Guide to the Santa Cruz Art League Collection (1919-1993) – History

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Santa Cruz Art League, Inc. is a non-profit organization of artists and laymen, formed October 11, 1919. The purpose of the league was “To develop and foster a higher standard of art and a greater appreciation of it, and to encourage cooperation and comradeship among its members; to maintain a permanent gallery, thereby encouraging the production and sale of works of art. To forward all interests tending to artistic development and love for the beautiful in the individual and the social and civic life of Santa Cruz.” (Santa Cruz Art League, Constitution Title (Santa Cruz, Calif.: Santa Cruz Art League, date)) Frank Heath was elected the first President, Margaret Rogers, vice president, Virginia Arthur, secretary, and Cyril Dean, treasurer. Collections of work by League artists were exhibited throughout the state in many galleries, local businesses, and museums. These exhibits were well received by the public.

In 1928, the League sponsored the first juried annual Statewide Art Exhibit. One thousand dollars was given to the League by S. Waldo Coleman for cash awards. In the 1930’s, the League grew in numbers, financial worth, and recognition. The cause of the League was “to stimulate a greater appreciation of traditional art … to promote county-wide annual observance of “American Art Week” and to advertise this area as an artist’s dream.” (2 Huebner, Walter J., [n.d.]. The Santa Cruz Art League, Inc.: Those Who Went Before.)  In 1947, L. E. DeJoiner succeeded Margaret Rogers as President and using accumulated gifts and donations, the League purchased the lot at 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz, California. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the building were held on May 10, 1949 and the present galleries were dedicated July 1, 1951. In the following months, the League activities were primarily dedicated to fundraising activities to support the expenses of the building project, including tea parties and clothesline art sales. One of the most remembered of these activities was the annual Beaux Arts Ball, held 1953 through 1958. The Beaux Arts Ball was a themed masquerade ball that included music, decorations, a costume parade and prizes. The expenses of the building project far exceeded the income that could be generated through art sales and fundraising events. In 1951, the necessary financial assistance was provided by Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Roseberry (a loan of $12,000) with the proviso that the “The Last Supper” be housed in an Art League gallery. This artwork is a life size, wax reproduction of DaVinci’s painting, created for Harry Liston by Madame Stubergh and her daughter Katharine Stubergh, of the Stubergh Mannequin Company. The Last Supper Citizens Committee was formed and the artwork was purchased by the Santa Cruz Art League from Liston for $20,000. The exhibit attracted thousands of people, and the income generated by donations was enough to eventually pay off the loan. The work of the League has continued uninterrupted for decades. However, there was one significant period of controversy regarding the style of art to be represented by the League. In February and March of 1981, a proposal was made “concerning the allowance of non-traditional forms of artistic expression and the relationship of these forms of creativity to the future role of the League.” (3 The Santa Cruz Art League, Inc. in the Jim Price Papers, compiled by Iulus A. McCullough, curator) The ensuing discussion resulted in a vote of the membership regarding the inclusion of abstract art, legal interpretation of the text of the Constitution, followed by the resignation of Dorothy J. Rose, President and Millie Piraino, Vice President. “In August of 1990, “The Last Supper” was transferred to the Santa Cruz Memorial Park and Funeral Home. In the intervening years, the mission of the League has been modified to function as an agent for the artistic experience. At the time of this writing, The Santa Cruz Art League has an active membership, gallery, theater, classroom, and gift shop, and continues to sponsor the Annual Statewide Exhibition.


Constitution of the Art League, June 5, 1929.
Central County News. ”Tourist Landmark.” April 25, 1965, 19.
Huebner, Walter J. “The Last Supper Project Now Seven Years Old.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 4, 1958, 7.
Koch, Margaret. [n.d.]. “They Built a League and a Gallery.” Santa Cruz History, Arts. Santa Cruz Public Library (accessed October 24, 2010).
Neubauer, Bill. “Art League Building 30 Years Old.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 1, 1986, 10. 7 Rawson, Laura. “SC Art League Marks 10 Years In New Galleries.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 29, 1961, 6.
San Jose Evening News. “The Last Supper.” June 4, 1951, Editorial Page.
Santa Cruz Art League. (accessed September 14, 2010).
The Santa Cruz Art League, Inc. in the Jim Price Papers, compiled by Iulus A. McCullough, curator
“The Santa Cruz Art League, Inc.: Those Who Went Before” by Walt J. Huebner
(In the Jim Price Papers) Unpublished.
Walker, T. Mike. Santa Cruz Art League: 90 Years of History. Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz Art League, 2009.