Gary Kuscher at Alpenglow Gardens, Idyllwild.
Photo courtesy Gary Kuscher

“Life always gives more than it takes away,” mused Gary Kuscher with a wistful glance. Born into a family of artists, his parents both Broadway actors, Kuscher majored in music, he even blew the sax with Ernie Watts — but piano was his first love. “While I can no longer caress my piano with that familiar snap or hold a camera, I love organic sculpture.

“When I first came to Idyllwild in 1986 and saw the manzanita, I thought it was gorgeous and then when I saw George Baker’s work … well, gratefully, he became my mentor.” Idyllwild artist Baker saw something in Kuscher and shared his techniques. He even showed Kuscher’s work in his Oakwood Village gallery and basically opened two new captivating artistic worlds to him, photography and wood sculpture, circa 2004.

Whether it be manzanita rendered into hand rails inlaid with turquoise or walking sticks or candle sticks or Menorah’s or custom kitchen utensils, Kuscher said, “I love doing organic sculpture.”

Word got out. Luis Solis, the owner of Los Gorditos, commissioned multiple signature pieces of manzanita wrought by Kuscher for his new restaurant theme. Stay tuned, the Manzanita Cantina is poised to replace Los Gorditos later this summer.

“I have become my father … well, not entirely,” revealed Kuscher. “I’m far more flagrant and spontaneous but certainly insofar as inheriting his sense of community responsibility, I am like him. I think a lot about Idyllwild’s potential but I’m no different than many of my peers. By the time an idea passes from person to person, it gets wings. A great little town is always a group effort and Idyllwild, for the most part, does it well, and I think it’s because of its great history,” he reminisced.

Manzanita sculpture “Adagio” by Gary Kuscher. Photo courtesy Gary Kuscher

“What’s that quote…?” he asked. “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. The guiding voice of Eleanor Roosevelt sustains my focus to help bring art into public spaces in Idyllwild,” said Kuscher.

“With that said, and in the spirit of embracing our rich history, there are plans in the works I can share,” granted Kuscher. “Chic Fojtik and I are moving the Fourth of July laser show off Tahquitz [Rock] and into town! Mountain games with Koosje Piño will debut on Oct. 20 reminding long-timers of Timber [Festival] days,” mused Kuscher.

“Who says the town can’t commission affordable aluminum-cast sculptures of Ernie Maxwell reading his newspaper on a bench or leaning on his cane as a photo-op near the park — what the hay? Ernie showed Idyllwild how to hold onto its charm and I think that’s the main reason we’re here.

“Who says we don’t need go-fund-me sites, ’cause we do. There are many who envision public art enticing inquisitive visitors to venture to the top of North Circle. The town of Julian labeled all their original buildings with early photos and a historic narrative. We could do that, too!

“The AAI’s deer sightings project is another outstanding effort. But I gotta go,” and like a gust of wind, Kuscher bade farewell to join another circle of visionaries.