Ecole Claire Fontaine’s Joelle Dumas

Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on educator extraordinaire, and Venice’s favorite French girl, Joelle Dumas!

How many years in Venice?  What is your connection to Venice?  I was married in 1985 and discovered the Caplan House on San Juan. It had been on the market for three years. I had dreamed of living where I could swim in the ocean everyday. We were very happy to buy the house and install our family.
Tell us about your company:   Ecole Claire Fontaine is an international art, language and nature school for children aged 2-7 years that cares for the whole child on two garden campuses near the beach in the heart of Venice. A pillar of Claire Fontaine’s school day is “le déjeuner,”  a hot organic lunch combining French cuisine with fresh fruits and vegetables from the local farmers’ market to introduce children to healthy, varied eating habits.
Playing in the verdant gardens among friends, or stretching their imaginations in classes, children are encouraged to find their creativity and individuality. Opportunities abound for character to form while discovering the benefit and value of communication, cooperation and co-creation in a joyful environment. Infused with enthusiasm and passion, Ecole Claire Fontaine blends the positive values of American and French cultures and pedagogies.  We extend our school experience with field trips in the neighborhood and to the beach.  For more info:

Abbot Kinney Festival. #AKF2018. © VenicePaparazzi

How long in business, and how did you get started?  In 1989 I fulfilled a childhood dream by creating Ecole Claire Fontaine so that the unifying powers of children could renew the energy of the Venice community. Meeting with Bingwa Thomas, Director of the Venice Dream Team, in the early nineties was an important community connection.

Ecole Claire Fontaine. ©VenicePaparazzi

What accomplishments are you most proud of?  I take great pride in the children and our beautiful school, and my ongoing connection to Ecole Claire Fontaine’s alumni. I am proud of having received the highest honor in the French educational system, “Ordre des Palmes Académiques” and to recently be honored among the “Legendary Women Artists of Venice.” Having bettered the quality of educational programs is a major accomplishment as well as being Chair of the Venice Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and working alongside 17 schools and art institutions. By elevating the status of education, we are transforming the world. I am proud of contributing to the spirit of camaraderie of our Venice.
Past ventures:   Before coming to the United States, I was a teacher in a forest school in the mountains of Switzerland, “Ecole Chantemerle.”   After that experience I learned how to run a business by being the director of a construction company in Montpellier, in the south of France near the Mediterranean Sea.

Venice Art Crawl honors Joelle Dumas, Judy Baca, Emily Winters, and Meryl Lebowitz

Future projects/Direction:   To elevate the status of education and to nurture the foundation of children’s happiness and well being.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field?  First, one must have the vocation – I am living my dream. One must also be passionate and knowledgeable, and very, very patient. It is crucial to have a great deal of courage and determination to keep going. Give importance to what you are doing.
Where do you find inspiration?  I am inspired by children, nature and the ocean. I find inspiration in my travels between France and the US that my dual nationality affords me. I am inspired by the diversity, beauty and richness of California. I am inspired by the vivid spirit of camaraderie we all share.

Joelle and other amazing Venice educators

Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote:   From the Dalai Lama’s Prayer for Humanity: “May I bring sustenance and awakening until all beings are freed from sorrow.”
Favorite book, band or movie?
  • I love “The Night Sky Book” by Jamie Jobb, which was given to me by Robin Murez, creator of the Venice Flying Carousel.
  • The music of Johnny Cash is among my favorites; I love his voice and the poetry of his songs.
  • The movie Chicago is a joy to watch for the show-value

Joelle and her husband James

What causes do you support?   I support the causes of children, education, the feeble and oppressed. It is my pleasure to elevate the situation of those around me.

What’s one thing we can do to make the world a better place?   Encourage others to embark on adventures bigger than themselves.
List 1-2 things on your bucket list.   Develop my artistic creativity and transform the community of Venice through education.
Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts?   I love to play in the waves and fly kites. I enjoy being among a group of friends around wine, family dinners.

Joelle Dumas wins Venice Spirit Award at the 2018 Abbot Kinney Festival



Describe Venice.   I think of Venice as my wonderful provençal village on the Pacific coast.
Describe your perfect day in Venice.   To be unleashed by time and spend the day immersed in walking along the seashore looking for treasure in communion with nature. For a relaxing ending to this beautiful day I join my children and their families for dinner, or meet James Dumas downtown for the Opera.
Where would you take a client that you want to land a deal with?  There is a secret garden behind Hal’s on Abbot Kinney next to the Sculpture Garden, which has a fishpond surrounded by greenery, flowers and plants.
What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?   We invite all of the children and their parents to dress in costumes and come for a Halloween party after school and then we  trick or treat on Abbot Kinney and Rialto. With a crowd of about 50 of us it gets pretty wild.

Any shoutouts or thank you’s?   I would like to thank Venice Paparazzi for always assisting at our events. Thank you to the Venice Chamber of Commerce for allowing me to create the Education Committee. And thank you to all of the Ecole Claire Fontaine families and children for 30 years of success in the Venice community.
Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?    Bingwa Thomas


Have kids? 

Check out Ecole Claire Fontaine’s summer camp at

Thank You to Our Partners