With the intention of building a gallery that would “welcome significant touring shows,” the Whittier Art Association was founded in 1934. The Los Angeles galleries were battling with dwindling sales during the height of the Great Depression. The Whittier Art Gallery attracted guests from all over the Southland and provided working artists with a venue to display and market their creations. It was situated halfway between Los Angeles and the Laguna Beach art community. The Art Association established a permanent gallery in Whittier on Painter Avenue in 1939, and they soon started displaying the works of many of the most well-known artists in the Southland. The Gallery has offered free monthly art exhibits to the public for more than 80 years.
Arthur Miller, the art critic for the Los Angeles Times, wrote highly of the center when it first opened in April 1939: “The town of Whittier, population 17,500, has the best designed, best equipped small public art center in the Southland.” Whittier has demonstrated the way forward for Southern California.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Whittier Art Association and Gallery.
The gallery served as the hub of Whittier’s artistic community and a gathering place for artists in its early years. Next door was the Green Arbor Inn, and there was a garden and a tree in the back as well as tables covered in linen and vividly colored umbrellas where “great meals” could be found. The most well-known artists of the era were drawn to Whittier by its location between the art galleries in Los Angeles and Pasadena and the artists’ community at Laguna Beach.
According to the gallery’s history, Norman Rockwell displayed in 1950. The exhibition also featured works by Edgar Payne, Conrad Buff, Glen Lukens, Emil Kosa, and Phil Dike.
In 1948, Disney animator Landy, who worked on the “Peter Pan” and Pluto cartoons, was elected president of the museum.
Ida O’Keeffe, a painter and Georgia O’Keeffe’s sister, was a member and held a number of officeholder positions, including second vice president.
When some leather binders from the Great Depression were found in the gallery’s downstairs cabinet in the 1990s, the Whittier Art Gallery’s unusual heritage was first revealed. After extensive research, we are pleased to share the history of the gallery through old newspaper articles that connect it to Pasadena, California-based professional artists from the Laguna Beach Art Gallery (now the Laguna Beach Art Museum), the California Water Color Society (now the National Water Color Society), and the California Art Club.
Next Point of Interest: Rose Hills Memorial Park