Foundersland: Giving Thanks, and Hopes for the Future

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

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about the meaning of Thanksgiving, 2015 to Ryman Arts. To focus on the holiday itself, I discovered that the first official Thanksgiving in America was created in 1789 by our first President, George Washington. But it was not until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a National Holiday. (Don’t you dare tell anyone you never learned anything in “art school”!)

An event that occurred in the days before and after this year’s Thanksgiving brought the holiday into clear focus for me. It was the Ryman Arts Alumni 25th Anniversary Exhibition of art work created by graduates of our Program through the years. The show was orchestrated by our Board Alumni Representative Christina Saucedo, with loving care from Marshall Ayers, our Board Alumni Advisor, a committee of Ryman Arts Alumni, and of course Diane Brigham and her staff. A fun side note was the Alumni Exhibition took place just down the hall from our new Program offices in Maker City LA, at Broadway and Washington in downtown Los Angeles.


It was an amazing evening of art works of all kinds and subjects created by young talent with one thing in common: They all got their start – and passion for art – through Ryman Arts, inspired by our teachers and the instruction they provided. The Opening Night was very exciting – and very emotional. Many young artists not only showed their work – they celebrated with one another a world – and a future – that Ryman Arts helped open for them. It was a thrill to watch our Alumni greet one another, and proudly show their work to a very appreciative audience of Ryman Arts supporters, family and art patrons. Many works of art were sold that night, and in the subsequent days of the Alumni Exhibition.


That alone would be enough for me to give Thanks at this holiday time of year to so many supporters, Board members, and our wonderful staff for bringing an event like this to fruition. When I think about the thousands of lives we have influenced through the years, I am truly amazed – and so thankful to so many.

Thanksgiving 2015 will always stand out for me as a time to reflect and realize so much we have accomplished together. The foundation we have created is a platform for a future we cannot see, but we can foresee. It is full of great opportunity to continue our mission of “Teaching Young Arts, Transforming Lives.”  Ryman Arts will grow and continue to influence and transform lives. We saw it vividly through the Alumni Exhibition and the young talent now working in so many facets of the art world – museums, galleries, design organizations, universities, teaching.

With the continued support of so many patrons, the leadership of our Board of Directors, and the work of our teaching and administrative staffs, we know we can reach and influence the lives of so many more talented young artists. It’s an exciting challenge – and a great opportunity. We hope you will all join us in this exciting ride!


I asked members of our Board of Directors to join me in giving their thanks and hopes and dreams for the future for Ryman Arts. Here are some of the responses:

Christina Saucedo
Alumni Representative

GIVING THANKS: As a Ryman Arts student, you rarely ever have a chance to stop and think who and what is making Ryman Arts so amazing and so successful. But having been part of various aspects of Ryman Arts, I’m thankful to have met not only the dedicated group of people who were there since the very beginning but also the dedicated staff that does the day to day work. They, along with the generous donors, are the ones who make Ryman Arts happen every weekend. It’s great that the students and alumni have the Ryman Arts staff by our side, always looking out for our best interest. Having such dedicated art students and committed staff are what make Ryman Arts such a unique program.

THE FUTURE:My hope for the future of Ryman Arts is that it continues to grow and be successful while still being able to create a feeling of closeness. I feel that maintaining this balance is something very unique to the program and what I love the most!

Marshall Nalle Ayers
Founding Executive Director, Ryman Arts

GIVING THANKS: When people ask me what is the secret to the success of Ryman Arts I always say it begins in the classroom. The eagerness of our students to learn, meeting the commitment of our faculty to teach. Teaching and learning is at the core of what we do and year after year I am so grateful for the dedication that our students and teachers bring to the studio. In his book "The Highly Engaged Classroom" Dr. Robert Marzano says that to foster student engagement, four emblematic questions must frame the learning:

  1. How do I feel?
  2. Am I interested?
  3. Is this important?
  4. Can I do this?

Ryman Arts students are able to answer all four of these questions in the affirmative. They want to be there, they are highly interested in the subject matter, they feel it is vitally important to their well-being and they are given the faith in their abilities and the tools to do the work. That's it. That's the secret. If we don't get this part right nothing else really matters. I am thankful for every day that I got to be in the classroom to work with our faculty and watch our students grow and develop as artists.

THE FUTURE: My personal hope for Ryman Arts is two-fold. First, for it to become a national resource for more students, parents, teachers and arts educators. Ryman classrooms only hold 350 students, but there are so many more young people who could benefit from what we do and how we do it. Whether it is through on-line education models or satellite classrooms, I hope we can expand our reach and impact on the field especially as it relates to higher education and career development. Secondly, I want our alumni to thrive, and continue to make their mark on the world, and to give back to Ryman Arts as volunteers and supporters. Our Alumni Exhibit this month is a perfect example of how alumni can keep engaged and Ryman Arts can continue to support their work.


Kathy Mangum
Senior Vice President, Walt Disney Imagineering

GIVING THANKS: I’m thankful for the amazing staff at Ryman Arts – people who work tirelessly to make art education to talented and motivated students possible.  From staging fund raisers, to bringing events like the Big Draw to the community, to giving personal support and counsel to each student, the staff at Ryman Arts continues to amaze and impress.  I am thankful we have such talented people representing us.

THE FUTURE: My hope for the future is that the organization continues to grow to reach even more talented students than we can reach now, possibly in the Inland Empire, San Diego, Ventura…who knows! 

Eddie Newquist
EVP, Chief Creative Officer, Global Experience Specialists (GES)

GIVING THANKS: Flying across the country recently I noticed how Fall has touched the landscape and the spirit of so many people.  Everyone seems to be decorating, bundling up a bit and preparing for this season of thanks and of giving. This time of year always makes me thankful for family, friends and the people who support and give to Ryman Arts.  The young students I am blessed to have met and worked with at Ryman have embraced their own unique artistic gifts and through hard work and determination they are improving and growing that talent.  The support they receive through the gifts and donations of so many caring people make their classes possible.  They also benefit from the gifted leadership of the Ryman staff, advisors and my fellow board members, who care deeply about giving young people a chance to grow and excel in the arts.  The visual arts our students create and will create in the future are in turn, a gift to us all. This cycle of giving around Ryman is the perfect embodiment of this season of thanks and of giving.  I would like thank everyone who supports Ryman Arts and the bright futures of our students.

David A. Price
President & Founder, DAPA Leisure Group

GIVING THANKS: As a Ryman Arts Board member, "Giving Thanks" begins by recognizing and applauding our Founding Board members whose passion and vision laid the seeds for all that was to follow.  Starting small, Ryman Arts began with only 12 talented high school students meeting in a studio setting on Saturday morning to be taught by professional artists about techniques for drawing and painting.  From that humble start, Ryman Arts grew into a nationally recognized arts education program that has transformed the lives of our many talented students.  What is astonishing and inspiring is how the Ryman studio experience resonated so effectively as a safe, supportive, challenging and inspiring environment for our talented young artists who now number over 4,500 graduates. 

In the setting of a rigorous and challenging studio, multiplied many times over during our 25 year history, has emerged a remarkable community of students, teachers, artists, staff and graduates.  This community and the many lives it touches is where our success lies.  Consequently, "Giving Thanks" is directed at our remarkable Ryman Arts community.

Finally, "Giving Thanks" must be directed to all past, present and future supporters of Ryman Arts who recognize the value and importance of our nationally recognized arts education programs and the transformational impact we have in the lives of our talented young artists.  This support is the backbone to all of our success as we look forward to the next 25-years of Ryman Arts. 

THE FUTURE: As we continue to grow, Ryman Arts has the opportunity to be a catalyst for forming a coalition of creative drivers - companies, county and local city governments, philanthropic foundations, academia and other non-profits, independent entrepreneurs and creative professionals - that support and sustain creative activity in communication arts, digital media, product/industrial design and the visual and performing arts.  Education programs that are modeled by Ryman Arts are key to sustaining creative activity in a Creative Economy that is now a major part of our Region's economy.