New ARB Members Know Art and Architecture
By Susan Reines
August 25 -- An artist and an architect who share strong community roots have been appointed to the board that monitors the design of buildings in Santa Monica.
Santa Monica architect Michael Folonis and Santa Monica High School art teacher Tania Fischer were appointed by the City Council last month to replace former Architectural Review Board members Sergio Zeballos and Howard Laks, who had reached their eight-year term limits.
Fischer said her interest in serving on the ARB stemmed from both a general desire to get more involved in the community and a specific desire to have a role in preserving the character of her home town as it grows into an ever-larger city.
“I’m just kind of concerned about the community,” she said. “There’re just so many people moving into Santa Monica. There are a lot of changes…You’ve got to find the balance of keeping the charm, the old, the things that keep Santa Monica great, but then you do need to expand.”
Born in Santa Monica, Fischer received her bachelor’s of fine arts degree from the UCLA and her master’s in art degree from Cal State Northridge.
She moved abroad, living in Germany, and then settled back in Santa Monica 13 years ago.
Fischer has been teaching ceramics and other art courses for over ten years at Santa Monica High, where she also manages the school’s art gallery, one of the oldest running galleries in Santa Monica. She brings professional artists to exhibit at the school’s gallery and has mounted gallery shows of her own work.
Fischer is a coach for SaMoHi’s cross country and track teams, as well.
Like Fischer, Folonis is a Southern California native. He grew up in Claremont, then came to Santa Monica, where he received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in the 1970s, and never left.
After getting his license, Folonis opened his practice in Santa Monica, later going back to school for his master’s of architecture degree at UCLA. He has been living in the city for more than three decades, raising his children and running his firm, Michael Folonis, A.I.A and Associates.
Folonis has witnessed -- and as an architect, taken part in -- the booming development that has taken place in Santa Monica over the past few decades, and he says the city’s maturation from small beach town to full-fledged city has been “extremely positive.”
When he moved to Santa Monica, Folonis said, Main Street “wasn’t a place you’d go after dark.”
But the city has changed, and Folonis said he hopes to help keep Santa Monica on its positive track.
“[Santa Monica] has had a few little difficulties along the way, but I think for the most part the city’s been moving in a positive direction,” he said. “Now the city just needs to keep making those positive changes.”
Folonis has been a visiting lecturer at colleges and universities across the region and his work has consistently won recognition in national and international design competitions over the past three decades.
He said he draws inspiration from the early California modernists and from the work of architects Ray Kappe, Frank Ghery -- who worked for Folonis in the past – and Thom Mayne, who is also a close friend.
During his tenure on the ARB, Folonis said he hopes to follow the lead of Zeballos and Laks.
“I think they were very fair-handed,” he said. “I think they were sensitive to good design…and I will try to continue in that tradition.”
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