Chasing Down The Muse: Lighting a fire for arts education

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. —William Butler Yeats

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Festival season has come to an end once again. Solitary walks along Crystal Cove have been reinstituted. Best of all, now that the long festival days are ended, there is time to spend pondering many things left on back burners throughout the summer.

Having served on the Sawdust Art Festival's ad hoc 2010 Committee for the past year, art education has been in the forefront of my thinking a lot of the time. As I mentioned in a previous column, our committee had worked for a year on a fundraiser to benefit the art education fund at the Sawdust Festival. I am pleased to hereby announce that it was a phenomenal success.

There were a host of questions and doubts when we began the task last September, not least of which was whether we could raise enough money in a down economy to make the effort worthwhile. The final numbers are in. The auction of Collectors' Panels grossed better than $22,500 to help with the Sawdust Art Festival's mission. (The Sawdust Art Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public and promoting the art created in Laguna Beach.) The effort has been well worthwhile.

Now the question begged to be answered…how were these monies to be spent? What would be the end result of the many long hours of work on this successful fundraiser? So, after a delightfully long walk on the beach, I set out to find the answers to my many questions.

When we had started plans for the fundraiser, the committee had asked the Art Education Committee what would be the top three items on their wish list. The items included improvements to existing facilities for teaching so that they could be put to greater use. It was our hope in the beginning that we could raise enough to at least get started on these projects.

Former board member Jan Sattler and others had dreams of having year-round classes at the Sawdust Festival grounds. Glassblower John Barber and wife Rebecca had started Spring Into Art classes, but more was envisioned. With Jan's encouragement, Autumn Art and January Jewelry classes had been begun.

Then, last year, Judy Bijlani, Director of the Laguna Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau had a dream too. The Bureau, together with the Sawdust Festival, could offer classes to locals and tourists alike. Thus were developed the beginnings of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes program. Starting on October 15, two-hour classes in jewelry and ceramics will be offered on the Sawdust grounds. The long-term dreams of so many local artists are becoming reality.

This means that the money raised through the auctioning of the Collectors' Panels is going toward much more than originally envisioned. It will be used to purchase equipment and supplies for these classes, such as glazes, clay, jewelry soldering and welding equipment, ceramic kilns and more. Capital improvements are being made to existing facilities to house the classes, including work stations, better lighting, and more.

Hotel concierges have already had a taste of the classes to be taught and are themselves excited about the new program. Clubs around Southern California are being contacted about the classes. Signups have begun.

Laguna Beach is already a destination resort town. Now the reality of becoming a destination for not only viewing art, but for art education as well, is more than just a dream. I found my answers and it is exciting to be a small part of this new idea.

Eventually, there will an even wider variety of classes for both adults and children. Many of us envision classes that are longer than two hours, students coming to stay for three and four days to take a variety of classes, and more, so much more.

Thus, it begins. Fires will be lit. Some already have been. I for one am on fire with anticipation for the success of this program. Perhaps you can find your own inspiration at http://www.sawdustartfestival.org. If not now, certainly in the near future.

Cherril Doty is an artist, writer, counselor…always fascinated, inspired, and educated by the myriad mysteries of life. She can be reached at cherril@cherrildoty.com or by phone at (714) 745-9973.

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