Columnist Olivia Garcia

Many people look to the New Year with new goals and hopes. Local charities are feeling much the same. Several charities in town, which rely on local support to exist, are hoping that the goodwill of area businesses and residents continues well into 2014 to help fund vital programs that benefit many residents.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art is one example.

In a recent letter sent to supporters and members of the museum, Executive Director John Lofgren noted how donations help fund programs, such as Art Smart, which is in 18 after-school programs across the county. The museum reaches about 4,000 children through its programs, Lofgren said. Art Smart, for instance, links BMOA instructors with students. Lofgren added that such programs are important given that "schools are rapidly losing their art programming due to a lack of funding not only in our own community but nationwide."

Donations also support museum events and exhibitions, he said as he outlined a number of key happenings taking place in the first half of the year.

One event in particular is the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." The museum is partnering with Cal State Bakersfield to offer a number of events centered on the Dust Bowl experience.

They include the "Horace Bristol: The Dust Bowl" exhibition, which will run from Jan. 23 to April 27, and will feature about 35 photographs of the migrant farmworker experience during the late 1930s. As a side note, the Cal State Walter Present Series will feature "The Sisters Grim Band" for live bluegrass and period music from 6 to 8 p.m. on Jan. 14 in the Dezember Reading Room of the Walter Stiern Library at CSUB.

Cal State Bakersfield is planning a series of Dust Bowl-related events to mark the 75th anniversary. More to come on that in a future column.

As far as recent donations to the museum, kudos to Bright House Networks, which recently announced an annual sponsorship of $10,000 so that the Bakersfield Museum of Art could continue to bring art to families across Bakersfield and Kern County.

Bright House Networks executives recently gathered at the museum to present the donation.

Mari Perez of Bright House Networks said the $10,000 grant will help BMOA present a variety of art programs designed for children and adults, including the Via Arte Festival and Altares de Familia, which are the museum's largest events of the year. She noted that the funds will be used for the Celebrating Art Education exhibit, which runs through Jan. 6, 2014, in addition to providing 23 students with 2014 Summer Art Camp Scholarships.

"Bright House Networks has been instrumental in supporting our arts education programs and events," said Liz Sherwyn, Bakersfield Museum of Art's education director. "We greatly appreciate their help in inspiring and engaging our Bakersfield and Kern County audiences in creative visual arts experiences."

Hard-Working Man Contest: Is your husband, brother, father or best friend the hardest working man in Bakersfield? If so, we want to know. Bakersfield Life Magazine would like to honor your local hard-working man through its "Hard-Working Man Contest."

Here's how you enter: We're asking readers to submit a photo and short paragraph (100 words max) describing what makes your nominee the hardest-working man in Bakersfield.

We ask that you email your nomination and photo of him to bakersfieldlife@bakersfield.com and type in "Hard-Working Man Contest" in the email subject line. The contest deadline is noon Jan. 8.

Please be sure to include your nominee's name and occupation, as well as your contact information (name, email and best phone number to reach you). The winner will be selected via a random drawing for a special prize. In addition, some of the nominations will be revealed in the February "Men's Issue" of Bakersfield Life.

"Best of" voting: Many of you are familiar with Bakersfield Life Magazine's annual Best of issue, which will be released in our May edition. In that issue, we highlight the best of the best locally, from physicians and restaurants to teachers and charity causes. Well, in about a week, you will be asked to cast your votes.

From Jan. 6 to Jan. 26, readers will have a chance to cast their votes. To accomplish this, readers must visit bestofkern.com where they will be able to pick their favorite restaurants, businesses and other local establishments. Results then will be revealed in the 21st "Best of Bakersfield" contest (Bakersfield Life's May edition). This year features more than 100 categories, including new categories and longtime favorites.

Holiday Lights at CALM: Christmas may be gone, but if you want to experience a bit of colorful holiday spirit and a Bakersfield tradition, then you need to make it out to the 11th annual Holiday Lights at CALM today or tomorrow. There, between the hours of 5:30 and 9 p.m., you will experience a wonderful, animated display of more than 2 million colorful, energy-efficient LED lights, many in the shape of animals, some of Bakersfield's familiar icons, holiday figures and more. A train ride and a carousel are also featured at the event. Holiday Lights ends Tuesday. Tickets to Holiday Lights are $12 for adults, $6 for children ages 3-12, $10 for those 13-17 and seniors 60 and older.

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines, and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Bakersfield Californian. Send her tips at ogarcia@bakersfield.com.

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