When Max and Bee Krone founded Idyllwild Arts 70 years ago, they envisioned a place where people from around the world would come to create art, and through their creativity, fashion a better and more egalitarian society. Said Max, “The arts provide the best common ground for friendly cooperation among the peoples of the world. In our arts, we express the same hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, our longings and aspirations, our daily experiences — all of the things that mean the most to us … Barriers of language, creed, color and race must be broken down.”
Commemorating that founding principle, Idyllwild Arts launched the first “Art in Society” panel discussion last year. The series’ stated purpose is to remind IA students, faculty, staff and interested Idyllwild residents that art can be used, not just to generate material success or fame, but to “break down barriers of race, class and gender [and] to empower marginalized groups and realize the mutual humanity of all.”
Inasmuch as more than half of the student body comes from other countries, this year’s theme of immigration and citizenship was chosen to help grow understanding of immigration in the context of the forces of socioeconomic inequality and injustice that drive it. Whether the communities of immigrants have been Scots-Irish, Italian, Syrian, Afghani, Mexican or Central American, they have historically risked everything in attempting to find a better life for themselves and their families.
On Friday, Feb. 12, at the IAF Theatre, the symposium’s panelists and presenters highlighted the recent experiences of Latin American immigrants to California. They dealt with issues of human trafficking, refugee migration, abuse by smugglers, traffickers and law enforcement during the journey. And, they dealt with the challenges surrounding second-class status once immigrants reach the United States.
As noted in the program, the event featured a panel of world-class guests who “share our belief in the transformative power of creative expression.” Panelists and presenters included Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez; printmaker and graphic designer Ernesto Yerena; playwright, professor and performance artist Carlos-Manuel Chavarria; Armenian-American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian; journalist and documentary filmmaker Pedro Ultreras; fashion designer and activist Bonnie Kim; and choreographer Reggie Wilson.
The theme of the event was perhaps best summed up by Rodriguez, an activist and champion for social justice and racial and ethnic equality. “The first thing that has to happen in a [social justice] revolution is to open our minds — to understand how art re-imagines the world and challenges its limitations,” said Rodriguez. “The real nature of the world is abundance, not scarcity. Poor people have an abundance of imagination, and talent and art can bring together the most desolate and desperate of communities. Now, everything is in crisis, and crisis is what drives change.”
Rodriguez is a galvanizing speaker. In rising tones he concluded, to cheers from the audience, “It’s time that all of us are free, re-imagining the world to have enough for everybody. The Earth does not have borders. They’re made up. Look at the Earth from the Hubble [telescope.] Those lines do not exist. I am not an immigrant. I am where I came from. I’m from Earth!”
For more about Idyllwild Arts programs and initiatives, visit www.idyllwildarts.org.