VIEWPOINT: Pomona College Art Museum in Claremont
by Kirk Delman
The Claremont Colleges have built outstanding gallery programs and collections for many years that have enhanced our community’s rich artistic legacy.
The Florence Rand Lang Gallery at Scripps opened in 1939 followed by the Gladys K. Montgomery Gallery at Pomona in 1958. Every artist that the city of Claremont has embraced as one of its own has been associated with one of the Claremont Colleges.
I find it odd and greatly disappointing that some members of the Claremont community appear not at all enthusiastic about the proposed art museum at Pomona College but are wholly supportive of the future Claremont Lincoln University Performance Stage at Shelton Park.
Here are my observations.
Shelton Park was the last open area in downtown Claremont that provided a tranquil respite for our community and visitors. We already have a fantastic music venue in Memorial Park adjacent to the Claremont Heritage Foundation which is considerably larger and established as an important venue for a variety of city events.
The website for the new performance stage advertises a list of potential events that seem a bit farfetched and often unnecessary such as: art shows, a new venue for use by children from the Claremont school system; and The Claremont Colleges students and faculty music, art, thesis and doctoral presentations. I don’t think so. Most schools in Claremont have auditoriums or multipurpose rooms to stage their events and, with budgets as they are, would not easily be able to hold performances off campus. Art shows? No way. And how did student thesis and doctoral presentations make it on the list? Really?
On the other hand, Pomona College has proposed building a state-of-the-art museum to exhibit, house and conserve their collection of art, while bringing major artists, collectors, researchers, students and visitors to the campus and to our city
In addition, a significant architecturally designed building will only add to our other architectural jewels in the city designed by architects: Myron Hunt, Charles and Henry Greene, Gordon Kaufmann, Richard Neutra, Edward Durell Stone and Fred McDowell, to name just a few. Machado and Silvetti, the architects designing the new PCMA, are also internationally-renowned and have recently been involved with more than a dozen art museum projects including the Getty Villa in Malibu, The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida and the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As far as I understand, the Pomona College Museum of Art will be paid for and maintained by Pomona College alone, while the Claremont Lincoln University Performance Stage at Shelton Park is being funded by CLU and donations from the community-at-large and will be maintained by the city of Claremont at a cost to the taxpayers.
As for encroachment and parking, the property is already owned by Pomona College and they have had a museum, music department and performing space just across the street for more than 40 years without any problems to speak of. Pomona College also built a parking structure on First and Columbia that more than covers any overflow visitor parking. The buildings on the southwest corner of Bonita and College are only noteworthy because they were once a part of the old Claremont Inn, which sadly was historic and would have been important to save.
Don’t get me wrong, the Claremont Lincoln University Performance Stage at Shelton Park is an fine example of the community’s desire for more venues of quality in our town, though I do feel this one is redundant considering our existing outdoor stage. But please remember, PCMA has a proven exhibition record and has devoted many hours of sharing their collection with our school-aged children and their families.
The considerable amount of time they have devoted in developing a valuable resource for students, the Claremont community, out-of-town visitors and outside museum professionals is embedded in the college’s mission and will enhance all of our lives for many years to come. With that in mind, I encourage you to support the PCMA’s new art museum site.
Kirk Delman is the Collections Manager and Registrar for the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College.