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Today in
S.C.V. History
September 24
1855 - Sanford & Cyrus Lyon establish Lyon's Station (for stagecoaches) near today's Sierra Hwy & Newhall Ave [story]

Little, Brown Books recently published CalArts alum Vashti Harrison‘s (Film/Video MFA 14) debut illustrated book, “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.”

Created for children ages 8 to 12, the book features the life stories of 40 inspirational African American women. In addition to including well-known figures such as Harriet Tubman, Ella Fitzgerald, Octavia E. Butler and Oprah Winfrey, Harrison highlights lesser-known names such as pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm and others.

The book has struck a chord with readers. Since it was published in December, the book has spent eight weeks on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List (Children’s Middle-Grade Hardcover). In January, Harrison received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Children.

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” has its origins in Harrison’s popular Instagram account, where she’s posted various illustrations over the past few years.

“I went to CalArts to get my MFA in film. I was making experimental films there,” Harrison said during a recent phone interview. “It was during my last year that I took some classes in the (Character) Animation Department just for fun. I drew a lot as a kid before I started making films, but once I got into the film world, I stopped altogether. So that final year at CalArts, it kind of rekindled this love of drawing that I had.” (She recalls taking Life Drawing: Illustration as well as storyboarding and visual development classes during her last year.)

After graduation, Harrison was determined to work in the film and TV industry and even moved to Atlanta to work on production for the animated show “The Awesomes.”

“(Meanwhile) I started this Instagram account that became this outlet for my newfound love for drawing. So I post pretty regularly, and I try and treat it like a daily practice,” she said.

CalArts alum Vashti Harrison

CalArts alum Vashti Harrison

After “The Awesomes” was canceled, Harrison moved back home to Virginia to mull her options and apply for other production positions.

All the while, she kept illustrating. Harrison looked at what other artists were doing on social media and wanted to do something all for herself. “Black History Month was coming up, and I thought, ‘This would be, one, a great opportunity to learn about interesting people; and two, create a challenge to do something interesting and thought-provoking every single day for the month of February.”

She posted about abolitionist Sojourner Truth on Feb. 1, 2017, to her Instagram — and the response was immediate.

“I’m pretty good about judging the analytics of my social media, and I could see that people were really excited about this. I was really excited about this,” she said.

After the fourth or fifth illustration hit her Instagram account, Harrison contacted her agent to see if there were potential for a book. Her agent was thinking the exact same thing. They pitched and met with a few publishers, and Harrison found the right home for her first book in a short amount of time.

“It was before February (2017) was over that I had a three-book deal for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers,” she said. “It’s was kind of a Cinderella story. I’m totally aware that it doesn’t work out like that all the time.”

Harrison said that her illustration style for the women in black history — eyes closed with a subtle smile — was “shorthand” for serenity, innocence and happiness.

“It was a throwback, or kind of a shout out to these classic mid-century artists that I really love,” she said. “If you look at the cover of the Little Golden Book, ‘I Can Fly,’ illustrated by Mary Blair, the character has that same pose: eyes closed with a slight smile. The same with Roger Hargreaves’ “Mr. Happy.’ I wanted to make the illustrations vintage, almost timeless.

“As an illustrator, as a person who loves children’s books, I love the classic books, but I don’t see representation of myself in that,” she said.

Harrison said that the first two books will be Little Leaders books, and if they are received well, then the third one may also be part of the series.

“The second book is still taking shape, but it is going to be more women, not specifically black women, but women from around the world,” she said. “It all happened very quickly. No one believes me, but I was very ready to be a filmmaker and have a day job working in TV and still continue to make my experimental art films — and then suddenly I’m working on children’s books.”

While Harrison’s illustration career is taking off, she hasn’t had a lot of time to work on her experimental film practice. However, her thesis film, “Field Notes,” has already screened at nearly two dozen festivals and film programs, so with Harrison’s track record, it’s a safe bet she’ll do fine in whichever medium she chooses.

Pages from 'Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History' buy CalArts alum Vashti Harrison

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Friday, Sep 21, 2018
The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles will present "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" by the CalArts grad on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday, Sep 20, 2018
The Old Town Newhall Association’s Chalk Art Festival is coming this weekend with dozens of local artists and organizations ready to share their works with the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
Filmmaker Magazine recently unveiled its annual roundup of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and CalArtians Hannah Peterson (Film/Video MFA 2018) and Richard Van (Film/Video MFA 2018) were included on the 2018 list.
Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
The 19th season of KCET's Fine Cut Festival of Films will premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. on KCET in Los Angeles, and of the 16 finalists chosen, four films are by CalArtians from the School of Film/Video.
Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018
The city of Santa Clarita will present a visual arts symposium at The Centre on Saturday, Oct. 20, free and open to the public.
Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1855 - Sanford & Cyrus Lyon establish Lyon's Station (for stagecoaches) near today's Sierra Hwy & Newhall Ave [story]
1948 - Agua Dulce Women's Club organized [timeline]
Los Angeles County firefighters, along with Angeles National Forest Service, are battling the "Charlie Fire" in Castaic.
Charlie Fire in Castaic Grows to 3,380 acres, 10% Contained Sunday
1969 - College of the Canyons opens with first class of students in temporary quarters at Hart High School [story]
The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles will present "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" by the CalArts grad on Saturday, Sept. 22 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sept. 22: Edgar Arceneaux Holds Financial Workshop at The Broad
The Master's University men's basketball team, which finished 29-3 last season, has released its 2018-19 schedule.
TMU Men’s Basketball Team Releases 2018-19 Schedule
The Los Angeles County Fire Department has launched an updated "Ready! Set! Go!" program to assist residents living in wildfire-prone areas.
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The William S. Hart Union School District Board of Governors will recognize the district's 2018-2019 Teachers of the Year at the board's next regular meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 26.
Sept. 26: Hart Board to Honor District Teachers of the Year
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set for Wednesday, Sept. 26.
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The intersection of Newhall Ranch Road and McBean Parkway will be closed Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 8:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m., for the Federal Overlay Project being completed by the city of Santa Clarita to resurface the road.
Newhall Ranch Road, McBean Parkway Intersection to Close Tuesday Night
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has set an open house meeting in Agua Dulce on Saturday, Sept. 29 to gather public comment on the Palmdale to Burbank project section, which would closely follow Highway 14 through the Santa Clarita Valley.
Sept. 29: Open House on Proposed High-Speed Rail Route Thru SCV
Among the bills recently passed by California lawmakers and signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown was Assembly Bill 3212, designed to strengthen the state's consumer protections for service members and military families, including California National Guard soldiers and airmen.
Brown Signs Bill Boosting Consumer Protection for Service Members
TMU All-American senior Benji Tembo scored in overtime, handing The Master's a 3-2 victory over the visiting Flames on Reese Field on Thursday.
Tembo, Mangan Lead Mustangs to OT Victory
College of the Canyons has opened registration for a series of free, short-term career skills classes this fall in the afternoons, evenings and online.
COC Offers No-Cost Skills Classes Afternoons, Evenings, Online
A roundtable discussion about a proposed Los Angeles County fee-based business registration program is set for the Stevenson Ranch Library on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: Roundtable on County’s Proposed Business Registration Fee
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Sept. 25, starting at 9:30 a.m.
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The city of Santa Clarita has received the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence by the Special District Leadership Foundation in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance.
City Awarded Transparency Certificate of Excellence
College of the Canyons was ranked among the top 50 best U.S. colleges for adult learners in Washington Monthly magazine’s ranking of “Best Two-Year Colleges for Adult Learners.”
COC is No. 1 U.S. College for Adult Learners in SoCal
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday inked legislation aimed at breaking society’s “infatuation” with plastic straws, beginning in 2019.
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A teenage female driver escaped serious injury when her van tipped over onto its left side on Dorothy Street in Santa Clarita Friday morning, according to authorities.
Teen Driver Escapes Serious Injury in Solo Tip-Over Crash
1974 - COC's new Cougar Stadium opens for first game of football season; Harbor beats COC, 26-21 [story]
The Old Town Newhall Association’s Chalk Art Festival is coming this weekend with dozens of local artists and organizations ready to share their works with the Santa Clarita Valley community.
Organizations, Local Artists Taking Part in This Weekend’s Chalk Art Festival
County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) encourages all pet owners to be prepared before disaster strikes.
Animal Care & Control Encourages Pet Owners to Prepare for Disasters
The contemporary art journal X-TRA and the Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles present, "The Un-Private Collection Workshop: Edgar Arceneaux" on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Sept. 22: CalArts Alum Presents Financial Workshop at Broad Museum
NORTHRIDGE - Senior defender Lindsay Kutscher has been selected as one of 30 women's soccer candidates for the Senior CLASS award.
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The Center for Digital Government (CDG) has presented the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation with one of its Best of California Awards, which recognize state and local government organizations for innovative technology initiatives.
County Parks & Recreation Recognized with Best of California Award
The city of Santa Clarita and Caltrans engineers have partnered with Caltrans to provide traffic enhancements.
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Continuing the momentum developed from such programs as iTEENS during the school year and the Teen Summit hosted earlier in 2018, the city of Santa Clarita will host a teen leadership development training on Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., at the Newhall Community Center (22421 Market Street).
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NORTHRIDGE - CSUN's Michael Merchan has been named Co-Big West Athlete of the Week for men's cross country. Merchan is the first Matador men's cross country student-athlete to earn the award since it was established in 2001. Merchan shares the honor with Nick Randazzo of UCSB.
CSUN’s Merchan Nabs Big West Co-Athlete of the Week
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla stopped by Golden Valley High School Wednesday morning to encourage students to register to vote.
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SACRAMENTO — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the California Air Resources Board, and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit Tuesday against the Trump Administration for its unlawful attempt to dismantle critical environmental waste protections.
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Kaiser Permanente will open all seasonal flu clinics throughout Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 22, and urges all members to get their no-cost vaccinations early.
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On Tuesday, The Home Depot Foundation increased its financial support to $3 million for disaster relief efforts and communities impacted by recent disasters, including Hurricane Florence, Olivia, the California wildfires and flooding in the Midwest.
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