Foundersland: Why we Serve as Board Members Part 2

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

In my last edition of Foundersland, I wrote that I had asked our Ryman Arts Board members to respond to the question listed above. I included nine responses in Part 1 of this subject. Today, I’ll repeat what I wrote as a preamble, but there are nine brand new responses – from the rest of the Board. My preface was the following:

It may be the most important question anyone who is invited to become a member of an organization’s Board of Directors ever asks: “Why should I serve as a Board member for this organization?” The answer you give will determine whether that’s the place you truly want to commit to serving and representing to the public.

At Ryman Arts, we are blessed with some of the most dedicated and talented Board Members I have ever had the privilege and pleasure to serve with. These 18 individuals represent many backgrounds and experiences – skills they bring to the support of Executive Director Diane Brigham and her staff – all in service to the 600 young artists who participate in our two programs every weekend. The knowledge and advice our Board provides has been an essential ingredient to the success and growth of Ryman Arts through our 25 year history.

As I wrote at the beginning of this blog, I asked our Board of Directors to respond to this question: “Why I serve as a Board Member for Ryman Arts.” I received so many thoughtful, enthusiastic and important responses that I had to divide their messages into two parts; the first nine appeared in my March blog. Here are the responses of the rest of the Board to that question: “Why I serve as a Board Member for Ryman Arts.”

Robin J. Kalota
Senior Vice President, BNY Mellon Wealth Management

What could be more affirming than to be part of a process that combines the love of art, the passion to create and the urge to inspire others? I believe in Ryman’s quest to transform lives, both for the students who are at the start of their life adventures, and for those who are helping them in their journey forward.


David A. Price
President & Founder, DAPA Leisure Group
Vice President, TEA Western Division

Reason #1 (From the Heart): I was blessed to grow up in a family where my three siblings and I benefited from parents that supported and encouraged creativity, self-expression and discovering your passion.  It took hold in me and led to a 35-year career in architecture, planning and design.  It did so for my siblings too.  My twin sister Dana is a professional artist in the Bay area.  Brother Bret is an accomplished sculptor and painter in Orange County.  My younger sister Holly just recently retired from a 25-year singing career with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and continues to teach voice at Pomona College.  In those growing up years, Herby Ryman was a family friend.  His art adorned our walls.  We experienced and felt his kindness, humor and encouragement.   In short, we each had a Ryman Arts upbringing built into our home life where it shaped and enriched our young lives.  Later on we watched our parents - both Founding Ryman Arts Board Members - throw their support and love into Ryman Arts throughout their lives until their separate passing.   It's enormously satisfying as a Ryman Arts Board Member to have the opportunity to help bring Ryman Arts nationally acclaimed art education program to so many talented young high school students who might otherwise not have the same opportunity as we had growing up. 

Reason #2 (Creative Thinking):  The arts play an enormous role in the "Creative Economy" of Southern California.  What's the Creative Economy?  It's the 4th largest sector of the economy in 66 clusters; One in Eight jobs; $230 Billion in economic output annually in Greater Los Angeles (2012).  Ryman Arts education provides avenues for our talented high school artists to discover careers in the Creative Economy.  Even more important, the Ryman Experience cultivates Creative Thinking which is essential if we are to maintain our Region's Leadership Role in an increasingly competitive Global Creative Economy.  How do Ryman Arts programs cultivate Creative Thinking?  Ryman Arts nationally acclaimed programs are provided on college and university campuses in studio settings under the direction of professional artists.  The spark that lights the mind of a young student is found in the special relationships that exist between student and teacher and student and fellow students.  It's a formula that works but is surely lacking in today’s underfunded and under resourced public schools.  It's inspiring as a Board Member and as a working professional in the Creative Economy, to see talented young artists discover a world of opportunity and a confidence in themselves. 


Phil Hettema
Founder, The Hettema Group

Having directed and employed designers for most of my career, I know and appreciate the importance of fundamental design skills.  They're essential in enabling a designer or artist to communicate and express their ideas, no matter what media or discipline they're engaged in.  Unfortunately, our education system today isn't helping to prepare the artists of tomorrow who will design and create our future.

I also know from my own personal experience that providing one on one attention, encouragement, and discipline yields an even greater benefit: individuals who are not only better artists, but who also possess greater confidence, self-awareness and capability for success in all areas of life. 

There isn't a program I'm aware of that does either of these things better or more effectively than Ryman Arts, so when asked to serve as a Board Member, saying "yes” was automatic… a natural opportunity to extend my support to a really outstanding organization.


Barbara Jacobs
Chief Operating Officer, Kinetescape, Inc.
Owner, Barbara Jacobs Events

I joined the Board of the Ryman Arts organization because I feel deeply that art training and experiences are the breath and soul of all great thinking, from the arts to business. The largest companies in the world may have created a product that we need, but they also created art.

From Disney to Apple the form was as important as the substance.

President Kennedy said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.”

It is our responsibility to give every child a chance to nourish their visions, to allow them to experience the full breath of life, to grow as a person and to think as an artist. I am honored to bring a small group of young people a chance to discover their fully realized talents.


Johnny Lai
Vice President, Corporate Development & Investor Relations, BOFI Federal Bank

Ryman Arts has always been about creativity, progress, and perseverance. From the moment I joined the Board in 2007, I immediately felt a deep sense of purpose throughout the entire organization, from the Board to the staff and the wonderful instructors, students and supporters. Even though I have a finance background and had none of the artistic or board accomplishments that other Ryman Board Members have, I shared the passion and vision that my fellow Board Members had to take what had already been an extremely successful program and expand it further. Looking back at what we overcame as an organization - from the great recession in 2008-2009 to the move from USC to Otis and the board transition from visionaries such as Buzz and Anne Price and the Sklars - to get to where we are today, I could not be more excited about the future of Ryman Arts. It's been an honor and privilege to serve this organization for almost a decade; I look forward to working with my fellow Board Members on the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Amy Glad
Past Chair, California Building Industry Association

As a newer member of the Board and a longtime supporter, I’ve been able to see the successes of Ryman Arts in growing the number of participating students and making the leap to add a second campus location. Watching the Ryman program in action by viewing a weekend class completely sold me on the purpose, reach, and importance of the organization. I believe in supporting students who have demonstrated an aptitude for art that deserves development beyond the capabilities of most high school programs.

While art focused, the Ryman program develops so much more than a singular talent. Students learn how to speak about the work they’re presenting in front of others and are provided college and career guidance specific to their interests and abilities. Pursuing intensified art instruction develops skills that support these students in other aspects of being a high school student and a future college student and professional. In addition to nurturing creative talent, they learn critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration as well as other social and cross cultural skills.

This program wouldn’t exist without the excellent work of Ryman Arts staff and instructors who are all supported by generous donors. The best result one could ask for and a frequent theme of Ryman Arts graduates is that this program has helped them realize their potential in ways they never knew possible. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?


Bob Rogers
Chairman and Founder, BRC Imagination Arts
Member, Board of Governors, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Picture this:  Your teachers, your counselors and even your parents have been telling you that you are obviously a low achiever because you sit in the back of the class and draw pictures.  Your grades aren’t very good.  College certainly isn’t for you.  And perhaps you don’t even need to finish high school.  But then your art teacher sees something in you, and in your drawings, that the others don’t see:  He/she recommends you for Ryman Arts, an organization that looks for and finds young artists of exceptional talent.  And after looking at your work, they think your work has that potential spark.  Your parents could never afford it, you say.  But unbelievably, you discover Ryman Arts is absolutely free to the student.  Even the art materials!  Suddenly, while sill attending high school during the rest of the week, every Saturday or Sunday you find yourself plunged into a rigorous and demanding college level art class, on a college campus, taught by professional artists.  No more BS about “Everybody’s art is beautiful.”  This is serious.  Every day is a challenge.  You are taught rigorous fundamentals, instructed and critiqued with the highest expectations. At first you are totally intimidated.  But you love art so you keep trying.  Gradually you begin to realize that you can do this.  And then one day you realize:  You are no longer the stupid one.  You are suddenly the special one.  Your teachers, counselors, parents and siblings are looking at you differently.  YOU look at yourself differently!  YOU expect more of yourself.  Your grades in unrelated subjects start improving.  You start seeing that you will graduate high school.  And perhaps … No, not “perhaps.”  Instead you WILL go to college.

The story you just read sounds like a Hollywood Cinderella fantasy.  But it is real.  Ryman Arts achieves that exact scenario again and again.  Ask to see the statistics!  Not all our students start with poor grades or challenged economic situations.  Many do.  Selection for the program is strictly merit based.  But regardless of where they started, all come away with an expanded sense of who they are and what they can be.  Ryman Arts doesn’t just teach art, or launch careers.  (It DOES launch careers – so important in today’s underfunded Creative Economy.)  But most important:  Ryman Arts redirects and sometimes literally saves lives.  That’s why I am a Board Member and enthusiastic supporter of Ryman Arts. 


Kathy Mangum
Senior Vice President, Walt Disney Imagineering
Board Member, Make a Wish Foundation

Every day, I’m lucky to work at a place where I’m surrounded by creative and talented artists and designers – the best in the world. I marvel at their abilities and skills and found inspiration in their passion. I’m so happy they have found their calling and are able to make a good living doing what they love to do.

Because I see first-hand the importance of design in this world, I’m happy to be able to work with an organization like Ryman Arts that takes talented young people and gives them the support and encouragement to pursue their own passion for art. Even if Ryman graduates don’t end up working in design, the development of their talent, the camaraderie they have with their fellow students, and the exposure they get to a college environment will serve them well. Going through the Ryman Arts program is truly transformative.


Marty Sklar
Vice-Chairman and Principal Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering (retired)
Disney Legend
Founder, Ryman Arts

I’m a big believer that “dreams can come true.” That, after all, is my training and experience over a 50 year career at the Walt Disney Company. In fact, my memoir, published in 2013, is called Dream It! Do It! My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms.

From my experience at Walt Disney Imagineering and my community service on other boards – notably the UCLA Alumni Association Board and nine years as a member of the Anaheim City School District Board of Education – I know that it takes dedication and focus to make a “dream come true.”

That meant it was not enough simply to be a founder of Ryman Arts. To achieve what the founders began – as my wife Leah outlined in her statement in the Foundersland blog last month –we knew we had to become part of the team “behind the scenes” that made sure our staff and teachers – the “doers” – had the support, encouragement and dedication of “the dreamers.”

With the growth of our Ryman Arts program over these 25 years, it’s a true thrill to be part of a program that is so successful through its influence on the lives and future careers of thousands of talented young artists. I am so excited every time I meet one of our graduates working at Disney or Universal or DreamWorks, or at a new gallery show where their work is being featured.

As I wrote in my introduction to these Board Member comments, we are truly blessed to be part of the Ryman Arts “dream team” – starting with Executive Director Diane Brigham and her staff, our teachers, our volunteers, and all our friends and supporters that have joined us along the way. We never forget that’s where the focus comes in: As Leah wrote in her statement – and as our co-founders Sharon Disney Lund, Buzz and Anne Price, and Lucille Ryman Carroll believed – this program is all about our students, and “…Herb Ryman’s conviction that classical drawing and painting skills are the keystone to art education, and the belief that art education should start with the young.”

You can count on me as a true believer!