Nestled in the San Bernardino National Forest, 100 miles from downtown Los Angeles, sits the Idyllwild Arts Academy. During the summer months, the center hosts a sleepaway retreat for artists of all ages.
Each year for nearly a decade, former Board Chair Rob Lovelace and his wife, Alicia Miñana Lovelace, have sponsored highly talented and motivated student-artists from Value Schools to attend and develop their craft.
This year, sophomore Neily L. from University Prep Value was selected to participate in the program. In her first-ever experience away from Los Angeles and her family, Neily was exposed to a new world of possibility and focus.
“The experience changed me, and pushed me out of my comfort zone,” recalls Neily. “I did this drawing and I felt like I found my voice. I’m still working on my art style, but I was proud of it, and it felt like me. You have to keep trying to get to that point. Sometimes the criticism hurts, but when you keep going you can say, ‘This is what I did and I like it.’”
While Neily developed her artistic skills at Idyllwild, she also grew personally from the experience.
“I got to be more independent,” she said. “I’m not very social, so I was nervous leaving my mom and my home and meeting new people, but the whole thing was amazing. I’m a private person, but this helped me be more confident and it changed my point of view. There were so many animals and plants. We could draw outside. It was my first time using oil paints, and I even made friends.”
She discovered her love for drawing in second grade when she won a few small contests. Art became a way to better understand and cope with her feelings and the world around her.
“Art helps me express myself and get out of my head” she said. “Developing your potential is in your mind, and in art you always try new things to make yourself and other people better. My family is a safe bubble, but going Idyllwild showed me a different perspective I didn’t know I wanted, and it was amazing.”
Neily sees art everywhere, and feels she can interpret her life through art. “Everything connects back to art,” she reminds us. “Geometry, architecture, history, everything is wrapped with art. My aunt is a carpenter. When I see her work, it’s her imagination that comes alive. That’s art.”
Value Schools thanks Rob Lovelace and Alicia Miñana Lovelace for expanding Neily’s experience, and for helping youth like her thrive. Watch Rob Lovelace's vision about giving back to his communities in the video below.