Depression-era Dream to Historic Landmark
The Whittier Art Gallery, located on Whittier’s tree-lined Painter Avenue, provides monthly exhibits, free to
the public. Solo and group shows feature the artwork of professional and emerging artists from throughout
The main floor and stage offer 1,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space with professional LED lighting and a wall hanging
system. Three moveable panels and a selection of pedestals are used to accommodate two and three-
The Whittier Art Association provides grants to fund annual school district exhibits for the Whittier City and
East Whittier School Districts. Multiple receptions welcome hundreds of visitors; students, proud family
members, school staff, administrators, and people from throughout the community. We look forward to
seeing student performances on the stage, and having the gallery filled with colorful artwork, the sound
of music, and laughter.
The archives of the Whittier Art Association & Gallery have been an invaluable source of information. The gallery’s documents and scrapbooks date back to 1934.
We wish to thank the staff of the Whittier Historical Society & Museum, especially Nickolas Edmeier, curator,
and Tracy Whitman, past president, whose knowledge and support were vital during our more than 200 hours of museum research.
The Museum’s Archives Room holds an extensive collection of original bound books of newspapers, and files full of important documents and photographs.
Sue Canterbury is the Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. Four years of her extensive effort and research, led to the exceptional exhibit, Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, and the book she authored to accompany the exhibit, Ida O’Keeffe Escaping Georgia’s Shadow.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude for all she has accomplished.
This is the article that inspired us to focus on Ida O’Keeffe’s life in Whittier. Sue Canterbury’s article published in the New York Times, ended with these words Ms. Canterbury said she was looking forward to more interviews and archive visits. Descendant of Ida O’Keeffe’s neighbors in Whittier, […]
The Ida O’Keeffe exhibit of paintings, monotypes, and photographs far exceeded our expectations. A true highlight was the display of Ida’s large personal scrapbook, where she had kept newspaper clippings from her exhibits in the East and South, as well and items from Whittier.
Laguna Art Museum Curator of Historical Art, Janet Blake, contributed to our research about Anna Hills and the Laguna Beach Art Association. It was Anna Hills who brought art education to Whittier in the 1920s. Janet Blake selected a quote from Mabel Haig’s writing to include in her book, 𝘔𝘪𝘴𝘴 𝘏𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘓𝘢𝘨𝘶𝘯𝘢 𝘉𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩.
The Whittier Public Library Digital Historical Photograph Collection has been a valuable resource in exploring life in Whittier between the early 1900’s and the late 1950’s. We would like to especially thank Erin Fletcher and Rachael Fiore for their assistance in locating photographs documents.
We would like to thank Linda Sorenson and Daniel Rohlfing for allowing us to post images from the Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery collection on this website.
This Bohemian Night image is one of the silk-screened posters that the Art Association used to advertise their Bohemian Night shows. The Whittier Art Association formed a partnership with the Whittier Civic Light Opera,
and what began as some humorous skits, performed in 1952, ended up as a very well attended annual event that lasted more than ten years.
Disney artist, Art Landy, became the President of the Whittier Art Association & Gallery, 1948-49. Through his leadership, the Association expanded its outreach to youth by providing the first school district art exhibit, and
giving free art lessons to hundreds of children.
Los Angeles Times art critic, Arthur Millier gives a positive review of the Whittier
Art Gallery’s opening night, stating,
“…a high level of intelligence and taste was needed to produce such a lovely place…”
The first Whittier Art Gallery was located in a donated space on Philadelphia Street in Whittier’s business district. The gallery was located in a large downstairs room, and the Art Association provided art classes in several upstairs studio rooms.
Note: Some buildings in Whittier’s business district were empty (not being rented), due to the Great Depression.
Mabel George Haig (1894 – 1977), and her husband Myron, moved to Whittier, California in 1914. Mabel pursued her art, becoming involved with the art colony in Laguna Beach. She became close friends with Anna Hills, who cofounded the Laguna Beach Art Association with Edgar Payne in 1918. Mabel exhibited at the Laguna Beach Art Gallery at least 28 times, beginning in 1921.
Mabel and Myron Haig spend the day “enjoying the beauties” of Laguna Beach.
The Hotel Laguna, and separate pavilion building, were owned by Mr. Yoch.
The old hotel pavilion in Laguna Beach is being remodeled under the direction of Edgar Payne, “to meet the needs
of an exhibition”. It will be known as the Laguna Art Gallery”.
Edgar Payne “completed a studio bungalow” in Laguna Beach in 1918. Under his direction,the old Laguna Hotel pavilion was remodeled to “meet the needs of an exhibition and club room”. This photo of Edgar Payne, was taken
in his Paris studio during his painting trip to Europe, c. 1922-1924.
The Laguna Beach Art Gallery opened in 1918. The gallery was managed by the Laguna Beach Art Association
that formed soon after the gallery’s opening. Edgar Payne was the Association’s first president, and Anna Hills,
the first vice president.
“In Laguna Beach…the old pavilion was converted to a gallery managed by the artists themselves…a permanent association has been formed.”
In 1920, about 300 people lived in Laguna Beach. People could “motor” to Laguna Beach by driving through
Laguna Canyon. Pacific Coast Highway from Newport Beach to Laguna was not completed until 1926.
Laguna Beach Art Association members exhibit at the Whittier Woman’s club house. Artists include Anna Hills, Hanson Puthuff, Edgar Payne, Karl Yens, Guy Rose, Sam Hyde Harris, and others.
Mabel Haig exhibits her water color painting “Morning Mist” in a competitive exhibit at the Southwest Museum,
in Los Angeles.
The Southwest Museum, located in Los Angeles, was constructed 1912-1914.
Mabel Haig exhibits in the August Anniversary exhibition of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Among the other exhibiting artists are Benjamin Brown, Frank Cuprien, Henri DeKruif, William Griffith, and Anna Hills.
Mabel George Haig is accepted as a member of the California Watercolor Society. She will exhibit with the group
in January at the Franklin Galleries in Hollywood.
Mabel spends a week with Anna Hills in Laguna at her home in Laguna Beach.
Mabel Haig is accepted as one of the first 20 members of the California Water Color Society. She exhibits with
the group’s artists including, Edouard Vysekal, Karl Yens, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, and Carl Borg.
Mabel Haig speaks about California Painters to a local women’s PEO group. The article mentions, “The fact that
Mrs. Haig is personally acquainted with many of these artists made it especially interesting. She predicted that California would some day be one of the great art centers of the world.”
Mabel Haig is honored as a finalist in a national House Beautiful Magazine cover design contest. “Her picture with others chosen for display, has been on exhibition at the Boston Public Library, and the Art Center in New York City, and will be shown in several other cities throughout the East, and in Chicago…”
Anna Hills of Laguna Beach teaches an art sketching class at the Whittier Woman’s club house. An exhibition and
tea are planned. “. . . Gentlemen will be welcomed at the exhibition.”
Thirty small water color paintings by Anna Hills and 100 sketches, the work of her sketch class students will be exhibited at the Whittier Woman’s clubhouse.
Anna Hills and her students exhibit at Whittier Woman’s clubhouse. Ten students, including Mrs. Myron J. Haig (Mabel Haig), exhibit water colors and oils.
Anna Hills, president of the Laguna Beach Art Association, teaches bi-monthly sketch class at the Whittier Woman’s club house.
Photo of Anna Hills, 1922
Laguna Beach Recognized Art Colony of West Coast
“The dream chasing artists” of the Laguna Beach Art Association see work on their new gallery begin. The new
gallery to be built on a high site overlooking the Pacific”.
The newly constructed Laguna Beach Art Gallery opened on February 16, 1929.
The prosperous Roaring Twenties came to an abrupt end with the stock market crash, October 24, 1929.
The Laguna Beach Art Association occurred some debt. The Art Association’s artists held three art auctions to
raise funds to pay-off the debt. Both Mabel Haig and her close friend, Anna Hills, donated paintings to be sold for
the benefit of the Art Association.
Anna Hills of Laguna Beach, internationally known landscapist, dies of a heart attack.
Memorial Exhibition of paintings by the late Anna Hills was shown at the Fern Burford Galleries in Hotel Laguna throughout May of 1931. Mabel Haig served as a hostess for the exhibition’s opening reception.
Mabel George Haig exhibits at the Laguna Beach Art Gallery in July, 1930. Her water color painting, Shanty Town
is entry #18. Some of the other participating artists are George Brandriff, Benjamin Brown, Frank Cuprien, Elanor Colburn, Phil Dike, Clyde Forsythe, William Griffith, Anna A. Hills, Joseph Kleitsch, Hanson Puthuff, Edgar Payne,
and Donna Schuster.
Meeting called to form an Art Association.
Plans are made for the Pio Pico Mansion to become the home of the Whittier Art Gallery. Mrs. Myron Haig
“motors” with others to Laguna to seek advice from William Griffith. The Whittier Art Association opens a temporary gallery on Philadelphia Street in Whittier.
When the Whittier Art Association formed, a plan was announced that the Pio Pico Mansion may become the permanent home of the Whittier Art Gallery. The mansion’s spacious rooms would have accommodated “large visiting exhibits”. Although the plan was supported by the Whittier Chamber of Commerce and the Whittier Woman’s Club, it did not succeed.
Whittier was a rural community, and the land to the East and South of Whittier’s business district was blanketed
with acres of orange, walnut, lemon, and avocado orchards. The roads between Whittier and Laguna Beach,
passed by vast acres of orchards and crops in Orange County.
William A. Griffith, three times president of the Laguna Beach Art Association, exhibits his paintings at the
Whittier Art Gallery. Ruth Peabody exhibits her statuary.
𝘓𝘢𝘨𝘶𝘯𝘢 𝘉𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩, 1927
pastel on linen stretched to artist’s board, 15.75 X 20 in.
Laguna Beach Art Association past president, William Griffith, spoke at the gallery’s open meeting. “He
encouraged the members of the Whittier [Art] Association in the belief that Whittier too, can be made an
important art and cultural center”. He went on to say, “I wish you all the luck in the world, and Laguna will do everything possible to help you”.
Laguna artists William Brandriff and Ida May Sharpless exhibit at the Whittier Art Gallery.
Edgar Payne paints a demonstration picture at the Whittier Art Gallery. He was the first president of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and he is “one of California’s most prominent painters.
Edgar Payne exhibits 36 canvases at the Whittier Art Gallery. More than 100 people watch his painting demonstration on opening night. His paintings “bring to Whittier all the light and color and grandeur of the wide-open spaces of many places”.
𝘗𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘖𝘶𝘵 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘗𝘢𝘺𝘯𝘦 𝘓𝘢𝘬𝘦
Oil on canvas, 29 7/8 X 34 1/8 in.
The California Water Color Society exhibits 60 watercolor paintings at the gallery. Among the exhibiting artists were: Phil Dike, Hardie Gramatky, Mabel George Haig, Eduard Vysekal, Donna Schuster, and Lucille Hinkle.
The Pacific Electric Railway was a major form of transportation for Southern California from about 1915 to the late 1930s. The first Whittier Art Gallery located in Whittier’s business district, was a short distance from the Pacific Electric Railway tracks. Travel to the gallery from Los Angeles was convenient and inexpensive during the time before busses became popular. The tracks in this Uptown section of Whittier were taken up in 1938, and the metal was given to the War effort.
The South Coast News, announces that Whittier has organized an Art Association “for the whole surrounding community between Los Angeles and Laguna Beach”. The Association is sponsoring art classes in water color landscape by Mabel George Haig; life drawing by Eleanor Colburn, sculpture by Ruth Peabody, and pottery by
pupils of Glen Lukens.
When the California Water Color Society exhibit closed, the paintings were sent to the Los Angeles County
Historical and Art Museum.
The Museum, located in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, opened with a two week celebration in 1913.
Emil Kosa Jr. exhibits water color paintings and drawings at the gallery. Also exhibited are paintings by Alfred W. Johnston, sculpture by various artists, pottery by pupils of Glen Lukens, and pastels by Harry Muir Kurtzworth.
Mr. Kurtzworth is the director of the Los Angeles Art Association.
Emil J. Kosa Jr. signed his exhibit form for the Whittier Art Gallery on July 31, 1934. His exhibit included 12 framed water colors and 25 unframed drawings.
The Los Angeles Times Newspaper announces that the writing of the late Anna Hills, “How to Judge Pictures”,
will be read at a meeting of the Whittier Art Association. Anna Hills was one of the cofounders of the
Laguna Beach Art Center and Gallery.
Note: The correct title of the document is “How to Judge a Picture”, written by Anna Hills for a talk she gave about two months before she passed away in 1930.
The Whittier Art Gallery exhibits paintings by the late Anna Hills; water colors by Mabel George Haig, and
engravings by Paul Landacre. Harry Muir Kurtzworth will speak at the open meeting on “Art in Southern California”.
Sunshine and Shadows, 1915
oil on board, 7 X 10 in.
Mr. Kurtzworth, has served as curator of the Los Angeles Museum, is now the director of the Los Angeles Art Association. He speaks at the gallery’s open meeting. stating, “Your problem is to take Art to the people,
and later, the people will come to Art.”
Whittier Art Association Inventory Sheet
September 27, 1934
Karl Yens exhibits paintings and prints. Water colors by Tom Lewis, sculpture by Sherry Peticolas, and wood
carving by Ruth Bennett. A competitive show for Whittier Art Association members will open November 15.
Conrad Buff exhibit features paintings and lithographs. He has painted the mountains of the Swiss Alps, Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and California. Buff also painted a mural over the mantel in Whittier’s William Penn Hotel. Other exhibiting artists are Worden Bethell, Jason Herron, and Ruth Bennett.
Mr. R. F. James, illustrator from New York City, will speak on art from the standpoint of illustration. Exhibited are paintings and lithographs by Conrad Buff, paintings, pastels and water colors by Worden Bethell, sculpture by
Jason Herron, and carved wood panels by Ruth Bennett.
Otis Art Institute instructors, Mr. Roscoe Shrader and Edouard Vysekal, will speak at the Whittier Art Gallery.
Mr. Roscoe Shrader is president of the California Art Club, and Edouard Vysekal is a noted Southern California painter.
Mr. Roscoe Shrader, Dean of Otis Art Institute, speaks on the purpose and value of art. The artwork of
Miss. Dowiatt is exhibited. Popular prizes for the Whittier Art Association member’s competitive exhibit are awarded.
The Whittier Art Association lost their temporary Whittier Art Gallery space on Philadelphia Street. After several months, they open a new “Gallery at Pickering and Broadway” in Whittier’s old Broadway School building.
The Broadway School was demolished six months after the WAA opened their gallery there. The WAA provided exhibits at the Whittier Woman’s Club House until they constructed their own galley.
Forrest Randall “brings a cosmopolitan opportunity to Whittier for his water colors have been exhibited in the
Feragil galleries in New York, and his wall paper designs in the Waldorf Astoria in that city.”
Work on the first unit of the Whittier Art Gallery will commence tomorrow. Donor Fred L. Pease, architect
William Harrison, and contractor Raymond Hunnicutt will attend. The Art Association secured a site on Painter Avenue which is one of the most attractive streets and one of the main entrances of the city.
December 6, 1938
The photo was taken on the sidewalk in front of the lot where construction would begin for the first unit of the Whittier art Center [Gallery].
Left to Right: William Henry Harrison, architect, H.E. Harris, Fred Pease, donor,
Mabel George Haig, WAA president, Raymond Hunnicutt, contractor.
Ground breaking exercises were held at 727 South Painter Avenue, attended by Art Association members and representatives of leading civic organizations. Mrs. Mryon Haig, president of the Whittier Art Association, accepted the deed of the property on which would be built the new home of the Whittier Art Center. She turned at least one shovel of dirt to speed up the actual building work.
Note: The gallery’s original address of 727 So. Painter Ave. was changed to 8035 Painter Ave. in the 1960s.
Construction of the first unit of the Whittier Art Center (Gallery) will be 36 X 36 feet facing East, so arranged that an ell can be added to the Southwest corner and then further galleries on the West end of the lot as the need develops.
Only the exterior of the gallery was completed until more funds were raised to complete the inside. “Friends of the Association” solicited funds. Whittier citizens who supported the cause are listed.
The Laguna Beach Art Gallery exhibits 76 canvases in the 12th Anniversary show. Some of the exhibiting artists
were William Wendt, Joseph Kleitsch, William A. Griffith, Mabel George Haig, Karl Yens, Frank Cuprien, and
The Whittier Art Gallery was given warm support from the Whittier Woman’s Club, Jr. Woman’s Club, East Whittier Woman’s Club, the Business and Professional Woman’s Club, the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA), and organizations in every school district, covering the entire community. The town’s businessmen also contributed.
Mabel George Haig was invited to exhibit at the World’s Fair on Treasure Island.
Whittier artist Forrest Randall designs fabric for one of Scarlett O’Hara’s costumes worn in the motion picture
“Gone With the Wind”.
The gallery has been designed with “special lighting effects”, and the walls will be of burlap.
“The building has been so constructed that…a wing or wings may be added.”
New Building of Whittier Art Group to Open Tonight.
“All is in readiness for the opening tonight at 8 o’clock of the galleries of the Whittier Art Association, South Painter Avenue and Moorland Drive. Members of the organization, aided by loyal friends, have labored months towards this achievement.”
Phil Dike exhibits water colors with thirteen other artists at the Whittier Art Gallery’s
Note: Phil Dike was California Water Color Society President in 1938. He was employed by the Walt Disney
Studios 1935 – 1945, where he taught drawing composition. He contributed to both Snow White and Fantasia.
Phil Dike was a key figure in the development of California style of water color painting.
Arthur Millier reports that 600 visitors attended the gallery’s opening night. He closed with, “Because the gallery is so fine, it has already been offered exhibitions of a quality which ordinarily Whittier would never have a chance to see. Whittier has shown Southern California the way”.
April 16, 1939, 𝘓𝘰𝘴 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘛𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴
An oil painting, nearly 400 years old, is discovered in an East Whittier home. The painting by Venetian master,
Paris Bordone, had once hung in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and had not been seen by the
public for over 35 years. The painting was shown at the Whittier Art Gallery and the public was invited to hear
a special lecture.
Art critic, Philip A. Ramus, the fine arts connoisseur of London and Hollywood, will speak about the Paris Bordone painting.