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Dana Point festival offers students a chance to design event logo, displaying work among professional artists

Through community support and the enthusiasm of young artists, this year’s Dana Point Festival of Whales is once again offering students an opportunity to step into the art world, in a whale of a big way.

After four decades of Dana Point Festival of Whales celebrations, and as many logo designs, a program kicked off last year to involve art students at Dana Hills High School in creating an iconic image to represent the festival.

Festival Executive Director Penny Elia first reached out to the high school’s digital art photography teacher Natalie Hribar-Kelly with the idea of creating a student art contest for the creation of the 2012 festival logo.

“Students were extremely thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in the contest last year. As an art teacher, I was really proud to watch the level of motivation during the project. I think knowing that their design could potentially be published and seen by everyone in their community was very exciting for them,” said Hribar-Kelly. “They couldn’t believe that their design could possibly be wrapped on a bus, posted around town and sold on clothing. This opportunity validates the hard work they do in my class and it also shows the kids that the community values the talents of their youth.”

The program was such a success, netted a striking logo image and inspired dozens of high school students to create and display work at the festival, that its continuation was high on the list of priorities for the upcoming 2013 edition of the Dana Point Festival of Whales.

“It’s important to embrace the next generation and enable them to reach their goals and objectives. What better way than to partner with our local high school and the incredible staff at Dana Hills to achieve this goal,” said Elia. “We are so fortunate to have a great community of mentors to continue this partnership.”

Program organizers ran across a hurdle early in this year’s planning process. At one point the continuation of the program was in jeopardy of not moving forward, largely due to staffing reductions within the Capistrano Unified School District.

“There were some shifts in staffing, due to reductions and regular personnel changes, and some were initially worried that we wouldn’t be able to continue the program this year,” said Joe Farley, school district superintendent. “But our art teachers—some newly employed, some returning—were pleased to continue the tradition. We believe it is important for students to engage in their communities and community activities and the Festival of Whales is a great event for our schools and students to support.”

Having the support of the district extend all the way up to the superintendent’s office makes a big difference in keeping programs like this going, especially in lean financial times like these, according to Dana Hills Principal Jason Allemann.

“Having Superintendent Farley’s and the CUSD Board’s support in these efforts always make these opportunities easy to coordinate and present to students and teachers,” Allemann said. “It is important for all of our schools to support art education in any way possible and for SOCSA students along with all DHHS students to be provided opportunities to connect with the greater community. The City of Dana Point has given so much support to DHHS and for our students to be able to give back through participation and support of local events while, at the same time, gaining practical experience in their areas of interest is what it is all about.”

Allemann went on to commend Dana Hills teachers for continuing to provide what he called amazing support, service and instruction to students while facing ongoing staffing and fiscal challenges.

“Time and again, I have been impressed with our teachers for keeping the focus on what is best for our students at the forefront of their work. They bring our students’ best interests to the table along with their passion for the arts—a great combination that motivates and inspires students to refine and develop their interests and skills. Luckily for me, the staff at DHHS is about opening doors and opportunities for our students,” he said.

Again this year, all of the school’s art program instructors—including drawing, painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture and video production—are invited to offer their students a whale watching field trip in December aboard a Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching vessel followed by a tour of the Ocean Institute and its historic tall ship brig Pilgrim.

This excursion is meant to serve as inspiration for students to create artwork in various mediums to be on display, alongside professional artists, at the Art in the Park visual arts show at the festival.

Like last year, local professional artists such as Laguna Beach-based glass blower Muffin Spencer Devlin, will attend the field trip to share with students insight into career possibilities in the arts.

Art in the Park Coordinator Jackie Gallagher of the Dana Point Fine Arts Association is also happy to be once again inviting students to show their work, as it aligns with an important part of her association’s priorities—to promote the knowledge and capabilities of member artists and to support the development of the local high school art program.

Although spring will have sprung before student artwork is ready to go on display at the March 2013 festival, Hribar-Kelly is only one of many commending student work submitted for the logo contest.

“I think there were some really thoughtful entries in this year’s competition. Of course I’m biased because I love my students and the work they do,” said Hribar-Kelly. “I anticipate however that the designs will just improve each year, assuming and hoping of course, that we will get to continue this lovely tradition.”


Dana Hills class of 2012 alum Steven Kazarian was chosen as this year’s winner. His artwork will become the official logo of the Dana Point Festival of Whales and be featured on all event advertising—including OCTA bus wraps, festival website, signage and logo apparel.

We caught up with Steven at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, Calif., where he is a freshman, to let him know his artwork had been chosen.

“For my design to stand among professional artists like John Van Hamersveld and Wyland who have created logos in the past is an absolute honor,” Kazarian said. “I remember having a great time at the festival as a kid. It definitely made an impression on me. Even back then I felt pride in being a part of Dana Point and seeing the whole town come out to celebrate the whales.

Kazarian said he would like to thank his teachers for being helpful and encouraging him to enter the contest, especially since graphic design is just a hobby as his main artistic interest is in digital photography.

“I really got into art in my junior and senior years and was shocked at how much it helped open my eyes to the possibilities of digital photography,” Kazarian said. “Although I’m hoping for a career traveling the world as the head engineer on a ship, art and photography will always be a way for me to express myself and share my point of view.”

When asked about what he drew inspiration from when creating his winning entry, Kazarian pointed out that he wanted to include some of the best things about Dana Point in his design.

“I love Dana Point and thought it would be a great way to show some of the best parts of it—everything that makes the city great,” he said. “Also, last year’s contest inspired me to try. I am ecstatic, absolutely psyched at being chosen.”


Four runners-up are chosen to be honored for their contending designs as well.

First runner up Frankie Michinok—also a 2012 Dana Hills grad now attending Saddleback College—was also excited to have her artwork chosen among the top five entries.

“I was excited to participate in the contest mostly because I’m really into digital art and liked the idea of doing something that gives back to the community I grew up in,” said Michinok. “I’ve been working in digital media on my own for some time and this contest gave me an opportunity to incorporate it into my school work. The experience really contributed to my interest in pursuing a graphic design major in college.”

The other three top entries were submitted by Katie McAndrews, Bryan Emerson and Hasti Sharf.

For more information about the Dana Point Festival of Whales, log on to

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