Studio ACE’s history is a tale enmeshed in the history of its’ two principals, Julia E. Fister and Karen B. Kahn. Julia and Karen created Studio ACE over coffee and crepes. A one-hour breakfast turned into a five-hour brain storming session establishing Studio ACE - a non-profit organization dedicated to providing arts opportunities for the North County San Diego community. Studio ACE will fill the gap that exists by providing arts education for students, families and the community for a long time to come.
Julia E. Fister, Executive Director
Julia, a St. Louis, Missouri native, graduated from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and from Fontbonne University in St. Louis with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art. After an early career in investment banking and several years as a graphic designer, she arrived at Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) as a volunteer after completing her Master’s Degree in Art History at San Diego State University. Julia’s talent was quickly recognized and she was soon hired to create and direct an Education Program for 5th graders. Six years later, the ArtQuest program served over 7,000 students from Oceanside and the surrounding areas. During Julia’s 6 ½ year tenure at OMA, she also created a summer camp program, increased the Free Family Art Day attendance to over 5,000 family members a year from 600, revamped the museum’s Docent Program, increased the Artist Alliance from 15% to 25 % of membership, created OMA’s first on-site art classroom and was instrumental in developing and creating OMA’s first international traveling exhibition. What was most impactful for Julia was experiencing the importance of art in a student’s life. Julia states, “I saw first hand how even 75 minutes in an arts program could effect a child’s life, to see the change in their faces while looking at art exhibitions or completing their creative project. The importance of the arts has been proven over and over again in study after study, but I saw it in action. Students themselves donated pennies and quarters and dollars so that future students could have the same opportunity they did because they loved the program so much. Students who were designated as having ‘issues’ never had a problem at the museum. Art gave them, as well as their classmates, a chance to explore a different side of the brain.” When Julia encountered former students, she found that the impact of the art experience and opportunity to participate in an arts program lingered with them. They remembered and they talked about their art visit as though it was yesterday. Julia’s passion for providing arts opportunities for students and families burns bright. “I am not the first to recognize that the arts are a common language for all humanity and I will do everything in my power to see that our students and this community have access to the arts.”
Karen B. Kahn, finance director
Karen Kahn followed a different path. Karen graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and George Washington University with two Master’s degrees in Museum Studies and Anthropology. Karen worked for the Smithsonian for several years, creating an Outreach Program for groups at Washington DC institutions who could not physically visit the museum (such as schools, prisons, and nursing homes), by bringing the museum to them. Some of the programs are still being used today. Karen then left the museum world and became an accountant in New York. After a move to California and obtaining a Professional Certificate in Accounting from UCSD, she started her own accounting practice, which is now in its 26th year in business. One of her clients was OMA, where Karen and Julia met. Having started her undergraduate work as an art student, Karen never lost her passion for the art world and loved working at OMA, especially because of the children’s programming. Karen shares a story about her 10-year old great-niece: “I was in New York and had spent the day shopping and visiting the Museum of Modern Art with my adult niece. When we got home, my great-niece, Allie, said she wanted to go to the museum, too. I was skeptical, but we went, and I was blown away by her interest in the art. I spent the rest of the day following her and listening to her observations. Allie was shocked by the fact that she saw a painting by Van Gogh that was not in a book or on a computer and the fact that he actually painted the piece she was looking at. It re-energized my love for arts education.”