The Art Alliance of Idyllwild (AAI) new board met with members and the general public in the Loft of the Quiet Creek Inn on Friday, Jan. 13. AAI board members shown, from left, Jan Bruner, board member at large and special projects coordinator; Patti Cooper, membership chair; John Cook, artist coordinator; Reba Coulter, treasurer; Lea Deesing, president; Gary Kuscher, vice president and hospitality coordinator; Lisa Claussen, secretary; and Annika Kay, publicity and marketing chair. Not pictured: Mike Ahern, gallery, inn and business liaison. Photo by Cid Castillo

The Art Alliance of Idyllwild (AAI) board and members gathered to discuss changes going into the new year as well as goals and their accomplishments in 2011 at Friday night’s annual general membership meeting at the Quiet Creek Inn.

Changes to the events calendar, a new website, a new automated membership system and adjustments to the process for choosing the year’s best artist were announced.

The 2012 calendar drops the July member studio tour in favor of a judged members’ show and gallery tour, which will feature working artists and will take place July 14 and 15.

Hoping to benefit from two of Idyllwild’s most popular (for locals and visitors alike) weekends, the Alliance added “Idyllwild’s Art and Treasures Weekend” on Labor Day and Memorial Day weekend, when hundreds come out for the many local yard sales.

“It will give artists more opportunities to be working and to be seen working,” board President Lea Deesing said. She and other board members were excited about the possibility of the weekends eventually growing into something like a Sawdust Festival, the popular annual Laguna Beach happening.

The next Art Alliance event is the annual “Eye of the Artist” show and fundraiser. This year’s theme for artists is “The Spirit of Idyllwild.” Done in years past, AAI member judging has been brought back this year.

This gives artists three shows in which their work will be judged, so more opportunities for “points” that add up to the ultimate Artist of the Year award and other honors. The “Eye” event is March 10 and is a major fundraiser for the organization. In addition, art lovers have a chance to win original pieces of work for the price of a raffle ticket.

The word “juried” in past years was determined to be misused. Deesing explained, juried implies a review process is needed for work to be allowed in a judged show. Instead, all AAI member artists can enter one of the three judged shows with no obstacle. Once in, AAI members judge their work. Juried was changed to judged in the organization’s bylaws and in all judged event titles.

The new alliance website, set to launch any day, will allow AAI artist members access to their own “mini site” or page where they can post photos of their work, a bio, events, announcements and more. The site has a more user-friendly content management system, allowing board members to log on and make changes, rather than requiring a webmaster to do the work.

A new membership system will save time for the membership coordinator by automatically sending members reminders to pay their dues.

The board was encouraged by the success of the 2011 Art Walk & Wine Tasting. Event coordinator and board Vice President Gary Kuscher said he’s already secured commitments from 17 wineries for next year’s event. He was also excited about building on the relationship between AAI and the wineries in promoting the next event and Idyllwild as an art town.

The ultimate, long-term goal of the current board is furthering the AAI mission, “seeing Idyllwild become a nationally recognized fine arts center for education, creativity and exhibition.”

Either this year or next, Deesing said the board will work to find locations around the village where they can place poles on which they can hang banners for announcing events and making it so that “when people drive into Idyllwild they will know they’ve hit an art town,” she said.

The Alliance hopes to also increase the number of locations where artists’ work is shown.

AAI member and Idyllwild Community Center committee member Chris Maxson said the proposed Idyllwild Community Center will provide several new locations, including the lobby, which will be dedicated to showing AAI artists’ work. “You don’t get me on a board unless you get the Art Alliance too,” she said.

Finance coordinator Reba Coulter said the organization’s finances are better than expected going into 2012. She and the board adopted some cost-saving ideas for the new year, with the hope of having even more cash available in 2013. One idea was to only mail postcards twice a year instead of sending them for every AAI event.

In 2011, the organization donated $1,500 to the Associates of Idyllwild Arts for scholarships, $1,500 to the elementary school’s smARTS program and $300 to the Community Arts Network.

For event information, visit the Art Alliance website at or the Town Crier’s Arts & Entertainment calendar.