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Local artist hosts Compassionate Arts in Action retreat

The weekend of June 8 and 9, artists, activists, and musicians from up and down the state converged in Fallbrook to relax, celebrate community, and enjoy a weekend art retreat at the home of local distinguished artist and delightful host Kira Carrillo Corser. Local resident Nancy Heinz-Glaser was also present to enjoy the company and festivities.

Referring to her guests, she said, "These particular artists are part of Compassionate Arts in Action, a group I co-founded," said Corser. "We partner with different organizations all across the country on projects to help communities."

The retreat was for artists who want to make a difference in the world. Corser and her partner, Tyde Richards, hosted the retreat on their peaceful and beautiful 10-acre estate in Fallbrook. Richards is a retired computer engineer and locally teaches Tai Chi at the Regional Wellness Center. The views, flowers, local fruit and Swallowtail butterflies made it an ideal spot to relax, refuel, imagine, and create.

Corser has a colorful and accomplished career over three decades, and many of her guests are well-known leaders in their communities. Corser's work focuses on social justice, mental health, environmental issues, and community engagement through art. Her background is rich with accomplishments in photography, teaching, and collaborative art projects.

She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from John F. Kennedy University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from San Diego State University. Her career began as a photojournalist, and she later worked as the Head of Still Photography for Public Broadcasting in San Diego for 10 years. Additionally, she spent eight years teaching at California State University Monterey Bay, where she developed courses on visual literacy and community arts​.

Throughout her career, she has been involved in numerous high-profile exhibitions and projects. Her photography has been showcased in prestigious venues, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, the U.S. Senate and Congress buildings in Washington, D.C.​ and 19 states including capitol buildings. Her work often integrates elements of social and environmental advocacy, aiming to inspire change and raise awareness on critical issues.

One of Corser's notable projects that started locally is "Sea Changes ACT," promoting ocean conservation and understanding of climate change through immersive art experiences. This project collaborates with scientists and artists to create impactful visual and auditory experiences that highlight the urgent need for environmental action​ (https://www.arttochangetheworld.org/kira-corser-team-support/)​.

It was initially funded by a grant from the San Diego Arts Network. Another significant endeavor is "Posts for Peace and Justice," a national project that uses art to foster discussions on peace and social justice, involving intergenerational communities in creating symbolic artworks​​.

In addition to her environmental work, Corser has co-authored several books and produced numerous videos that explore themes such as healthcare, homelessness, and addiction. These works have received support from various organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Wellness Foundation.​.

Kira Carrillo Corser continues to live and work in Fallbrook, where she remains an active figure in the arts community, contributing to both local and national conversations through her powerful and thought-provoking art, as well as serving as an ambassador to other artists for the town she calls home.

In addition to award-winning fine art pieces created by Corser on her property and in her home, she has 18 colorful 8-foot painted posts on display. She said, "These posts are another project that I co-founded called Posts for Peace and Justice. Each one of these posts is created by between five and 20 artists. They are called "Posts" instead of peace poles because they are painted on fence posts and also have corresponding "Posts" on social media."

She continued, "At the Carter Center we had 100 human rights defenders from around the world plus President Carter participate at our Posts exhibition and presentation."

During COVID-19, Corser saw serious problems with suicide, anxiety and depression of youth in her family and in communities. She organized a 6-month Mental Health Series on Zoom, led by Compassionate Arts Youth Ambassadors ages 13 to 26. Adult mentors included Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-known advocate for autism, on a panel with youth discussing the health challenges and positive side of being on the autism spectrum.

The Autism Post has attached small wooden boxes with artistic messages inside that were created during the pandemic by youth. Local autism advocate Robin Williams helped mentor the Lead Artist, high school student Madison Ross. Ross attended the Compassionate Arts in Action Retreat with her family and participated in the youth program.

Corser pointed to another Post and said, "This one was created with a panel discussion on 'Depression and Loneliness.' The Lead Artist was Fe Love, aka Felecia Lenee Williams. She passed away three years ago from an autoimmune disease. Fe Love was a performance artist and my co-founder of Compassionate Arts, so we're continuing in her honor."

"We had four different Post and Zoom Panel Discussion topics: "Depression & Loneliness," "Anxiety & Worry," "Diversity & Inclusiveness," and "Autism & Health Connections." The panels were recorded and are on our website, http://www.CompassionateArts.org."

Among the retreat guests was Professor Jennifer Colby who came from Monterey County. "She was a professor with me at Cal State University Monterey Bay. She also runs Luna Gallery in San Juan Bautista, an environmentally focused gallery. Colby has been running galleries for years, while working to develop professional practices with teachers in the schools. She has been a friend of mine for 40 years," said Corser.

She introduced others in the group, "Maria Kostelas has been another long-term friend of mine. She's just an amazing musician and artist. Deanne Salleh lives in Fallbrook part of the time and in Washington state part of the time. Salleh taught a workshop on How to paint on Palm Bark with inspiring Messages.

Adonia R. Bailey has her own cable program and teaches art with Heather Hillard Bonds in the schools in Pasadena. Paulina Truong works for the film industry in LA., and Sylvia Homes is an environmental performance artist and activist."

Among Corser's many projects and organizations, one is the Wellness for Children Project which helps kids and families cope with illness and stress. Corser has been growing this work for over 20 years. She explained that the project stemmed from her experience as a cancer survivor and from working with her friend, whose 3-year-old contracted leukemia. Corser has five books that Compassionate Arts recently published as part of the project.

Corser is more thankful for her life after an ovarian cancer diagnosis and the doctor giving her a 50% chance of living 34 years ago. She had another more recent bout but has been clear for four years.

She said, "So you can beat cancer, but it does take its toll, and it also changes you. It is like everything is different after cancer. Now I'm committed to people of diversity and people who are struggling, to help them see that moments make a difference." She explained this has influenced her Compassionate Arts in Action, "I know that art can save a life, or make it worth living."

 

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