Original Newport Beach Arts Foundation Member Lila Crespin Dies at 93

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Arts Foundation Board Member Juanita Holley, Lila Crespin, Foundation President Carmen Smith and Foundation Secretary Pat Jorgensen at the June presentation to honor Crespin.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Newport Beach Arts Foundation President Carmen Smith sent an email on behalf of the Foundation’s Board of Directors stating “It is with a truly heavy heart I inform you that our dear friend and mentor Lila Crespin, Ph.D. passed away yesterday, December 13.  We knew she was not well, but still her passing comes as a shock.”

In addition to being a constant presence in education and the art world, Crespin was one of the original members of the Newport Beach Arts Foundation.

“She served as President on more than one occasion and she was the spark that kept the fires of the Newport Beach Arts Foundation burning,” wrote Smith in her email. “In June, the City of Newport Beach, the Newport Beach Arts Commission, and the Newport Beach Arts Foundation honored her for her contributions to the arts.”

According to information provided by the Arts Foundation, Crespin loved producing art as a child. As the youngest, with a substantial age gap to her siblings, the family quickly discovered her passion. Not only did crayons and drawing paper keep her busy, she created art promoting happiness, peace and continuity.

As her family moved a lot during her formative years, she found her artistic talents to serve as an icebreaker for “the new kid in class.” It was through visual art production that Crespin’s self-esteem and confidence grew to gain acceptance from other students. A motivated student, she elevated her expertise by studying illustrations in books and magazines. Art helped her develop resiliency to succeed in all of her future endeavors.

Throughout her primary education, art paved the way for Crespin’s undergraduate studies at UCLA. Throughout her life, all who meet or work with her become quickly aware of her leadership skills.

The Mountain View School District asked her to develop and teach a K-8 district-wide art program. Later in life, she went back to get an MA in art production followed by a Ph.D. in art education. Her doctorate expanded her teaching beyond elementary school children to students at the Cal State universities (both Fullerton and Long Beach), as well as at Los Angeles Harbor College.

After she retired, Crespin was given an exciting adventure when The Getty invited her with five other esteemed art educators to assist school districts nationwide to strengthen their art education programs. For five years, this effort served many states before the Getty chose to focus on the Los Angeles Unified School District. After the program ended, Crespin moved on to co-author an art education series that is still used by many school districts throughout the nation.

In 1998, Crespin joined the newly formed Newport Beach Arts Foundation and quickly moved from member to chairperson. Under her leadership, the partnership between the Foundation and the City Arts Commission grew. In 2003, she helped to produce the first Art in the Park, which has since become a significant fundraiser for the Newport Beach Arts Foundation.

Smith noted that the Foundation has established an arts scholarship in Crespin’s honor, with the first one schedule to be awarded in the spring of 2022. Contributions to the scholarship, or to the Foundation, can be made on the Arts Foundation website:  http://www.newportbeachartsfoundation.org.

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