Picture This! Athenaeum Library in La Jolla publishes a book about its artists

By Linda Hutchinson

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library has been the hub of La Jolla’s cultural life for more than 100 years. It has taken many forms since Ellen Browning Scripps became the first president of the Library Association of La Jolla in 1899 and since the iconic Rotunda Gallery at Girard Avenue and Wall Street was added in 1957.

There have been even more changes in the last 20 years, as the library has reached out to involve art and music lovers in the community. To celebrate these changes and to honor San Diego artists, the Athenaeum has released a new book: “Selections from the Permanent Collection: 1990-2010.”

“We had two main purposes in publishing this book,” said Erika Torri, executive director of the Athenaeum. “One, we are celebrating several 20-year anniversaries, and two, we wanted to concentrate on San Diego artists.”

Since approximately 1990, the Athenaeum has expanded and remodeled its space, established its permanent collection, held its first rotating exhibit, its first juried show, added jazz and chamber music concerts, and an annual gala.

“After we looked at our permanent collection, we realized we had enough to focus on that, on 20 years of collecting,” Torri said.

She and her staff set up guidelines for selecting the included artists from the permanent collection of 150. “We wanted to concentrate on San Diego artists and be very fair. We decided to select only those who had solo exhibits and were part of the permanent collection. The resulting collection of 40 artists is a reflection of what is happening in San Diego,” Torri explained.

The majority of the featured artists live in or near San Diego, with several teaching at local colleges or universities. The few who live elsewhere have ties to the San Diego area, to the Athenaeum or to books or music in some way. Six of the artists have died since their solo exhibits.

Most of the art in the book is wall art: paintings, pen-and-ink drawings, photographs, mixed media, collages, small installations and sculpture. One artist — Patricia Patterson — originally painted her “Mary at the Stove” on a moveable plaster wall, which she took with her after her exhibit.

“I really missed that painting,” Torri said. Just before the library’s new book went to press, the artist donated it to the permanent col- lection (where it hangs today on its original piece of wall) and the staff had to scramble to rearrange the contents of the book.

Another exhibit was actually a large box — “Smoking Room” by Jay Johnson — but is displayed in the permanent collection as a digital photograph showing the box being constructed.

Another 20-year milestone is that “Selections from the Permanent Exhibit” is the first book about San Diego artists published since1985, when the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art published a catalog of 42 San Diego artists and since 1988, when Robert Perine published “San Diego Artists.”

The Athenaeum’s book includes anintroduction and acknowledgements by Torri, who oversaw its creation as its chief editor.

Helping her were Julie Dunn, editor; Maura Walters, her assistant; Cornelia Faye, theeducation director who wrote all the text about the artists and their work; Kathi Peterson and Carol Buckley, librarians; and Tyler Blik, designer.

The book includes original photographs of each artist from his or her solo exhibits, as well as more recent photos of the interior of the Athenaeum taken by Philipp Rittermann, whose collaborative mural with Robert Irwin currently overlooks the Jonathan’s Market parking lot. It also includes an introductory essay, “Meander through a Collection,” by Lucia Sanroman, former assistant curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art.

For those interested in the history of cultural life in La Jolla, secondary material at the back of “Selections from the Permanent Collection” includes: a list of main gallery exhibits, more information about the permanent collection artists, a brief history of the Athenaeum; and lists of past librarians, administrators, executive directors, presidents, staff and board members.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library welcomes more than 110,000 visitors a year to its three galleries and hosts seven to eight rotating exhibits annually. Solo exhibits are held in its Main Gallery, which in 2012 was renamed the Joseph Clayes III Gallery.

Want to buy the book?

■ What: Athenaeum Music & Arts Library’s ‘Selections from the Permanent Collection: 1990-2010.’ $25 members, $30 non-members

■ Visit: Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St.

■ Call: (858) 454-5872

■ Order online: