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The Whittier Art Gallery

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 Southland.

The Gallery’s Main Floor

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-
dimensional artwork.

Young at Art

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 Whittier Museum

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.

The Dallas Museum of Art

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.

The New York Times, May 29, 2014

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, […]

Dallas Museum of Art

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.

The Laguna Art Museum

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.

Whittier Public Library

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.

Looking Back, 1950 – 1959

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.

Looking Back, 1946 – 1949

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.

Looking Back, 1939 – 1945

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…”

Looking Back, 1934 – 1939

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.

Looking Back, 1917 – 1933

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.

Edgar Payne in his Paris studio, 1922-1924

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

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.

Main Beach, Laguna 1920

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.

1929 December 27, 𝙎𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙖 𝘼𝙣𝙖 𝘿𝙖𝙞𝙡𝙮 𝙍𝙚𝙜𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙧:

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.

Pio Pico Mansion

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. 

Citrus Orchards of Orange County

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.

1934 June 1, 𝙒𝙝𝙞𝙩𝙩𝙞𝙚𝙧 𝙉𝙚𝙬𝙨:

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”.

Pacific Electric Railway

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.

1934 August 20, 𝙇𝙤𝙨 𝘼𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙨 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙨:

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.

1938, Broadway School Postcard:

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.

Gallery Construction Begins

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.

1939 April 16th, 𝙇𝙤𝙨 𝘼𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙨 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙨

Phil Dike exhibits water colors with thirteen other artists at the Whittier Art Gallery’s
Opening Exhibition.

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.

1939 April 16, 𝙇𝙤𝙨 𝘼𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙨 𝙏𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙨:

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”.
                                                                                                                                       Arthur Millier, 
                                                                                                                                       April 16, 1939, 𝘓𝘰𝘴 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘛𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴

Looking Back, 1940 – 1944

The Whittier Art Gallery continued to exhibit the work of prominent artists while bracing for World War II and living through the most difficult of the War years. Exhibits of the work of Edgar Payne, Enjar Hansen, Eleanor Colburn, Clyde Forsythe, Sam Hyde Harris, Hanson Puthuff, and others, […]