The Museum’s mission is to celebrate the community’s rich artistic legacy and promote the cultural vitality of the region.
About the Museum
The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art was created to inspire, stimulate and enhance the community through education programs, our collection and exhibitions. The Museum seeks to share the transforming experience of art with our diverse audiences. Featuring the work of Claremont area artists, the Museum is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon to 4:00 pm.
History of the Museum
It all started in 1987 with a comment by Marion (Hoppy) Stewart. The well-known weaver and wife of sculptor Albert Stewart had just returned from a walk with a friend to Claremont’s Padua Hills Theater. Her friend said a museum should be created inside the theater to exhibit the work of Claremont’s many artists.
Stewart conveyed this idea to her other friend, Marguerite McIntosh who—along with her husband, renowned ceramicist Harrison McIntosh—has been part of the city’s arts community for more than 50 years. The remark was enough to prompt Marguerite to seek the support of two former mayors in establishing a museum.
While the theater underwent restoration, another significant historic building came into the picture: the College Heights Lemon Packing House, which had just been saved from demolition and earmarked for renovation into a mixed-used building. Its historic significance and ideal downtown location made it a perfect site for the Claremont Museum of Art. The Museum was incorporated in 2004, and in February 2006, the board formally announced that the Claremont Museum of Art would open in the Packing House. That marked nearly two decades since McIntosh and others began to explore the possibility of creating a museum that would celebrate Claremont’s rich artistic heritage – past, present, and future.
Beyond gaining a visible location, the Museum’s mission expanded as well. In addition to spotlighting the work of Claremont artists in a permanent collection, the board decided to devote the institution’s main gallery to showcasing art from around the nation and world. That decision set the Museum on a trajectory to become a regional museum of international significance.
But the realities of the recession derailed the grand plan and in late 2009, the museum board decided that the museum could no longer afford to maintain a staff and exhibition space. After valiant efforts to raise funds failed, the museum space was closed and the permanent collection was safely stored.
From 2010 to 2016, the museum successfully operated as a “museum without walls.” With nearly 300 members, the volunteer organization continued to hold numerous events and programs. CMA presented ten exhibitions in borrowed spaces. The Padua Hills Art Fiesta became a popular annual event and studio tours opened dozens of artists’ studios to the public.
In December 2015, the Claremont Museum of Art entered into a lease agreement with the City of Claremont for the adaptive reuse of the Claremont Depot as a small art museum. Thanks to generous and enthusiastic community support, the museum raised over $150,000 and completed Phase I of the renovation. The museum opened its new gallery space at the Depot on November 20, 2016.
Local architect, John Bohn, of JBohn Associates, has worked with the Board of Directors since the Museum moved into the historic Claremont Depot. He developed the plans to renovate and restore the Atrium and add a “second skin” to the former Foothill Transit Office to turn it into a gallery, without impacting the original walls of the interior of the historic building. Read more about the historic Claremont Depot at Claremont Heritage Foundation.
The same care and attention to detail was followed in remodeling the final two rooms of the Depot into galleries in 2021-22. The original, rare 100-year-old plank cedar flooring was milled, sanded, stained and reinstalled. In the adjacent room, fir flooring was stained to match the cedar and installed over the cement floor. The original ceilings in both rooms were retained and track lighting hung from the ceiling in the two new galleries. The adaptive reuse of this historic building has been a very successful public/private partnership with the City of Claremont, Metro, and the generous support of members and friends.
In 2022, the Museum received a major gift from Randall Lewis and established a significant endowment to ensure continued stability. As part of this gift, the name of the museum was changed to the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art.
The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art continues to transform and expand. Fundraising and generous community support for the “Imagine More Museum” campaign allowed the Museum to turn the two most eastern rooms into galleries in May, 2022. With high ceilings and expansive wall and floor space, the new galleries will more than double CLMA’s exhibition and educational opportunities and allow us to showcase a mix of painting, sculpture, and other media to inspire art lovers of all ages.
The final piece of the expansion will be the addition of a glassed-in Community Room, which will reshape the West Portico into a venue for smaller programs, art classes, and special events. The expanded museum will be a catalyst to spur creative thinking, engagement, and innovative programming for the broader community. For more information visit Imagine More Museum.
Claremont’s Rich Artistic Legacy
Art is an enduring part of Claremont’s history and heritage. Known throughout the country as an “art mecca” in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Claremont remains an important center of artistic activity. Claremont artists are integral to the cultural fabric of the City, having contributed to its unique identity and personality for more than 70 years.
Centered by the Colleges, Claremont emerged as an important art community in the years following World War II. The film Design for Modern Living: Millard Sheets and the Claremont Art Community 1935–75 reinforced our awareness of the significance of our artistic heritage, a heritage worthy of preservation and presentation to future generations.
Claremont continues to have an active community of artists. Although many artists have homes and studios in neighboring towns, Claremont serves as a hub for area artists in large part because of the presence and reputation of the Claremont Colleges. In the tradition of their predecessors, local artists continue to impact the quality of the social and built environments.
Associate Director of Exhibitions and Collections
Sam Willard-Van Sistine
Rich Deely, Director
Maya Winnick, Project Associate
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
- Susan M. Allen
- Sandy Baldonado, President Emerita
- Aurelia Brogan
- Barbara Brown, Emerita
- Susan Guntner
- Juliet Kane
- Valerie Martinez
- Catherine McIntosh
- Marguerite McIntosh, President Emerita
- Emily Moultrie, Secretary
- Dr. Janet Myhre, Emerita
- Sheri Nagel, Vice President
- Marilyn Ray, Emerita
- Rae Rottman, Treasurer
- Elaine Turner, Past President
- Joseph “Joe” Unis M.D.
- Mary Weis, Emerita
- Ryan Zimmerman, President
- Harold B. “Hal” Nelson, Special Advisor
Thank you to the many supporters of the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art. Click here for a complete list of 2022 members and friends of the museum.
Culture and Equity and Inclusion
STATEMENT: The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art is committed to serve the public in ways that respect the plurality of our communities. Complete Culture and Equity and Inclusion Statement.
IRS Federal Filings
2021 990 Tax Return [PDF]
The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art is a public, non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Our exhibitions and programs are supported by public and private organizations as well as many individual donors, members and volunteers.