65 years and going strong.
The LAA History Guys want to share what they have found about the buildings that have been so important to the history of the Livermore Art Association. We are going to start with the Barn at 3131 Pacific Ave. The Barn was built in 1922 for the143rd Field Artillery unit of the Livermore National Guard as their warehouse. In later years the building was used to house rodeo horses. The City of Livermore acquired the old rodeo property in 1960 and since 1970 the Barn has been used by the public for a number of things like the annual fundraiser for the Livermore Symphony, dog training, dances, book sales, etc. but most importantly for the LAA: many, many art shows. The Barn can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer but it has been part of Livermore for one hundred years. Many of us feel sad that it is no longer being used for public events.
The Livermore National Guard had an interesting history. It was first organized in April of 1900 in part because of patriotism from the then recent Spanish-American War. The Guard was called to active policing duty in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. Per Anne Homan’s book Livermore History A-Z, the Guard was called out in 1913 to fight a large fire on Mt. Tamalpais and in 1916 was sent to Arizona to control bandits on both sides of the Mexican border.
To see photographs of the Guard Memorial plaque (in Carnegie Park by the old flagpole) and photos of the Guard in 1906 and their reunion in 1967 please look at pages 56-57 of my book Livermore Plaques (available at the Heritage Guild in the Carnegie Building).
Submitted June 2022
The Barn back door
“Celebrate Women!” exhibit was created and directed by LAA member, Barbara Reynolds in 2015. It was born out of Barbara's international travels who collected a portfolio of women from around the world. Historically it was sponsored by Livermore Art Association and the Pleasanton Art League. Normally the show is held in March during the International Women’s month.
Submitted April 2022
Thanks Andy! Perhaps it’s a bit too familiar to say thank you to entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. He gave us the Carnegie building where our Livermore Art Association Gallery is housed and shared with the Heritage Guild. It is a wonderful building. It was first opened in May 1911 as the Livermore library. He did the same for so many towns around America and Britain and much more using his fortune.
The Greek revival building remains a major historical site in Livermore. The Livermore Art Association (LAA) first opened in the Gallery in 1974. As with our LAA art shows, it’s not just the artists showing their work that makes the show a success. It’s the teamwork of planning, set up and execution that adds success to the already high-quality artwork. The artists have fun and make bonds with their teammates.
In the case of the Livermore Art Association Gallery there were some key drivers to making it happen. If you wonder how they did in setting up the Gallery, note the LAA gallery is now 48 years old.
Names that come up in our history scrap books show the early Gallery founders were there with a vision, had execution and persistence. Jean Pefley Hawley was the LAA president and a driving force in the Gallery opening. The now defunct valley newspaper, the Herald, had Jean and team around the Bay area galleries picking up ideas. On the team was Muriel Doggett, whose husband did most of the carpentry in the new Gallery, and Claire Haratani and Ruth Burden supporting through art classes. Margo Kirkewoog, who came from Dutch Indonesia, worked on the interior of the Gallery. Others on the team were Merilyn (Tilli) Calhoun, Bobbie Baird space planner, Jim Taylor who built the flats for the art, and Edna Tunison, who worked to get the needed funds.
The founders did good and permanent work, given the Gallery is still a success. Around the Gallery many art shows pop up. Art in the Park, a long running event for years, is again an annual show. Paint Livermore, only a few years old, attracts almost 50 artists a year, plus there are shows at the Gallery that correspond with local events such as the Farmers Market and Art Walk. Some artists even do live demonstrations at the Gallery. Today, Peggy Kervin heads the Gallery, keeping its traditions and leading it with a top team of valley artists. You can be sure the Gallery will always have works which are special, unique and not found in your average mall shops. The Gallery is the place to go for holiday or special occasion gifts, art for your home, and just to have a look.
Submitted March 2022
Ed Sullivan had a “big show” every Sunday – the Livermore Art Association had at least one big show a year. We are now into our 65th year. Although we missed 2020 due to the pandemic, LAA has actually had more big shows than sixty-five, if you count others such as the Fall Festivals, Annual invitationals and Spring Art Shows.
Numerous venues have been involved since the original place at St. Bartholomew’s Church Hall, which was where LAA started. The big shows were held at Malls, “Art on the Sidewalk” and schools like Marylin Avenue School, East Avenue School and Livermore High. One of the most interesting was held in the garden home of the Merritt Family on Trevarno Road. The outdoor show in 1962 when the weather did not cooperate appears to have been the only disappointment. Other successful outdoor shows were often held at the Carnegie Park venue with one show being seen at Ravenswood.
In recent years, the main venue for the annual Spring Art Show was at The Barn. The Barn, being a very large space, worked well as the main LAA venue for over 39 years. A group of LAA volunteers would work hard to set up the shows. They would start on a Wednesday and work through Friday to prepare the weekend show. Volunteers had to remove all the wall nails and staples left from previous shows, paint the wall boards and podiums white, plus set up the boards and art show panels. More LAA volunteers would receive the art and place them. It was not always easy but working as a team and meeting new friends proved fun. After the show on Sunday evening, other volunteers would dismantle everything and store it away safely.
Sadly, the Livermore Area Recreation and Parks District have closed The Barn and it is no longer available for rent. Thus, in 2021, the smaller Bothwell Art Center was utilized for the Spring Art Show. This exhibition was renamed “The Late Spring Art Show” due to the September date. Because the show was at a new location, there were many initial problems to solve but it went on to great success, breaking previous show records.
Submitted February 2022
LAA Spring Art Show 2019
It was 1957, and in its founding year, the Livermore Art Association (LAA) almost broke up as an art fight between board members was splashed across newspapers and radios nationwide. Fortunately, peace accords were struck and the LAA had its first Christmas show, a yearly tradition which carries on today. From Christmas Boutiques in historic Ravenswood and The Barn’s big Christmas shows, to our current Gallery housed in the Carnegie Building, LAA has always been a source of unique gifts that break the ho-hum, slipper-and-robe mold. Come visit the Gallery; you’re guaranteed to find something special, handcrafted by local artists. From paintings to jewelry, ceramics, glass, purses, scarves, and more, join the LAA Christmas celebration, a tradition since 1957.
Submitted December 2021
Craig Varden's Nutcrackers
That was declared in July 1957 roughly three months after the Livermore Art Association (LAA) was formed by 23 artists and a full slate of officers. What happened was chronicled in newspapers and radio around the United States. Better than Billy Jean King vs Bobby Riggs, it pitted some male members vs. some female members. In July there was to be an art show at the rented club headquarters at 141 North Livermore Avenue (one of Livermore’s oldest buildings still standing and had an interesting history, including being a speakeasy).
Art is always a subjective thing. The women officers of the LAA thought it a good idea to paint the building with giant cactus, yucca plants and flowers. When LAA President James Paul Wesley, an accomplished artist and Physicist at the University of California, Livermore Labs, came on the scene, he “foamed at the mouth.” His view of the art was “hideous…awful…very poorly done.” But Vice President Alice Corbett said, “they were very interesting and attractive”. President Wesley went on with details: “The yuccas were sickly yellow, the cacti bilious green, the lines bad, the taste poor”. The next move was Art vs. Art. The women found the mural covered in brown watercolor. The indicated action was to wash it off and that was accomplished. A meeting was held to discuss the events. President Wesley resigned.
Across this wide country, everyone learned of the Livermore Art fight and that in the end the women won. Current Heritage Guild and Livermore Art Association Board Member, Richard Finn, found much coverage in the press from that time. It was included in news from Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Connecticut, Ohio, New Jersey, Nebraska, Kansas, Rhode Island, Louisiana. Suffice to say, it hit all the papers in America and radio too. It demonstrates the power of art no matter how it is seen and interpreted
Submitted October 2021
Somebody put a note in the Livermore Art Association (LAA) scrapbook… “In the beginning”. The note was in the first LAA scrapbook and referred to the formation of LAA back in 1957--April 24,1957 to be exact. That makes us 64 years old.
The first meeting was held at St Bartholomew’s Church Hall at 624 Enos Way. The first President was Dr. Paul Wesley, a theoretical physicist and accomplished artist--judging from the San Francisco shows he was in. Other founding officers were Dr. C.O. Muhs VP, Lee Smith Secretary & Treasurer, Alice Corbett & Barbara Adams Promotion and Publicity, and Barbara Fancher & J.P. Westley Exhibitor Committee. They even had a club house in a very old building built in 1876; it still stands today at 149 North Livermore Avenue and serves the City of Livermore Housing Services.
So, in the beginning all was well with accomplished artists forming the LAA, housed in the historic building and looking to support the arts in Livermore. The happy start did not last long.
Submitted September 2021
149 N. Livermore Ave, first home of the Livermore Art Association in 1957