Longtime art lovers create CSUSB’s first endowed faculty fellowship Pamela and Dr. Benson Harer, longtime supporters of Cal State San Bernardino and its Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art (RAFFMA), have pledged $500,000 to establish the university’s first-ever fully-endowed faculty fellowship.

The Benson and Pamela Harer Fellowship will support a new tenure-track faculty position focused on Egyptology, a longtime passion for the Harers. The Harer Family Trust has provided a substantial collection of Egyptian antiquities as gifts and on permanent loan to RAFFMA. The collection has become the centerpiece for several educational programs, including a program for local children titled the “Summer Egyptian Workshop for Kids.”

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Mil-Tree’s “The Art Of War” was presented at Chaffey College in the Art Building’s Student Gallery March 12th from 12pm – 2pm. The show was curated by Rebecca Trawick, the director and curator of Chaffey’s Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art. The show’s original opening was in Joshua Tree at the Radio Free Joshua Tree Listening Lounge turned art gallery and spoken word salon on October 25th, 2013. It was part of the MBCAC Highway 62 Art Tours co-produced by Mil-Tree and RFJT. It was the brainchild of Carey Hayes and Tami Wood and curated by Mil-Tree’s Paula Jeane. The project successfully fulfilled the mission statement of Mil-Tree:

It is our mission to bring together veterans, active-duty military, and civilians in order to help each other to address the wounds of the soul through communication and art.

Through Mil-Tree, diverse people in the community come together to increase mutual understanding and respect, and are provided with safe opportunities to express, help process, and support the healing of soul wounds, especially those of war, through the power of storytelling, speak-outs, healing retreats, art, music, movement, and nature. 

The concept of “The Art Of War” was to match the poetry, prose, and songs of war veterans with visual art created by the Hi-Desert’s local artists. Included were sculptures, paintings, photography and collage and the writings were mounted on the wall next to the art. The spoken word event consisted of veterans, family members and friends of veterans who read their work and made the show even that much more profound and significant. Artists included Bobby Furst, Jacobine Van Der Meer, Tami Wood, Kit Brooks, Brian Leatart, to name a few. The veterans ranged from the Viet Nam War to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict. There were also readings by family members of World War 2 veterans.

The presentation at Chaffey College was sponsored by Mil-Tree, the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art, and One Book One College Program and was very well attended by students, faculty, friends and Chaffey’s own veterans club. Two members of the club joined the Mil-Tree family; David Valdivia exhibited his photography and Lin Thompson read his short essay. The event ended with the drawing of names resulting in five winners of exquisite Ehren Tool mugs. Altogether there were at least 50 audience members. It was a very moving experience for all.



The notion that art can be free, when we are accustomed to determining something’s worth with a dollar sign, is almost absurd. It brings up questions about the intrinsic value and legitimacy of art outside of those predetermined, capitalistic, boundaries. In the free art movement, artists place their works in public spaces, plain view, or hidden, and it’s yours for the taking. This movement is all over the country and is growing in momentum. Free art forces the traditional exhibit beyond the walls of the gallery where it’s hung, makes the artist their own curators, and entire cities are transformed into galleries. And that’s empowering.

Artist Nick Bahula says, “I think that people overvalue money…I think the experience [of finding a free art piece] is more important.” Bahula takes photographs, or paintings, that he’s created, transfers them onto wooden blocks, and then hides them in Redlands, Yucaipa, and the surrounding areas. This medium came from the need of having creative control over his work–ensuring that each reproduced piece becomes an original. For him what art does is change lives and make things better. What free art does is create a mystery that those who find his blocks want to solve, and thus begins a dialogue about the who/why of art.

Inspired by Bahula, Willis Salomon (aka Garden Gorilla) entered the free arts scene just recently. His medium: plants; specifically succulents (plants that don’t need much water). For Salomon, the creative process itself, rather than the finished product, is one of the most crucial aspects. He explains, “[Art] is all about the hands on thing, and it becomes subjective after that…after that it’s for the public, for whatever they choose to do with it, in their minds or in their hands.” Perhaps this is why he associates the importance of art with the ability to create something from nothing. Artist as creator; in the whole sense of the word. In Salomon’s case, he works with living art, and encourages us to go green–and to not forget to transplant, lest the artwork die.

So, if you’re in the San Bernardino area, and you have stumbled upon small succulents in interesting planters, in places where succulents should not be–in front of a business or sitting on the sidewalk–hoping you will take them home and love them, or have come across colorful wooden blocks in an alley way or in front a small business daring you to take them, take them. They were left there for you.

If you’d like more information about the free arts movement or to find out more about Nick Bahula and Willis Salomon follow them on Instagram: @bahula, @freeartsmovement, @gardengorilla.



Maddy Lederman’s debut novel, EDNA IN THE DESERT, chronicles a tech-addicted, Los Angeles teen stranded at her grandparents’ remote cabin without cell phone service, Internet or television. The tale takes place in sections of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.

“I started writing this story after I did an interview with a couple in Wonder Valley, about thirty miles from Joshua Tree, CA,” Lederman says. “They live with no cell phone service or computers. I kept leaving messages on their answering machine and waiting days for a response. I wondered how a modern kid might function this way because all my friends’ kids are permanently attached to their phones. The result is a story that’s like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills meets Little House on The Prairie.”

Lederman’s character, Edna, is in trouble at her private school. Ineffective therapy leads her parents to come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer with her grandparents.

“Naturally she’s not going to take it, so she runs away. Anyone who spends time in the desert knows this is very dangerous. She’s terrified, and completely unconnected for the first time in her life. Later she tries to get to know a boy without the help of messaging or social media. It seems impossible.”

Lederman’s work in film and TV is what first brought her to the Mojave Desert and, writing for The Sun Runner magazine, she got to know the region. “There are a lot of survivalists in the desert who want nothing to do with the outside world. They don’t know what Facebook or Twitter is. On the other end of the spectrum, some city kids are so sophisticated, every moment of their life is documented, tracked and planned. It’s an interesting clash in the same society. I know teachers who say their students don’t think they have to learn anything anymore because they can look everything up on their phones. I wanted to take a kid like that and see how she fares without technology, and then combine it with the calming effect of the Mojave’s mysterious landscape.”

EDNA IN THE DESERT debuted as a short story in Desert Stories, an annual spoken word event at The Hi-Desert Playhouse in Joshua Tree in 2009.

“Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen to Edna and so did I, so I decided to write the book. It’s about the widening gap between generations and how technology is changing our culture. There’s a lot of books about technology in the near future and I’m a dystopia fan, but in many ways this contemporary, realistic story is more eerie than a fantasy.”

EDNA IN THE DESERT was released in Sept. 2013 by Electio Publishing.

Surviving tech-free: EDNA IN THE DESERT

Edna is a precocious trouble-maker wreaking havoc at her Beverly Hills school. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents. Their remote cabin is cut off from cell phone service, Internet and television. Edna’s determined to rebel until she meets an older local boy and falls in love for the first time. How can she get to know him from the edge of nowhere?

Maddy Lederman works in the art department for films and TV shows, recently on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and The Amazing Spiderman 2. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and The Los Angeles Times and The Sun Runner, a magazine about California deserts. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. EDNA IN THE DESERT was released Sept. 2013 by Electio Publishing, Little Elm Texas.



“Is he Dead?” which opened at Redlands Footlighters Theatre March 6, is a play by American writer Mark Twain that was discovered in 2002. It is a farce about friendship, love, and financial struggles of an artist, a story influenced by Twain’s own personal experiences. I met with director Carol Damgen for a chat about the unique play, her ambitions as a director and playwright, and theatre in the San Bernardino area.

Esther: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Carol: I teach at Cal State San Bernardino; I’ve been there 10 years teaching in the Theatre Arts department. While I’m full time there, I am also a director, playwright and actor. I’ve done scene design, sound design, costume design. So theatre consumes me.

Esther: I understand you’re doing your MFA low residency; where and in what?

Carol: It’s at UCR. So yeah, I have my bachelors in theatre. I have my masters in communication studies, with a focus on performance studies, and then my MFA is in writing for the performing arts.

Esther: You’ve done two original plays. Is writing something that you see yourself transitioning into, away from directing? Or are you interested in a combination of the both?

Carol: I think it’s a combination of the two. I used to only want to act, but I’ve always had a desire to write. It’s kind of funny. My mom always used to tell me that I was a good writer, but I never really believed her. And then I just decided that I would give it a shot and I wrote a play based on Edgar Allan Poe. It’s called the “The Twists and Turns of Edgar Allan Poe” and luckily it was produced and had a fully realized production at Cal State, San Bernardino which is how I was accepted into the Dramatist Guild. Recently, I wrote an original play about Jackie Robinson, which is still touring. We have our last tour date tomorrow. We’ve been working on this show since November of last year. I do love to write and because my MFA is in writing for the performing arts, I am concentrating on my writing at the moment. .

Esther: I’ve noticed many arts programs and events in San Bernardino County are rooted in or associated with Cal State San Bernardino. Could you talk a little bit about this?

Carol: We are the only public university in the county and we have a huge outreach program when it comes to art, theatre, music, and dance. So many times we take theatre, dance, music, or art programs out into the community and make sure that it’s very important for teachers to have the ability to bring arts to the students. Unfortunately with budget cuts it’s very challenging sometimes. So I’m a teacher leader with the California Arts project, which means that I teach teachers how to bring drama and theatre into their programs. We actually physically go into the schools and bring theatre to the students, because many don’t get a chance to see any theatre and they deserve the chance to have an art class, be involved with music, learn an instrument, and hopefully have the ability to dance or witness a dance recital. So I think Cal State San Bernardino is really an important aspect to keeping culture alive in San Bernardino.

Esther: So in terms of the play, what interested you in directing “Is He Dead”?

Carol: I love Mark Twain; he is one of my favorite writers. This is a little gem that he actually wrote in the 1800’s and it was passed on. He was a man who most people know as one of the most prolific American writers of all time, but he’s also a writer who went through some hard times, and owed quite a few debts. So he had to travel around the world to go on speaking engagements to pay back his creditors. And so he thought it would be interesting to write about a famous man who is a very talented person, but who ends up owing a lot of money, and that’s how this play came about. But it was passed on; people weren’t interested in it at the time so it was kind of forgotten. Then in the mid-2000’s there was a dramaturg and historian who found the play and she brought it to David Ives, who is a very famous playwright in his own right, and he was very interested and adapted it and then it ended up going to Broadway in 2007 and people were very excited. So it is new to many audiences. People will say, “‘Is he dead?’ What’s that?’ ‘it’s a new play by Mark Twain’ and they say ‘How can it be a new play by Mark Twain he’s been dead for a long time.’” Well it is new because it was just within the last 10 years that it has been discovered, and because very few people have seen it- unless you were lucky enough to see it on Broadway a few years ago.

Esther: What would you describe as the essence or core theme of the play that Ives tried to retain in the adaptation?

Carol: I think that the essence is that love conquers all, and friendship is an important aspect of life, and if you don’t have friends then you have nothing. The main character has three wonderful friends who no matter what, through thick or thin, they are going to make sure they figure out how to help him and how to help others. So it’s the basics of life – love and friends.

Esther: So is this what modern audiences will take away?

Carol: I think so. Why it resonates with today’s modern audiences is that it follows what modern dramatic literature is built on, conflict. And in a perfect world, in the world of farce, if you’re a good person, good things will happen to you..

Esther: What is your relationship with Redlands Footlighters Theatre?

Carol: I actually performed on this stage, but I haven’t been back for 20 years. They hired me based on my reputation, which is lovely. I know a few people in the cast who I have directed in shows before and my stage manager is one of my former students from Cal State. But the rest of the cast is new to me; they are all delightful, hardworking people, very talented, and it is because of them that this is going to be a great show.

Esther: Redlands Footlighters Theatre began in 1945 and has remained a strong supporter of cultural productions and theatre in San Bernardino County. Do you think “Is he Dead” is unique in terms of the Redlands Footlighters Theatre’s normal programming?

Carol: I think that this theatre is very well rounded and they take a lot of chances. They like to bring classics but they also like to have a nice variety for their audience. I think this play fits very nicely into what they usually build their season on. I think that it’s exciting that they are bringing a show that I’ve never seen in this area; so I think RFL has that history of taking a chance on a show that they know the story is solid and they know they can get the talent to pull it off.

Esther: Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself?

Carol: Oh gosh… you know the last thing that I’d just like to say is that I’m very, very blessed I get to do something I really care about every single day of my life. And my whole world, except for my family, involves theatre. And I’m very lucky, and I don’t take that lightly. No matter what I do in my free time it is always about theatre. Whether it’s about bringing theatre into a child’s life or making sure that there’s good theatre locally. And if I can have a hand in it, if I can be a part of it, then that’s where I’ll be.

“Is He Dead” is playing at the Redlands Footlighters Theatre from March 6 to March 23.

More details can be found at their website: