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Claremont Museum of Art announces ‘transformative’ gift

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The Claremont Museum of Art announced Thursday that it had received a paradigm-shifting gift from one of Claremont’s top philanthropic families.

The museum will receive $1 million from Randall Lewis: $850,000 for the institution’s endowment and $150,000 for immediate needs. In recognition of the “transformative gift,” the board of directors will meet soon to modify the museum’s name to Claremont Lewis Museum of Art.

“This strategic endowment gift helps secure the future of our community museum. It comes at a particularly opportune time in the evolution of the museum, with two new galleries just completed and plans underway for expanded programming and accessibility to benefit the Claremont community and the region,” according to a news release from the museum.

The endowment will be invested “in perpetuity,” with a portion of the earnings spent annually to support the museum’s operating budget, which is a standard practice in the arts industry. The $150,000 gift will be used to provide a grant challenge to complete phase two of the museum’s expansion, and efforts to increase public access through additional programming.

The gift’s benefits will first be seen April 1, as it launches Free Fridays, welcoming guests on Fridays from 12 to 4 p.m. at no cost. Claremont Lewis Museum of Art’s redesigned website showcasing the new name will launch in mid-April.

“We are deeply appreciative of these very generous gifts, as they give us the opportunity to reimagine new, exciting ways to engage families and community,” CMA Board President Elaine Turner said.

Randall Lewis is executive vice president and a principal of Lewis Management Corporation, a member of the Lewis Group of Companies. He has been in the real estate business for 45 years, and is regarded as an industry leader in promoting the arts, education, healthy living and sustainable development initiatives, according to the company’s website.

“Randall’s philanthropy over the years has focused on health, education and the arts in this region. His initial major contribution to CMA in 2016 was the capstone gift to complete phase one of the historic Claremont Depot renovation as the new home for the Claremont Museum of Art. Randall has continued to be a key supporter of the museum in its formative years,” according to the news release.

The inland valley has benefited from several gifts from the Lewis family, including the Lewis Family Playhouse at Victoria Gardens Cultural Center; the Randall Lewis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Claremont McKenna College, Lewis’ alma mater; the Lewis-San Antonio Healthy Communities Institute; as well as the Lewis Garden Pavilion at the California Botanic Garden. Randall and the Lewis family were honored as patrons of arts and culture by the City of Ontario in 2019. Randall and Janell Lewis and their three children, Sarah, Riley and Rosie, have spent the majority of their lives in Claremont and are active in numerous community endeavors.

“It is an honor to support the Claremont Museum of Art and to raise awareness of this wonderful community asset. The arts are such a vital part of the Claremont experience, and it is my hope that the museum will be able to play an even greater role in promoting and showcasing artistry and creativity,” Randall Lewis said.

The seeds for what would become the Claremont Museum of Art began with a conversation between two prominent Claremont women of the arts, Marion Stewart and Marguerite McIntosh who wanted to create an exhibition space inside the Padua Theater for local artists.

While that idea never materialized, another location became available, the College Heights Lemon Packing House, which had been saved from demolition and was renovated into a mixed-used building.

“Its historic significance and ideal downtown location made it a perfect site for the Claremont Museum of Art. The Museum incorporated in 2004, and in February 2006, the board formally announced that the Claremont Museum of Art would open in the Packing House,” according to the museum’s website.

However, due to the Great Recession in 2009, the museum could no longer afford to maintain a staff and exhibition space, and closed the Packing House location while moving the permanent collection into storage.

For several years it was a “museum without walls,” until it entered into an agreement with the City of Claremont to transform a portion of the Claremont Depot into a small art gallery, which opened on November 20, 2016.

The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art, located at 200 W. First Street in the Village, is open Friday through Sunday 12 to 4 p.m.

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