When she first learned about Artista Creative, Newport Beach resident Debi Yao hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in 20 years. Still, the opportunity to spend a week creating ar t in Carmel felt right.
“I was in a place in my life where I really needed something like that,” says Yao. “Suddenly, I found myself in tears. The ad was calling to me.”
Artista Creative is one of three programs offered by Carmel-based Manifesta Corporation. “We make girls out of women” is the company mantra, and the empowering programs are designed to encourage creativity, build confidence and cultivate friendships.
For 10 years, Manifesta’s surf, art and golf excursions have brought women new skills and increased self-awareness. Yao calls her experience “a light at the end of the tunnel” that reintroduced her to painting—and to joy.
“Painting was my favorite part, that’s what I came to do, but the little touches meant so much,” she says.“They made me feel special, and I hadn’t felt that in a long time. All the staff and everybody there were such gems.”
“We are a small staff doing big things,” says Manifesta Founder Bev Sanders, whose company has been featured in Travel + Leisure, Oprah Winfrey’s O, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. Soft-spoken and strong-minded, Sanders has always done big things. A Massachusetts native, she grew up on the slopes and secured her first ski instructor position by age 16. Eventually moving to Lake Tahoe, she continued teaching and met her husband, Chris. Together, they helped introduce the ski industry to what was then a new sport: snowboarding.
“Chris and I were knocking on doors and working hard,” Bev remembers.“ It was fun, going against the grain and starting something new.”
As they promoted the sport, Bev and Chris built boards in their garage and, in 1982, launched Avalanche Snowboards. The company introduced one of the first ever female-specific boards, and Bev continued as an advocate for women in the sport. Her efforts earned her a “Pioneer Woman in Snowboarding” designation from Transworld Snowboarding Magazine.
Then on a trip to Hawaii, at age 44, Bev took her first surf lesson. “It really did change a lot of things for me,” she says. Among those changes was a new career. Later that year, she launched Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women.
Since 1997, Las Olas participants have headed to Mexico’s Pacific coast for surf lessons and self-discovery. Days start with yoga overlooking the ocean, followed by breakfast, surf instruction and practice. Afternoons feature cultural pursuits, from learning local guacamole recipes to speaking Spanish to exploring tropical jungles. Each weeklong excursion is capped at 18 guests, who stay in cabana-style, ocean-view villas.
When a survey of Las Olas guests revealed interest in painting, Manifesta introduced Artista Creative Safaris in downtown Carmel. Painter Lauryn Taylor leads intuitive, abstract painting classes; a new encaustic painting workshop painting with wax) features Benicia artist Bill Harsh. Like Las Olas, the women-only workshops include inspirational outings and everything from airport pickups to accommodations to snacks and champagne.
“I can’t say enough about how much I love this community,” Sanders says.“You walk around and you are just surrounded by beauty. It is perfect for this business.”
Manifesta’s newest program is Las Verdes Golf Safaris, operated at Carmel Valley’s Quail Lodge. Local LPGA teaching professional Katherine Nino trains guests in an environment free of intimidation or judgment. Like Sanders, Nino started in sports while young, and she uses a sports psychology background to help women excel on and off the course. As it teaches patience and focus, Sanders believes golf also opens new doors.
“So many business decisions are made on the golf course and women are often kept out,” she says, adding that golf also impacts social opportunities. When both members of a couple play, for example, they can share an afternoon of golf instead of pursuing separate activities.
A new safari, scheduled to start in 2008, will focus on fashion. Plans include personal time with a clothing designer, an introduction to fabrics, patterns and sewing, and the creation of at least one outfit.
With such compelling excursions, Manifesta Safaris draws diverse groups of women. Guests range in age from their mid-20s to their 70s. Some are well-traveled working professionals; others have raised families and now want to see the world. For some, the trip celebrates medical school graduation or the end of cancer treatments. Though most guests travel solo, a few come with friends or family.
Whatever their background, Sanders says participants share “the same desire to invest in and enjoy themselves.” Over the course of the workshops and activities, she watches participants regain lost vigor and perspective.
“I see people lose weight,” she says. “They lose the weight of the world that had been on their shoulders. I watch women smile. They’re lighthearted. They are fun as a group—they play, listen to each other and get along so fabulously.”
For more information, call 831/625-5748 or go to www.manifestasafaris.com.