Vonderschmitt sees vibrant future for the arts
Jane Van Camp
Village Life correspondent
Promote, Connect, Empower — those are the words printed at the top of Andrew Vonderschmitt’s business card. Vonderschmitt is the new program director for the El Dorado Arts Council (EDAC) and he said he stands by those words as a promise to the many artists living and working in El Dorado County.
Vonderschmitt’s office still has that not-quite-moved-into look because he just arrived in December. His office window looks out over downtown Placerville from the front of the Fausel House on Pacific Street. After decades of standing derelict, the Fausel House has a new life and a new look, now that it houses EDAC and the gallery.
The wonderful art work on the recently reconstructed walls makes the building look months old instead of more than 100 years old.
Vonderschmitt, 47, chose Placerville partly because of the history that the Fausel House represents. A native of Southern California, he is drawn to the rural and historical flavor of this county. He has lived in other small towns but feels very much at home here.
“There is so much history here and yet there is a cultural renaissance happening as well,” he said. “The downtown has both Old West charm and a hip scene that can draw people here.”
Along with executive director Terry LeMoncheck, administrative coordinator Caitlin Thompson and gallery attendant Joy Martin, Vonderschmitt will be working on the development of a new master plan to take the arts in a new direction for El Dorado County.
Plans in the process
Though he cannot give details of the plan just yet, he hopes to see it implemented before the end of the year. In general, he hinted at the philosophy he hopes will drive it.
Using his three-word promise, Vonderschmitt said the role of an arts council is to promote artists of all types: painters, actors, photographers, dancers, sculptors, etc.; to connect artists with the public and importantly with each other; and finally to empower artists to be able to pursue their talents and to have the support they need to do what they do best.
“Art drives economics,” said Vonderschmitt, who sees a strong artistic community as being beneficial to the resources of the county, as well as to the artists. “Economic development must include the arts.”
Many communities in California prove the point. Places like Carmel, Napa and nearby Nevada City show that art and culture enrich community residents and they also draw tourists and art lovers from around the world. Our location between thestate capital and Lake Tahoe is advantageous as a stop-off point.
With a background as both an actor and a director, Vonderschmitt has a special interest in theater, but he understands and appreciates all of the arts. He knows how difficult it can be to pursue creative work.
He wants EDAC to do more than many arts councils do. Instead of just giving money to individual projects, he wants to build a community of artists working together to create a stronger connection.
“Few artists create for themselves … they need an audience,” said Vonderschmitt. “I want to see more communication between artists to develop a base of strength for the promotion of their works. Often, artists work alone in out-of-the way studios where they can become isolated from others with similar interests.”
Vonderschmitt said his focus will be not only Placerville itself but the entire county.
“We hope to breach the ‘granite curtain’ between the Western Slope and the Tahoe area.”
He will also reach out to more remote parts of the county that may harbor gems of history or creativity that aren’t as well known.
“Soon we will have an exhibit based on the Veerkamp/Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Historical Ranch on Cold Springs Road near Gold Hill,” he said.
The ranch is an evolving project that will have a grand sesquicentennial in 2019 to celebrate the 150 year history of the tea colony and venerable Veerkamp ranch. Many artists, poets and photographers have explored the ranch for creative ideas and have produced a gallery-full of exquisite artistic interpretations of that beautiful and special property.
Vonderschmitt has a personal goal for being here.
“My wife and I love being here. Every day we say to each other, we live here!”
He and his wife Martina are new parents. Baby Morgan is a focus of their lives as well and they are eager to bring her up in a small town environment.
“We both love nature and hiking, so we are happy to be away from the urban crowds of Long Beach and the L.A. area,” he said. “The location of this county has so many possibilities and opportunities. We hope to see it grow as a cultural center both for the public and for the local artists that reside here.”
Visitors are welcome to come to the Fausel House to view the local art works on display and learn more about the new plans for EDAC.
For more information and ways to contribute visit the EDAC website at eldoradoartscouncil.org or call (530) 295-3496.