A screenshot of attendees at last Monday’s monthly meeting of the Associates of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation. Taken during the business meeting, the photo does not include the featured speaker, Marianne Kent-Stoll.    Photo courtesy of Associates of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation

The Associates of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, aka The Associates, held its monthly meeting via Zoom video conference on Monday, June 8. Marianne Kent-Stoll, vice president of educational programs at Idyllwild Arts Academy (IAA), was the featured speaker as part of the ongoing Spotlight on Leadership series. 

Kent-Stoll spoke about the school’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and plans for the future. IAA decided to close a week before Riverside County schools and then worked through the difficult logistics of getting students to their home countries and states in a time of restricted travel. 

They succeeded and then instituted online learning and a virtual graduation. 

Since then, the faculty and administration have been working overtime to respond to these unprecedented times. Web-based learning, made popular by Sal Kahn, founder of the Kahn Academy, has thus far had limited application in arts education. However, IAA aspires to be at the forefront of this newly necessitated hybrid approach to education in music, dance, creative writing, fashion design, theatre, film and digital media, visual arts and “InterArts” that make up the major concentrations of study available at the school, in addition, of course, to the typical high school curriculum. 

The challenges of operating a boarding high school with students from over 30 countries are legion in normal times but the pandemic has multiplied them many times over. 

Kent-Stoll mentioned some of the changes that are taking place to accommodate students who are returning to the campus at the end of August. Many students, however, won’t make it back until next year due to travel restrictions and overworked embassies in many countries. For those students who will be here, the cafeteria is being redesigned to allow social distancing, and a plan to place students within “families” is being designed. 

How do students maintain social distancing while dancing, making music together or acting? The Associates were left with an understanding and appreciation of the work that the school has done to ensure the continuation of excellent arts education in these difficult times.

The Associates’ business meeting followed Kent-Stoll’s presentation. 

For those not familiar with the organization, the charity was founded 52 years ago to support students at the academy and has donated more than $2.1 million in scholarships and other support. 

In addition, the members have recently donated to help some of the members of the Idyllwild community suffering because of the pandemic. Membership is open to anyone with a desire to support the school and students who enrich our town in so many ways. 

All are looking forward to the day when we can attend the many professional-quality concerts and shows. In the meantime, many of the previous ones can be viewed on YouTube and Vimeo.