After 13 years of running the city's arts and culture classes and programs, Diane Amaral is retiring, and she has big plans of traveling and spending time with family.
Amaral was program coordinator for the city's Division of Arts & Culture. She had an office at Hutchins Street Square, though she spent a large portion of her time in the community, working with teachers from ballet to comedy and getting her hands dirty at workshops for the city's mosaic projects. Amaral helped create a strong lineup of classes, from culinary arts to dance and even comic strip art.
She didn't leave before first seeing that one of the projects nearest and dearest to her heart, the Take It to the Park project, was up and running. In its third successful year, Take It to the Park offers free arts and crafts to children in the park during summertime.
Project Lodi Art is another one of the many projects that are important to her. Along with arts commissioner Mark Hamilton, she developed the idea, got approval from the city and got the community involved in designing and creating mosaic tiles that have been placed on sidewalks on the Eastside Lodi.
"It gives the community a sense of belonging," she said.
Amaral worked her last day in the office Thursday, and concluded her shift with a bittersweet celebration with friends and colleagues. Leaving her career will offer new opportunities, but she will miss the tight-knit office.
"I have mixed emotions. I'm happy I'll be starting a new chapter in my life," she said, "but sad I won't be here every day with my friends and all my instructors."
Amaral is excited to be able to work in her garden at any time of the day, not just at 6:30 at night after a long day at work. She also plans to soak up family time, and get to know her newest granddaughter, 18-month-old Olivia.
With a new RV, Amaral and her husband are also going to start hitting the open road to do some camping. It's a bonus after years of camping in every other way, from tents to sleeping in the back of a pickup.
Though she won't be in the office, Amaral assures she can't stay too far away, and will definitely still be involved with the projects and activities available through the city of Lodi — many of which she helped create.
Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at email@example.com.