A Joyful Convergence!

By Diane Brigham, Executive Director

Best evening of the year? For me it was the 2014 Ryman Arts Student Graduation and Artists Reception at the California African American Museum (CAAM) a couple of weeks ago. This was my twelfth one and I still got misty-eyed when Education Manager Rebecca Tuynman and I shouted out “Congratulations to the Ryman Arts Class of 2014” at the end of the ceremony. Seeing the well-earned pride in the faces of our students as they come up to the stage to receive their certificates, listening to their heart-felt expressions of appreciation to their teachers, and of course enjoying the paintings and drawings professionally displayed in the Museum are highlights for me.

It was an inspiring evening. I am always moved by the fact that so many friends, family, and supporters join us – almost 500 people this year. If you were there, you know what a terrific welcome we received from CAAM Executive Director Charmaine Jefferson. We gave awards, announced college scholarships, and honored Co-founders Leah and Marty Sklar with the Herbert D. Ryman Mentor Award.

A terrific crew of alumni, incoming students, and parents joined our staff in creating the celebratory atmosphere with balloons, delicious snacks, and smiling faces welcoming each guest. It is pretty amazing that alumni return year after year to help.

I heard a few guests remark on the dazzling array of self-portraits on view in the galleries. You can see why we sometimes joke that we should really call ourselves “The Ryman Arts School of Self Portraits”!

(Actually that is a good thing – any artist will tell you how hard it is to make a compelling image of oneself. It is a subject our classes return to again and again.)

Throughout the evening I was reminded how much Ryman Arts means to our students—and also to their families. Grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, and boyfriends and girlfriends were all there cheering for their special student. That joyful convergence of friends and family, alumni, supporters, faculty, Board and staff, with students at the center, is what Ryman Arts is all about.

That is our intention for this refreshed website: a convergence of our Ryman Arts community, where we can share stories of our student’s and alumni’s accomplishments, present images that inspire you, provide a venue to keep you informed about upcoming events, and participate in a forum to offer encouragement to aspiring artists everywhere. Over the past year, our team, led by Michelle Lee, has been exploring how best to update our seven year old website (ancient in the digital age!). I am grateful to them and to Zumwinkle Design for this engaging result. I hope the fresh new look and features will inspire you to join in the conversation – and let others know about Ryman Arts.

What do you think about our newly designed Ryman Arts website? Share your comments below.

[Image caption: A convergence of the Ryman Arts community packs CAAM on the evening of the 2014 Opening Reception & Graduation Ceremony. ]