Past Is Present: The old Green Dragon artist colony inspires the new La Jolla High art show

The logo for the Green Dragon Art Show is painted on the garage door of the La Jolla High School AP Art Studio.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

In the La Jolla High School AP Art Studio class, student painters, photographers, sculptors and other free-spirited artists meet in the afternoons to create. Not too differently, some might observe, from La Jolla’s historic Green Dragon artist colony of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Created by Anna Held (who moved to La Jolla in 1894), the Green Dragon Colony was built on land she purchased near La Jolla Cove for $165. The colony once included 11 cottages, including a boat-shaped structure with portholes called “The Ark,” and the “Doll’s House,” built to house Held’s collection of 200 dolls. It was designed by her friend, Irving Gill, for $15.

The Colony would soon become a mecca for all manner of artists.

In honor of the artists who gathered there — and their contributions to the greater art community in La Jolla — the AP Art Studio class will present an open-to-the-public show, 2:30-7 p.m. Thursday, April 25 in the studio on the campus at 750 Nautilus St.

Each participant was tasked with studying a Green Dragon Colony contributor and creating one piece inspired by their work, plus four unrelated pieces in their choice of media.

Art teacher Suzanne Friedrich told the Light that in researching the Green Dragon Colony at the La Jolla Historical Society, students discovered writers, composers, musicians, painters, potters and more, who started there in the 1800s.

“We’re going to have students perform musical works composed by people from the Green Dragon. Our wood shop is going to contribute works (inspired by the cottages and shelters there), and others are creating a lot of beautiful pottery,” she said.

Some of the artists (via student interpretations) include Anna Held Heinrich, Beatrize Heridon, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Ellen Browning Scripps, Irving Gill, Alfred Mitchell, Maurice Braun, Charles Fries, A.R. Valentein, Guy Rose, Ammi Merchant Farnham, David C. Freeman, Franz Bischoff, Alice Klauber and Donal Hord. The iconic locations visted include the Windandsea Shack, Lifeguard “Box,” La Jolla Caves and the Children’s Pool.

“This generation has their own view of art and history, and they’re bringing it to this show,” Friedrich explained. “It makes the kids feel proud of being here. I’m new to La Jolla, so in researching the its history, we all learned it’s rooted in art. We know about the Laguna Beach art community, but most people don’t know La Jolla had a huge art community, too. It was part of the culture 100 years ago. It’s experiencing a rebirth, especially with this generation.”

Student Leigh Archibald, 17, told the Light: “I honestly didn’t know anything about the early artist colony in La Jolla, but I learned that the art culture here is actually really rich with a lot of different types of art and artists. I think that adds to our overall culture.”

Leigh said she will contribute a landscape inspired by Klauber, as well as other paintings and photographs. “My concentration (for AP Studio Art credit) has the theme ‘innocence violated,’ so I’m taking Barbie dolls and depicting them in a political manner, as a commentary on how Barbies are used as kids’ toys, but are over sexualized,” she said. “Alice Klauber, in addition to painting a lot of landscapes, helped La Jolla and created many committees, such as the YWCA. She was a big influencer, so she’s right up my alley.”

Burkley Eggers with the Windansea Shack replica he helped construct for the show Ashley Mackin-Solomon

Although not in the Art Studio class, Burkley Eggers, 17, built a re-creation of the Windansea Shack that currently stands outside the studio. “The purpose of the shack is to welcome people to the show,” he said. “I helped rebuild the real shack when it broke down a few years ago. We built the smaller model a few weeks ago. It turned out really well. The show is coming together ... a lot of work is going into it and everyone is very into it.”

Roxy Shimp, 18, is still in the process of creating her project. Her inspiration is architect Irving Gill. “I’m deciding between whether I want to recreate one of his buildings out of clay or wood, or draw his portrait,” she said. “Other pieces I’m contributing are drawings of the female form; some abstract and some realistic.”

After learning about the Green Dragon Colony, Shimp said she found an appreciation for the sense of community that art can create. “It’s wonderful how supportive the Colony was of its artists — they would bond together and encourage one another,” she said. “In this class, we too, have so many incredible artists and I feel honored just to be here and see everything being created. If you just show up and just see one piece by one artist, that’s reason enough to come to the show! You’ll see how passionate we students are about art and our own community.”

IF YOU GO: The Green Dragon Art Show runs 2:30-7 p.m. Thursday, April 25 at the La Jolla High School art studio, 750 Nautilus St. A selection of pieces created for and donated to the show will be sold by live auction at 5 p.m. Proceeds benefit the La Jolla High Foundation, and the school’s art clubs. (858) 454-3081.