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The Fine Arts Festival

Jay Dusard, Photographer During her teaching career at the Orme School on the Quarter Circle V Bar Ranch, she taught Biology, Physics, History, Art, Horsemanship, and Flying, and established a unique program for the students, the Orme Fine Arts Festival, bringing professional artists in many disciplines to teach the high school students for one week, an exciting experience both for the students, who begin to realize that it is possible to have a career in Art, and for the Teacher/Artists, who enjoy remembering the excitement of their own youth and forces that led them to their careers. This program, which achieved national acclaim for the school, continues to this day.

The Origin of of the Fine Arts Festival

The Orme Fine Arts Festival For years, Dot Lewis had attempted to make art a more vital part of the Orme School curriculum, an effort which was again and again stymied by the Scylla and Charybdis of art programs everywhere: Money and Academic Accreditation. But let's go back a little earlier, back to an earlier, simpler time, just a few years after World War II.

Crossing the Cattle Guard

From that first day in 1951, when she drove in her Chevy convertible down the road to the Ranch, Dot Lewis hoped to make Art a more vital part of the Orme School curriculum. After all, she was an Artist! But she was also a young Southern woman, with a whiny 3-year-old in tow, and just one of several young teachers, in her case, not even formally trained as an educator. True, she was an instructor --- flying and horses --- and at least the "horse" part fit the Orme program well. And she had been a good student in college, majoring in zoology. And she had been a proctor at the prestigious New York Art Students' League. So the Orme School, at that point directed by Chick, Mort and Charlie Orme took a chance on her, hired her, and she embarked on her career at Orme, teaching virtually all the classes offered other than language: all the sciences: physics, biology, chemistry, the various histories: ancient to modern. She arrived at an institution that was quite a contrast from the central realities of her earlier life --- her female independence, her art studies. But it provided what she worried was missing for her son, plenty of good masculine role models, as she sought to reestablish her life after separating from her husband, a good man, but one whose background in the Old South clashed too mightily with her need for independence and escape from the old southern traditions. She headed west and arrived, on the recommendation of a friend, at the Ranch.

The Orme School, on the Quarter Circle V-Bar Ranch, is an institution founded on a vision of an earlier day --- when men like Chick Orme tamed the wilderness and women like Aunt Minna gave unwavering support and moderated the hard work ethic with pieces of culture, music and some art, delivered as a respite from the hard necessities of traditional life. Strength, Courage, Hard Work, Persistence, Responsibility --- these were the virtues which were honored. When the school started, seeking academic instruction for the children of the Ormes, it was the basics which were the foundation of the curriculum, basics defined in traditional ways. With the death of Kate, Chick and Minna's daughter, it was the three Orme men who most defined what the Orme School was meant to become: Chick, Mort and Charlie. The Orme Experience reflected that reality: tough, hard-working, male.

Chick & Minna Dot soon became a part of the school family, not quite fitting the traditional model as a single woman, but proving rather invaluable --- her graphic art skills were quickly appreciated in the production of school publications, the school yearbook, and her skills as a horsewoman met the needs of the Ranch. In addition to her teaching duties: Chemistry, Physics, History, Table Manners, she kept at her own art, sketching up and down creek, up on the mesa. But Dot's background was always somewhat at odds with the traditional setting, which became more somber and narrowly focused with the sad death of Mort Orme due to a foolish medical error. Mort, who had an artistic side himself, had helped with the Orme yearbook Hoofprints, fashioning and using the QCVB cattlebrand to burn into the yearbook cover. His wife Lynn, who artistic leanings found a natural bonding with Dot, left the ranch. Later on, Mort and Lynn's daughter Lynly returned to the Fine Arts Festival as a workshop leader, having became a fine artist.

The Terrible Twins

After she had gained at least year or two of seniority, Dot sought to introduce art into the academic curriculum, but was blocked by the standard arguments: Money and Academic Accreditation. These terrible twins either howled "Destitution!" . . . if cold hard cash was to be diverted from standard expenditures necessary for secondary school excellence (such football mouth-guards or rats for the lab), or sadly moaned "No Credit", asserting the common theory that students always need more instruction in math and science, or in simple English grammar, but not in the Arts. Consequently, art instruction was seen as a diversion or focus away from student achievement on standardized tests, their ability to enter well-known colleges (or any college). More important was to enhance the reputation of the school as measured by whoever it was that measured these things, including the accreditation of the National Secondary School Association or the American Society of High School Principals. It was also feared that artistic frivolity would dampen, most importantly, the inclination of concerned parents to seek the enrollment of their tender children in a school on a working cattle ranch.

For these reasons, it was commonly believed that the consequence of setting more than a little time in the curriculum for Art, or spending actual money on Art, would naturally result in either a slow or a quick death of the institution. The Orme School, founded in 1929, carefully and slowly growing since then, was ponderously determined to make it into and through the 60's.

A Different Approach

In the face of such serious and unrelenting opposition, Dot Lewis did what any artist does quite naturally, . . . try another way. Then, after failure or even a setback, try something else.

This approach is difficult for a pure scientist. If you do not have a working theory of how to obtain a scientific discovery, or more importantly, the tools to give you working results, progress does not occur. For the artist, although usually very well versed in such "scientific" things as color theory, cadence, or anatomy, the lack of a defined concept or a measurable pathway poses no perceived barrier --- you simply use a feather, or try your thumb, or something totally unexpected, perhaps a purple as a shadow in the midst of a pure white body.

And if you can't teach Art, because it is not "academic", why not consider the History of Art? Is not THAT a proper academic subject? Of course "Art History" was an odd piece of academia in 1950s US --- not normally tested as a subject on standardized tests, but having the odd habit of suddenly appearing . . . a question using the word "Picasso" . . . or some reference to the Sistine Chapel, hard to argue that a knowledge of these things could not help you somewhere down the line. And Art History was indeed "History", a good traditional theory of knowledge, testable with multiple choice quizzes, and capable of a measurably defensible grading system, understandable by the local banker or academic accountant. And it is very hard to argue that some of these paintings or statues were not worth a lot of money or generated money for someone somehow connected thereto. And though Andy Warhol might be destested for his lack of perceived craft, one could not argue that he made money. So, though a little awkward and unsettled, art history became a part of "the Orme experience".

And do, after years of teaching biology, physics, baseball, history, roping, English, the football huddle, mathematics, the Judeo-Christian heritage around campfires, horsemanship, chemistry, the Orme School offered Art History. This became an "academic requirement" and graduates of Orme suddenly became capable of recognizing a painting such as Guernica or an artist such as Vermeer or Jackson Pollock. Art had made its beachhead on the dry dusty (but irrigated) soil of the Orme Ranch.

Allies and Co-Conspirators

As a woman, Dot Lewis usually asked her good friend and fellow teacher Jim Wilbanks to propose more ambitious items in faculty meetings or other opportunities where serious administrative consideration was desired. While certainly overt sexism or racism could not have been said to exist in the Orme administration or Board of Trustees, somehow things just seemed to work better that way. And Jim, a fellow "liberal" in an environment that sought almost desperately the comfort of conservative philosophy: heritage, tradition, standards, religion, knew the game well. He was a mathematics teacher who loved mathematics and appreciated the underlying theory, the "art" of mathematics, in a world that learned math by rote. Few students would ever share his true appreciation of the beauty of math, and so his instructional efforts had to use indirection as well. His willingness to assist Dot move the administration toward aesthetics was natural.

And there were other co-conspirators, such persons as Henry Brooks, the Latin teacher, and thereafter, choirmaster and music teacher, whose efforts to develop the choir could scarcely be criticized by an institution whose most prominent architectural feature was the Mort Vrang Orme Chapel, and instruction on the Judeo-Christian heritage a fundamental part of the school philosophy.

The Orme Judeo-Christian Heritage

Orme, though not a religious school in any way, has always felt itself grounded in the notion of "Tradition", if not directly religious, at least wrapped in philosophy and concepts that mirror the teachings of the great Religions. To Orme's credit, ministers of many different religious traditions were routinely brought to the school for the mandatory Sunday services: Rabbi Plotkin, Reverand Urbano, other guest ministers that would share with the Orme students. And choirmaster Henry would work long hours to bring diverse music to the program, Mendelson when the rabbi visited, Baptist, Methodist, Gospel tunes during the Christian services.

The history of Religion has always been entwined with the history of Art, religious leaders have almost universally recognized the value of art --- the ability of Art to assist mere mortals to understand or at least accept concepts of transcendence. Music has always been a fundamental part of Religion, of keeping people from sleeping in church, raising their communal consciousness, providing the exhilaration of sound coupled with physical effort, perhaps hard to really understand, but undeniably effective in its results.

While the leader of the Orme School, Charlie Orme, could never be equated with Pope Pius in terms of his patronage of the arts, his broad education and travel profoundly appreciated the forces that led the great religions of the world to devote so much of their resources to the creation of buildings and sculptures and paintings, as well as the source of so much music and tradition. If possible, Charlie would allow the development of art into the curriculum. Opposition was not based on disdain for the value of art or music, but a lack of confidence that "academic standards" would permit funds to be so obligated. Of course, he did view art education and indeed the Fine Arts Festival as a "frill" that was not a reason parents would send their children to the Orme School, and in his book about the building of the school, written when he was in the last years of his life, he attributed a drop in the enrollment to the lack of value of the Festival. Yet even before the Fine Arts Festival, outstanding artists were brought to the school for special programs. The great singer Beverly Sills gave a mini-concert for freshly scrubbed young cowboys and cowgirls who fidgeted somewhat uncomfortably in the Horsecollar Theater.

The Importance of Parents

Much of the improving climate for Art came from the parents of the students, such as Sandra Kempner, whose son attended Orme and whose relationship with the great Arizona artist Philip Curtis led to Dot's ongoing communication with him, and his loan of his paintings for the Fine Arts Exhibit, an act which insured the notoriety of the show as well as the eager participation of other fine artists. Other parents and Trustees, especially such as Betty Phillips and Sandra Greene, who had daughters as students at the school, provided the chorus that approved when the notion of bringing Art to the cattle ranch was proposed.

And every summer, since the year after Dot Lewis had arrived at the Orme School, she packed up her son and car, and headed for California to explore life beyond the Orme fences and cattle guards, seeking further instruction in the areas that she loved, up in the mountains of Idyllwild and at Scripps College in Claremont, where she obtained her Masters in Art during a two-year absence from Orme in 1955 and 56. When she returned to the Orme School, Dot was loaded with the latest information from art educators and wrote articles for Orme publications reporting the linkages that were beginning to be re-recognized, between music, art, creativity, and academic excellence.

Actual Art Instruction

Ultimately --- after all, it was the Sixties --- Art became more than just Art Appreciation or a short babysitter class. Dot had served years now on the Disciplinary Committee, directing the punishment of the many teenage malefactors of the School, often assigning something as cruel as assisting the construction of one of the School mosaics to some young wrongdoer, or in another case, having to sit as a model while Dot did her portrait. Student crime on the wane, the School owed Dot Lewis a debt of gratitude, and, as the Flower Generation began to flower, the Orme School began to allow direct instruction in art. Finally, in Dot's opinion, the school allowed the important 2- hour class period, a necessity to permit students to develop a meaningful facility with the tools and instruments of Art, a pre-condition for the development of any real skill, and possible life- long involvement with that which we call "Art".

The Riderless Horse - Black Jack at the funeral procession for JFK Dot also continued her own art as she performed her teacher duties, painting the Riderless Horse after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and continuing her exploration of small sculpture and rock drawings, developing friends in the art community, as she led students on special trips to art museums. These programs did NOT require extra academic funding but fit in with the expansive view of education that Orme, as through its caravans and other expeditionary efforts, found compatible with formal class-work. Dot exhibited from time to time with some of her fellow artists, and continued to lobby the Orme administration for greater and greater access to the arts. With such other teachers as William "Buck" Hart, whose personal dramatic tendencies could not possibly stop at the classroom door, Orme began to develop its artistic side step by step. When a local gallery owner sent invitations to all the high schools in Northern Arizona to participate in a special show for high school art students, Orme was one of the few who responded. What was to be a show of Arizona high school students became largely a show of Orme students.

ISOMATA

Back up in the summer mountains of California, Dot had met up with an old friend, Harry Sternberg, an artist who had been the Director of the New York Art Students' League when she studied there back in the 1930's and 40's. Harry taught painting at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA), a summer program based on the belief that the fine arts complemented each other, that dancers and painters had much in common and could gain from musicians and fine craftsmen. It was also based on a conviction that a summer program, based on Music and the Arts, should offer a place for each member of the family, from the bread-winning professional, to the hard-working spouse, and to each variation of children, ranging from mere toddlers through chaotic junior high youth to the rigidity of late-teenager angst right on up to recently thought-and- class liberated college students.

In the evening programs, members of the ISOMATA community would view presentations of art or music from any of the diverse classes, a puppet show by one of the foremost puppeteers of Los Angeles, a dancer from Africa, or a full symphony featuring a guest artist who had recently performed at the Hollywood Bowl or back east. The atmosphere of ISOMATA in the 60s affected all who were fortunate to be there, the teachers, the students, the counselors, the children, all of whom left imbued with a sense that art and music were universal elements that enabled people to grow in all ways.

For many years, from the 50's to the 70's, Dot participated each summer in the ISOMATA community, taking a sculpture class from Lora Steere, then teaching various classes in the graphic arts, including print-making, enamelling, and watching her 7 year old son grow up enjoying the benefits of summer program, with music, dance and art, and learning theatre in the junior high program. ISOMATA continues in modified form today, and has expanded to be a year-round arts academy (www.idyllwildarts.org), one of three in the country to combine full art instruction into a sustainable secondary school program, producing graduates who find success in all the arts.

The DEAD of WINTER . . . oh Why! Why? Why!

At Orme, a self-contained community back then, the biggest change of pace occurred at vacation time. In a single crowded day, virtually all the students, and many of the teachers and staff, would disappear, leaving the self-sufficient confines of the Quarter Circle V-Bar Ranch, and return to other homes, back to urban and family settings usually quite different from the wide open spaces. The ranch would abruptly stop and become quiet.

Instantly, the normalcy of a 200+ community, all working together, serving all aspects of communal living and educating in the Arizona desert, transformed itself back to a time when only a few small families of Indians or settlers gazed on the beauties of Big and Little Mesa . . . . , or listened to the coyotes yell at the moon. This was true of the Thanksgiving short break, Christmas, Spring vacation, and the big one: Summer. And the return was equally transforming, from the quiet to the re-populated bustle of the community in a few short hours as all returned.

Moonlight on the Range But one break always ended with a almost automatic sense of gloom --- the cold, the dreary dark days, the seeming lack of any prospect of happier days --- the Christmas or winter break at Orme was different.

Upon returning, the students and staff felt the elation of the holiday spirit crushed by the somberness of mid-winter and the quietness deeper and more unescapable. It was a troubling time for school administrators and teachers --- many commented on the difficulty of getting back to the business of high school after the relative freedom and joy of vacation, when students returned to the isolation of life on a cattle ranch, away from old friends, urban stores, city-life, and family.

From time to time, Dot visited the nearby Verde Valley School, another private college preparatory high school, located in the beautiful Arizona countryside about an hour and a bit north of Ranch, on the edge of Sedona, and with whom Orme students had a friendly rivalry. She discussed with Colonel Fisher their programs, much more oriented to the Arts --- she encountered a student who was working on an independent study project, for a whole week, working on her own in practically any area, music, art, a project self-directed and encouraging the broader goals of education: finding something in life you are interested in. This was a method the school used to develop the personal interest its students in their own schooling. Regular instruction was suspended, but personal instruction blossomed.

At Orme, the third week after Christmas was the real downer. Something needed to be done --- all the teachers, trying to regain the focus of the students on the class plan, all the administrators juggling the small problems that would emerge at that time of year, felt the need for something bring back a sense of hope or attention or any enthusiasm. Dot sensed an opportunity to make a piece of Art --- to take a discarded piece of junk, and transform it into a statement of real beauty, personal expression and exploration. The piece of Art was to remind everyone of the real Basics of Academia: Music, Dance and Art --- the source of all other academia, what let Man transform himself from a hairless ape into a creature that could communicate with others of its sort, to transform itself with thought, various forms of expression and communication.

This fundamental belief seemed to coincide with the need to restart the school process --- students and teachers needed to remember why they were embarked on the academic enterprise in the first place. Learning and teaching is fundamentally communication between two or more individuals --- communication is necessarily expression on the part of one, and observation on the part of the other. IF Art is, at its most basic form, self-expression, then what the art teacher does is show one how to see what is expressed.

And so, by remembering that Music taught us how to count, that Dance taught us how to catch the eye of and impress each other, and that the graphic arts taught us how to preserve our desire to communicate, teachers and students would remember why proper English, mathematical symbols, the stories told in History, and the technical skills of chemistry came into being --- the product of our need to communicate, to create, to remember, to improve our lives through our individual endeavors.

Art would merge with the Academic Plan --- the Orme School would restart itself with a reminder of the original source of all schooling. The basic artistic impulse of Man would be tapped to get students and teachers to once again communicate with each other. To express themselves and to observe. This is the basic artistic impulse --- to make a pleasing noise, to costume oneself, to create an object or design that conveyed something to someone else, to discern the beauty in ourselves and in each other. To celebrate our mutual interest.

The Start

Dot executed her plan carefully. The first week of February was the time to start. It was critical to get everyone in the community involved. Just as every person is different, each person has different preconceptions, preferences, skills and disabilities --- to unify the community behind this total disruption of the school schedule, all had to find something appealing. So ten different workshops were planned, Dot believing this to be a minimum to accommodate the diversity of the community and also establish a sense of the broad possibilities of Art, accessible and necessary for all.

And it was critical to find the right artists --- enthusiasm for their skill and desire to share was critical. Compensation could not be the motive --- the school would only offer an "honorarium" to perhaps offset a bit of the lost time that the artist would be sacrificing for the cause. Because this was to be a regeneration for the Artists as well --- a reminder of what sparked their careers, why Art was meaningful. As Dot knew from her experiences at the New York Art Students League and at ISOMATA, artists enjoy the company of other artists, and in trying to reach young people, felt renewed in their own source of inspiration. She depended on her close friends and mentors such as Harry Sternberg who immediately saw the goal and beauty of the idea and enthusiastically supported her efforts. She spent a lot of time on the phone, and identifying those local artists that others knew, that had an inclination to participate. The selection of each artist could lead to another --- many would come because of the other people invited.

The other faculty members needed to be invested in the project, and each would be assigned to one of the workshops to share the experience, and reestablish the sense of common purpose that teacher and student must ideally share. And the week would be capped with an Exhibit that would show the ultimate possibilities of Art --- professional and of the highest quality. Here Dot drew upon her many artist friends, driving many hours to personally arrange the safe transportation and generous loan of the best art available, to be displayed properly and professionally at the Orme School so that the students, the teachers and visitors would know without a doubt the power, the importance, and the look of professional Art.

The initial budget, twisted out of the clutching fingers of the business office, was $1,100 to cover all the expenses that the endeavor would entail. The honorariums were either nothing or very little, much of the supplies were scavenged or purchased very carefully. To date, many of the artists who come to the festival, like art teachers everywhere, bring supplies carefully obtained at less than normal cost, the reality of professional artists who have to measure dollars carefully in the creation of art. This frugality seems the secondary lesson of the artistic impulse, the ability to take what is available, and transform it beyond its initial form. Art is the expression of the Possible, surprising, transcendental, an endeavor that does share with Politics acknowledgment of its limits, but then inflates all accomplishment with a sense of universal meaning, and the fullest achievement of human endeavor. While the budget today is much bigger, the same financial creativity renders the week an exercise in economy, invention, audacity over quantity and traditional power. Such is the lesson of Art.

The artists who come are mostly driven by a special feeling that the Fesitval is an opportunity as much as an honor . . . to be asked to participate in a unique event that can return to the artist as much as the artist gives to the students. Something about remembering the origins of one's initial creative impulses provides a renewal of one's creative energies. This was the happy coincidence that merged the needs of winter-bound students and artists into a mutually beneficial collaboration, refreshing both at a time of the year when depression holds easy sway.

And so it began.

The Basic Principles

Dot developed a set of rules she set for herself in the development of the Fine Arts Festival, to match her vision and the underlying purpose.

One: Everyone in the Orme community would participate, it was NOT optional, and not dependent on prior skill or exposure to the tools of Art.

Two: The artists must be of the highest caliber, top people, the best that could be found, professionals. After all, the point is to show that ART is a profession, a necessity of civilization, not a therapy, or entertainment, but a part of the solution, the quest, the meaning of life.

Three: The artists needed time to meet with each other without the students --- the social interaction between the artists was critical to the sense of artistic community that then extended to the students, and the full realization that Art is a fundamental, not optional, part of Life.

Four: The Festival would be ended with a demonstration of the results of the week's work, a fully professional Exhibit which would demonstrate the reality of success in the Arts, and programs or exhibits that would show the whole community what each workshop had worked on.

Five: The number of workshops needed to be carefully set, to show the breadth of the artistic experience, allowing each student personal experience with the professional, and not too many to overwhelm the ability of each student to relate to the other workshops.

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION . . . . .

The Continuing Story of Fine Arts Festival

After Dot left the Orme School, the program did not stop. It was already recognized as a critical and highly valuable part of the "Orme Experience". Alumni and the parents of alumni expressed their support, and some specially endowed the school for the support of the program. The school continued to hire a teacher to head the Art Department, and each year, the program would continue, with many of the same artists and similar structure . . . Dot would help each new organizing person with the program, often driving over to the School during that period of the year. The program has changed, but largely the same, with much of the thanks to the continuation of artists over the years, who have been able to express the value of the program, and remind new-comers of the reason for its success.

Buck Hart - Long-time Orme School teacher, and biggest ham of the Orme theater scene, helped coordinate the Fine Arts Festival while Dot was there, and encouraged music and theater throughout his tenure.

Luanne Knotts

Karen Good was the head of the Orme Art Department, and consequently the principal mover of the Fine Arts Festival from ___ to 2009 when she retired and is presently working at ___ in ___.

  • 2010 FAF Brochure

    Linda Illumanardi - In 2010 a new Art Department Head embarks on her first Fine Arts Festival.

  • 2011 FAF Brochure

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  • ARTISTS OF THE ORME FINE ARTS FESTIVAL

    The alumni artists of the Orme Arts Festival are many . . . the tradition honors those who return, such a Jim Ciletti who is now the most senior recent workshop artist, but who first arrived in 1970 as a youngster in a cape. The list is long and get longer every year. Some are students who return. The lives of these Artists are the school lesson that was taught and continues to teach.

    Harry Sternberg

  • Harry Sternberg - Painting
  • Jim Ciletti, Poet Laureate Meritorious Pro Hoc Temportium Astra of the Orme Fine Arts Festival Jim Ciletti (1970) - Creative Writing, Poetry **
  • Francis Smith Cohen (and Troupe) - Dance
  • Dick Marcusen - Jewelry Making
  • Agnes Udinotti - Sculpture
  • Ray and Virginia Garner - Film Making
  • Helen Hudson - Songwriting
  • Jay Dusard (1972) - Photography *
  • Bob "Buzz" Holmes - Music, Choir
  • Tom Fresh - Environmental Art
  • Lynnly Orme Herman M - Watercolor
  • Robert Smith - Video/Television Production *
  • Ramson Lomatewama - Glass Blowing **
  • Mr. Marmalukey Comboy Man Brook Adams! - Click here the real deal . . Brook Adams - Music Ensemble *
  • Larry Adler - Jewelry Making **
  • Three Trees - Drumming **
  • Kevn Lambson - Computer Art **
  • Caryl Lomatewama - Stained Glass *
  • Hillary Jones - Stone Carving *
  •  BIJOU the Art Critic! - Click here for Nance's Website Nance McManus - Pastel Painting **
  • Mike Riemer (2007) - Blacksmithing *
  • Rebecca Brooks (2007) - Mosaics
  • Phil Atwood - Glass Blowing *
  • Mr. Chris Yates & Dot observes a student Dremel her way to Glory! - Click here for Chris's Website Chris Yates (2008) - Toy Making *
  • Kate and Jim Carroll (2009) - Fiber Arts **
  • Chris Masiello - Watercolor **
  • Tara Alperin (2010) - Broadway Dance
  • Bob Boze Bell (2010) - Drawing & Illustrating Graphic Novels
  • Cheryl Snow (2011) - Dance *
  • Dylan Cook (2011) - Blacksmithing **
  • Charles / Chequamegon Orme (2013) - Metal Casting **
  • Dusty Savage (2013) - Dance **

    * = 2011 Festival Workshop Leaders - 2011 FAF Brochure
    ** = CURRENT (2014)Festival Workshop Leaders - 2014 FAF Brochure

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