When Yuetong Dong first arrived in California, doubts plagued her. Like any new international student, the Beijing native was concerned about English, making friends, and doing well in class.
Today, the Grade 11 visual arts major is a vision of joy. She has the connected community of Idyllwild Arts Academy to thank.
“I’ve changed a lot in the past two years,” she says. “I have learned a lot from academic courses and art courses that I have never understood before. In terms of personality, I have become more cheerful. I’ve also met a lot of like-minded friends.”
The Academy is as resilient as it is welcoming. Dong credits the school for keeping her and her peers engaged online even in uncertain times. She talks about teachers waking up as early as 4 a.m. to conduct online lessons for classmates unable to enter the United States during the pandemic.
Their efforts are telling of the school’s commitment to success. Here, no student falls behind.
At Idyllwild Arts Academy, the US’s premier residential arts high school — almost 300 students from over 30 countries pursue artistic excellence. Nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains, students on this forested campus embark on their journeys in a safe, tranquil environment that is pleasing to both eyes and ears. You’ll see hawks swoop overhead, listen to the harmonies of instruments being practised at a distance, and hear dancers laugh as they move through their rehearsals.
Each programme provides pre-professional training in the arts and a college-preparatory curriculum, tailored for a diverse and gifted student body. Success is evident in the Academy’s list of graduates. Many have progressed to the finest American colleges, including Brown University, UCLA and UC Berkeley, Northwestern University, New York University, Berklee College of Music, The Juilliard School, Rhode Island School of Design, and Parsons School of Design.
Visual Arts is a popular pathway to these outcomes for many reasons. This vibrant department offers a wide range of courses to help students like Dong finesse technique, creativity, and engagement with the world. The methods used are both traditional and contemporary, shedding light on the materials and ideas that will help young artists bring their artwork to life.
Students also visit exhibits at places like the Melissa Morgan Fine Art Gallery, in Palm Desert. They take part in junior and senior shows, theme shows, and juried shows in the Parks Exhibition Center, on campus. They explore career prospects, compete, attend masterclasses, and network with university representatives and professional artists.
Yixuan “Maisie” Luo, raised in Shenzhen, China is a product of this immersive experience. The Academy graduate in Visual Arts is now pursuing a master’s degree in theology at Harvard. “A lot of my art at Idyllwild Arts drew on theological themes,” she recalls.
Students here can also study colour, image, and style by majoring in Fashion Design. Areas covered include techniques in hand and machine sewing, pattern making, draping, textiles, accessories, fashion illustration, fashion history, fashion photography, and conceptual design.
Idyllwild Arts students become visionaries by learning to design for the future through the repurposing of materials and a focus on ecological awareness. They apply their knowledge through internships at Palm Springs Fashion Week, often under the tutelage of celebrated designers such as Trina Turk, Michael Costello, and Edwin Oudshoorn. Some broaden their horizons with work experience in New York, while others take part in masterclasses, collaborate with charities, and present their garments at the Parks Exhibition Center.
Young musicians have an honored place here, too. The Music Department provides courses in songwriting, jazz ensemble, music history, music theory, electronic sound, music business and marketing, vocal ensemble, and much more.
Professional musician-teachers make sure that students achieve the highest standards of excellence. It’s rigorous, but highly personalised. In addition to a core curriculum that includes private lessons, young musicians can choose from multiple electives that align with their interests and aspirations.
Here, Shiyu “Hanson” Liu, from Shanghai, who began writing songs when he was 11, found the education of his dreams. “I still remember the time I put on a concert,” he reminisces. “I presented my original songs and all the students were cheering and dancing.”
“If you love music, if you love art, you can experience it all here,” Hanson adds. “Breathe in the clean air, gain inspiration, and enjoy composition time that other high schools hardly offer.”