Shanna Robb, deer project manager for the Art Alliance of Idyllwild’s public art project. Photo by Marshall Smith
The Art Alliance of Idyllwild is on a mission to enhance Idyllwild’s reputation for art by establishing a new marketing niche as a public arts town. Planning is underway to permanently install 15 full-size aluminum deer in 10 public locations throughout the village. Local artists will use acrylics to paint each deer with its own individual theme. “We want to extend the goal of Chris Trout when she founded the Art Alliance in 1998, to make Idyllwild known as an arts community and a destination for cultural tourists,” said project manager Shanna Robb.

Although Idyllwild has been recognized in the past for its numerous art galleries, AAI’s deer project aims to take Idyllwild art from within galleries to outdoor public locations accessible to all. The project is, according to Robb and AAI President Gary Kuscher, the first of many planned public art projects.

The 15 deer each weigh more than 60 pounds and stand nearly 5 feet tall, with bucks and does larger and the five fawns smaller. The bucks and does have their heads raised measuring 53 inches long and 55 tall, five doe, heads raised, 53 inches long and 47 tall and the five fawns 31 inches long, 27 tall, are grazing with heads down. Each recycled aluminum deer will be painted to celebrate a cultural or historical theme characteristic of Idyllwild — such as hiking, film, art, music, logging, Native American influence, wildlife, flora, or seasons. The AAI board decides which themes will be used and assigns them to the individual artists.

“This is a community project,” said Robb, who said she welcomes community input. “Art will be appropriate for all audiences, including children and will stress AAI’s mission to promote art through education, creativity and exhibition.” Artists would be able to choose representational or abstract styles.

AAI President Kuscher noted public art confers numerous benefits in towns and cities in which it is displayed. “It promotes tourism, creates joy, increases foot traffic that benefits local stores and restaurants, beautifies the business district and builds a sense of community,” he said. “This project could not be done without Robb’s expertise and extensive project management background. She’s thought through everything,” he said. In answer to questions about art placement, insurance, liability, and ownership of the finished art, Robb produced forms to be signed by both artist and land or business owner clarifying project requirements and responsibilities. Completed art is owned by AAI, including use of image for publicity purposes.

AAI will both insure and maintain the artists’ creations, including resealing when necessary. It also agrees to defend and indemnify any land or business owner on which the art is placed from liability and claims of damage, whether from personal injury or property damage. Each “Permissive Land/Use Agreement” is terminable, with or without cause, for any or no reason, by either party with 30 days notice.

The progenitor for this kind of public art was the international “Cow Parade” project in which artists painted life-size fiberglass cow sculptures. Originated in Zurich, Switzerland, by sculptor Pascal Knapp, the project spread first to Chicago in the U.S. and then to every continent except Antarctica. After months of public exhibition, the painted cows were then auctioned for charity.

Robb and Kuscher stressed deer installations would be permanent, memorializing the donors and the artists and designed to tell Idyllwild’s story — what it was, has been and is known for. “The installations will promote conversation about the village and its history,” said Robb.

Artists agree by contract with AAI that their artwork must be free of political views or any other content that could be considered inappropriate for the general public including children. The finished art cannot contain logos, commercial advertising or specific website or business addresses. It must simply be art which when completed, becomes the property of AAI with all appurtenant rights.

Artists, all of whom must be dues-paid AAI members, will be notified of selection on June 2. Two weeks later, the deer will be available for artists to pick up. Artists must complete their deer by mid-September. AAI’s plan is to have all 15 in place by its Saturday, Oct. 12, Art Walk & Wine Tasting event.

As of this writing, eight of 10 deer installation sites have been approved: Café Aroma, Idyllwild Inn, Spruce Moose at the Fort, BBVA Bank, Idyllwild Area Historical Society, the Nature Center, Village Centre and Oakwood Village. Two additional sites, one county, one federal, are awaiting contract or supervisory approval.

Each deer will have its own informational plaque. In addition, a larger plaque will be installed at Village Centre explaining the genesis and purpose of the project.

Of fifteen sponsorships available at $475 each, nine are confirmed, leaving four remaining opportunities. Organizers cite reasons for sponsorship as gifts to family members as living legacies, creation of public art as living history, and support of Idyllwild artists. Although some businesses have agreed to sponsorships, the majority of sponsors at this point are families.

All donations or sponsorships are tax-deductible, said Kuscher. Robb, the public face of the project, said she welcomes community input and questions. Contact her at [email protected]. For more information about the project and sponsorship opportunities, see