Ramona Hill exudes creativity, and she wants others to share and explore their own talents.
The founder of Credo Studio, 1 Polk St., in San Juan Bautista, has created a space for the joy of self expression. It will celebrate its first anniversary on Jan. 20 with music and performances.
Housed in the former International Order of Odd Fellows Hall, the gallery offers space for art, crafts, dance, performances and meetings. Hill’s vision for the facility is an ever-expanding offering of activities.
“We want what the community wants …,” she said during an interview at the gallery. “I kind of see this as my life work and that’s what I’m going for here. … I want this to be a place where people can do activities they believe in.”
The gallery’s name, “Credo,” comes from Latin and means “I believe.” Its logo contains a peacock feather, which symbolizes immortality, wisdom and renewal.
Hill, a 20-year resident of San Juan Bautista, is a belly dancer, songwriter and visionary. With her four children grown, she was looking for something more for herself. After looking all over San Juan Bautista for studio space, the rambling gray I.O.O.F. hall, built in 1868, became her focus.
“The only reason it (Credo) became an art center is because I got this building,” Hill said.
The studio opened its doors on Jan. 20, 2016.
A year ago, she took her idea of Credo to Startup Weekend Monterey Bay at CSU, Monterey Bay. There, would-be entrepreneurs present their ideas and compete for prize money. The judges liked Hill’s proposal for an arts center. She tied for second place with Ohana Shave Ice of Hollister and was awarded $2,000.
“I think the reason the judges liked it was because of the heart in it,” Hill said.
Having raised children in San Juan Bautista, Hill knew how little there was for children to do there. She wanted to create a space for her own creativity but also for the entire community. She moved to the city from Santa Cruz and built a house with her husband Ray Hill IV. He owns and operates R&R Custom Machine Works there.
Starting Credo was slow, Hill said, but she soon learned which activities she offered were the most popular.
One was a summer camp for children, held last June. Seventeen children showed up each day for the camp. She wants to add one during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in the future.
To help with Credo’s mission, Hill pulled together of team of volunteer department heads. Grace Nutter, music; and Jeremiah Martinez, theater arts. Each one brings their own creative spark to the mix.
Martinez plays guitar and bass for the Latin funk band SOMOS. A performance artist since age 12, he is part of a family of actors, directors and musicians.
Nutter is a second-generation member of El Teatro Campesino. A singer, actor and director, she has had internships with Gallery Players of Oregon and San Benito Stage Company.
Classes cater to both children and adults. They include drawing and painting, dance, movement, music and afternoon enrichment activities. There’s a monthly First Saturday event (the next one is Feb. 4), a Wednesday night dance and an open mic event the first Saturday of the month. Spoken word, poetry, music and dance are the categories.
Mrs. Claus made an appearance in December, and on New Year’s Eve, Credo held a sober toga party. During its first year, Credo also hosted three month-long art shows.
Hill’s daughter Mandisa Snodey teaches healing classes at Credo and also sells essential oils.
Coming up, Hill said, will be gardening classes taught by Jacklynn Bunker. Bunker also will sell plants and art in a yard art studio called Rustic Chica.
“I call her my garden goddess,” Hill said. “She’s very creative. Everyone here is very creative.”
The cost of classes varies, depending on whether you are a gallery member of not. Annual membership fee is $150 for adults and $125 for youth up to age 18. Members receive a package of 10 classes a year. Additional classes cost $10 per hour for members. The class fee for non-members is $15 per hour.
Credo is not yet a nonprofit organization. It has a fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit in New York City that funds art centers.
Credo is now housed in two rooms and the garden area in back, where Hill has a small office under a towering redwood tree. The larger of the two rooms is used for dance and performances. The adjacent room is for arts and crafts and cooking classes.
Events for children do not include computers. “This is a place for a break in tech,” Hill said. “This is for hands-on.”
There are two rooms upstairs that Hill has future plans for. In one of them she would like to establish an adult art space.
Credo will hold a celebration event Jan. 20. There will be artist performances, refreshments, music and tours. A major fundraiser on Feb.17 will feature a cabaret show and crab feed at Timeless Treasures, 507 Third St.
“That will be a night that will be fun,” Hill said.
For more information on Credo Studio, www.credostudio.org or call 831-593-5077.
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