Funding Crisis: La Jolla Art Association's gallery could close by summer, launches GoFundMe campaign

Without some serious financial help by the summer, the La Jolla Art Association (LJAA) may not have the money to operate its La Jolla Shores gallery at 8100 Paseo Del Ocaso.

The Association has launched a GoFundMe page in the hopes of quickly raising $100,000 at (note the extra ‘a’).

The campaign has raised a little more than $2,000 since early March.

Raye Ann Marks, secretary for LJAA and fundraising committee chair, told the Light: “We’re a popular gallery, but we’ve been struggling to pay the rent. We’ve been hanging in there and are trying to do the best we can. We are a cultural institution and we are hoping the community will support us. Every little bit helps.”

The financial hardship falls on LJAA’s centennial year.

The Art Association was founded in 1918 when a group of artists came together to sketch landscapes of La Jolla. With financial help from La Jolla benefactress Ellen Browning Scripps, a library was built soon after to show their works. Now a space within the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, the gallery was LJAA’s home for most of the 20th century.

In 1955, LJAA drafted a contract to pay $1 per year to keep the original space for 50 years. When it expired, LJAA moved to its current home in La Jolla Shores.

“During the years we were on our ‘free site,’ we charged membership dues that we saved,” Marks explained. “We had about $45,000 ... We’ve been using that, plus funds from current memberships and the 25-percent commission from any art we sell, to pay our rent, which is $2,500 a month. But, we’ve never been able to get ahead. We are 100 years old now and we’d hate to lose our gallery on our 100th anniversary.”

The Association’s signature event produces about $10,000 a year. The Association’s artists donate pieces that are auctioned off through the purchase of $200 tickets. The names of ticket-holders are drawn at random, and they get their pick of available pieces.

Money raised from the GoFundMe page will help cover annual gallery expenses, renovate exhibition spaces, and support other initiatives for members, artists and the public. “We’re spending so much time raising money for the rent, we don’t have much time to do much else for our artists,” she said. “We want to offer things to the community, like painting classes, and more opportunities for our members. We’re known for helping new artists and giving them a place to show. We want to get back to that.”

The volunteer-run organization consists of almost 120 members who pay annual dues of $95.

​Spotty "the gallery dog" often visits to admire his owner's art. Courtesy

Marks clarified that the LJAA itself would not disband, but members would no longer have a permanent place to show their works. “Part of our problem is people don’t know who we are and what we are. We need to reach a lot more people,” she said.

The mission of the LJAA art gallery, as stated on its website, is “to advance fine arts in La Jolla and San Diego County through representation of artistic excellence from local artists, supporting fine art educational programs, and exhibiting artwork in a professionally managed gallery open to the public free of charge.”

To that end, the gallery houses rotating exhibitions of various themes every two weeks throughout the year, featuring member and guest works. There is also an annual “members show” and a Southern California Juried Exhibition.

“In addition, we sponsor an awards program for youth art and conduct charity events, partnering with other non-profit organizations,” Marks said.

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