On July 2, Dr. Ernest Garcia retired as executive director from the Garcia Center for the Arts in San Bernardino after five years.
While volunteering as executive director, Garcia has led his vision of renovating a historic building in downtown San Bernardino, the Garcia Center for the Arts, in which he has implemented community programs such as music, poetry and art.
“The Garcia Center for the Arts was dedicated to my wife Dottie and me. After five years I have chosen to retire and I want to say thank you to the community. It has been a great cap for me. What have I done in the arts? I sang…I’ve even acted and created a lot of art,” said Garcia.
Along with generating lots of art over the span of his 70-plus-year career, Garcia credits his formal education achievements for providing him endless opportunity.
“In 1950 I graduated from San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) with an associate’s in social sciences and Spanish, then in 1955 I was the first Chicano to ever graduate from University of California, Riverside (UCR) with a bachelor’s in social sciences, in 1960 I graduated from University of Redlands (U of R) with a master’s in administration and counseling, and in 1966 I graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a doctorate in educational technology,” shared Garcia.
After obtaining his associate’s degree, in 1951, Garcia enlisted in the Air Force, serving four years as a staff sergeant during the Korean War.
“Even back in the Air Force I was heavily into the arts. At the time swing music was such a big deal and my friends and I would often play together on the base in Korea. I can even recall going out to the dive bars and their version of swing music was a little bit awful. So we befriended many of the Korean musicians that were playing at these dive bars and brought back as many of them to the base to teach them how to play swing music,” Garcia said.
He joked that after they taught the Korean musicians how to perfect their swing musicianship, the complaints went away.
After serving in the Air Force, Garcia went on to teach in Barstow (where he became a vice principal at 26 years old), Rialto, Redlands, and eventually teaching at Cal State San Bernardino, and served as dean of the College of Education before retiring in 1990.
“Although I am retiring from the Garcia Center, I am not going to stop creating. I have three art projects waiting for me to tend to in my garage right now and the Garcia Center will also continue to flourish. Moving forward, we hope to grow the music program and I’m sure my successor, Jorge Osvaldo Heredia, who currently serves as president of the board that oversees the center, is going to serve the community well,” concluded Garcia.
Along with being a board member of many San Bernardino art organizations, Garcia is a local Chicano activist who garnered a meeting with President Ronald Reagan’s office in the 1980’s to push for Hispanic Heritage Month. For more information, follow the Garcia Center for the Arts on Facebook.