2016 Symposium

Our annual Symposium is driven by a belief in the power of art to transform individuals, communities, and social structures. You can read more about our sense of purpose and underlying motivations here.


immigration and citizenship poster pic small versionThe theme of this year’s Symposium was Immigration and Citizenship. Idyllwild Arts Academy is a microcosm of our rapidly globalizing cosmopolitan world; over half of our students come from abroad. Their experiences of identity, social status, and human rights associated with citizenship and crossing borders vary widely. The Symposium deepened our students’ understanding of issues related to Immigration and Citizenship and helped them recognize their own place (and often, privilege) in the context of global socioeconomic inequality and injustice. The experience of Latin American immigration in California was highlighted. Other important issues such as trafficking, refugee migration, and second-class citizenship were addressed. The discussions generated served to not only to make our students more grounded in their art and in the application of their passionate pursuits, but also to be more responsible global citizens.


Building on the success of last year’s event, the Symposium was expanded to include more speakers and activities that engage our student body, faculty, and broader community. There were guest artists representing each of the seven art departments on campus as well as student-activists from UCLA’s Dream Resource Center. Masterclasses took place on the afternoon of Thursday February 11th, followed by a dinner for the guests and faculty at the home of Pamela Jordan (President of Idyllwild Arts Foundation). After an introductory meeting on Friday February 12th, students broke into small groups and participated in activities and workshops. There were two panel sessions open to the public where each guest artist delivered a 15 minute talk on their work, how they view the role of art in society, and how this relates to the theme of Immigration and Citizenship. The sessions were followed by a private reception for the guests and Idyllwild faculty. Before dinner, there was a public gallery opening, displaying the work of artists from across the country relating to the theme of border art. The evening closed with a film screening for our students. The full schedule with times and locations can be viewed here.


At the heart of the event were world-class guest artists who share our belief in the transformative power of creative expression. We had the opportunity to learn from…

… the writings of Los Angeles poet laureate Luis Rodriguez, which gives voice to marginalized stories and inspires communities to work towards change

… the printmaking of Ernesto Yerena, which helped mobilize the national campaigns for immigrant rights

… the playwriting and performance of Carlos-Manuel Chavarria, which embodies and communicates the LGBTQ++ Chican@ experience

… the composing of Mary Kouyoumdjian, which draws from her identity as a first-generation Armenian American and the struggles bound in her heritage

… the fashion design of Bonnie Kim and Laverne Delgado, who use creative entrepreneurship to shed light on human trafficking and restore the dignity of those victimized by it

… the choreography of Reggie Wilson, who uses movement as a way of knowing and communicating the culture of the African Diaspora

… the documentary filmmaking of Pedro Ultreras, which investigates controversial social issues and raises awareness of injustices

… the organizing of leading student-activists, who are on the front lines of achieving social justice for immigrants in California

You can read more about each of the guests below.


We hope that you will join us in February. If you have any questions regarding the event, please contact the coordinator, Chris Wegemer, at cwegemer@idyllwildarts.org.


Luis J. Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez Headshot smallLuis J. Rodriguez is the Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and a leading Chicano writer. He has published fifteen books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, including the best-selling memoir, “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” (which has sold close to 500,000 copies and is considered one of the 100 most censored books in the United States by the American Library Association). His latest book is the sequel, “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing,” which in 2012 became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Luis has received a long list of accolades for his work, including the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, Hispanic Heritage Award, Independent Publishers Association Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award, and a Lannan Poetry Fellowship, among others. He is founding editor of Tia Chucha Press, now in its 25th year, and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. He is also a renowned gang intervention/urban peace leader and has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, and Japan to read poetry, do workshops or speak — including in prisons, juvenile lockups, universities, colleges, public & private schools, homeless shelters, migrant camps, conferences, libraries, and more. He is co-convener of the Network for Revolutionary Change and has been involved in politics, including running as Vice President in 2012 on the Justice Party ticket and running as the Green Party gubernatorial candidate in 2014. Luis is a community & urban peace activist, mentor, healer, youth & arts advocate, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. For Luis poetry is soul talk, a prophetic act, a powerful means to enlarge one’s presence in the world.


Ernesto Yerena

Ernesto Yerena Headshot smallErnesto Yerena Montejano is co-owner and curator of Hecho Con Ganas, a creative publishing company based in Los Angeles. His historic silkscreen images have become an emblematic symbol in the quest for immigration reform. At 19 he began working as an artist assistant to Shepard Fairey (an alum of Idyllwild Arts Academy), and has since collaborated with many prominent artists such as Manu Chao, Ana Tijoux, Philip Lumbang, Jaque Fragua, Diane Ovalle, Chuck D, and Mochilla. Ernesto was born in El Centro, CA, a mid-sized farming town bordering Mexicali, BC, MX. Fueled by his cross-national upbringing, his artistic practice reflects his observations of the views and interactions between the Mexican communities living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. He worked with Shepard Fairey and Zack de la Rocha to create the iconic “We Are Human” poster campaign for the 2009 May Day marches. He is also currently director and curator for the “Alto Arizona” art campaign collaborating with other artists, activists, and lawyers fighting against the immigration legislature passed this spring in Arizona. Ernesto’s work depicts his frustrations with the oppression in his community as well as creating work in solidarity with the community in the defense of dignity and rights. Through his brazen imagery, the artist brings political concerns to light with subject matter that depicts cultural icons, rebels and everyday people voicing their stance against oppression.


Mary Kouyoumdjian

Mary Kouyoumdjian smallMary Kouyoumdjian is a composer with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic pallet that draws on her heritage, interest in music as documentary, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new. She has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the American Composers Forum/JFund, REDSHIFT, Experiments in Opera, the Nouveau Classical Project, Friction Quartet, Ensemble Oktoplus, and the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. She has had artist residencies with Roulette/The Jerome Foundation, Montalvo Arts Center, and Exploring the Metropolis. In her work as a composer, orchestrator, and music editor for film, she has collaborated on a diverse array of motion pictures including orchestrating on the soundtracks to The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) and Demonic (Dimension Films). Currently pursuing her Composition D.M.A. as a Dean’s Fellow at Columbia University, Kouyoumdjian studies with composer Georg Friedrich Haas. She has also studied with Chaya Czernowin, Steven Kazuo Takasugi, Chinary Ung, Steven Schick and Anthony Davis. Kouyoumdjian is co-founder and executive director of the contemporary music ensemble Hotel Elefant, co-founder of the annual new music conference New Music Gathering, and a Teaching Artist Associate at the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Bridge Program. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Kouyoumdjian also actively promotes the growth of new music in her native state of California.


Pedro Ultreras

Pedro UltrerasPedro Ultreras is a journalist, filmmaker, writer, and photographer whose work focuses on social and human rights issues. He wrote and directed 7 Soles (2008), his first feature length film, which was an official selection in more than ten international film festivals and was released in theaters in 2009. It addressed the continuous and controversial issue human smuggling between Mexico and the United States; Pedro later published a book about the subject under the same title. In 2010, Pedro wrote and directed the documentary, La Bestia (The Beast) that highlights the experience of immigrants from Central America. His most recent work as a filmmaker is the documentary ABC Nunca Más (2012) about a fire at a day-care center where 49 children died in Northern Mexico in 2009, implicating corruption and negligence of the Mexican government and some of the most prominent and influential families in Mexico. Pedro has been in the media industry for over 20 years and has been assigned to cover several national and international news events in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America. As a news reporter, Pedro has been recognized with numerous awards, including being nominated for an Emmy award three times. He studied filmmaking at the New York Film Academy and professional photography at the New York Institute of Photography. Pedro currently works as National News Correspondent for Noticiero Univision, and Aquí y Ahora, an in-depth investigating weekly TV show.  He also works periodically as a correspondent for CNN en Español.


Reggie Wilson

Reggie Wilson Headshot backupReggie Wilson is founder of the Fist & Heel Performance Group. Reggie draws from the movement languages of the blues, slave and spiritual cultures of Africans in the Americas and combines them with post-modern elements and his own personal movement style to create what he calls “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances.” His work has been presented nationally and internationally at notable venues including Dance Theater Workshop, New York Live Arts, Brooklyn Academy of Music, REDCAT, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and Festival Kaay Fecc in Senegal. Reggie is the recipient of numerous awards, such as the Minnesota Dance Alliance’s McKnight National Fellowship, the BESSIE-New York Dance and Performance Award, John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, United States Artists Prudential Fellowship, Herb Alpert Award, and the Joyce Foundation Award, among others. He has been an artist advisor for the National Dance Project and Board Member of Dance Theater Workshop.  Reggie is a graduate of New York University and has been mentored by Larry Rhodes, Phyllis Lamhut, and Ohad Naharin before forming Fist and Heel. He has lectured, taught and conducted workshops and community projects throughout the US, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean and has served as visiting faculty at several universities including Yale, Princeton and Wesleyan Universities. Reggie’s artistic vision is to create, research, develop, and present new performance work that investigates the intersections of culture and movement practices, particularly the spiritual and mundane traditions of Africa and its Diaspora. The Fist and Heel Company’s name is derived from enslaved Africans in the Americas who reinvented their spiritual traditions as a soulful art form that white and black authorities dismissed as merely ‘fist and heel worshipping’.


Carlos-Manuel Chavarria

Carlos Manuel Headshot smallCarlos-Manuel is Chair of the Drama Department at Contra Costa College and is a playwright, director, and an actor. Drawing from his own personal history of immigrating to the United States at the age of 16, his plays focus on social justice within queer Latin@/Chican@ experience in the United States. His prolific directing and acting ranges from 10-minutes to full-length dramas, comedies, musicals, ballets, and showcases. His plays and articles have been published as single units or as part of anthologies. “Vaqueeros, Calacas, and Hollywood: An anthology of Latin@/Chican@ Plays,” through Bilingual Press, is his most recent book, published in 2013. Carlos-Manuel holds a MA degree in Directing from the University of New Mexico and a MFA in playwriting from Arizona State University and is a member of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the Dramatist Guild of America (DG), the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), the Association for Jotería Arts, Activism, and Scholarship (AJAAS), Theatre Bay Area (TBA), and La Associación Mexicana de Investigadores Teatrales (AMIT). He is a passionate teacher who uses interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches to focus on bilingual theatre, Gay and Lesbian theatre, Chican@/Latin@ theatre, ethnodrama, stage directing, and movement techniques.


Bonnie Kim

Bonnie Kim Headshot smallBonnie Kim is the founder of Freedom and Fashion. After volunteering at Nightlight, an organization that fights human trafficking and the exploitative sex industry in Thailand, Bonnie realized the immense need of individual, material, and financial resources in the anti-trafficking movement. She created Freedom and Fashion as a way to support a network for the anti-trafficking organizations and women who have been victimized. Bonnie is principal of the BSK Restaurant Group. She is also founder of Avessel Group, a consulting firm that has helped develop socially responsible brands such as Urbane + Gallant and Meant 4 More Apparel.


Laverne Delgado-Small

Laverne Delgado headshot smallLaverne Delgado-Small is the current Executive Director of Freedom and Fashion. She is an alumnus of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and spent many years working in the fashion industry. Her experience encompasses everything from designing mass production to couture for the runway, working for companies such as Zeller Textile/Amy Fashion, Heart Soul Clothing, Ragstarr Sourcing, and Toxic Waste Clothing. Beyond fashion, Laverne serves as a women’s leader at Mosaic (a community of faith) and has formed an outreach team of hundreds of volunteers to serve for different causes, shelters, and communities in Los Angeles. In her current position at Freedom and Fashion, Laverne is passionate about using a fashion-oriented, creative arts approach to bring awareness and resources to under-served women and children.


Mayra Yoana Jaimes Peña, Student-activist

Mayra Yoana smallMayra Yoana is a Research/Project Coordinator at the Dream Resource Center of the UCLA Labor Center. She has a strong passion for an intersectional approach to social justice. Her passion for justice has led her to work with The CIRCLE Project; a project of the DRC, intentionally address intersectional immigrant issues through a health and restorative justice frame work. Mayra Yoana is a lead researcher and co-author of the report “Undocumented and Uninsured: Immigrant Youth and the Struggle to Access Health Care in California, the first statewide study in California by and about immigrant youth. She is currently a student at UCLA.


Alma Leyva, Student-activist

Alma Levya smallAlma Leyva is a Project Coordinator at the Dream Resource Center of the UCLA Labor Center. As an undocumented woman, Alma has dedicated her work to advancing the rights and protections of undocumented communities. Alma’s work is centered on developing leaders at the intersection of immigrant rights and health care access as a project coordinator of the Dream Resource Center. Alma is a lead researcher and author of the report “Undocumented and Uninsured: Immigrant Youth and the Struggle to Access Health Care in California, the first statewide study by and about immigrant youth in California. She is currently a student at UCLA.


Saira Murillo, Student-activist

Saira Murillo smallSaira Murillo is an undocumented and first generation student at University of California Riverside, majoring in Chicana/o Studies. She has lived in Riverside for almost 15 years and has been part of the Inland Empire ­Immigrant Youth Coalition (IE­IYC) for more than four years. Because of her involvement in the immigrant community, Saira has been awarded a Dream Summer national fellowship for the past two years. (Participants in Dream Summer engage in social justice movements to build coalitions and address issues at the intersection of different aspects of immigrant rights.) Through her experiences, Saira became aware of the disparities the immigrant community faces when it comes to adequate access to health services in California. Saira hopes to continue her involvement with the immigrant community of the Inland Empire.


Mitzie Eunice Perez, Student-activist

Mitzie Perez smallMitzie Eunice Perez is undocumented, unafraid, and unashamed. Mitzie came to the United States at the age of 5 years old and has been residing in the Inland Empire for almost two decades. Mitzie has been organizing alongside the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition (IE­IYC) for the past four years. The IE­IYC’s continuous efforts have been to organize around the complex intersections that are crucial to the undocumented identity. Mitzie is currently attending Mount San Antonio College and will transfer to the University of California Riverside in the fall, where Mitzie will pursue a degree in Gender Studies. In the future, Mitzie hopes to continue advocating for womxn and immigrant communities in Southern California.


Saraí Mojica, Student-activist

Sarai Mojica smallSaraí is the Queer Undocumented Trans Incarnated (Q.U.T.I) coordinator with the Immigrant Youth Coalition in Los Angeles. As an undocumented and gender non-conforming community organizer, Saraí has dedicated their work to the queer and trans community by advocating for undocumented trans and queer youth to live sustainable lives with health, housing, and safety. As the Q.U.T.I coordinator, Saraí convenes other undocu-queers and trans people to build a support network in Los Angeles. Saraí’s passion comes from their love of anthropology, art and photography, and connecting outside of social media.





Yamily Pardio, Student-activist



Yamily Pardío (pronouns: they/them/she/her) is an organizer from Los Angeles, California and born in Yucatan, Mexico. They arrived to the U.S. at age six with their mother after escaping violence in Yucatan and has since been undocumented  Throughout their years as an activist/organizer, Yamily has developed their work and politics from an abolitionist lens that also channels their experience as an undocumented, queer, Asian-Indigenous person in Mexico and the U.S.