Foundersland: A “Community of Artists”

By Marty Sklar, Founder, Past President, Chairman of Leadership Council

On Sunday, April 10, I had the pleasure of visiting the Ryman Arts classes at Otis College of Art and Design. The occasion began as a pleasure trip for me. Our Executive Director, Diane Brigham and Rebecca Tuynman, our Education Director had followed up on a suggestion by Board Member Phil Hettema that the graduates of this year’s program each receive a copy of my book, “One Little Spark!” I was invited to sign the copies of students who so desired. Fortunately, most of them did!

While I am always happy to pass on what I learned during my Disney career – which is the theme of “One Little Spark!” – the visit turned out to be a learning process for me. My “education” happened as a result of spending time with the teaching assistants supporting our classroom teachers that day. They included Hertz Alegrio, Ryman Arts ’09; Saskia Darnell, Ryman Arts ’06; Petrina Mina, Ryman Arts ’00; and Francisco Palomares, Ryman Arts ’07.

It was a thrill for me to learn that these TA’s are all using the skills they learned at Ryman Arts … and in different ways, earning their living in the arts. In fact, the term they used was exciting to hear. They said that through Ryman Arts, they are part of a “community of artists.”

What impressed me most was that these young talents were sharing knowledge of what each is building through their art works. That kind of sharing is much like a company project team … where the players know the strengths of one another and – when the situation calls for it – they can call the play that takes advantage of all the skills. In this case, it seemed, each one knew the artistic strengths of the others: if they need graphics, lettering or help in mounting their art, or insight into a creative opportunity, they share “best practices.”

This kind of “community of artists,” where one artist’s strength augments and builds on the skills of other talents is what I knew for so many years as the Creative Leader of Walt Disney Imagineering. It’s also the world Herb Ryman lived in…and in strong sense, how and why Ryman Arts began.

I remember well the tales (some of them taller than others) of Herb wandering the hallways and byways of the Imagineers, offering tips and advice to other artists about a challenge they were encountering. Young artists were the special beneficiaries of Herb’s words…and sometimes his brush strokes on their work! Sharing his know-how and experiences was part of his “daily rounds.” Herb’s “community of artists” happened to be located under one roof. But when it rains – when you need that umbrella – it doesn’t matter whether it’s yours or you are sharing its coverage.

(left to right) Francisco, Petrina, and Saskia take turns sharing their Ryman Arts experience.

That’s the feeling I got when Saskia, Hertz, Petrina and Francisco were talking about Ryman Arts as a supportive “Community of Artists.” Reaching out to a fellow artist you met and know through Ryman Arts is a very special opportunity.

I don’t think it’s any stretch at all to call it a legacy we pass on from our Ryman Arts namesake, Herbert Dickens Ryman. We hope you will join us in continuing to grow our very special “Community of Artists!”