Three of the smARTs long-time volunteer/committee members and teaching artists, Joann Tomsche, Christina Nordella and Mallory Cremin were asked “why did you become involved in smARTs”? Below is what they had to say.
I started smARTS because I wanted my sons to grow up and experience a learning community where the arts are valued and important. I continued to work and play with an evolving group of committed volunteers, all of whom value the arts in education and in life. Witnessing and supporting creativity in children is joyful work. I’m so pleased to have been part of this program for 13 years.
– Joann Tomsche, Artist
Sharon Seibert, the then Kindergarten teacher at the time and Saffron Symank asked me if I would like to participate in a group to bring more art supplies into the classroom. Having both my youngest children attend Mountain Meadow pre-school with Denise Gioeli, which was an art-based curriculum, I believed in the importance of art in education. There was no hesitation. However, although we successfully got the art supplies, art was still not happening in the classrooms. We adopted the smARTs name and began as a model for Sharon’s Art Friday class with the use of local artists and volunteers which relieved the overwhelmed teachers. The program started in just K-2 at the time. It was wonderful! Now, the program has expanded to include all grades…a lot farther than anyone of us at the time could have predicted. Our school has become a recognized academic school largely in part to the smARTs program. I am proud to be so long a part of it. There is nothing more rewarding than sparking a child’s imagination and watching them grow and succeed and reminding them of the beauty of art which is really just a reflection of them! And I can’t thank enough all the volunteers and artists that have contributed all these years to making it into such a success. But I do hope all of them know deep within themselves how much of a difference they have made and are still making in our children’s lives and literally the future generations. Deep bow and gratitude.
– Christina Lee Nordella, smARTs Volunteer Coordinator/ Artist
You ask why I got involved in smARTs. When they first asked if I wanted to get involved, I still had a child (Noah) at home. Cassius was in kindergarten. Cassius was getting lots of art with Mrs. Laurie Maxwell in kindergarten. When Noah entered school, Cassius was in second grade and not getting any art. So I started volunteering with smARTs, bringing hands on experience with different mediums to the classroom. I believe art encourages creative outlets in all areas from cooking and living, to interacting with other people, to appreciating our environment. I believe smARTs has helped the students at Idyllwild elementary grow in so many ways. smARTs is unique, because the community artists that support the program, while not following a traditional arts development of skills based learning, instead give the children a wide range of experiences and approaches. It has been very satisfying, but frustrating because I want the public school system to provide the arts classes, during the school day, so every single student can be involved and experiencing art, not relying on overworked parents at special schools like ours. Finally, I want to thank Idyllwild Community Fund, ICF, for supporting the fabulous programs that enrich our town. Thank you.
– Mallory Cremin, Artist
The mission of the Idyllwild HELP CENTER is “to help those in need”. While that seems like an over simplification, it is a herculean task and takes a community to accomplish this. In the past year we received $3618 in grant funds from the Community Fund of Idyllwild. The purpose of the funds was to be used for medical vouchers and related items. With these funds we were able to serve 102 residents of Idyllwild with medical, pharmacy~ transportation to medical services off the hill and eye exams. The funds were used for children and adults. Not everyone used the $55 that was allotted per person and we were able to double the amount of clients that we originally said we would serve.
We also consulted with these and other clients to assist them in signing up for Covered California and gave them information regarding other low cost medical services.
The HELP Center is funded by grants like the Community Fund geared toward specific services and funds that are general in nature. We also hold fund raisers that go directly to our general fund and solicit community donations of goods, services and cash donations. Our Thrift Store takes donations seven days per week and remains open to the public for those seven days. Money generated from the Thrift Store goes directly into our operating funds.
In the past few years we have seen our clientele increase from a few hundred to over 600 clients, the majority of our clients are seniors and the disabled with about 15 percent who are ready to enter the work force. We look forward to working more closely with this latter group in assisting them to re-enter the job market.
Isis Theatre Company has been Idyllwild’s premiere theatre company since the summer of 2003 when the little-known theatre company produced a 5-man show called “Sundance” on the little-known deck of Café Aroma. Success followed immediately with 8 smash performances of “Sylvia ” at Town Hall in August of the same year. The rest, as they say, is History.
To date, Isis has presented over 50 plays and readings in Idyllwild in 11 years. At the helm is Suzanne Avalon, its founder, artistic and creative director. It was Suzanne’s strong conviction that we have the cultural benefits of live theatre on our Hill that brought Isis into the world and into the public eye.
Suzanne and the Isis Board produce all of the performances: Suzanne also directs and appears on stage from time to time.
There are no salaries for the good works and good shows. The actors, directors and techs that work the shows donate their time and talent. Volunteers (usually board members) man the refreshments tables and then put the chairs away and sweep up when it’s over. So it’s not all glamour, smell of greasepaint, roar of the crowd after all.
There is no dedicated theatre venue in Idyllwild, so Isis has had to work hard to locate “found spaces” for all of its productions, including the Fire Station, the Caine Learning Center, the Rustic Theater, Rush Hall at Idyllwild Arts Academy, and even a few local business locations: Earth’n Fire, Skye at Night, the Idyllwild School of Dance, Quiet Creek Inn, the Living Room Gallery, and the Idyllwild Wine Bar. Whew. That is a lot of moving around of lights, stages, sound equipment, actors, props, and costumes.As ticket sales represent only a fraction of the cost to produce a show, it has been important for Isis to own equipment, rather than rent and haul it up and down the hill. Over the years, Isis applied for grants from the Idyllwild Community Fund for lighting, sound equipment, and a portable stage. These wishes have been granted and now Isis is a fully equipped theatre company (that has and will continue to share this equipment with other Idyllwild non-profits).
Currently, Isis is happily ensconced at the Rainbow Inn where The First Friday Readers Theatre is performed
The choice of plays is critical to the theatre company’s mission. They are committed to bringing material to the stage that enlightens and holds a mirror up to reflect the human condition. Sometimes edgy, sometimes unstoppably funny, Isis brings a highly diverse kind of material not usually found in local community theatre. Not an amateur group, Isis enlists professional actors and directors to bring the magic to the stage.
Isis also gives back and has benefited so many deserving causes with their shows, including the Fire Dept. Equipment Fund, Susan Komen Foundation, CASA (Center Against Sexual Assault) Matthew Sheppard Foundation, ARF, The Help Center, and most recently donated the proceeds of the 2013 Christmas Show to us at ICF.
Isis Theatre Company’s goal is to raise the bar of excellence for live theatre, and they are succeeding mightily.
The Human Relations Council of the Greater Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee Regions was started by Charles Knox, a former legislative aide and civil rights activist, in 1998. He joined with other persons in the community: Ajit Singh, a businessman from India, Dr. Joseph Diaz, an educator of Mexican descent, Michael Madrigal, a Native American church administrator, Dorothy Trammel, an African-American registered nurse from the Midwest who first integrated the Pasadena CA area, and a few others. Charles watched the growing diversity in the Valley happen gradually and then faster and faster, as head of one of the first black families who settled here in the 1970’s.
“Race and racial intolerance are sensitive topics in our communities, and need careful sensitive attention. Believing strongly in the enormous value of ethnic diversity, the founders of the H.R.C. commit themselves to promoting activities that will improve communication between ethnic/cultural groups and foster understanding, respect and appreciation.”
The Human Relations Council has continued to follow in the footsteps of Charles Knox — in fact, he is still one of our most valued members. Our mission is to promote positive human relations in the community, which we have done for over fifteen years.
Initially prompted by hate graffiti in Idyllwild, a concerned group of community members on the Hill began to provide films and discussion to promote diversity, under the auspices of the Human Relations Council. We are continuing this “Seeing Diversity Film Series” in Idyllwild through our “Family Monday Movies” at the Idyllwild Library (7 movies throughout the summer vacation time), as well as enhancing the compilation of a lending collection of books and videos to be used by community groups and schools.
We initiated “Teens & Tweens”, a monthly diversity activity series for Idyllwild Middle School students. This two hour series takes place once a month after school on Friday. Students are led in a diversity activity, watch a movie celebrating diversity and encouraging acceptance and understanding, join in a discussion about the movie and how its message could impact the students’ lives, and exercise some kind of creative art activity. Through these activities, students can deepen their understanding and appreciation of race, culture, religion, sexual identity, color, ethnicity, economic status, and other forms of diversity. They are also learning how to recognize bias, stereotypes and prejudice. They have the unique opportunity to examine how they would respond to everyday dilemmas that test their character and value system.
Although we’ve had a slow start with the “Teens & Tweens” this school year due to ailing committee members, we are now back on track and very grateful to the Idyllwild Community Fund for allowing the Human Relations Council to continue in its mission. ICF funding has made it possible for us to purchase the films we show and to pay for advertising, including ads in the Town Crier and the printing of flyers and posters. ICF funding also allows us to purchase supplies and snacks for our “Teens & Tweens” activity series and to pay some of our field trip expenses.
As a final aside, the Idyllwild “Seeing Diversity Film Series” has served as a pilot project for the other areas that HRC serves. Starting in April 2014, the film series will begin for the communities of the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley.
Joanne Tomsche, middle school art coordinator, told this month’s guest editor, Dianne Suechika, how the role of art in the middle school curriculum has been amplified with help from ICF. (Joanne and student are pictured left.)
Since its inception in 2002, the smARTS program has been widely acclaimed for its dedication to integrating the arts into the curriculum at Idyllwild School. ICF supports the smARTS program with grant funds and promotion. This year the generous support of ICF allowed for greater expansion in the middle school.
Two new Idyllwild middle school teachers worked with Joanne Tomsche, a founding artist of the smARTS program, to significantly increase the number of classes in which art has been integrated into social studies and language arts curricula. They acknowledged the level of volunteer involvement and the depth of resources available through the smARTS program.
Starting in October, 2012, smARTS began a series of classes designed to give all middle school students confidence in basic drawing skills. Other smARTS classes have included handmade language arts journals for the 8th grade and hand-built coil pots, created to promote understanding of ancient cultures, in the 6th grade. The 7th graders designed and painted illuminated manuscript letters and gothic cathedral windows as they studied Medieval history. Classes connected to the math and science curricula were featured during the spring term.
by Veronica Alt
Recently Ms. Lisa Draper’s 4th grade class from Idyllwild Elementary participated in a Junior Mountain Disaster Preparedness (MDP) training session. The exuberant students spent time going through the MDP Disaster Aid Station (DAS) located just a block from their school.
The students each had time to do a walk through and inspect the supplies and learn about the function of a DAS in an emergency. Most, if not all, were unaware of its existence.
Then, suitably decked out in neon vests and red and green helmets, each student was able to transmit a message, using the phonetic alphabet, to MDP radio monitors. Idyllwild Community Fund has, over the years, generously contributed to MDP’s ability to purchase, among other items, these essential radios and it was a pleasure to see the interest and glee they generated with the students.