Idyllwild Arts Dance Major Senior Hannah Wakelin told her story of artistic journey to a captivated audience Thursday night.

An amazing student and profound young lady, Hannah intends to infuse dance therapy into her future medical practice.  What a wonderful outlet for the transformative power of art.  Thank you Hannah for all your hard work and inspiring narrative.

Newspaper Press from TOWN CRIER:


Dancer from New Zealand’s South Island next up at Idy Talks

By Don Stoll 

Idyllwild Arts Foundation Manager of Communications and International Student Relations

Ask Hannah Wakelin if she can still do a Highland Fling and the smile that creases her face most of the time becomes even wider.

The Idyllwild Arts Academy Dance major from New Zealand, who will graduate in May, isn’t wearing a kilt. That’s just as well since the outside temperature is in the 30s. But Hannah is game even in her blue jeans and hiking boots.

“The thing about Highland dancing,” she says, as she removes her down jacket, “is that it’s great training for other dance styles because it strengthens both legs equally.”

Hannah is being interviewed in a tiny office on the Idyllwild Arts campus. She has just enough room to reach an arm skyward, bounce up and down on one foot with the other foot poised at her calf, and then switch so that her other arm is reaching and her other foot bouncing.

“Once you’ve learned the Highland Fling, you never forget,” she says.

She looks so happy that you wonder why she gave up Highland dancing in order to learn ballet as well as modern, jazz and tap dance. Then you remember that she always looks happy.

And then, when she talks about the importance of being able to make a sick child smile, you know she’s going to become the kind of pediatrician you’d want for your own child if you needed one.

“I don’t know yet if I’ll do my premed studies in the U.S. or back in New Zealand,” she says. “But either way, I want to make a place for dance therapy in my practice.”

As for the Highland dancing she started to learn when she was only 3, the huge proportion of people of Scottish descent accounts for its popularity in New Zealand.

“I wouldn’t say it’s common to take Highland dancing lessons there,” Hannah says. “But it doesn’t seem strange, either, like it would in the U.S.”

In New Zealand, her home was Ashburton, a city of 20,000-plus on the east coast of the South Island. When she was 11, the Highland dancing teacher she’d learned from for eight years moved to Christchurch, 50 miles away.

“I was in middle school by then. I think at that age you usually want to try new things that you don’t associate with being a little child.”

“But Hannah still loved movement, so among the new things she tried were lessons in ballet and modern dance.

“That meant one hour a week of each. Not quite as intense as what I suddenly found myself doing at Idyllwild Arts!”

It was the fall of 2015 and she was a freshman.

“I never thought the countless hours of practice every week were too much, though. The hard part about being here was missing so many things from home, even though I was a day student, living with my father.”

Her mother had remained at home, along with her brother and her friends and everything else that makes New Zealand so different from Southern California, despite the absence of a language barrier.

“Like the cold winds that in the winter blow up from Antarctica, 3,000 miles south. Sounds like a long way, but the wind’s coming straight across the water.”

None of which meant that New Zealand was better. But it was home, so Hannah almost decided not to return to Idyllwild Arts for her sophomore year.

“But then I went back to Ashburton at the start of summer, which is New Zealand’s winter. I started thinking about the huge opportunity that Idyllwild Arts was and how much I loved the whole environment.”

In the fall of 2016 she was back, and she hasn’t looked back. She has danced, earned excellent grades in her academic subjects, taught 3- and 4-year-olds in the Idyllwild Arts Children’s Dance Program, babysat regularly for several of her teachers — and, of course, never forgotten how to do the Highland Fling.

To hear more about Hannah’s artistic journey, attend her Idy Talks appearance at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Town Gallery. There is no cost to attend this Idyllwild Arts series.


GLAMPING: An Upcycle Fashion Show

The Upcycling Fashion Show, Glamping, is a creative collaboration between Art and Society and the InterArts Fashion Department to benefit Hemet Community Pantry. Our talented students worked with donated vintage clothes from Idyllwild Help Center, and purchased sleeping bags to create an original collection inspired by the idea of Glamping, that is, glamorous camping in picturesque Idyllwild. The sleeping bags were made into convertible garments that can be worn as jackets and transformed into sleeping bags when necessary.






With the fraying of community bonds and the gaping holes in the U.S. safety net leaving millions of Americans only a health crisis or a job loss away from destitution , the crisis of homelessness touches more of us than we’d like to admit.

To look around and see such widespread despair and do nothing betrays the promise of our society. Now is the time for solutions. The ignorance, contempt, and fear focused on persons experiencing homelessness are not leading to solutions.

Are we willing to learn? Are we ready to accept responsibility, to embrace the other, to open our eyes and our ears?

This year, Idyllwild Arts Academy welcomes two organizations that, through the transformative power of art, have significantly impacted the lives of homeless and formerly homeless people.  Those organizations are:

VOICES OF OUR CITY – The Homeless Choir of San Diego

LOS ANGELES POVERTY DEPARTMENT – Art Program and Advocacy Organization

We listen to their stories and discover how we can also make a difference.

Symposium guest Steph Johnson and IA Faculty Don Reed collaborate during the “songwriting” breakout session.


Students participate during the “Virtual Storytelling” breakout session.


Kim Henderson instructs students during the “Zine Making” breakout session.


Students and Faculty create together during the “Sleep on the Sidewalk” chalk art breakout session.

Idy Talks – Josh Thomas “LIVING THE DREAM”

Musical theater major Josh Thomas, detailed his artistic journey, which began at the age of eight when he decided to become a comic at December 6th’s Idy Talks.


Thomas dreams big and he wants you to dream big, too. “Don’t give up on your dreams, work for them,” the tenacious seventeen-year old advised the audience. So far a lot of Josh’s dreams have come true.

He’ll soon graduate from his dream high school, Idyllwild Arts, he recently met his idol, Conan O’Brien, he’s launched an increasingly popular youtube talk show, and has been accepted by his dream college, Columbia College in Chicago.

IDY TALKS – Nikki Taro

an Art in Society and AEL Presentation

Filmmaker Nikki Taro “wowed” the standing-room only audience on November 8th at the Town Gallery – presenting her art and life. What an amazing path she’s traveled thus far!

Watch Nikki’s presentation here ~

RUSTIC WEDDINGS – Upcycle Fashion Show

What does one wear to a rustic wedding? Art in Society once again joined forces with IAA Design Department and Idyllwild’s Help Center to create a spectacular fashion show using upcycled materials.

The wedding gown started out as curtains and a table runner. And the stunning result was worn by the bride three weeks later at her actual wedding.

The models were Idyllwild residents ages six to sixty! From flower girls to mother-of-the bride everyone was dressed to impress.

The event raised $5,000.00! All proceeds went directly to The Help Center. The Idyllwild HELP Center assists over 600 residents in need – they provide non-perishable food, hygiene products, wood for heating, and much more. It’s Children’s Fund contributes to child care costs at Idyllwild Town Hall for working parents as well as school/winter clothing.  The Art in Society program is proud to help the Help Center meet its financial goals with this annual fundraiser, which is quickly becoming one of Idyllwild’s most beloved traditions.

Cinco de Mayo Sidewalk Chalk Art Fiesta


Art in Society was true to form in May, uniting four creative and caring Idyllwild organizations for the Cinco de Mayo Sidewalk Chalk Art Fiesta.

The Art Alliance of Idyllwild, Art in Society, Idyllwild School’s PTA and the smARTS project all teamed up to participate in this community art project. Enthusiastic participants ranging from 6 to 60, all rolled up their sleeves and got “hands-on” / “hands-dirty” to see to it that downtown Idyllwild sidewalks were vibrantly decorated in sidewalk chalk murals.


A successful afternoon indeed, as the funds raised (approximately $1,500.00) were donated directly to smARTS, who provides approximately 300 art classes to Idyllwild Elementary School students per year, and are very deserving of our assistance.

The Broad Museum, L.A. and Jasper Johns

Jasper Johns’ extensive body of work, while not overtly political, has been interpreted as quietly so. It has been seen to manifest coded pronouncements about sexual identity through consistent investigations and representations of the body, uses of language, and humor. Among the myriad of interpretations of Johns’ work, a political or activist analysis is possible, but this has, at times, been overlooked in favor of an aesthetic or populist analysis that disregards any inherent political message.

Today, a target roundel in a work of fine art might seem fairly unremarkable; yet sixty years ago, in a very different social and political climate, Jasper Johns’ Target paintings were freighted with hidden meanings. Pictured: l-r  Art in Society enthusiasts Joaquin Eaton Sharon, Alex Kuykendall, Hannah Wakelin.


IDY TALKS – Ashley Leung

Music Major Ashley Leung began her Idy Talk by handing her violin to a member of the audience and asking her to play it. Of course, the baffled woman could barely hold the instrument. “Not as easy as it looks,” chided Ashley who, after retrieving her instrument, did, indeed, make it look easy. Ashley then talked about her journey, as a ninth-grade music student, from her home in Hong Kong to Idyllwild and the academy, and the growth that migration has produced, both musically and culturally. Ashley’s concern for others is the very definition of Art in Society –  “Each year, I invite four or five students who attend Idyllwild Arts to come with me to teach music and art to underprivileged students in my native country.”

Called “Teach Music for China,” its mission statement captures Ashley’s personal goal of offering music instruction in areas where it is not readily available. “Our mission statement is ‘to enrich and cultivate music education as a form of self-expression in an underprivileged school in China. Music is a powerful tool to transform lives.’”