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Professors honored for excellence in the arts


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Sac State Professors Francie Dillon and Elaine O’Brien have never met, but they’re both thrilled to be competing for Sacramento’s Arts Educator of the Year honor.

Arts Awards

The two, along with Milton Bowens, lead artist in residence at Twin Rivers Unified School District, were nominated for the award by the Arts & Business Council of Sacramento, a nonprofit that develops partnerships between the business community and arts organizations.

The Arts Educator award, which recognizes the development of a curriculum or program with demonstrated outstanding results, is one of several that will be bestowed during the Growing Artistree luncheon at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at the Woodlake Hotel.

Dillon and O’Brien note the significance of having two nominees from the University.

“I think that says good things about Sac State,” O’Brien says. “It’s what we do. We’re educators.”

“It really speaks well of our University – that we’re not just sequestered in the classroom,” Dillon says. “We live what we believe.”

She is well known around the city for her performances of children’s literature at venues such as Fairytale Town, blending music and performance into a program that encourages children to read.

Dillon teaches Literature for Children in the College of Education. Her students are frequently assigned to read aloud to children as part of the curriculum. “Because otherwise it is just flat words on a page, and it takes the adult reading it to give the words artistic expression,” Dillon says.

O’Brien is with the Art Department and teaches Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory and Criticism, and the modern survey of Western Art History. She also is on the exhibition committee for the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento, a small, independent exhibition space, and she has been invited to teach a course at the Crocker Art Museum on women artists.

In addition to classroom work, O’Brien brings special programs to her students and others on the campus and throughout the community, such as last semester’s lecture series “Professions of Art,” which featured talks by professionals who make their livings in various areas of the art world.

“These people who come in from the community are my co-teachers,” O’Brien says. “To have someone come in and talk about their work, that can inspire and motivate students, and give them options for their own career choices.”

For Dillon, having a strong background in art has been a very personal experience, helping her through some health issues. She knows the importance of having the arts in her life, and is concerned about its dwindling presence in the school system as budgets grow tighter.

O’Brien shares her concerns, and the two say the best way to combat that is for artists and all art professionals to step up their own efforts.

“We all have to be volunteers,” O’Brien says. She recently gave an art history lecture to a fifth-grade class about snakes and ladders, two iconic images in literature and art.

Dillon notes that organizations such as the Arts & Business Council are reaching out but need help. “In order for them to keep believing in this, people like myself and others who have been involved in the arts need to be public about it,” she says.

For more information about the Arts & Business Council or the Growing Artistree Luncheon, visit For more information about Professors Dillon or O’Brien, or for other media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

– Craig Koscho