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Art Association marks 90th with new location

The La Jolla Art Association will mark the opening of its new gallery location at 7734 Herschel Ave., Suite G during the month of March with a show entitled “Visual Poetry,” featuring artists Rodger Heglar, Dana Levine, Peggy Palm and John Valois.

The exhibition also commemorates the organization’s 90th anniversary, calling into focus the group’s colorful history as the oldest art gallery in San Diego County.

While the move was necessitated by rising rent costs, members are optimistic about their ability to innovate and persevere in their mission to support local artists.

“The organization is what the gallery is based on,” said Rodger Heglar, president.

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In 1918, the area’s top artists would meet at the home of Ellen Browning Scripps for tea and conversation, followed by an afternoon in front of their easels. A dedicated patron of the arts, Scripps suggested they form an art association.

Among the 12 charter members were well-known artists Maurice Braun, Charles Friese, Alfred Mitchell and Charles Reiffel. Eleanor B. Parkes was president of the association for more than 30 years.

Dedicated to representing and advancing local artists, the Association exhibits members’ paintings, sculpture, photography and other media pieces in its gallery, as well as hosting juried exhibitions, offering lectures and sponsoring events for youth art.

“We’re a piece of the fabric of La Jolla,” said Pierce Harrah, vice president and head of publicity.

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At one time, the Association claimed more than 200 members; today the count stands closer to 65.

For several years, the gallery was located within what is now the Athenaeum. In 1968, they moved into the adjacent Parker Building, renting space for $1 a month. When the lease expired in 2005, expansion plans by the Athenaeum required the Association to relocate to gallery space on Ivanhoe Avenue.

Increasing rental costs necessitated yet another move, and in February 2008, the Association took occupancy of its current location, a space one-third the size of their former gallery.

Determined to carry forth the Association’s heritage, members have begun developing new ideas to promote the organization. Heglar said he sees many opportunities: creating “destination” appeal at their new location, setting up exhibitions in other venues and/or corporate settings, fund-raising and seeking support from art patrons, such as that extended by Scripps.

As a integral part of the La Jolla art community – not only serving local artists, but enriching the life of every resident – Heglar believes the Association will remain a viable organization, despite ongoing challenges.

“Any community is a better place to live if art is there,” Harrah said.

Gallery admission is free. Hours are Tuesday - Saturday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. For more information, visit lajollaart.org or call (858) 459-1196.