Watercolor artist Jean Bradley, judge for the Art Alliance of Idyllwild Eye of the Artist event.
Photo by debra varnad

Art Alliance of Idyllwild members are still buzzing with excitement after last month’s successful grand opening of their Art Visitors Center in the Courtyard Gallery located in the center of town at The Fort.

“Renting that space provides an affordable opportunity for members to have a ‘home,’” AAI President Donna Elliot said, “and a place for visitors to learn what’s happening in Idyllwild, and pick up maps, local magazines, brochures and cards from local businesses.”

Now the artists are geared up for the Eye of the Artist crowd-pleaser from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at Town Hall.

The Eye is not only one of AAI’s largest fundraisers, — second only to the annual Art Walk and Wine Tasting in October — “It’s more of a community party where locals enjoy the opportunity to meet the artists, win stunning artwork, socialize and support the arts,” Elliot said.

“Visitors from off the Hill and patrons of our local inns come, too, because of the event’s reputation.”

The Eye will feature the artistic magic of more than 50 artists who donated work to the silent auction, or to the raffle, which artwork will be judged. More than 60 pieces will be on display.

“Through the generosity of our artists, we hope to raise at least $5,000, but hopefully more,” Elliot said. “Over the last five years, our raffles have provided at least $20,000 in funding to beneficiaries.”

Among the grantees are the Associates of Idyllwild Arts and Idyllwild Arts Foundation; Idyllwild School PTA smARTS program; Idyllwild Arts Children’s Dance Project; Home Schoolers Art Classes; the Tree Lighting Ceremony; the Ernie Maxwell collection at the Idyllwild Area Historical Society; theater projects; and local scholarship students. 

“According to raffle regulations, 90 percent of what we earn from it will be given away in grants,” Elliot said. “In addition to awarding grants, we fund artist workshops, art shows and public art projects; publicize alliance galleries and art hot spots; and support local organizations that actively encourage art-related projects.”

AAI also promotes its patron inns through the Eye. Some Idyllwild restaurants donate food to it, and local musicians avail themselves of opportunities to perform.   Other nonprofit recipients of grants are invited to help stage and to attend the event.

“Saturday’s event will transform Town Hall into an art gallery and warm, comfortable place where artists and guests will mingle, nibble delectable treats, sip wine or enjoy a craft beer,” Elliot said. “And the mayors of Idyllwild may attend, too.” Eric Yandell, Mark Lawrence and Jeff Watson of Stones Throw will treat guests to live music.

Art in various media, including watercolor, acrylics, oil, mixed-media, digital, leather, marble, wood and more, will be available. 

Professional watercolor artist Jean Bradley of Palm Springs will judge the work included in the raffle, awarding first-, second- and third-place ribbons in four categories of art: 2-D; 3-D; wearable; and photography and digital.

Bradley has exhibited her paintings in one-person shows in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Hawaii and California. International Artist Magazine published a 10-page feature article on her “Rhythm and Light” series. Her “Voluptuous Papayas” is on the Feb.-March 2006 cover.

“I have been painting practically my whole life,” she said, “and I’ve been teaching for about 30 years. I love being inspired by art that is done well.”

Elliot said AAI welcomes the generosity of non-members who donate items for the silent auction or to the raffle, but, “Their pieces will not be part of the work that Bradley will judge.”

AAI owes its operating funds and philanthropy to a chance encounter with an “egg” almost 20 years ago. Co-founder Chris Trout attended a unique event in Waimea, Hawaii, where artists, architects and designers got together once a year to paint/decorate an egg.

“It had such a profound effect on her that she and Grace Songolo, the other alliance co-founder, adopted the concept and tailored it to Idyllwild,” Elliot said. “Local artists were invited to decorate an egg — be it ostrich, emu, rhea, clay or other materials — and to donate their artwork to the event.

“They were displayed in nests, voted on, raffled off and treasured by those who won them. Even the food was about eggs … deviled, chocolate …

“Prior to the Eye, funds for artist member activities were non-existent,” Elliot added. “The event was born out of creative inspiration, but it was also financial necessity that drove Chris and Grace to stage it.” 

For the price of a raffle ticket, art lovers may win a beautiful, original piece of art worth hundreds of dollars. The winning tickets will be drawn starting at 8 p.m. Highest bidders on silent auction items become winners when the auction ends at 8 p.m.    

The theme of this year’s event is “Visions of Unity,” which may have a more societal impact as we consider environmental and political upheaval, Elliot said. “The theme is optional, but most artists enjoy the challenge of creating a new piece of art inspired by the theme.”    

AAI is dedicated to seeing Idyllwild become a nationally recognized fine arts center for education, creativity and exhibition. “We grow ‘from strength to strength.’ The current board is forward-thinking, always looking for opportunities for our members,” Elliot said.

On May 6, AAI will offer mothers and daughters, fathers, sons and others the opportunity to create a scarf for each other in time for Mother’s Day. Afternoon tea will be served.    

  The painted deer herd is being expanded and a “Herd Gathering” will be staged June 16 where all the painted deer may be seen together for the first and only time. Elliot urges the Idyllwild community to mark their calendars, and to buy a raffle ticket for a full-size, bronze-colored buck, which may be seen from time to time, “bounding around” the post office or the Art Visitors Center. The raffle winner will be drawn at the “Herd Gathering.”   

The Arts Visitors Center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday to Monday. See event details at www.artinidyllwild.org.