The idea of a local summer camp for young arts students developed after a group of educators and citizens from El Dorado County visited another fine arts camp located in Idyllwild, California. The group included Blaine Wishart, who was the El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools.
In 1959, the first El Dorado County fine arts camp was held in south Lake Tahoe, California and was administered through the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE). The camp was initially called the El Dorado Summer School Camp. For the first camp, two El Dorado County teachers, Don Gerhauser and John Pratt, took 60 campers to a school in South Lake Tahoe. The first camp was a music camp.
Between 1960 and 1963, the camp was held at the Old Oak Youth Ranch in Sonora. During that time, the camp program expanded to include an art component.
At the conclusion of the 1963 camp, a group of local citizens, spearheaded by James & Holly Elliott decided to try and locate a facility within El Dorado County for the summer camp.
Camp Sugarloaf & A New Foundation
In 1964, two things of significance occurred. First, the camp relocated to the Sugarloaf Station site, a 110-acre property in the high Sierra provided by Bob and Clara Neilsen. The camp was located north of Highway 50 between Placerville and South Lake Tahoe, California, near Sugarloaf Rock and above Silverfork, the site of the historic Sugarloaf Station Pony Express mail stop. (Hence, the name.) There were only two permanent buildings on the Sugarloaf Station camp site the first year, a screened kitchen and a cabin that housed and quarters for the cooks. The rest of the camp was composed of tents. Eventually, tent platforms and other buildings were added to the site and the camp continued to use the property from 1964 to 1974.
The second thing that occurred in 1964 was the formation of the Superior California Music and Art Foundation to help raise funds for the new camp. thus began a partnership between the non-profit and EDCOE. The same year, the State of California granted the Foundation tax exempt status. The Department of the Treasury/IRS later conveyed 501(c)(3) status.
In November of 1967, the Foundation changed its name to the Sugarloaf Station Foundation, Inc to be consistent with the location of the camp.
While located at the Sugarloaf Station site, the camp also changed its name, first to Sugarloaf Station Music and Art Camp, and then later to Sugarloaf MAD (Music, Art and Drama) Camp, each name change reflecting an expansion of the programs being offered. As the camp continued to diversify its program offerings, its current name, Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp, was eventually adopted.
In 1972, the Neilsens made a charitable gift of the camp property to the Kiwanis Cali-Nev-Ha Foundation. The gift was conditioned on the property being used as a youth oriented recreational and educational facility for the next thirty years. The Neilsens retained an interest in the property for the benefit of EDCOE. The charitable gift also stated that if the primary use of the property ever changed, EDCOE had the right to re-enter and take possession.
Camp For Sale
In the early 1980s, Kiwanis decided to sell the property. With that development, the Neilsens gifted their interest in the Sugarloaf property to EDCOE. The transfer was made in order to effect the sale of the property and with the understanding that the proceeds of the sale of the property would be placed into a trust account to be used for the support, maintenance and promotion of youth oriented cultural art programs.
The Neilsens’ gift established the Sugarloaf Trust Fund. EDCOE agreed that the annual income generated from the trust would be given to the Sugarloaf Station Foundation for the support of the camp. For its part, the Foundation agreed to continue to help EDCOE promote, arrange and carry on the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp.
The Current Camp Site
With the sale of the Sugarloaf Station property, the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp no longer had a permanent location for its annual summer camp. Since 1984, the camp has leased various locations. The camp has most recently leased the Sly Park Outdoor Education facility operated by the Sacramento County Office of Education.
In 2000, the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp celebrated its 40th year of providing fine art instruction to the youth of El Dorado County. The same year, EDCOE, with the consent of the Neilsens and the Sugarloaf Station Foundation, authorized the transfer of a significant portion of the Sugarloaf Trust Fund to the El Dorado Community Foundation (EDCF). In addition to preserving the trust funds for the future, the transfer created a matching fund (The ECCF Cultural Arts Fund) for other arts programs in El Dorado County. The Sugarloaf Station Foundation and EDCOE had joined with a new partner to move into the new century.
Helping Youth In Need
Over the years, the Sugarloaf Station Foundation has provide scholarships for many of the 13,000 young artists who have attended the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp. Between 1999 and 2008 alone, the Foundation worked with many El Dorado County service groups, individuals and entities and has administered more than $160,700.00 in scholarships to enrich the lives of about 1,000 Sugarloaf artists.
Building A Camp For Our Own
A goal of the Foundation has been to locate and establish a new permanent facility for the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp. The Foundation Board and Officers have worked diligently in that regard and will continue efforts to locate or build a new camp. In the meantime, the Foundation continues to support the Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp and the Foundation has remained consistent with its mission for more than 45 years.
50 Years Old And Still Going Strong
In 2010, Sugarloaf Fine Arts Camp celebrated the 50th year the El Dorado County Office of Education has offered such camps for county youth. More than 400 young artists now attend camp each year.
At the outset, the Foundation was founded on the premise that, in a world of increasing pressures and distractions, visual and performing arts must be made a more vital, creative and rejuvenating part of our lives. While our world and our community have evolved over the past four decades, the underlying premise still exists and the Sugarloaf Station Fine Arts Foundation remains a strong supporter of the El Dorado County’s young artists.
The Sugarloaf Station Fine Arts Foundation believes that our greatest resource will always be our youth. We are devoted to continuing to create opportunities for young artists to inspire their creativity and to permit them to interpret and perform all aspects of fine art.