Artist Darcy Gerdes gives a glimpse of her unfinished Chair called “As Above, Also Below.” Darcy has a unique perspective.
Photo by susan monroe

The Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation has been supporting Idyllwild Arts though fundraising for 50 years. In honor of its 50th year, this year it is sponsoring “Chairs for Charity” that continues to benefit the student scholarship fund of the Idyllwild Arts Academy and Summer Program.

The fundraiser kicks off at Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery in Idyllwild, with a show from March 28 to April 8. The show then moves to La Quinta Museum from April 10 to May 20.

There will be two receptions. The reception in Idyllwild also will be held at Middle Ridge from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31. The reception in La Quinta will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3. The public is invited to both receptions at no cost, and there will be live entertainment at Middle Ridge.

Fifteen artists are making chairs in both two- and three-dimensional designs. Four of the artists creating chairs are students currently attending Idyllwild Art Academy. The chairs will be represented in numerous media. Three of the artists, Darcy Gerdes, Charlotte Horton and Mark Wilden, shared with the Town Crier.

Gerdes started her art career at the age of 5 doing caricatures in Anaheim. She said, “I went to someone’s house and asked for the breadwinner. I knew they were the ones with money.” If she was able to reel the breadwinner in, Gerdes made a caricature of a member of their family.

Later, she worked as an illustrator for 15 years. Now, Gerdes is an award-winning artist.

Two people especially influenced her art career — her high school teacher, Mrs. Mason at Anaheim High, and a neighbor who was an accomplished animator, Ken Southwood, also of Anaheim.

The chair Gerdes is creating for the fundraiser is called “As Above, Also Below.” She said, “My chair is a growing chair, made from planted trees reflecting the connection of its roots and growth to oneness. It is a fact,” said Gerdes, that there are “those who love to grow a chair out of trees. The process takes four to eight years using ancient technique combining cooperation between nature and craftsmen.”

Artist Mark Wilden shares a sneak preview of pieces of his Chair he is calling “Trilogy of 1909.” Notice the inlayed turquoise.
Photo by susan monroe

Gerdes quotes Leonardo da Vinci saying: “‘… learn how to see. Realize everything connects to everything else.’” As a resident of Idyllwild for 17 years, Gerdes wants to give back to the community. She also has participated in many Art Alliance of Idyllwild fundraisers over the years.

Charlotte Horton also will be creating a chair for charity. The medium she loves is copper wire. Charlotte said, “When I picked up copper wire, my art grew out of it.”

Nature is a real inspiration to Horton. She creates the strength and beauty of trees, “their roots anchoring them to the Earth, as their branches reach toward the heavens.” Horton is especially fond of oak trees that she finds in a canyon near Murrieta where she lives. She says it is the “oaks’ twisty structure that I love.”

Horton said of her chair, “The chair is made from Pal Tiya Premium, an all-weather sculpting medium. The tree itself is twisted from 100 percebt recycled electrical wire that I found at my local recycling center.”

Artist Mark Wilden got started in art when he began carving soap and pipe stone in the 1970s. After 40 years as a finish carpenter, he began creating tables and stools out of wine barrels. The San Jacinto Mountains introduced him to burl wood and red shank. Into the natural cracks in the wood, Wilden inlays turquoise, lapis and malachite.

Many of Wilden’s pieces resemble animals. He likes to bring out the character in each piece of wood, leaving as much natural beauty as possible.

Wilden’s chair is being made of cedar from Idyllwild and redshank from Anza. The seat and back are made out of cedar, inlayed with turquoise from Kingman, Arizona. The legs are made of the trunk and branches from native redshank brush that grows in the San Jacinto Mountains. The chair’s name will be “Trilogy of 1909.” The cedar is 109 years old.

Online bidding for chairs will open at the end of March. To place a bid, visit On that site will be a link for bidding, along with photographs of the chairs. Some chairs being made by artists, however, will not be available online, rather they will be presented at the live auction on Saturday, May 26, during the 50th-anniversary celebration.

The celebration will be held at the Idyllwild Arts campus beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person and include beverages, dinner, music, dancing, a silent auction and the inaugural “Chairs for Charity” exhibit and auction.

Tickets for the May 26 event can be purchased online or by sending a check to The Associates 50th, P.O. Box 303, Idyllwild, CA 92549.

Michael Slocum, Associates president, will lead the festivities for the 50th anniversary.