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

Name, and how many years in Venice?

Joëlle Dumas, 32 + years in Venice

Give us a brief bio of yourself:

I am founder/director of Ecole Claire Fontaine and Chair of the Venice Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. Decorated by the French government as an exceptional educator and community leader, I was awarded the prestigious title of Chevalier of the “Palmes Academiques,” for bridging culture and education between France and the U.S., and was nominated Executive Director of Cultural Affairs for “Movement of French Abroad.”

In an effort to futher Franco-American cultural understanding, I work cooperatively with the French Consulate, Alliance Française, Français de l’Etranger, and Los Angeles Accueil. I am also the very proud recipient of the Legendary Women Artists of Venice Award and the Spirit of Venice Award.

As a lifelong learner, I speak English, French and Spanish, frequently participate in conferences and seminars, such as the Global MindED conference in Denver where I was nominated for the Inclusive Leader Award, World Innovation Summit for Education – WISE @New York and @Paris, Pedagogical Institute of Los Angeles: Inventing the World, and the Families in Schools Alliance Conference.

I am also a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s “Focus on Children Committee,” and have taken part in research with the Getty Museum, UCLA and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Before moving to the U.S. nearly 40 years ago, I earned a teaching degree from the University of Bordeaux, taught at a Swiss boarding school, the Chantemerle International Institution, tutored children in Chemistry and Latin, and owned & operated a construction company.

Tell us about the work your organization does, and the programs you run?

I am the Founder/Director of Ecole Claire Fontaine, an Art, Language and Nature school honoring the wisdom of children with two – nearly three – campuses in our dear Venice. I also proudly Chair the Venice Chamber of Commerce Education Committee to promote the presence of children in the community and elevate the status of education.

How long has your group been around? Why and how did you get started? Where did the inspiration come from?

I began Ecole Claire Fontaine 32 years ago, following through on the inspiration I had as a child. While playing with my sister in the South of France I envisioned a school where children were free to discover the world, where they were allowed to be fully present as themselves and happy.

I founded the VCCEC from the Board of the Venice Chamber of Commerce 10 years ago out of a desire to see children and education included in the community’s dialogue, to have children present and not just tucked away, unseen and unheard. It is meant to be a vessel of communication, a bridge between education and the business community, and between educational entities themselves. So much can be accomplished, so much inspiration shared, when we communicate with one another.

Who’s on the team, and what are their roles?

Such a wonderful, cohesive team that keeps children and community at the forefront: We have lead teachers, assistant teachers, studio teachers, chefs, gardeners, administrators, the community and above all we have children on the team.

Joelle Dumas and the staff and teachers at Ecole Claire Fontaine. ©VenicePaparazzi

How many events have your hosted?  Share us one of your favorite event/memories.

So many pre-COVID favorites: Evening potluck parties and performances by the children all shared with school families. Walks throughout the neighborhood – to the beach, ice cream parlor, park, post-office, so many gatherings with our neighborhood artists and friends, including the Venice Carousel and the Art Crawl. Parades for Valentine’s Day and Children’s Rights. For the VCCEC we gather backpacks for local un-housed and foster children, bring together school parent groups, work with Venice High School to honor outstanding students with a Jacket of Excellence, and the fabulous WAVE Awards, a sparkling red carpet event for teachers.

How does your organization/events give back to the community?

We are in constant connection and communication with our community. We give and do as much as can, open our campuses for community artists and families as is allowed. With the VCCEC and ECF are advocating for, and educating, the children of the community, fostering joy and wisdom.

How are you surviving Covid-19 and the lockdowns? What moves or pivots has your organization made?

The VCCEC had to lose the WAVE Awards in May 2020, but are going online this spring. We continued to gather supplies for un-housed & foster children, but due to COVID concentrated on gift cards for useful shopping. This year the WAVE will be online, May 6th, info:

At the school, we created an online program and decreased on campus enrollment while implementing safety protocols like mask-wearing, distance, frequent sanitizing and extra emphasis on hand washing. We have supported our faculty and families as much as possible during this trying time, while striving to keep it as fulfilling and normal for the children as possible.

What support do you need? How can one help your organization?

Spread the word about ECF to young families, as we are happy to enroll new children, especially this autumn as we open the third Ecole Claire Fontaine campus, the Fontaine Campus. And join us for summer session.

When it comes to the Venice Chamber of Commerce Education Committee,  we would love to have more community involvement from teachers, schools and educational institutions. You are a part of the Education Committee and should reap the benefits, including advertising your events to one another, enjoying brain storming sessions and the events that bring community together.

Anything else that you want to share with our readers?  Announcements, accomplishments, awards received, upcoming events, etc.

Upcoming is the WAVE Awards,

2019 Wave Awards. Photos by Venice Paparazzi

As Chair of the Venice Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, whose mission elevates the status of education, I see teachers who are truly “Rising to the Challenge.” During the pandemic these remarkable educators are able to artfully connect with their students to foster both empathy and moral independence, essential in crafting meaningful lives in our evolving global community. On May 6, 2021 we will be honoring teachers from a virtual red carpet. We invite you to join and donate in any amount.

Upcoming at Ecole Claire Fontaine we have our Summer Session for children through age 7 running July 5th – August 13th.  Registration is open:

Ecole Claire Fontaine’s third campus now enrolling for 21-22 school year, the Fontaine Campus, on Venice Blvd. For more information, contact [email protected]


Define success: 

Peace of mind

What is the best advice you have received? 

I was attending a seminar in 1989 and a woman taught me a new word; she said, “Assert yourself.”

Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote?

Love embraces all vocations.

How will you celebrate “post covid” times?

We will host a party for the community, families and friends, will close Abbot Kinney and Westminster Boulevards around the campus and invite our 1,000 alumni.

View photos of past Ecole Claire Fontaine events by Venice Paparazzi.

2019 Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Ecole Claire Fontaine Graduation. Photo by

Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts or accomplishments.

I am an avid reader, love to body surf, extremely curious and a good cook.


Describe Venice:

It is a Provençal village by the seaside of bistros, boutiques and artistic components on all levels, with friends all around.

What do you do for fun in Venice during Covid times?

During COVID I’ve been reading a bit more and putting order in the world around me.

What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?

One night a long time ago, I found a possum behind the washing machine at school. I wanted it out, but it would just escape. I was stressed by this possum. When I finally wrestled it with my broom into a box, I didn’t know exactly what to do with it, but I hoped to release it in a more natural park-like setting. The next morning the streets were eerily empty as I carried the box with the possum inside. Suddenly I heard, “STOP!!!!” I froze in my tracks and saw a soldier with a gun pointed toward me. “What do you have in that box?!” “I have a possum.” He looked inside the box. “What are you doing with it?” “I thought to release it in a garden area down the alley.” “Do your neighbors want you to do such a thing?” Another panic!  It was just days after 9/11.

Photo by Venice Paparazzi

Joelle and family

Photo by Venice Paparazzi


Joelle, winner of the Venice Spirit Award, AKB Grant winners, and AK Merchant Association at the 2018 Abbot Kinney Festival.

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

Anything else about Venice that you would like to say?

Venice is a Mecca of art, culture and education; it fits me well. I admire the work of Mr. Abbot Kinney.

Any shout outs?

I thank all the people who had confidence in me, who assisted me to make the school even better. I thank the community for the friendship.

Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?

Architect Julie Clementi  and Louie Ryan the owner of the Town House in Venice.

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