Following the arrival of Millard Sheets to Scripps College, a tremendous expansion and interest in art occurred. At the time, there were only two academic rooms in Balch Hall dedicated to the art department. So, under the guiding leadership of Sheets—with its primary purpose to build a studio building including studio art workrooms, office space and art exhibition space—the Fine Arts Foundation was founded in 1935 by Dr. Ernest Jaqua, President of the College, Mrs. Henry Everett, Mrs. George T. Gerlinger of Portland, Mrs. Henry Lang, and Mrs. Virginia Judy Esterly, assistant to Dr. Jaqua.
The initial meeting was held on May 9, 1935, during which the Constitution for the Foundation was drawn up and stated: “The Fine Arts Foundation is founded for the purpose of developing greater opportunities for the study of Fine Arts at Scripps College through funds secured by memberships, gifts and legacies for scholarships and the endowment of scholarships in their field; funds for the endowment of art faculty salaries in Fine and Applied Arts; funds for the erection of a studio type building; funds for festivals and exhibits at Scripps College; and funds for such other needs as may arise in connection with the development of the work in Fine Arts.”
One of the main duties of the Foundation was to arrange monthly exhibits and lectures with artists, in order to attract members. At the end of the first year, there were thirty-nine members. With the membership fees, the Foundation bought a kiln to fire pottery—that students created under the instruction of William Manker—and to build a concrete floor under the kiln. Adult classes were also offered by Manker, Sheets, Duncan Gleason, Albert Stewart and Beatrice Richardson. The number of memberships (for the minimum level of $10 a year to graduated supporter levels) increased consistently to a total of well over three hundred by 1963.
From special gifts collected by members of the Foundation for the first year and a half, a fund of over $31,000 was raised. These donations were used to construct three rooms of the studio building. Following a meeting in Pasadena in 1936, showing work of the Scripps staff, an anonymous donor contributed $20,000, and the first unit of the studio building was completed. This same donor, no longer anonymous, contributed the remaining money needed to complete construction on the Florence Rand Lang Art Studio. With this final contribution the Foundation was able to fulfill one of the original purposes for which it was established. The Foundation also assisted in the construction of the mosaics in Ivy Court, the student-designed mosaic murals on the walls of Seal Pond in Seal Court (the central courtyard of the Lang Studio), and the fresco in Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden.
The creation of scholarships, the second purpose of the Foundation, became its main emphasis in 1963. There are now three endowed scholarships which receive annual contributions by the Foundation, finances permitting. In order to raise funds for scholarship purposes, the Foundation began to plan monthly arts exhibits and lectures during the school year. The Foundation also scheduled special programs and events such as the Cinema Series and the annual Limited Edition Series that produced special works by local artists for the members to purchase. The Foundation received a number of gifts, including paintings, ceramics and prints, and purchased a number of faculty and student artworks to add to its permanent collection.
In May, 1976 the Foundation celebrated its 50th year with the Golden Jubilee Home and Studio Tour. Homes on the tour were those belonging to Jean Ames, Herbert and Marcia Hafif, Sam and Frieda Maloof, Harrison and Marguerite McIntosh, Phil and Janet Myhre, and Marion Stewart. A treasure sale was held in Clark Museum of the Humanities Building and original watercolors by Jean Ames and Phil Dike were offered. Also, a new edition of the Fine Arts Foundation Cookbook was available for purchase. A buffet was served in Margaret Fowler Memorial Garden on the Scripps campus following the home tour and treasure sale.
Today the Foundation continues to promote the arts by providing funds for student scholarships and internships; opportunities for its members to interact with artists, professors and students; programs that are open to the public and student community and special fund-raising events for its members.
In 2021, the organization was renamed Scripps Fine Arts Foundation and incorporated as its own educational non-profit entity. The mission is slightly broader, though still centered on the many Scripps art programs as it has been since 1935.
This history has been adapted from materials found in the Scripps Archives and from “Progress Bulletin” news article, Wed. May 5, 1976, p. 24.
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