Donna Elliot, Art Alliance president and Peter Szabadi, Art Alliance treasurer and event co-chairs.
Photo by Debra Varnados

At the end of a phenomenally successful year with several headliner events, the Art Alliance of Idyllwild will hold a ‘Winter Solstice Art Show’ December 16 at Town Hall from noon to 8 pm. 

Christine Dodd, publisher of two magazines — Palm Springs Art and Laguna Beach Art — will judge the new, one-day show-and-sale.   

  “Christine is looking to get to know Idyllwild and the art scene to see how we can collaborate on events or future articles,” Donna Elliot, AAI president and the event co-chair, said.

Dodd, who grew up in L.A., says she “enjoys being a part of these regional art communities and helping to make a difference in artists’ lives. I have spent the last 20 years pursuing my passion of promoting the arts through the development of nonprofit programs and multiple four-color publications.”

Shoppers visiting the show will find artwork fitting the winter theme as well as work inspired by other subjects. The submission of themed-work was optional. Of the roughly 125 pieces to be displayed, Dodd will award a ribbon to the artwork that best conveys the winter theme and will award additional ribbons by category of artwork.   A People’s Choice also will be awarded.

Residents and art aficionados appreciate the hum of life on the Hill created by the scores of artists who call it home. Apparently, people from off the Hill do as well.

Hundreds of them were attracted to Idyllwild this year for AAI events: 1,625 people alone on two recent occasions, underscoring the esteem that visitors and residents have for mountain life and community.

Mid-October, downtown Idyllwild swelled with 1,500 people — the equivalent of 39 percent of the Idyllwild-Pine Cove population, based on the 2010 U.S. Census count. Wine and art enthusiasts from the desert, San Diego, Riverside, Temecula and beyond, walked, pedaled and shuttled along North Circle Drive, sampling wines, and visiting and buying artwork displayed in about 15 galleries and art hotspots.

“Three-quarters of our Art and Wine Walk participants were from off the Hill,” Donna Elliot, Art Alliance of Idyllwild president, said. “We sold around 1,100 tickets, and had families, friends and people who just wanted to see the artwork and experience Idyllwild.

“It’s one of the few local events held in town and that captures the whole town. People come up on tour buses … and fill the restaurants, shops and patron wineries and inns, for the whole weekend. Everybody benefits because it brings up so many non-residents and repeat visitors.”

“They’ve discovered the unique, well-priced art in Idyllwild,” a distinct art destination, with a coveted place in travel writer John Villani’s book “100 Best Small Art Towns in America.”

In July, an estimated 125 art enthusiasts descended on the Idyllwild Area Historical Society on North Circle for the Alliance’s “Eye of the Artist” annual one-day show and sale.

That Summer Solstice show created tremendous buzz for the Alliance and for the IAHS, a first-time partner in staging the event. “It was so well-received there and really captured the imagination of the general public just passing by and seeing it,” according to Elliot. 

Shoppers visiting the winter show will find artwork fitting the “winter” theme, but submitting themed-work is optional. Of the roughly 125 pieces to be displayed, Dodd will award a ribbon to the artwork that best conveys the theme and will award more ribbons by category of artwork. 

Idyllwild’s year-round art culture also reflects the rhythm and, at times, the blues of its creators. “Quite a few artists sell and show their work back East or have international reputations,” Elliot said, but many others work other jobs to support themselves. 

“Idyllwild’s art scene is up and down, and very much tied to the economy. When it’s good, you get art galleries. When it tanks, they start closing because people can’t make a living. People aren’t buying art.    

“This ‘Winter Solstice Show’ is an opportunity to buy Christmas presents from local artists and to get to know them. It is very much about exposure, too.”

Peter Szabadi, AAI treasurer and “Winter Solstice” event co-chair, emphasized artist turnout: “It will be larger for a juried show. People can submit up to five additional pieces which will not be judged. That work is not necessarily art that the person thinks will sell, but that they are proud of.”   

Of the visual art scene, Szabadi said: “Idyllwild is not a steppingstone to a half-million-dollar sale or a MacArthur Genius grant, but the focus on art has always been here. Artists are producing art inspired by and evocative of nature and the environment of Idyllwild.”

Expanding upon that thread, Elliot commented, “That inspiration might not come out as a theme or as a landscape, but it comes out because the artists are relaxed and happy — nature contributes to a peace of mind that makes itself into art.”

AAI includes galleries and art hotspots, patrons and a broad spectrum of artists. “Most are professional painters, photographers and digital artists, sculptors and potters, jewelers and makers of wearable art,” Elliot said.

Many have found a sense of place, family and spiritual connection to producing artwork on the Hill. “We promote them and the galleries, the places where the artwork is shown,” Szabadi added. “That theme has been around for some time and seems to have gotten a little larger — we had a really successful Art and Wine walk.”

  In 2018, AAI artists will “unleash their talents” on projects, including competing to design the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema program; continued collaboration with the smARTs program, and staging a pavement chalk festival and fundraiser; and expanding the Deer Herd, one of AAI’s most visible and enduring projects.

  “It’s a big community art project, something that the public gets involved in as site and deer sponsors, and artist volunteers,” Elliot said. “We have 21 deer now and will expand that by 10 to 14. We hope to kick it off in January and to have a ‘Deer Gathering’ at the Summer Solstice event.

“We want to contribute to making Idyllwild a good place to live and create.”