Artistic celebrations at Claremont Lewis Museum of Art

by Steve Harrison

Art can bring people together, and rarely has that been more evident than on the May 21 gala opening of the newly enlarged Claremont Lewis Museum of Art. Music played on the patio, wine flowed, kids played on the lawn, neighbors visited, speeches were given, acknowledgements made, and we packed the four rooms of the museum. It was quite an evening, with several townspeople moved to tears by the gathering and many of Claremont’s illustrious artists’ work coming together for the first time in many years.

Art requires vision and so does creating anything new. The museum was a bold idea by a few Claremont residents with varying connection to Claremont’s artistic past. Collectors, artists’ family and friends, art and Claremont lovers, all came together over a gutsy vision, originated by Marguerite McIntosh and Janet Myhre, that our town deserved an institution celebrating and commemorating the artistic movement started by mid-century artists and continuing today.

I’m not a reporter or an art critic, nor have I been involved in the birthing of this idea or the realization of this dream, but I was one of those who gathered Saturday with wonder in his eyes. Catherine McIntosh, Sandy Baldonado, Elaine Turner and the museum board, the city, countless volunteers, donors, museum members, and the generous gift by the Lewis family joined forces—protected, nurtured, and encouraged an idea—and built a home for a growing art collection. It takes a village.

It was standing room only throughout the museum during their May 21 gala opening. Photo by Catherine McIntosh


The depot has come back to life in a notable reincarnation. Once a train stop taking people to and from our town, with travelers bringing fresh ideas home or taking a bit of Claremont’s homegrown talent out to places afar; now the museum at the depot allows for a different kind of traveler. Paintings of local sites, natural and urban; modernist blending of materials and shapes; wood, clay, charcoal, oils, and watercolors unite to form a new tapestry celebrating the vision of artists and their followers. What an achievement!

Unexpectedly, like many of my recent life’s experiences, I am now working at the museum, one day a week, welcoming locals and out-of-towners to our latest creative gift. Art is a dialog, sometimes starting a new conversation, always capturing the artist’s view of their reality, forcing us to see with them something that we might overlook without their guidance.

Whether the controlled linear design of a Harrison McIntosh vessel or the organic shape of a Sam Maloof chair, a Barbara Beretich or Albert Stewart interpretation of the human figure, or Gary Gareths monumental charcoal observation of our local foothill stream, the artist shares his or her viewpoint, drawing our attention to a detail, a feeling, a dream, or a novel juxtaposition of shape or material. It was all on display Saturday, inspiring new dialog and new ideas about art, about institutions, and about Claremont. I’m grateful to have been a part of it.

Claremont Collects: Art, Creativity, Community is on display at The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. now until September 25.


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