By Sally Hedberg
Special to the Town Crier
In preparation for its 70th anniversary next year, Idyllwild Arts is hosting the Throwback Summer Lecture Series free to the public. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 8, long-time IA Board member Walter Parks will highlight the evolution of the school from his first-hand experience in 1962 to the present. The lecture will be held in the Krone Library Reading Room.
Walter and his wife, Betty, first came to Idyllwild in 1962 to take classes during the summer. He explained that the idea of this program began in the 1940s when Dr. Max Krone, dean of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, and his wife, Beatrice, a music teacher, dreamed of having a creative arts summer program. With guidance and support from USC, the Krones purchased the land, built classrooms and opened the doors in 1950.
Max was a conductor, musician and professor of Music and Beatrice wrote music books, including folk music. They used the common language of music to attract established musicians, teachers and students from many cultures, including Native Americans.
Later it became the first independent boarding high school for the arts in the western United States. It was known as Idyllwild School of Music and Arts (ISOMATA) until the name changed to Idyllwild Arts Academy and Summer Programs in 1995.
Walter tells about one of the most famous Pueblo potters, Maria Martinez, who taught her first class off the reservation during Native American Week in 1974. This was particularly amazing since Martinez was known throughout the world and had even been invited to the White House. Betty, who is a ceramicist, was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to meet her.
In 1983, the Idyllwild campus separated from USC and Parks was asked to set up a new accounting system. He entered the office only to find a checkbook. As a private contractor, he set up the system and worked there for two years. Also in 1983, he was asked to join the IA Foundation board. Since that time he has been on the board except for a break in 2005, rejoining in 2011.
Walter’s lecture will cover the evolution of the school since 1940. Every era has added on buildings. During the 1980s and 1990s, it was dormitories, dance studios and classrooms. In the 2000s, it was the Krone Library and the Nelson Dining Hall, and this year’s big event is the Lowman Concert Hall. Betty, who served on the Building and Grounds Committee, is responsible for the Parks Exhibition Center, a 1,400-square-foot gallery and focal point for exhibiting student, faculty and visiting artists’ work, which opened in 2002.
Native American Arts Week and the adult Summer Programs have always been a special time for both Walter and Betty to take classes. Betty continues with her ceramics while Walter is taking a writing class. In 1993, his love of Native American pottery lead him to write the book, “The Miracle of Mata Ortiz,” about Juan Quezada, the most important potter of the ceramic arts movement. His publisher asked if he would write a second version as an art book that was published in 2011.
Walter has been involved with the school for 53 years. “I really love the school — every part of it. Being on the board I got to see it grow under the charismatic leadership of Bill Lowman and the support of others who have built this Academy. I have met some wonderful people who became friends. The teachers, board members, the foundation associates and the community are all part of the Idyllwild family that made it happen.”