News

Campaign Contribution Made Following Senator’s Award to Private School

Huff Vows to Return Cash after Abruptly Shuttered School

Leaves Students and Teachers Owed Thousands

Shortly after being named Small Business of the Year by State Senator Bob Huff, the Montecito Fine Arts College of Design abruptly closed its doors in July, leaving students and teachers alike dumbfounded without pay, and without answers. However, Montecito Vice President and wife of the college’s founder showed no restraint when donating $1,000 to Huff’s re-election campaign a month after the college received his award.

According to state election records, Vice President Trisha Zhang, wife of founder Ed Kuckelkorn, donated $1,000 to Huff’s 2012 re-election campaign committee on June 29, almost a month before the college unexpectedly closed down on July 30. Zhang’s generous donation came just a month after her and her husband’s school was named Small Business of the Year by Senator Huff.

Senator Huff, representative of the 29th Senate District said he did not know the college was struggling financially, and has announced that he will return the donation made by Zhang.

“I had the privilege of touring the facility last fall and I was very impressed with the school and their involvement in the community,” said Huff in a statement before the college shut down.

“With President Ed Kuckelkorn at the helm of the Montecito Fine Arts divisions, it is no surprise that the business has blossomed into the success it is today.”

However, the school’s financial situation left many employees short of pay, and students abandoned.
The California State Labor Commissioner has already awarded former employees of the school thousands of dollars of unpaid wages which had been filed at the Department of Industrial Relations.

Montecito Fine Arts College of Design was founded in 1977 as an atelier by Kuckelkorn, a studio providing fine art classes to local artists. The school later expanded to several other locations in the San Gabriel Valley, broadening into other professional areas of design.

Nearly 1,000 students were enrolled at the College’s three schools, where over 100 faculty and staff were employed.

August 13, 2009

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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Campaign Contribution Made Following Senator’s Award to Private School”

  1. Deanna says:

    Ran across this older article while googling. Sad to hear but not a surprise. So unfortunate for those who were defrauded.

    I took art classes at Montecito Fine Arts at its original location in Sierra Madre, when it was a charming little shack on Montecito Ave, overgrown with ivy and morning glory vines, and about a dozen feral cats. I also worked part-time for Ed Kuckelkorn 79-81.

    The small business featured art classes, framing and matting, graphic design, and we even built and sold custom easels.

    Ed was a brilliant teacher and artist, charismatic, with some measure of narcissistic tendencies….and there was a darker side

    In ‘79 my mother paid him $3500 to paint a portrait of my brothers and I, which he never delivered on. He was smug, shameless about it. In 1981, when asked about making arrangements to pay my mother back in installments, he laughed, locked me out of the studio, and held back my pay as well as artwork and other property of mine and my mother’s that was at the studio. During the time I was there, there were others who he quarreled with over debts.

    It was fascinating to read how his business had grown since then, though quite disheartening to learn about the people who were taken advantage of by Kuckelkorn and Zhang.

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