Check Presented to The Center for Excellence

Visual Arts teacher Ellen Franz, left, and Dr. Shirley Thornton, right, accept a check from the Artists@Issaquah show | photo by Laurie Mills, post by Jen Gennari

Last month’s Artists@Issaquah Art Show and Sale was free, but visitors were asked to drop a few dollars in donation jars for Marin City school arts programs. This week, organizers were pleased to present a check for $500 to The Center for Excellence.

Bayside-Martin Luther King Jr. Academy provides K-8 education to about 150 children in our community. Although the state mandates art and music in the curriculum, the district covers only one art class per week per grade level, and one music class. The Center for Excellence is dedicated to empowering students for the arts, and raises funds to augment and supplement Bayside MLK’s offerings.

Currently, The Center for Excellence funds the following programs:

  • Visual Arts teacher Ellen Franz offers Open Studio three afternoons each week, allowing students to come after school and just create. She welcomes adult artists who want to mentor and inspire young artists.
  • Music teacher Jonnette Newton offers Soundwaves, free Saturday music lessons for students. Often, local musicians volunteer their time and Redwood High School students serve as mentors.
  • Private music lessons for aspiring young musicians.

The Center for Excellence was founded in 2014 by Dr. Shirley Thornton, a retired educator who taught at Sacramento State and served as Deputy Superintendent of the Specialized Programs Branch of the California Department of Education. She also served on the Board of Marin’s Women’s Hall of Fame. The center has partnered with Glassdoor and the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts with a vision of raising $85,000 annually and more over a five-year period. They have also fundraised to pay for accomplished musicians to attend summer music camp, solicited used and unwanted musical instrument donations, and created a museum gallery on the campus.

If you are interested in donating your time or money, please visit