Deerly Beloved: It’s Deer Season in Idyllwild

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Art at 6,000 feet. Idyllwild is snuggled into the side of the San Jacinto Mountains and blanketed with pine trees. About an hours drive from Palm Springs, it has nature, outdoor activities, fresh air, great restaurants, cozy inns, and art, all forms of art. In 2005, John Villani’s book listed Idyllwild as one of the 100 best art towns in America.  With its galleries, artists, festivals, local musicians and theatre, it is truly an art destination of note. Art is a part of daily life here. When you visit, you’ll likely notice the deer sculptures. They are an example of how the town integrates art into everyday life. 

The Idyllwild Herd

The Art Alliance of Idyllwild is the group behind the 21 painted deer you’ll find in 12 locations. Each one was designed and painted by a different artist and depicts some aspect of Idyllwild:  nature, flora, fauna, music, hiking, climbing, art, history, film making, the legend of Tahquitz and the area’s connection to the Cahuilla Indians.   A 300-pound metal sculpture by local sculptor, Dore Capitani, was installed at the same time as the deer as part of the project.

In early 2018, the Art Alliance decided to expand the deer herd.  Originally, the plan was to place 13 new deer, including bucks, does and fawns. But so many folks wanted to sponsor a deer that the order more than doubled.   A total of 28 deer will be added to the original herd and extend the range to the Bluebird Cottage Inn on California Highway 243, just outside of town.  Along the way will be deer sculptures at Quiet Creek Inn, Strawberry Creek Inn, the Help Center, Idyllwild School, Mile High Café, Idyllwild Art in the Park, the Courtyard Gallery and Fratello’s. From the Pine Cove Market, where three of the original herd reside, a buck will call the Nature Center “home” and two new deer at Idyllwild Bunkhouse will fill in the gap between Idyllwild and Pine Cove.  In addition to the deer, Aluminum Yard Art donated a coyote sculpture.    

 A buck with the theme “Americana” will stand proud next to Idyllwild Inn.  It celebrates the armed services: a fitting adjunct to the American Flag that flies in the Idy Park in the center of town.  Within the park itself will be a family of deer:  a buck, a doe and a fawn. From the center of town to Fern Valley, new deer will appear at Mountain Paws, the Town Hall, Fireside Inn, Tommy’s Restaurant, Café Aroma and IDYology. 

For the most part, artists and sponsors decided between themselves the theme of their deer.  “Birdie” is the creation of Artist Sherri Domenigoni.  This doe will be placed at the Bluebird Cottage Inn whose cottages are identified by different bird names.  These birds will be featured on the deer.

A fawn will now sit next to the buck named “Jazzy” in front of Aroma café. Artist ULRIKE was inspired to write a children’s story about “Fawn Opal” and bring the fawn to life with color and a magical story surrounding it. 

Phyllis Mueller and Glenn Warren, Office Staff to the Mayors of Idyllwild, wanted their deer to honor Mayor Max, the First, and their rescue dog, Pookie, both sadly departed.  Artist Neil Jenkins turned their wishes into reality by painting portraits of Mayor Max, the First, and Pookie on one side of the buck, with the current Mayor Max and Deputy Mayors Mikey and Mitzi on the other side.  Animal Rescue Friends will be home to this distinctive addition to the herd. 

For several artists, this is the second deer they are painting.  For others, it is their first contribution to Idyllwild’s public art.  Many live in Idyllwild, some are “off the Hill” in the low desert communities such as Palm Springs.  Many feature the theme of nature as paint flows from the imagination onto the deer. 

A “Trail of the Painted Deer” map gives the location, name and description of each deer.  It also includes the Artists and Sponsors.

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