AAI”s new president Gary Kuscher. Photo by Marshall Smith
Gary Kuscher is the new president of the Art Alliance of Idyllwild. He takes over from Lea Deesing, with whom he served as vice president and hospitality coordinator.

“We have some new board members, some exciting new projects and expanded revenue from last year’s events,” Kuscher said. “We’re very excited about our year coming up.”

Kuscher said the alliance owes a great debt to Deesing. “She saw the bigger picture and had excellent marketing and managerial skills,” he said. “We saved money on advertising and overall expenses, using bulk mailings as an example. And instead of separate post cards for each event, we used one that advertised all. She was a remarkable president.”

Kuscher said the new board, including members at large Phyllis Mueller and Pat Hughes, and new board Secretary Halie Johnson, augment an already top-notch group of artists and producers. Other board members are Scott Fisher, vice president, Reba Coulter, treasurer, Bryan Tallent, gallery and inn liaison, Patti Cooper, membership, Kristen Ingbretsen, marketing and publicity coordinator and Mike Ahern, member at large.

Kuscher noted a new banner program would unveil this year under the direction of Pat Hughes, who spearheaded the Lemon Lily Festival original art banner program. Hughes had developed similar programs for the Banning Cultural Alliance and brings considerable experience as an event planner. “The goal is to have 20 banner locations throughout town and with a greater concentration on North Circle,” said Kuscher.

And, similar to the Lemon Lily Festival banner project, Idyllwild artists will paint one side for AAI events, and the other will have the AAI logo. Kuscher said other community organizations would be able to use the hardware for their own banners. He suggested AAI would welcome donations from other local organizations to purchase the banner hardware, but once the hardware is funded, use would be open to all non-profits that are promoting their events and Idyllwild.

The board has another public art project that they’ll announce once logistical planning and board adoption is completed. They plan two new events at the Nature Center, judged shows running with the Wildflower Festival in May and the Lemon Lily Festival in July. The alliance will again partner with the Garden Club and Gary Parton’s AlpenGlow Gardens for the two-day Lilac Festival in April. “We’re also looking forward to the Labor Day event at the Idyllwild Community Center, the Art and Treasures Weekend, Aug. 31 through Sept. 1.”

Kuscher has a long career in the hospitality industry, much of it spent working for Sonny Bono. Kuscher was also the volunteer coordinator for Bono’s first Palm Springs Film Festival, of which Bono was the initial proponent and organizer.

He credits falling in love with Idyllwild and having George Baker as a mentor for his evolution as an artist and Idyllwild resident. “I fell in love with Idyllwild when I moved to Palm Springs in 1986,” he recalled. “Even then I knew this is where I have to be, this art town. George Baker got me interested in sculpting manzanita and in photography.”

Kuscher said the board’s goal this year is to restore Idyllwild as the important art town it had been. Part of that goal is to expand public art throughout the Idyllwild business core.


  1. BRILLIANT! Gary has been an incredible organizer and asset for it AAI. – He certainly keeps me busy with his inclusions and we enjoy supporting the organization. I cannot wait to see what we have going on in 2013 and beyond. Congratulations to Gary and the rest of the "crew". I say "crew" becuase they will be working hard to promote our arts community.

    Once again, Congratulations from Chris and Melody Johnston, Middle Ridge Winery…