The Slow Decline (1967-1978)

     This was an era of recovery for the Guild from the trauma of the divisive bylaw revisions of 1966. However, despite the best efforts and intentions of the artists and museum alike, the Guild, which lost dozens of members, never regained the stature it once had and began a slow decline.
     1967 was the year the University of California San Diego opened their Visual Art Department. Many Guild members were associated with and taught at the La Jolla Art Center (Note: In 1971 the name was changed to the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art). When UCSD opened their new art department they felt that they had the inside track on getting the new jobs teaching at that institution. These artists, among them, Richard Allen Morris, Sheldon Kirby, and Fred Holle were mistaken. All of the teaching positions went to "name" artists from outside of the San Diego area, notably New York.
     Once insulated within the university most of these new arrivals separated themselves from the local artists, none of them ever joined the Guild, and for the most part, created their own avant garde art community. Interestingly, it was worked into their contract that they would receive raises based on exhibitions they had locally. San Diego supported them by offering numerous opportunities and exhibitions all over the community.
     Over the years despite a warm welcome from the Guild artists, including having many of the new arrivals jury Guild shows, the new group, "those guys on the hill", created their own dynamic. The La Jolla Museum began collecting and featuring their work. They won over the admiration of the local news media and later were among the "elite" exhibitors at the San Diego Museum of Art.
     This split in the local art scene was very demoralizing to Guild members and helped further alienate them from the rest of the art community. (Note: The attitudes that many Guild members had held for what they considered "unqualified" artists, among their own membership, artists they rejected, and members of Spanish Village and the Art Institute were the same attitudes that the new professors had for them. "The chickens had come home to roost.")

     During the late 1960's both Warren Beach, Director and Ronald Hickman, Executive Curator attended all Guild Board meetings. Their presence showed that the Gallery still valued the Guild as an integral part of its functioning.
Here is an article written by Naomi Baker for the Evening Tribune on March 24, 1967:
Graphics Arts Display is Lively
San Diego Art Guild Sponsors Gallery Show

     "In a big competitive all-media exhibition, graphic art too often is a stepchild. Paintings predominate. Sculptures get scanty representation, too. Some jurors seem to ignore both categories, as they do crafts.
     Graphic art is the No.1 boy in the San Diego Art Guild's current exhibition through April 23 in the San Diego fine Arts Gallery. And a lively, likable lad he is.
     It's an all graphic show. Cheers! Its quality is enhanced by the addition of five works each by 10 invited artists, who live out of this area. This section of the show is remarkable. Every one of the 10 has some memorable exhibits….
Juror Comments About Open Shows
     Now I interject some comments by the shows juror, Dr. Thomas Leavitt, director, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, who spoke Friday after the preview-reception in the gallery.
He said large juried exhibitions are on their way out, and that 'they tend to become less meaningful.'
     Questioned later, he explained that larger museums across the country are eliminating big annual shows because judging is so subjective, and no one seems satisfied….
Unknown Artist Wouldn't Have Chance
     But there is another side to be considered. The invited artists more likely would be those who have proved their merit elsewhere, and the selection would be subjective. The unknown artist would not have the chance he now has to gain a toehold of recognition by even a single accepted exhibit.
     Many students are producing good work. There is quite a bit in this show. And few museum directors or committee members would know about such promising artists, or about the more mature artists who are working quietly in their studios.
     It's good that Leavitt winnowed out 65 exhibits from the 358 submitted from the city and county. Some previous guild shows have been unwieldy because of juror's leniency…."

     Recorded in the minutes of May 17, 1967 was mentioned that these shows were unacceptable as prerequisites for Guild membership, the Del Mar Fair, The San Dieguito Art Guild and St. Mark's Lenten Art Festival.
     In those same minutes, Martha Alf, recording secretary wrote:
     "Mr. Saunders felt that Guild morale was low because the Guild has not done anything for its members. He proposed a dinner for Guild members with the bill paid by the Guild treasury….
     Mr. Turk and Miss Kelley brought up the fact that most galleries have given up the sponsorship of an Art Guild as it involves too many headaches for the staff. Yet, as Mr. Saunders mentioned, this fact of being part of the outstanding art facility in this city is the prime reason why artists join the Guild. The meeting adjourned with its main problem still unsolved; How to attract new and desirable members…"

     Everett Gee Jackson held a one-man show in the Fine Arts gallery from May 12, 1967 - June 11, 1967.
     Naomi Baker wrote about this show in the Evening Tribune on May 30, 1967:
"Everett Gee Jackson's painting exhibition in the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery is the best one-man show there in years. I hope its high quality sets a precedent for the gallery in choosing future one-man shows."

     At the Guild Board meeting on June 16, 1967, Warren Beach discussed the changes of once having three Guild shows, now two and those open to non-Guild members for a fee. He favored returning to one regional show and one Guild member only show. Also discussed were the acceptable shows which included all shows in the Fine Arts Gallery, the Jewish Community Center, The La Jolla Museum of Art, Orr's Gallery, and non-student shows at local colleges and universities.
     As recorded in the minutes of the Board meeting on July 26, 1967:
     "William Bowne said that there are three attitudes that the Guild should guard against:
1. The snobbish attitude.
2. The questionable attitude--that there is something questionable about having an all membership show, as if we had no right to do it.
3. The provincial attitude--that we should be the final judge. Why not use national shows?"

     In September of 1967 a portrait bust of Reginald Poland, by Anna Coleman Ladd was donated to the Fine Arts Society by a group of his friends. It was unveiled at a reception on October 5, 1967. (See Chapter III, p.33.)
     Discussion of an ongoing dispute as to what shows were to be considered as professional enough for the Guild continued during the Board meeting on October 18, 1967. The Watercolor Society Show in Spanish Village was still considered as amateurish as was the Mission Valley Show.

     In the Evening Tribune on April 9, 1968, Naomi Baker wrote:
Chairman Plans For Guild Shows In Foreign Lands
     "Asked for some of her goals for the San Diego Art Guild, Kay Whitcomb, its newly elected chairman, said she hopes to build the guild into a strong organization that will attract a greater membership of artists and to give them increased recognition nationally and internationally through group invitational shows.
     If her present plans materialize, she said the guild will have an invitational show in Athens and it might later go to Beirut, Istanbul and Ankara.
     'These juried group shows would be limited to Art Guild members invited to submit their best work. By exhibiting nationally and internationally they would gain the necessary prestige to be paid comparably for their work.'
     She said that already she has contracts for obtaining places for invitational shows.
Guild Goals Are Outlined
     Her other goals: 'I would like to have two juried exhibitions yearly in the San Diego Fine Arts Gallery and have them sponsored and financed by the guild; also to make guild group freight possible for entries to regional exhibitions; to have international figures in the art field as guest speakers at the guild's quarterly meetings, to make recommendations for the Archives of California Art, and to recommend jurors for annual art exhibitions at the California Exposition in Sacramento. Another of my aims is to continue the guild-sponsored life drawing workshop.'
     Mrs. Whitcomb, an enamellist and painter has participated in many invitational shows in the United states, has won numerous awards and has worked and exhibited in Italy.
     She was elected guild chairman at the annual meeting Friday evening."

     Kay Whitcomb wrote to me on October 23, 2003 and summarized the events of 1965 - '66 and their aftermath:
     "…We had to raise funds for our exhibition expenses… I know of no Art Guild which is a committee of an Art Museum in the USA. The curator (Rudy Turk), advisor to the Art Guild, promoted the skullduggery of 1965, and the Board members resented having to raise these funds, for it means getting caught in menial tasks which are not creative, and donated time to a lot of uncreative work! So they rewrote the by-laws, giving it to a board of two helpers to the Chairman, and a 4th was on the board to the Fine Arts Society. It made the artists prove his creativeness every 3 years thru juried, acceptable exhibitions, regionally or nationally. It would have removed many of its members by 1968. But this Art Guild had a Guardian Angel, the Art Editor of the San Diego Tribune, Naomi Baker, and she called me non-stop to take a stand! The Art Guild had a membership of 200 that was angry, but no one stepped up to the plate to rescue it… We had three years to straighten out the Guild's problems. For two years they treaded water… So I became the Chairman in 1968 with the help of Lilli Hill and Myna Nobile, and Frank Papworth as its Fine Arts Society board member… To keep this Art Guild functioning with opportunities for the San Diego artists occupied my full time…for the Guild was at its lowest ebb! … First I met with Michael Ibs Gonzalez, lawyer for the Fine Arts Society who helped rewrite the By-laws to meet the Museum's approval. It took 9 months to get 125 written votes of approval of these by-laws, thanks to Lilli Hill and Stan Newcomb. There was a membership drive, museum exhibition and fund raiser, 'Illusions 68.' This idea grew out of the Design Conference at Aspen, CO, and put the Art Guild back on the Map!"

     This was written in the San Diego Union on April 29, 1968 by Eileen Jackson:
San Diego Athens Exchange
     "Dr. Orrin Klapp, cultural attaché in Athens who is on leave from the San Diego State faculty, will arrange for a California crafts show to be exhibited in the autumn in the binational center (Hellenic American Union) in Athens. The San Diego Art Guild and Craftsmen already are assembling a show. This spring Paul Lingren, professor of art at San Diego State, will go to Athens to lecture and present a showing of his work."

back to top

Back - 31 - Next