It was 1919. Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States. Prohibition began and the Treaty of Versailles ended World War I.
And at Gardena High School – the 12th grade class presented the school with an original landscape painting by Ralph Davison Miller.
It became a unique annual tradition that lasted until 1956 – recalls Gardena High School alumnus Bruce Dalrymple.
“It happened in 1919, the community of Gardena was an agricultural community at the time and a lot of children were working in the fields.
“The size of the school was quite small, with around 40 students graduating each year,” he told KCLU.
The school principal suggested that high school students find and buy a piece of art to donate to the school.
“The following year, in 1920, the students wondered if they wanted to continue and they decided to do it… and that’s how the tradition started,” said Dalrymple.
The art collection was on display at the California Museum of Art in Thousand Oaks.
Lynn Farrand – the museum’s senior curator – says the students built an impressive collection at an interesting time in 20e history of the century.
“They’ve managed to do this through these difficult historical events. Like WWII, the Spanish flu pandemic, the Great Depression. They even had a polio outbreak and didn’t have a vaccine for about seven years, I think.
“But they didn’t give up on that collection and continued to do so until 1956, when they ran out of space,” said Farrand.
The collection is considered one of the most remarkable collections of the early 20e Californian art of the century.
“The artists come from many different parts of the United States and Europe who came to California for the scenery and the light,” Farrand explained.
“The artists are wonderful. Many are very well known, and some are not, but they are just as deep in this collection, ”she said.
Mike West visiting the exhibit, he said it was an “absolute surprise” to find that these works had been collected by high school students.
“These are beautiful pieces of fantastic quality,” he said.
The exhibition – titled Gifted – runs from September 10, 2021 to January 9, 2022.