The Native Spirit
By Arrissia Owen
Teamwork has always been at the heart of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation’s Native American Arts summer program, which makes this year’s festival’s theme of collaboration that much more fitting.
The foundation, known for its Idyllwild Arts Academy, an acclaimed live-in arts school that is a breeding ground for gifted young artists, started due to its summer program, founded in 1946 in the pastoral San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs.
Early summer instructors included folk singer Pete Seeger, composer Meredith Wilson, writer Norman Corwin and more—even a stint by acclaimed photographer Ansel Adams. Classes include pottery, jewelry, mixed media, book arts, chamber music, painting, drawing, printmaking, writing and more.
In 1950, Idyllwild Arts founders Max and Bee Krone looked to Chickasaw Indian and educator Ataloa for guidance to create the program’s Native American arts element. At a pow wow in New Mexico, Ataloa introduced the Krones to artists Te-Ata, Ambrose and Garnet Roanhorse, Martin Tsiosdia and his wife, Ira Jean Snow and Ann Bolin.
The group later gathered at the Idyllwild campus to collaborate, a unique effort at the time. As a result, the artists assembled became the first Native American Arts Program faculty. To this day, the program creates a space where notable Native American artists and scholars come together to build relationships and exchange ideas, as well as teach other native and non-native students about the rich culture.
Classes and workshops July 2-15 explore Native American cuisine and botany; Cahuilla and Hopi basketry; Navajo weaving; Hopi overlay and Tufa casting for metalsmithing; Navajo inlay jewelry; Native American flute making; and Cahuilla, Hopi-Tewa and Mata Ortiz pottery.
During the tenure of current program director Heather Companiott, a donor was found to fund the week long Native American Arts Festival (July 8-14) in conjunction with the two-weeks of classes. The festival is a free event open to the public and workshop attendees to enhance and add depth to the experience.
On July 8, the festival kicks off with panel discussion “Considering the Life and Legacy of Katherine Siva Saubel (1920-2011) Through Her Many Collaborations.” Panelists, who worked with Siva Saubel discuss the Native American tribal leader’s collaborative contributions that helped preserve Cahuilla language, culture, ethnobotany and more.
Other lectures include architect Hank Louis’ “Building with Empathy” on July 10 in which he speaks about building homes with Navajo Indians on their reservation. Louis worked closely with Navajo people to design homes that fit their lifestyles and cultural requirements.
Dr. Lynnae Lawrence, who is Hopi and Anishinaabe, discusses traditional Native American medicine and the ways she has collaborated with western medicine to help tribes on July 11. On July 12, Ken Marchionno and Sandy Frank Lakota discuss their photo project documenting a historical event, 300 Miles, Two Weeks with Lakota Teens on the Oomaka Tokatakiya.
Unique to this year’s program, going along with the theme of collaboration, Native American artists are working with someone inside or outside their own tribe for exhibits and performances. “It’s a wide open topic,” Companiott says. “We were able to do everything from native, non-native, same tribe, across tribes. It’s been fascinating.”
On July 11, a film about former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Native American Jock Soto, called Water Flowing Together, is shown. On July 13, the closing night event features a Pas de Deux choreographed by Soto called “Dark Made Light,” which will be performed to music composed by Laura Ortman, who is White Mountain Apache. Cahuilla bird singers also perform, and there is Q&A and book signing with Soto.
The Native American Arts Program is popular with both native and non-native attendees. “People’s direct experience with someone from a different culture makes all the difference in the world,” Companiott says. “Reading about it is one thing, but getting to know someone from that culture is another thing entirely.”
Idyllwild Summer Arts Program at Idyllwild Arts Academy, 52500 Temecula Rd
Idyllwild, (951) 659-2171; www.idyllwildarts.org. Thru July 15.