Archive for the ‘Idyllwild Arts Summer’ Category

Poet Targets Taboo Topic Tuesday Night

July 15, 2012

Matthew Dickman with Ed Skoog and his infant son

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“It’s called three poems and three suicides,” Matthew Dickman said matter-of-factly about the title of his upcoming poetry recital.

He’s a poet from Portland, and at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program this week to teach an adult poetry class. On Tuesday night at 7 p.m., Matthew will read along with four other poets at the Krone Library on campus.

Matthew has firsthand experience with suicide, which is often considered a taboo subject in our culture. His older brother committed suicide, along with several of his friends who were artists.

“We often think of teens as the biggest group that commits suicide,” Matthew said. “But actually geriatric suicide is more common. When an 85-year-old grandmother quits eating, we accept that as ‘her time to go.'”

In past lectures on suicide, Matthew has asked members of the audience to stand if they have had a family member commit suicide. A few stand up. Then he asks those who had a spouse, lover or close friend commit suicide to stand. A larger group stands up. Then he asks those who have known someone from school or work who have committed suicide.

“By then, most of the audience are standing,” Matthew explained. “And those who are sitting fall into one of those groups, but are too shy to stand. Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s just a matter of time when you know of someone who has committed suicide.”

He said that his older brother was a great person, and had attempted suicide before, so it wasn’t a surprise. He recounted an experience with him in an Irish Pub in Portland:

“It got really crowded in the bar towards the end of the night and I bumped into a guy with my shoulder. It was an accident, but he grabbed me squarely on the shoulder,” Matthew recalled. “In the bar mirror, I could see the flash of a knife blade, so I tried to push him away. Within seconds, my older brother was there, shoving the guy up against the wall.”

Violence was more common than not in the working class Portland neighborhood where Matthew grew up.  His family home was a safe oasis for many kids, away from the neighborhood violence.

Matthew will teach a poetry class at Idyllwild Arts this week

At a young age, Matthew identified with a photo of the Beat Poets standing on a San Francisco street corner.

“There they were, Kerouac, Ginsberg and the rest, all standing there, not wanting to fight anyone or push drugs,” Matthew recalled. “They just wanted to change the world with their poetry.”

Later on, Matthew met Alan Ginsberg at a book signing in Portland.

“My brother handed me a bunch of Ginsberg’s books and told me to get them signed, and we’d meet up at the coffee house later,” Matthew said.

So he went, and when it came time for him to meet the Beat Poet, Matthew mentioned that his writer aunt had once worked with Ginsberg in a hospital.

“He ignored my comment, and instead asked me about my love life,” Matthew said.

He fumbled for an answer, Ginsberg signed the books and Matthew walked away.

“He was totally hitting on you, dude,” his friends said. “You should talk to him.”

When the crowd thinned out, Matthew ended up talking to Ginsberg, and invited him to join his twin brother and friends at a local coffee shop. Ginsberg was in his 70s at the time, and Matthew was 18.

“He was totally cool,” Matthew said of the experience.

They read poetry, practiced Buddhism and ate chocolates over the next few days. He said that he and Ginsberg had kept in touch by email and phone until he became sick.

“Then I never heard from him again,” Matthew said.

After his death, Matthew wrote a poem called, “I miss you, Alan Ginsberg.”

Matthew also wrote a poem about his older brother’s suicide in his first book of poetry, “All American Poem” (2008). With his twin brother, Michael, he wrote another book entitled, “50 American Plays” (2012), one for each state. In October, Matthew has another poetry book coming out entitled, “Mayaknovky’s Revolver.”

In his poetry class this week, Matthew prefers to put the suicide topic front and center so there’s no surprises. He said most of the adults who take his class come to heal from the experience.

“I don’t expect great writing,” he said. “Oftentimes, words escape you when your emotions are intense.”

But he hopes to help them turn their harrowing experience into art.

Matthew said that he met Ed Skoog, who is in charge of Poetry Workshop during the Summer Program, when he officiated at his brother’s wedding.

“Not only can Ed write poetry, but he plays a mean banjo,” Matthew laughed.

Besides teaching poetry, Matthew edits a national poetry journal, and freelances for advertising agencies. Only just recently, he said, he’s been able to support himself through his writing.

He started writing poetry when he was a sophomore in high school to impress a senior who was interested in poetry.

“She liked one of my poems, and we got to make out,” Matthew recalled. “After that, I just kept writing.”

Since then, Matthew has won many awards, and garnered national attention for his lyrical poems.

On Tuesday, July 17, Matthew will read some of his works at 7 p.m. at the Krone Library on the Idyllwild Arts campus (located at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild). Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, it is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171 or visit

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.




Photographer Returns for More Mountain ‘Magic’

June 23, 2012

"It's the people who brought me back to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program," said Paula Harding, photographer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“There’s something magical about this mountain,” said Paula Harding, 20, photographer for the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, when she arrived yesterday. “But it’s the people who brought me back.”

The Idyllwild Arts Summer Program attracts many talented young people from across the country to work as camp counselors, teachers assistants and instructors. Once they work here, they’re likely to return.

This year, some are spending their 5th summer at Idyllwild Arts. This is Paula’s second year.

Famous instructors from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program include Ansel Adams, Bella Lewitsky and Ray Bradbury, who passed away this year.

To get the job originally, Paula got a good recommendation from her high school teacher who also worked as a Summer Program photographer.

“She actually worked here when Emma and Bruce McMenamin were just camp counselors!” Paula said. “She’s so jealous that I get to come back to Idyllwild again this year!”

Tall and stylish with a Southern drawl, Paula is well liked by her fellow campers.

“OMG it’s Paula!” several of them screamed as the van pulled up to her dorm.

From Paula Harding's award-winning 'Abandonment' series

“We just love her!” exclaimed Gigi, a lifeguard last summer, but a camp counselor this year. “She’s a Georgia peach!”

Although Paula is friendly, she does her best to stay “invisible” when she’s working. Her day starts at 8 a.m., and she does the rounds to all of the classes, which can be as many as 15 when summer is in full swing.

After  class time, Paula attends lectures, art shows, plays and musical performances. Oftentimes, her day ends at 8 p.m. She turns her digital photos over to Bruce McMenamin, who crops them and decides where to best use them.

On an average day, Paula shoots 500 photographs. Last summer, she shot a grand total of 40,000 photos.

“Of course, they don’t use them all!” she said, as she was looking over the printed version of the adult class schedule. Bruce had sent her several copies in the mail. “Bruce said that I’m the only one whose shot that many!”

Paula used an old box camera for this photo in her 'Abandonment' series

Paula said that Bruce doesn’t expect her to take that many photographs, but she always wants to put her best foot forward. They both agreed that her photos got increasingly better as the summer went on.

“You just never know with photographs,” Paula said. “You can capture a moment that is special, but you have to take a lot of photos to get there.”

Besides the printed class schedules, Paula’s pictures are featured on the web site, and even in a Family Camp multi-media presentation.

Last year, Paula said the Family Camp slide show was a nail-biter.

“I was uploading photos until the last minute,” she confessed. “I wanted to put in as many current ones as I could.”

The 20-minute show had to be set to music, and minutes before it began, the equipment didn’t work.

It was mostly “operator error,” because she wasn’t familiar with the equipment. But the show went on without a hitch, except one family’s photos were left out.

“This year, I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m going to work from a master list of Family Camp members, and check them off as I go. I’d hate for anyone to be left out again!”

“It’s the best job on the mountain,” Paula exclaimed. “I don’t have to go to meetings, and I get to see firsthand what everyone is doing at Idyllwild Arts.”

'Abandonment' series by Paula Harding

You would think that after taking as many as 500 photos a day, Paula would want to do something else in her free time.

“I love taking portraits,” Paula said. “But landscapes are challenging for me. I’d like to take more of Idyllwild. There’s so much natural beauty all around me!”

For the daily shoots, Paula uses the school’s Nikon digital camera, but prefers Canons for her personal use.

“Overall, Canons deliver warmer tones, while Nikon’s colors tend to be cooler,” Paula said.

Although she’s modest about her photographic abilities, Paula has won many awards, in high school and in college, including a recent one for her “Abandonment” series. For those, Paula took pictures of abandoned buildings and people.

Was she referring to the homeless in Atlanta?

“Not exactly,” she said. “You’ll have to look at them and see.”

To view samples of Paula’s work, visit the Idyllwild Arts web site at, and click on the Summer Program, and then select the Youth or Adult Course Catalogs. On Flickr (, Paula won “Best Use of B&W” for the “My Atlanta” photo contest.

Paula also plans to show some of her photographs during the staff art show this summer at the Parks Exhibition Center. She doesn’t have a web site set up yet, but you can reach her at:

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.



Where’s Leo? He’s Playing for the Queen of Sweden

August 15, 2011

'He's the best violinist in Germany right now,' said Christoph Wynecken of Leo, age 15.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

When the 10 German students took a day off from their music lessons at Idyllwild Arts to swim at Laguna Beach on Sunday, someone was missing.

“Where’s Leo?” I asked Christoph Wynecken, who teaches violin and viola during the Summer Program.

Wynecken has been bringing his music students from Stuttgart, and other cities in Germany to Idyllwild to play in the Chamber Orchestra for eight years now.

Part of their California experience is going to the beach on Sundays.

Last year, Leo and the other German students went to Venice Beach to experience its zany characters and arts peddlers on the boardwalk (See ‘German Students See Sand and Surf,’ Idyllwild Me blog entry, dated Aug. 16.)

Leo was a typical 14-year-old, chatting incessantly in German, rough housing with his friends and taking pictures of everything. He even warmed up to the idea of going to the Armand Hammer Art museum after the beach.

“Why do we have to go?” Leo asked, sunburned and tired.

“Because there’s more to California than just beaches,” Christoph said. “There’s a lot of culture here.”

During the many orchestra and chamber concerts performed during the summer, Christoph gave Leo, the youngest violinist, a chance to play first chair.

“We are more casual about first chair, and second chair in Germany,” Christoph said later Sunday night at In-and-Out Burger in Moreno Valley. “But he did a fine job of leading the orchestra.”

So where is Leo, the violin prodigy?

“He’s playing for the Queen of Sweden,” Christoph said with a smile.

He didn’t elaborate on the details, but it sounded like Leo has already performed for the queen several times. Not a bad gig for a pre-teen.

(from L) Christoph gives instructions to German students at Venice Beach last year.

It stands to reason that Queen Silvia, who was born in Heidelberg, and married King Carl XVI  Gustaf of Sweden, after meeting him at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, would want to hear a promising young German violin player.

According to reports, the two “clicked” during the Summer Olympics and were married three months later. It was the first marriage of a reigning Swedish monarch since 1797.

All that royalty news aside, the fact remains that Leo isn’t coming back to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, or Christoph’s orchestra, for that matter.

“He’s the best violin player in Germany right now,” Christoph said definitively.

Did Christoph see it coming? Did he know that Leo was gifted in Idyllwild last summer?

“I could smell it,” Christoph said. “A musician like him comes along once every 50 years.”

He brushed aside any notion that he groomed Leo into the promising young violin player that he is today.

“He will likely have a great solo career,” Christoph predicted.

No agent to push him, Leo will likely finish high school, before starting his music career. But Christoph has some consiliation in losing Leo. His brother is also a gifted violin player, and he’s been teaching him the ropes.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Aug 15, 2011 @ 21:39


Art Showcase of Faculty & Staff Talent

August 13, 2011

'Nate' by Rachael Welch

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At the final Idyllwild Arts Faculty & Staff Art Show on Aug. 9, there was an eclectic mix of pieces. There were more paintings than pottery compared to the last show, prints from the new headmaster, some “shocking” paintings, and friendship nudity.

The three prints from Brian D. Cohen, the new headmaster of Idyllwild Arts Academy, were a perfect selection, given the natural surroundings of Idyllwild. Brian’s black-and-white etchings showed a pear-and-apple arrangement, a closeup of tree bark and a mystic silhouette of a pine tree in the distance. All showed his command of the print medium, and a keen sensitivity to nature (But they don’t photograph well!)

I especially liked his relief etching, “Tree Trunk,” although it was likely a tree from Vermont, and not Idyllwild. A teacher once told me that you could see wars in the bark of trees, if you look close enough.

'Fatherless Bride 2' by John Brosio

The two “shocker” paintings came from John Brosio. “Fatherless Bride 2,” was a medium-sized oil painting that featured a young woman in a long gown. “Carrie,” the 1976 horror movie based on Stephen King’s first novel, comes to mind.

In the movie, Sissy Spacek was doussed with pig’s blood, and appeared shocked in all the trailers, to say the least. However, in “Fatherless Bride 2,” there is the same amount of blood splattered on the young woman, with some drooling from her chin, but she has more of a “hunted” demeanor.

When several people looked at it, they marveled at Brosio’s technique, but didn’t understand the premise.

“Some artists just like to shock,” one woman said. “But he can definitely paint.”

The second of Brosio’s two paintings showed a close up of a fish head with a cigarette in its mouth. Everyone knows that fish don’t smoke, so this couldn’t be a preachy commentary about that.

“Just look at the way the head was cut off,” exclaimed Tressa, one of the attendees, pointing to the sharp diagonal.

'Stefania' by Jacqueline Ryan

Everyone was searching for the artist, who had just left.

Next to his paintings however, was a single portrait by Rachael Welch, who has taught painting many summers at Idyllwild Arts. She also works at Cafe Aroma, and showcases many of her paintings in their library/gallery.

Moreover, some of her jazz portraits have graced Cafe Aroma’s house wine labels, namely Marshall Hawkins, Barnaby Finch and lately, Casey Abrams.

Rachael’s single painting in the show had a predominately green and salmon palette. It was a portrait of “Nate.”

It wasn’t your typical portrait pose. This young man held his fingers up to his face in a sort of a “bugaboo” fashion, like he was mugging for the camera. There was also a faraway look in his eyes.

'Jackie' by Stefania Ford

“Why did she use salmon for the background color?” one woman asked her friends.

The others were trying to figure out what Nate was doing. Was he high on something? Was he playing a video game? The colors and the composition made it compelling.

Jacqueline Ryan, a painting assistant, was the one who convinced me to enter the faculty show.

“There’s never enough paintings by staff members,” she said. “Keep trying.”

However, this young woman, who just graduated from college, had a command of the medium. Her painting of a nude woman was connected to another sculpture in the show. Jacqueline told the story:

“This painting is of Stefania, the ceramics teacher,” Jacqueline explained. “She finished this sculpture of me that she started last year, so I decided to do a painting of her.”

(From top) Jazz greats Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday by Marcia E. Gawecki

“Jackie,” Stefania’s ceramic sculpture, featured a Rueben-esque kneeling nude, which captured Jacqueline’s energy. Stefania wasn’t around to comment on her piece.

She also had several organic pottery pieces on a pedestal next to her sculpture.

Next to “Stefania,” was my larger-than-life banner of Barnaby Finch, a local jazz musician who has played with some big-name jazz musicians. (I drive for Idyllwild Arts, so I’m considered a staff member.)

The banner measured about five feet across and nearly seven feet long. Cristie Scott, the gallery assistant, had to hang the banner by herself, which is quite the feat and without the slightest irritation.

Last year, the banner of Barnaby hung outside Cafe Aroma’s deck during the Jazz in the Pines event. It served as a backdrop for many jazz performances.

“It’s definitely the largest piece in the show,” Cristie said.

At first inspection, I noticed that the perspective was off. Barnaby’s head was much larger than his jawline. Most of my painting was done on my kitchen floor, so it was hard to get a perspective. Yet, I should have hung it over the porch railing before hanging it in the gallery.

'Paint the Black Hole Blacker' by David Delgado

“I want to disappear!” I thought to myself. “What was I doing showing a piece with an off perspective?”

I was grateful that Barnaby himself hadn’t showed up!

So when a young woman in a bright orange dress started dancing in front of the Barnaby banner, laughing with her friends and mugging for the camera, I was convinced that she was making fun of it.

“No, she’s just wearing a bright orange dress, and reacting to the colors of your piece,” explained Cristie.

She was right because I followed the woman around the gallery, and she wasn’t dancing in front of other pieces, including”Fatherless Bride 2.”

(From L) 'Double View Evening' and 'Tree Shadows at Sue's House' by Jessica Schiffman

All of the pieces are for sale. Part of the sale proceeds go to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program.

This faculty show will remain on display at the Parks Exhibition Center until this Saturday, Aug. 20. The gallery will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact Cristie at the gallery at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2251

EDITOR’S NOTE: Technically, I should not review an art show that I have pieces in. It would never fly in a standard newspaper–conflict of interest and all that. But, for now, a biased perspective is better than none at all, right?

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Aug 13, 2011 @ 21:41





Teens Learn to Sew at Idyllwild Arts

July 30, 2011

Teens from the U.S. and Mexico learn to sew at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Even with all their high-tech gadgetry available to teens these days, some are still interested in learning the old-fashioned skills of their parents, such as cooking and sewing.

For the past 12 years, Cat Orlando has been teaching a popular sewing class at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. With the help of her daughter, Catalina, they teach 11-to-14-year olds how to use sewing machines and knitting kits to make stuffed animals, purses and their own clothes.  In the end of their 2-week course, the teens will showcase their creations in a fashion show held on Saturday, August 6.

(from R) Instructor Cat Orlando discusses material options with Evan

“The class used to be called, ‘Sew What?’ But the name was a little ‘sassy,’ so they changed it to ‘Textiles & Fibers in Design,’ Cat said.

She still has a large backdrop with the words, “Sew What?” that she uses for presentations.

Recently, Cat took her class on a field trip to Hemet. They were going to buy materials and supplies to make a skirt or pajama bottoms. There were four girls in the class, and one boy.

“Evan was going to take a painting class, but decided to take sewing instead,” Cat said. “His mother is a popular artist from Idyllwild, so he’s open to all things creative.”

During the first week of Cat’s sewing class, they started to make their stuffed animals. Typically, teens will make teddy bears, Cat said, but this class stretched it a bit by making lions, snakes, and monkeys. During the trip to Hemet, they could also pick up fake fur or things to embellish their stuffed animals.

The five hour trip included getting supplies at JoAnn’s Fabrics, Michael’s, Wal Mart, the 99 Cent Store, and Goodwill Thrift Shop. In the end, Cat treated them to ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

Cat speaks to the sewing class about sticking to a budget

This trip was not just a chance to get off the hill for the day, Cat said, but a genuine learning experience. The students had to stick to a $20 budget to buy their material, and supplies, such as the pattern, thread, elastic for the waistband, and any other embellishments.

“Sticking to a budget can be difficult, especially when they see all of the material available,” Cat said. “They usually go crazy when they get to JoAnn’s, but we have to limit their material choices to only two.”

They also had to figure out and measure how much material they’d need to make the skirt or pajama bottoms.

“Nothing’s worse than coming up short of material,” Cat said. “Many of these students will come back to JoAnn’s to make clothes on their own.”

She said that teaching a sewing skill was rewarding, and something they can use the rest of their lives. In fact, after each class, she often gets calls from parents about purchasing sewing machines for their teens.

Do you think I can get all this for $60? asks Catalina, Cat's assistant. She hopes to launch her own denim clothing line online.

Cat and her daughter, Catalina, practice what they preach. In January, Catalina got married, and Cat made her wedding dress from blending two patterns and material that they purchased from JoAnn’s Fabrics. Then they both also made all of the bridesmaid’s dresses.

For the past 20 years, Cat has a booming bear-making business online, and now Catalina is going to showcase her denim creations online on Etsy.

“Do you think I can get all of this stuff for $60?” asked Catalina, showing off a cartload of material.

In the end, Catalina made it under budget, with the help of JoAnn’s 20 percent off coupons that Cat brought.

“We always go to JoAnn’s first because they honor the coupons that we print online,” Cat said.

She also talked to the students about the value of coupons, and how they can affect the bottom line.

Since this was a beginning sewing class, the students wouldn’t be sewing any zippers onto their clothes. To make the skirt, the students would attach and “dart” the material to the elastic waistbands.

However, they get plenty of experience sewing zippers and seams in class, Cat said. There are about 10 sewing machines available for them to use. Most of them came from Cat’s trips to thrift stores and estate sales. In fact, when they stopped off at Goodwill, Cat spied another sewing machine for $50. She checked out the contents and the brand, but didn’t think it was worth the price, not in today’s economy.

“If it was only $20, I’d snatch it up in a second,” Cat said later. “But if it quit running, it costs us a lot to repair sewing machines.”

(from L) Catalina, Cat and Rose measure out their material.

The trips to the 99 Cent Store and Goodwill were to help the students find inexpensive tops and jeans to make purses and shoulder bags.

One of their projects, Cat said, is to take a pair of old jeans apart and turn it into a purse or shoulder bag. Goodwill had jeans on sale for about $6 each, which was within their budget.

Most of the students also bought $3 T-shirts and tank tops to go with their skirt material.

“Otherwise, they’d have to go with the tops that they packed in their suitcases from home,” Cat said. “Goodwill or the 99 Cent Store is the perfect place to get inexpensive tops to match.”

“I’m having such a great time!” exclaimed Rose, a student from Mexico.

Rose was a scholarship student who took a digital photography class at Idyllwild Arts last summer.

“With the economy, I didn’t think I’d be able to come back this year,” Rose said. “But Idyllwild Arts worked it out and here I am making a skirt!”

(from L) Evan shows off his monkey material selection for his PJ bottoms.

All of their outfits will be showcased during the Children’s Fashion Show on Saturday, August 6th at 9:30 a.m. in the Children’s Center on the Idyllwild Arts Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Cat, who usually MC’s the fashion show, will turn over the mic to Evan. He said he’s looking forward to the event.

For more information on sewing or other classes at Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, contact, or (951) 659-2171.

For examples of some of Cat’s teddy bear creations, visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 30, 2011 @ 13:54

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Youth Jazz Concert Saturday Afternoon

July 21, 2011

Louis Armstrong art banner at Cafe Aroma. A summer jazz student wrote a song about a club in New Orleans where Sachmo hung out. It will be played at the IAF Theater on Saturday.


By Marcia E. Gawecki

The slow, distinct jazz sound came wafting into the reception area at Idyllwild Arts. Unmoved, the girl behind the desk kept typing on her computer. But like the smell of home-cooked meal, it was drawing me in.

“It’s the jazz band practicing for Saturday’s concert,” the girl said.

I snuck in during one of their numbers, and sat in the back row. There was no one else in the large auditorium.

Onstage, a student with a saxophone around his neck was directing the group of 11 young students, mostly teenage boys and one girl. In total, there were three saxophones, two electric guitars, two trumpets, two trombones, two drummers and one pianist.

“Play loud so I can hear it,” instructed Ben, their student leader.

Ron Stout, their jazz band leader, had to leave early to go to a gig, Ben said later.

The song the group played was called, “Funky Butt,” and it was written by Ben, age 14.

‘Funky Butt’ got its name from the “Funky Butthole,” a New Orleans club in the 1920s, Ben explained. It was kind of a raunchy place, where gangsters, whores, pimps and musicians hung out, including the great Louis Armstrong.

“The reason the song is so slow is because everyone wanted to make the night last as long as possible,” Ben said. “The musicians played all night so everyone could keep dancing.”

Another song the summer jazz students will be playing Saturday afternoon is called, “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” arranged by Dave Brubeck.

“We almost didn’t get to play it, if it wasn’t for Randy,” Ben said.

When someone in the band suggested playing “Blue Rondo” for the conertt, Ron said that he didn’t have all the sheet music. But if someone could arrange it, he’d take a look at it.

That’s when Randy Plummer, age 17, a sax player from Riverside, CA, stepped in. In a day and a half, Randy wrote the other band parts so that everyone would have the “Blue Rondo” music.

“That’s really fast, dude,” Ben said.

Randy, who looks more like a football player than a saxman, was modest about his efforts.

“I just grabbed a pen and paper and started writing,” he said.

Obviously, he was motivated to play the song. For his efforts, you’ll get to hear him play a solo for a few seconds on Saturday.

“How can both of you know so much about jazz when you’re only 14 and 17?” I asked, thinking of Louis, Miles and Ella, whose health and looks took a toll.

“People tell me that I’m an ‘old soul,'” Randy said.

“Funky Butt” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk” will be part of the music lineup at the Youth Jazz Concert on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. at the IAF Theater.

All concerts at Idyllwild Arts are free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 21, 2011 @ 12:58

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Students Try Candid Photography at Venice Beach

July 16, 2011

Venice Beach offered a plethora of treasures to the young photo students

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Yesterday, the photography class from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program went on a field trip to Los Angeles. Like their B&W photography, it was a trip of direct contrasts.

They went from the elegant art studios at Bergamot Station to the eclectic outdoor chaos of Venice Beach.

Most of the 11-to-13-year olds in the class had never been to either place. At Bergamot, they were encouraged to visit the galleries dedicated to photography, including the Peter Fetterman Gallery and the Rose Gallery.

There, the students had to do their homework. Each had to select one photograph and critique it.

“There’s a whole laundry list of things we have to look for,” explained Alex, a student from Idyllwild Arts Academy who is also taking this summer photography class. “Basically, they want us to see what works and what doesn’t.”

“Make sure that you ask the gallery if it’s OK to take photographs,” advised Eric Metzler, their photography instructor, who also teaches at Idyllwild Arts during the school year.

Instructor Eric Metzler views Tomoko Sawada's "Reflections" at the Rose Gallery at Bergamot Station

In the Peter Fetterman Gallery, one student was critiquing a photo by Elliott Erwitt, entitled, “Man with Two Dogs.”

The black-and-white photograph featured two large bulldogs with their owner seated on the steps of a Brownstone, possibly in New York.

The artist’s twist was that the second bulldog, sitting on the man’s lap, totally obscured his image. (All you could see was his left ear). In short, it looked like Sci-Fi hybrid of a bulldog’s head with a man’s body.

“I think the artist is trying to say that men are dogs,” said the young female student.

Several other famous photos of Elliott Erwitt’s were on display in the gallery, notably couples kissing.

“They’re definitely staged,” said Jenny Kirchner, one of the van drivers on the trip, who is also an award-winning photojournalist. “That’s OK, they’re still great.”

French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of photojournalism who perfected “street photography,” didn’t stage his photos. He just had a keen sense of when things would appear, his wife said in an article.

Students had the option of photographing the beach also

Likewise, Erwitt’s photos were not staged, argued Margaret, another student.

“They’re ingenius, like the one of the couple kissing in the sideview mirror,” she said. “Most photographers would photograph themselves, but he got out of the way and took one of them.”

After Bergamot, armed with their 35 mm cameras (no digitals allowed), rolled film, tripods and lenses in hand, the group of young photographers then set out to capture Venice Beach. Eric gave them ample time for their “plein air” photography experience, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.. They would leave L.A. just before sunset.

Like Cartier-Bresson, many of the students took pictures of bodybuilders, skateboarders and basketball players. None wanted to “tip” to Spider Man and Elvis for their photos as they walked along Venice’s Boardwalk.

“Bye, Spider Man!” shouted a young girl walking hand-in-hand with her mom. “I know you’re not really Spider Man, but a man in a suit.”

“Aw, you really don’t believe that!” said Spider Man, as he sat rubbing his feet.

Other candid “photo opportunities” on the Venice Boardwalk included: a man with multitude of hats stacked on top of one another; a snake charmer on a ladder holding two green snakes; a man with a cardboard sign offering passersby the opportunity to “Kiss My Ass for $2,” medical marijuana huts; a peripeligic on a skateboard; and young girls in bikinis shopping.

With her digital camera, Jenny took pictures of skateboarders doing tricks. Then, she handed them her card and said that they’d be posted on her web site later on that evening.

“If they like the photograph, then I’ll just charge them a nominal amount for printing,” Jenny said.

In her web site, Jenny has a built-in security device that won’t allow people to steal her images.

In the backdrop, of course, was Venice Beach–with it’s miles of coastline, surfers, swimmers and seagulls.

I found a “No Swimming” area where the surf sprayed over some large rocks. It would happen only occasionally, like a humpback whale coming up and spouting air, but it was a wonderful cascade!

At day's end, a Venice Beach seagull rests for a moment on a parked car

On the way back, some of the students groaned about having to develop their film in the darkroom. Cartier-Bresson despised printing his own prints too.

“I get nervous whenever I go in there,” admitted Margaret. “So I give myself little pep talks, saying, ‘You can do this!'”

Amelia, another student agreed.

“I always manage to get chemicals on my fingertips, so they make smudges on my prints,” she confessed. “I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a ‘perfect print.'”

How did their Venice Beach photos came out?

You can actually view their photos at an exhibit at the end of next week. The details of the students’ one-day exhibit TBA.

For more information on the Black-and-White Photography class or other Summer Programs, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Native Plants Class Traces Cahuilla Roots

July 13, 2011

Evan Mills looks closely at a rock painting in Idyllwild

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Students from the Native Plants class at Idyllwild Arts were going to look at rock paintings that were estimated to be 300 to 500 years old.

This is one of the many classes available during “Native American Arts Week” held July 10-16.

Daniel McCarthy, a Tribal Relations Manager from the U.S. Forest Service, stood next to a placard in the Idyllwild, CA, County Park, about 20 feet from a fenced-in boulder.

(from L) Abe Sanchez instructs how to "cull" chia seeds

One of the rock paintings in county park is difficult to reach because of the large fence

Students take pictures of the handprint rock painting

“This is an improvement from 40 years ago,” he said. “The fence will keep rock climbers out, but it prevents anyone from getting close.”

Daniel explained these rock paintings were not graffiti, but a sacred component of a coming-of-age ceremony by Cahuilla Indian girls.

They had created a variety of symbols with red paint, but it was difficult to determine what they all meant, but likely they were created over time.

“There may have been a ‘gap’ year or ten years,” Daniel said. “It all depended upon the acorn harvest.”

Near the rock, he pointed out several grinding stones.

The second rock painting featured two small handprints and no fence. Above, Daniel pointed out the white chalk marks.

“Here, rock climbers are practicing their skills, and below, there’s a 110-year-old rock drawing at risk,” he said.

He added that it was up to the County Parks Service employees to educate the public and warn climbers.

Abe Sanchez, their Native American co-teacher, discussed harvesting chia seeds.

“They’re high in protein, easier to digest than flax seeds, and could keep you from getting hungry,” he said.

Peg McClure, an Orange County firefighter, agreed.

“We were fighting the Laguna Fire, and didn’t have any food for about 36 hours,” Peg said. “So I chewed chia seeds and really wasn’t hungry.”

Originally, Peg admitted to taking the class for smoothies’ recipes, but has learned much more.

Even the young Cahuilla Indians were looking at native plants with new eyes.

“They’ve eaten our bad Western diet, and now have diabetes and heart disease,” said Evan Mills, another student. “Now they’re turning to their native plants for health benefits.”

The next day, the class had to cook a traditional Cahuilla meal, including sautéed nettles, acorn mush, pumpkin flowers, maze tortillas with elk sausage—and grasshoppers.

“They taste kind of nutty,” one student admitted.

The final rock painting was located three miles away in Fern Valley. The images were the most detailed and elaborate of the three, including red and black dyes.

The red dye came from hematite, an iron ore, which was ground into a powder.

“What were some of the bonding agents they could have used?” Daniel asked.

No one knew.

“Egg whites, blood, urine or any kind of animal protein,” Daniel said.

Some of the marks on the rock were more distinct, while others had faded.

“There is snow up here, so there’s natural erosion,” he said.

One time, Daniel found remnants of a campfire below the painting. He cleaned it up, and wiped the singe marks from the rock.

“Fire could cause stress to the rock, which would eventually erode the paintings,” he said.

There was no marker on this site, but Daniel said the neighbors knew about the paintings.

“With education and diligent caretaking, we can preserve this site’s cultural value for many years to come,” he said.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Jul 13, 2011 @ 17:32

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Faculty Art Show at Idyllwild Arts

June 30, 2011

Jewelry case showcasing the work of Metals Week artists

By Marcia E. Gawecki

More than 25 artists from the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program showcased a variety of works at the Opening Reception at the Parks Exhibition Center on Monday night, June 27.

The featured artwork came from instructors who are teaching workshops during Metals Week, Hot Clay, and Native American Arts Week, as well as select faculty artists and staff members. The items included jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculptures, and Indian artifacts and toys. The show ends this week.

“Everyone helped out to make this show a success,” said Christy Scott, who works at the gallery this summer. “David Wells (guest curator) came and helped us out, and so did his assistant, Ian Erickson-Kery. Kristin Coffin helped us arrange all of the jewelry. It was a group effort.”

Christy said that about 120 people showed up on Opening Night and several items were sold. Among them two female figurative sculptures by Debra Fritts, a studio artists from Georgia. Her husband, Frank Chelton, a painter/poet/teacher, was there taking pictures of her artwork, while she was teaching her figure class.

Debra Fritts' husband, Frank Chelton, showcases her work

“By the Wings of the Raven,” a multiple fired stoneware of a nude woman inside a vessel. Debra’s price tag was $3,600 dollars, and it sold. “White Wing,” a larger nude female torso, sold for $3,200 dollars.

Although the facial images on Debra’s pieces looked similar, Frank said that it’s not anyone in particular.

“She’s just perfected the image over the years,” he said.

“Her work is incredible,” added Jessica Schiffman, an Idyllwild illustrator and painter, who teachers a summer class. She attended Opening Night and said that Debra’s work stood out.

Other items that sold were jewelry from Metals Week instructors, including Kristin Coffin, from Los Angeles. Last year, we featured a story on her jewelry making (see Idyllwild Me post entitled, “Metals Week at IA” on June 27, 2010). She had started to sell her jewelry on Etsy, a specialty web site for handcrafted gifts.

Since then, Kristin’s jewelry has become more specialized, making mostly wedding bands, said Jackie Ryan, her roommate in LA who is also a painting assistant in the Summer Program.

(from L) Christy Scott helps Alison Yates with a ring

Alison Yates, from Idyllwild Arts Academy, was there looking at Kristin’s rings a couple of days after the show.

“I just love her work, and her prices are reasonable,” Alison said.

She purchased a gold band of Kristin’s for $65 dollars.

Another popular jeweler is Emma McMenamin, from the Summer Program. Her stone and glass beaded jewelry already has a signature style. One of her necklace-and-earrings ensembles was called, “Rain Forest.” Its green and gold beads and jewels was a fitting tribute to that marvel of nature in South America.

Ian read from Emma’s tag:

Ian showcases Emma's "Rain Forest" necklace with non-identical earrings

“It has jasper, Czech glass beads, Czech and Japanese seed beads, and gold-filled earrings,” he said. “It costs $525 dollars.”

At closer inspection, we noticed that the “Rain Forest” earrings were not identical. In fact, the styles were very different.

“That’s edgy,” exclaimed Ian.

Did Emma do that on purpose, or did she simply run out of beads?

“I thought since the necklace was asymmetrical, then the earrings needed to follow suit,” Emma said.

Although there are hundreds of beads in the necklace, Emma said that it only took her about 20 hours to make.

“I started it while watching ‘The Sound of Music,’ and it just took shape quickly,” Emma said. “It was actually one of my first tries at freeform bead weaving – a form that does not have a set pattern, but rather it takes on a life of its own.”

When a woman tried it on, it was surprisingly lightweight, even with the multitude of beads woven into it.

Neil looks at some of the wooden Native American toys in the show

Emma said that she thinks her jewelry will remain in the case until the end of the summer.

Christy and Ian said that the Monday, July 4th show will focus on “Hot Clay” images.

The summer exhibition season at the Parks Exhibition Center runs from June 27 to August 20. Opening Receptions will be held on Mondays July 4, July 11, and July 18; and on Tuesdays July 26 and August 9.

For more information, call the gallery at the Parks Exhibition Center at (951) 659-2171, extension 2251, or visit and click on “Summer.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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