Our Town: Juried exhibit showcasing La Jolla ushers in a new era at Riford Library

By Will Bowen

In this era of library cutbacks and closures where hours are shortened and services curtailed, there is something quite the opposite going on at the La Jolla Riford Library. “It’s a movement!” said Sue Atwood, a member of the all-volunteer Friends of the Library. This “movement,” under the leadership of library director Catherine Greene and fueled by the Friends’ efforts, is attempting to inaugurate a new vibrancy, improve outreach, and stimulate greater interest and participation in all library activities.

To further this end, the Friends set up a seven-member Art Committee headed by Arlene Powers, and they have come up with an ambitious plan. Their grand idea is to set up a professional level Library Art Gallery on par with other galleries in La Jolla.

Granted, the Riford Library has been doing small monthly or semi-monthly art shows for a while, but these have been of uneven quality, according to observers. There was no real scrutiny — almost anyone could get a show if they submitted the right paperwork.

Under the new plan, the Art Committee will bring “quality control” to the exhibits and bump things up a notch.

“We want to put the La Jolla’s Riford Library on the map!” Powers said. And the committee is serious: It has already refurbished the community room (where the exhibits, movies and lectures take place) in preparation for the new gallery.

The overall plan is to attract more visitors, because of the high quality art gallery, and thus contribute to the generation of more revenue, which will be used to improve library hours, services, and offerings. The library will receive a portion of the sales from every piece of art that finds a buyer.

To kick things off, the Art Committee has set up a Juried Competition of the works of local artists called “Our Town,” after playwright Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece of the same name. The theme of the competition is La Jolla art by La Jolla artists.

Powers said there were some 133 submissions to the show, and from these, about 33 were selected from 25 different artists. Most are paintings — colorful oil and watercolor renditions of landscapes, buildings, alleyways, surfers, the coast and cove. Most are in the plein-aire, impressionist or realist style. There are a few abstract pieces in the show and a few photographs.

The unique thing about the competition is that there will be no grading — no first or second place and —no honorable mentions. “Just being selected to be in the show is an honor in itself,” Powers said.

Art Committee member Maura Walters, who’s been the assistant to the director of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library for the past six years, said guests will see “some wonderful art in this show.”

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Walters said. “I think that this will be a great opportunity to see how people perceive La Jolla. This show is a jewel. Expect to see the familiar and the surprising!”

If you go


‘Our Town’ Juried Art Competition


La Jolla Riford Library, 7550 Draper Ave.


Library operating hours Aug. 21-Oct. 14. Closed Mondays


25 local artists



Opening reception:

2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21


(858) 552-1657