‘Hidden Treasures’ to celebrate unsung leaders in Encinitas


For some people, being active in a community provides a sense of belonging and an opportunity to help shape the community’s character. And when leaders within the community offer service, caring, compassion or wisdom for the greater good — often without reward or recognition — everyone benefits.

Lois Sunrich, founding director of the nonprofit Story Arts Inc., is keenly aware of this aspect of selfless service, and has created a community-based story project for Encinitas called “Hidden Treasures” to celebrate these unsung leaders.

The project is based around five emerging artists and five hidden leaders from Encinitas, who will be paired to create a citywide Story Arts reading and book arts exhibit that retells the leaders’ life stories while showcasing the artists’ creativity.

Their stories will be shared in a group setting, so that everyone participating can also hear them.

That idea came from a 2010 project through Story Arts called “Twelve Women, Twelve Months, Twelve Stories,” Sunrich explained. “Everybody in the group came together, once a month, when everyone got to hear each other’s stories.” Hidden Treasures will follow this model, she said.

After the stories are gathered, the artists will attend a weekend workshop to make an art piece out of what they heard in the group settings when they were together.

“They will be paired off, but they will get the chance to build community, which is a really strong piece of the work that we do,” Sunrich said.

This idea has been a common thread for Story Arts for the past 25 years, through the community-based story projects and the publication arm of the organization, which publishes life story books.

“Passing stories on is a powerful tool for community building. These stories belong to the community. So we would like to celebrate them and gift them back to the community,” Sunrich said.

With the launch of the project’s concept, Sunrich is asking the Encinitas community for recommendations for those who may be considered hidden leaders, so far unrecognized for their efforts.

“It should be someone who we don’t usually hear about. They are in the neighborhood or in the PTA. They are the mailman, somebody’s sister or brother, people who are out there who are making a difference — but no one knows about them.”

The artists will also be Encinitas-based and the age range will be broad, but each artist will not be well-known — rather, just beginning on their creative paths.

“We will teach them and provide them with the materials and skills to create a book art that will retell their partner’s story, which will then be exhibited at the Encinitas Library along with a public reading of the stories,” said Sunrich. “We want the artists to understand the power of story, so we are looking for artists who would really like to know more about how to use story in their own art work.”

The project is in the funding phase, with about half of the necessary money donated by the Seth Sprague Foundation. A further $10,000 is required, Sunrich said.

Story Arts is hoping that the community likes the idea and that local businesses will help fund it. “By seeking funding from the community, it is in keeping with the spirit of the project,” said Sunrich.

The official funding launch will be in September, with “Hidden Treasures” projected to be exhibited next spring.

Visit for information on the Hidden Treasures project, to make a tax-deductible donation, or to suggest a hidden leader or artist. Or call 760- 436-3970.