Gifted young artists from Idyllwild Arts show their art at Middle Ridge Winery

Middle Ridge Winery and Tasting Room Manager Tamara Johnston shows the many artworks which will be on display at the winery from student artists from the Idyllwild Arts Academy through March 12. Tony Ault photo

The Middle Ridge Winery in Idyllwild with its A-frame structure drew a packed house Saturday, Jan. 27, as 25 student artists from the Idyllwild Arts Academy and local professional artists who showed their finest works at the Idyllwild Collection “Fire & Ice.”

The academy students are not ordinary teenage students from all over the world; they are students who already have outstanding artistic talent which is being cultivated and improved at the school. Their work, from acrylic and oils to ceramics and mixed media, express line and color contrast, rival the top professionals and must be seen to be believed.

Winery owner Chris D. Johnston and tasting gallery manager Tamara Johnston welcomed the students last week as they delivered their artwork and helped to hang and showcase the pieces on the second floor of the winery at the opening day event Saturday at 54301 N. Circle Drive in downtown Idyllwild. The student artwork and artwork of other noted local artists will remain on display and for sale at the winery through March 12.

Accompanying the young artists for the opening exhibition was academy art instructor Rachel Welch.

“It’s great for them to show in town,” Welch said. “It is a first for this many artists.”

She said the students coming to the school are chosen by application and must submit a portfolio of their work before admission.

“They must show they want to grow as artists,” Welch said.

This growth attitude was shown by student artist Yujia “Yuga” Li, a 17-year-old junior from China whose ceramic pieces were shown in a glass case and her oil painting titled “Purity” hung on the wall. “I see the beauty of the human body, its curves, lines, shapes and contrast in my painting,” Yuga said.

As beautiful as her painting is, she said she still preferred ceramics.

“It’s so relaxing, throwing at the wheel,” she said.

Asked if she wanted to be an artist, she said, “Yes. I want to be a professional artist for sure.”

South Korean native Jiwon “Lily” Kim, a 19-year-old senior at the academy has been at the school for five years.

“I am from South Korea and love to create symbolism in my artwork,” Lily said, looking at her acrylic painting entitled “Halcyon – Heaven in Life.” Her colorful piece shows a human standing between a serpent and smiling pigs depicting “a sort of purgatory,” she said.

“It started as a sort of religious piece, but went to this,” Lily said with a smile. She happily showed another charcoal and paper piece she calls “Halt.”

Her work and that of other students have impressed the visitors, selling several pieces already.

Welch said about a dozen of the student pieces have sold, and she said others are certain to sell.

Middle Ridge Winery in Idyllwild, in addition to its rotating art exhibits, provides entertainment venues and wine tasting with a dozen preferred wines from Temecula Valley, Napa Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and other California wines. The 4,000-square-foot Middle Ridge Winery and Tasting Gallery is open noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and noon to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. It is closed Tuesdays. Call (951) 659-9000 for information or visit

The Idyllwild Arts Academy is located at 52500 Temecula Road in Idyllwild. The academy is a private school that provides professional training in the arts and a comprehensive college preparatory curriculum to a diverse student body of gifted young artists from all over the world. Call (951) 659-2171 for admission information or visit [email protected]

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