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Lillian Black Festival of the Arts Still Going Strong

O’Dowd is once again playing host to the Lillian Black Festival of the Arts, an event that showcases the visual and performing arts of the elementary and high school students of the Diocese of Oakland. Set for Sunday, February 26, from 1-5 p.m., this is the 31st annual such celebration of the arts, named in honor of Lillian Black, who served as the first lay principal of Corpus Christi School (from 1972-1979) before overseeing personnel and curriculum for all the schools within the Diocese of Oakland.

In that role, Black organized an event that showcased art and offered a venue for performers. After she passed away from breast cancer in 1989, the annual event was named in her honor.

The event is sponsored by the Lillian Black Children’s Arts Council of the Diocese of Oakland. O’Dowd art teacher Javier Sanchez is a member of the Council and serves as one of the key event coordinators, along with Corpus Christi first grade teacher Dorothy Lee. Additionally, Mark Ritter, an art teacher at Alameda’s St. Joseph Notre Dame High School and a member of the Council, provides tremendous assistance.

“This festival gives opportunity for the arts to shine – even if it is just for a brief time on a Sunday afternoon,” Sanchez said. “Some schools don’t have their own individual shows, so it’s nice for those students to be able to display their work in public. It’s also great for the elementary school students to see the artwork created by high school students so they can see the progression.” Black’s eldest daughter, Aimee, a member of O’Dowd’s Class of 1979, said her mother loved art and wanted to ensure it was included in the Diocesan curriculum.

“My mother majored in art at Marygrove College (Michigan) and taught art at Everett Junior High in San Francisco before she got married. She painted in her spare time before she became a Mom, and then shared her love of art with her own children, the children of Corpus Christi, and children of the entire Oakland Diocese,” she said. Aimee said the family is extremely honored that the Diocese continues to recognize her mother’s contributions annually, and added that her sister, Annie ’80, serves as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Festival each year. O’Dowd provides display boards and tables for showcasing the visual arts pieces, and Sanchez is on hand the day before the event to assist with set up.


Art work is displayed in the small gymnasium, while singing, instrumental music, dance, or dramatic performances are housed in the theater. Sanchez said that O’Dowd musical director Fred Randolph is a strong supporter of the event, not only arranging for O’Dowd bands to participate but also loaning music stands and even instruments to other school bands so they can perform. On average, 20-25 schools participate in the festival, Sanchez said, with each submitting an application in advance detailing the special set up or equipment they might need. Each school is limited to 80 pieces of art. Sanchez said that the Council also periodically arranges workshops in which Diocesan art teachers meet to discuss curriculum and how students can best be prepared for high school art classes.


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