Students discover the best professional artists are givers
Artists from all over the US annually flock to the northern Arizona desert to teach and recharge their batteries. Their destination is the Orme School Fine Arts Festival and Workshop, and the reasons are as varied and valid as the art forms themselves.Skip to next paragraph
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Each year, the Orme School, a private college-preparatory boarding school near Mayer, Ariz., starts off the spring semester with an intensive week of art workshops. Regular classes begin after the workshops.
"We started 13 years ago with a good idea," explained Dot Lewis, workshop coordinator and artist, "and we ended up with an unprecedented success where the students and guest artists enrich their interests and professions."
Eighteen artists from New York to California gathered this year in late January. There was a smattering of newcomers, but the group was comprised mostly of faithful returnees from over the years.
"I first called upon my artist friends,"
Mrs. Lewis reminisced, "and was fortunate to drag Harry Sternberg and Paolo Soleri to the school."
Currently running her own gallery out of Idyllwild, Calif., Mrs. Lewis had been the Orme School art director years before she started the workshops. "After the first year, it took off. The artists wanted to come back and other artists heard about the education and the opportunity to get away from it all."
Mrs. Lewis picked three major ingredients for her success forumla.
"First, it's the quality of the artists we attract." She claims the artists who participate have been able to provide an important element of professionalism, "The best professional artists are givers," she said. "They certainly don't come here for the money with the modest stipend barely meeting expenses."
Mrs. Lewis said the motivation for coming to the festival might be tied up in the way each artist started out himself having little contact with the real world and almost no opportunity to work with, or watch, a professional. "They're giving something they never had."
"Then, it's the tone of the place, which is something very difficult to put a finger on." She looked around as the students grabbed a cookie and a beverage in time to race back to the workshops during the morning break.
"These kids live here, the teachers live here, and when we come, it's like joining the family. The closeness, the excitement, and the red carpet treatment for the artists is something not found in any other educational or even professional environment. And the tone lasts for the entire week."
A pause, then she contnues, "Finally, it has to be the location of Orme School," Mrs. Lewis waved her arms at the expansive scene stretching out from the dining hall and library. "Where else can an artist find such vital activity in such a serene, fresh environment?"
Mrs. Lewis said she was given a free reign to organize the workshops 13 years ago, and drawing from her own experience, she knew what worked and what didn't work. She said she was careful not to abuse the trust the administration had put in her.