At right, Idyllwild Arts’ interim leaders, Dean of Arts Doug Ashcraft (seated) and Director of the Summer Program Steve Fraider. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Doug Ashcraft and Steve Fraider are jointly leading Idyllwild Arts. Of course as respective Dean of the Academy and Director of the Summer Program, they were involved in the Academy’s navigation for years.

The majority of their new responsibilities do not overlap and they are enjoying the time collaborating and helping the school through this period until a new president of the school is selected.

Although former President Brian Cohen left in July, the board of governors is waiting to initiate the replacement process. One of the steps, according to Board Chair Faith Raiguel, is to evaluate the school’s current leadership structure and how that enables the board to better interact and function.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, both Ashcraft and Fraider discussed their interim reign and the school’s status.

“We’re doing pretty well,” Fraider said. “We have separate capabilities and different parts of the school.

“As long as Doug and I talk to each other about the key issues, such as the Master plan, it works well,” he added.

Both confirmed that their day-to-day responsibilities, running the academy for Ashcraft and the summer program for Fraider, have changed little in many years.

Both men were conscious of and grateful for the role of all the school’s main actors. The staff and faculty have been instrumental in the school’s ability to operate without losing a step in the absence of an official head. And the board has been more engaged.

“Everybody is more open and more interested in working together,” Fraider observed. “They’re talking seriously about the future more than anytime before.”

The seven “Arts” chairs still report to Ashcraft, who has plenty of staff meetings. For major decisions, to ensure a consensus, he devotes much time to discussing and listening to all the views.

“I want to make sure everybody is on board,” he stressed. “We have an enormous amount of talent and wisdom at all levels. People feel they can voice an opinion about issues and be heard and respected.”

“People are comfortable with Doug,” colleague Fraider acknowledged. “Everybody is quite empowered now.”

Although Ashcraft heads the academy, with 298 full-time students this year, Fraider’s summer program is vital for the school. Its history began in 1950, 36 years before the academy began operation.

Nearly 1,700 participants flow through a normal summer program, which is often a student’s or even board member’s initial connection with the institution.

“The summer program is critical and helps establish the name value [for the entire institution],” Friaider said.