Our History in the Arts
The visual and performing arts have been a vital part of California Lutheran University since its founding in 1959, and the University continues to champion the arts by presenting and promoting cultural and educational events on and beyond its Thousand Oaks campus.
Collaboration with the community has been the norm. Cal Lutheran's first music professor and choir director, C. Robert Zimmerman, developed an important choral group and, along with conductor Walter Birkedahl, co-founded the first symphonic orchestra in the Conejo Valley. Elmer Ramsey, who replaced Birkedahl in 1965, conducted the symphony for many years and remains active as the founder/director of the Sherwood Singers and the Conejo Pops Orchestra.
Drama professor Richard Adams in 1977 began taking Cal Lutheran students into Conejo Valley schools to perform plays and conduct acting workshops, and produced summer plays and musicals in Kingsmen Park with professional actors. Like former Cal Lutheran president Raymond Olson (1963-1971), he worked tirelessly to promote the arts as a civic leader. Theatre arts professor Ken Gardner was hired to run the Children's Theater Program in 1984, the same year that his colleague Michael Arndt established a theater workshop for youth that eventually grew into Camp Shakespeare.
The Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival drew 3,000 people to its first six performances in 1997. Now established as the professional theater company of Cal Lutheran, the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company stages two of the Bard's plays each summer and runs a wide variety of educational programs for K-12 and college students.
Since 1997, when the Soiland Humanities Center opened with the Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture, Cal Lutheran has offered many public exhibitions by nationally recognized artists as well as Cal Lutheran faculty and students. The William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art began hosting exhibitions of works by well-known artists and students in 2011.
Cal Lutheran strives to be a convener of arts organizations and artists who can work together to raise awareness of the arts. The University in partnership with organizations throughout the region is hosting an Arts and Culture Symposium in November 2013. Also in November, the Graduate School of Education is hosting the fourth annual Arts and Learning Symposium to strengthen arts access for learners from K-12 to the university level. Next year, the University will present TRAC 2014: The Representational Art Conference in Ventura, the second in series of international conferences exploring the distinctive aesthetic values and visions of representational visual artists.