Foundersland: An Evening to Remember

By Marty Sklar, Founder, Past President, Member of the Board of Directors

We all have busy schedules that keep us from participating in every event we may be interested in attending. Priorities, of course, fill our schedules, day and evening. Making those choices often means we miss an extraordinary event. I thought about this on the evening of June 17, when Ryman Arts held our annual Graduation Ceremony at the California African-American Museum in Exposition Park -- the host location for our graduations for the past eleven years. Thank you, George Davis and staff!

Like most graduation ceremonies we attend, it was an emotional time for everyone in the audience. Knowing that I was going to write about the evening in this blog, I took notes as reminders of some of the highlights. I have categorized my observations under these seven headings:

  • Students
  • Families
  • Words of Wisdom
  • Teachers
  • Photos and Selfies
  • The Great Green Paper
  • 25th Anniversary Ryman Arts Video


Watching them all dressed up (mostly), you can feel the excitement from start to finish. This is obviously a Big Deal! They know they did not have to take that weekend “course”, with all the extra homework required – and their new friends and teachers ready and willing to critique their work (that’s part of the “Ryman Arts Class Technique”). You quickly learn, this is competitive. Suddenly you have gone from one of a kind in your school to just one of the kids with basic talent in the Ryman Arts program.

Yet – they know that their understanding of what it takes to become an artist, and their art work itself, is so much better then when they entered the program. They can feel what someone on the stage said: “I have a new passion for art. I know what it takes to be an artist!”


There’s a word in Yiddish that expresses what I observed at graduation from Mom and Dad and younger sisters and brothers: “Kvell.” It means “to be extraordinarily pleased; to be bursting with pride – especially over one’s family.” What I observed was literally a ton of “kvelling” going on at CAAM on Graduation night. And who can blame them. Seeing a daughter or son achieve new heights – and just imagine: one of their paintings done in a Ryman Arts class hanging in a Museum – wow, what a thrill! For many, their graduate will be the first in their family to attend college – they are one of the 96 or 97 percent of Ryman Arts graduates who continue their education beyond high school!


Many words of wisdom were spoken by our Guest Speakers and staff that night, including these gems:

Danielle Brazell, General Manager, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs: “I’m looking forward to the stories you will tell. Use your artistic powers for good. We believe in you!”

Diane Brigham, Executive Director, Ryman Arts: “There is a whole ‘village’ in the art world, and here at Ryman Arts, that supports you. Young people can make a difference!”

Student Graduation Speakers: “We have grown from being unsure, to believing in the possibilities … that we can say something important through our art.”


There was so much affection in the air, especially when students talked about their teachers. Several noted how their lives had been affected. “David,” one said, speaking about David Schoffman, “changed the way I think.”

It was Board member Kathy Mangum, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering, who conveyed the evening’s major honor to one of our teachers, Kathy presented the “Sharon Disney Lund Master Teaching Artist Award” to Julie Weitz, providing funds for Julie to use for a summer of study, or to use to create a special project. Julie is the 10th Ryman Arts teacher to receive this unique and very special award.


Snap! Flash! Don’t Move! Stand Here! Just One More!

Wow – who’s counting? This is the world we live in, and this night is filled with so many memories to share in future days and years.

Why not “just one more!”


For a Ryman Arts Board Member, one of the thrills of Graduation Night is the “green sheet”. It’s headed: “Ryman Arts 2015 Graduates – here’s where our graduates are headed!”

In many ways, it’s my personal most important take-away from this wonderful evening. It’s the annual list of “next steps” on the education path for our graduates. I counted 133 names on this year’s “green sheet”. What an impressive list of educational institutions these young people will be attending – from community colleges to universities. It’s a “who’s who” and “where’s there” of colleges across the USA.

Whether our graduates follow a path into the arts, or study whatever they choose and plan for the future, this list is so important to the way we at Ryman Arts judge success that I have attached it to this blog (but not in green!).


Thanks again to our Board Members Phil Hettema and Eddie Newquist for the wonderful new video about our Program, first introduced at the 25th anniversary event at The Edison, and now having a “starring role” at our Graduation. It was a great beginning,  showing our program in action, with commentary from students, teachers, President Wayne Hunt and “friends of Ryman Arts” speaking about the values of our Program. Watch and share the video here.

One can never summarize 25 years of Ryman Arts in a sentence, or a blog for that matter. But our 2015 Graduation Ceremony was a good place to start: So many happy endings, so many new beginnings … and sharing them with family, friends, teachers and all of us who attended. It makes us all “kvell” with pride!

Attachment: “2015 Graduates: Here’s where our graduates are headed!