt held in a way I couldn’t explain walking on this land … and I remember thinking that it would be an absolute dream for the kids to attend school here and then thinking of the impossibility of it all. I won’t bore you with the details of how we got from A to B, other than to say it was not without an enormous amount of compromise, upheaval, and sacrifice that I am forever grateful for. Pragmatically, it made no sense but the pull was so strong that we had to try it out. By the time the next school year started, the kids were enrolled as Oak Grove students.
They had been at the school for about six months when my mom came to visit from Cape Town. When we brought her to the school she pointed to a picture and said, “oh look, that is Krishnamurti.” Confused, I asked her how she possibly would know who Krishnamurti was. I had never heard her mention his name before and I hadn’t read his work until I had discovered Oak Grove, and I consider myself better versed in these matters than my mom. She explained, of course, that Robbie had been a devout follower of Krishnamurti – visiting Switzerland each year and introducing her to yoga and vegetarianism. Until that moment I had never connected those dots. But in an instant it all made sense. A circle closed. A circle closed across space and time. Of course, it made perfect sense that here I was living in Ojai and picking kids up from the school founded by Krishnamurti.
So that is the thing about this school. It has a magic for some of us. Being here is like stepping behind the veil in a way. It doesn’t always make practical sense but it feels perfectly right.
I sometimes watch my kids walk down the path to their classrooms, passing the pepper tree planted by Krishnamurti and the flowers planted by Jake and the lavender and the gorgeous mulberry tree, and I wonder how much they appreciate and notice, and whether they understand how unusual their school days are. But that doesn’t really matter because they are learning a way of living and engaging in the world that feeds the soul in the ordinary moments just by being present.
So just as when I photograph them in those ordinary moments at home, my hope is that wherever they live one day and whatever career or lifestyle they choose, they will carry with them an intuitive knowing of a way to live that makes sense. The practice of living in the present, and usually ordinary moments. A slowing down, a deeper listening, a kinder word, a lighter step, an honoring of themselves and others … all in the very present moment. And that is why Jonah and Danielle, are Oak Grove Students.
The Thomas Fire affected each of us in unique and personal ways. Our neighbor to the East at Besant Hill School had their own collective experience. A snapshot of their story is detailed on their website, two days after the fire began:
I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to our entire community, which not only entails the students, faculty and staff, but also our parents, alumni, trustees, and independent school colleagues from around the country offering assistance, a listening ear, prayers, and positive energy. It has been a whirlwind over the past 48 hours, and I am humbled by these responses and support.
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