Message from the President & Head of School


In October, I had the good fortune of attending the Seed & Spark Summit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was a gathering of school leaders, makers, and innovators who are on the cutting edge of educational reform in the twenty-first century. I was there to learn.

Stephanie Pace Marshall, Founder and Executive Director of Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, challenged the group to explore the question, “What would we call ourselves if we didn’t call ourselves schools?” Since the summit, I have found myself pondering this question.

The alumni depiction of their Idyllwild Arts experience is so much more than is conjured up when one thinks of a school. Clay Alexander ’94, who invented the world’s first LED track light bulb, says that he was always an inventor and that studying Theatre at Idyllwild Arts taught him the value of collaboration, which is the underpinning of his success today (which frankly is quite considerable). Elora Hardy ’99 studied Visual Arts at the Academy and is described as “having it all as a designer for Donna Karan.” She is now the founder of IBUKU, a sustainable construction company in Bali, and was named one of Architectural Digest’s top ten innovators in 2013. As you read this, countless other Idyllwild Arts Academy alumni are excelling in careers within and outside of the arts.

At Idyllwild Arts, we believe that art is an essential solution to global challenges. While our mission to change lives through the transformative power of art hasn’t altered for over seventy years, we always seek to remain relevant to the students we serve and the challenges that await them.

Dr. Stephanie Pace Marshall was right. The word “school’ cannot solely define who we are and why we matter in the world. Idyllwild Arts will continue to be a laboratory for our citizen-artists to create, discover, and explore themselves, their world, and their place in it. Some people call that school, some people call it camp, and some people even call it home.