Craft I Catalog ’59
Crafts II Catalog ’61
Crafts IV Catalog ’65
Crafts VII Rippon Retro Catalog ’71
Crafts XIII Catalog ’83
Crafts XV Catalog ’87
Crafts XVI Catalog ’89
Viola Frey Catalog
Material Witness XVII 1993
Birdie Boyles (1916-2008)
I Can Do That
History of the Creative Arts League of Sacramento
Creative Arts League of Sacramento, (CALS) has sponsored and organized seventeen craft exhibitions at the Crocker Art Museum over the last sixty years. The scope of each exhibition has been carefully considered and a variety of shows have been presented. Nine juried shows have provided a showcase for aspiring young artists; five exhibitions have honored established artists with invitational one-person retrospectives. All exhibitions have been limited to artists living in California with the exception of California Crafts VI in 1969 when the area was widened to include artists working in the Pacific States of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. Jurors for the competitive shows have included some of the finest craftsmen and craft authorities in the country.
CALS was formed in 1952 by ten women who joined together for the purpose of bringing to the community the outstanding works of local contemporary artists. At that time, there were no private galleries in the Sacramento area, and artists in the region had difficulty finding a place to show their work. In the 1950’s CALS located exhibition space, organized and hung artist’s shows at the downtown YWCA, the Sacramento Garden and Arts Center, and the Lanai Shopping Center. Altogether, CALS presented about thirty one-person shows.
In the late 1950’s, CALS decided to tackle another project. Because several private galleries had recently opened in Sacramento, the work of painters and sculptors was now widely shown. However the post World War II artistic explosion, accompanied by new technologies and materials, created a revolution in the craft media but there was little opportunity to see this exciting artwork.
In the fall of 1958 CALS approached the Director of the Crocker Art Museum with the idea of organizing a statewide competitive show for fine craft artists. As a result of the discussions, CALS agreed to sponsor, finance and organize a show (later to be called California Crafts I), and be responsible for its production and installation.
Beginning with a zero exhibition fund, members of CALS (now numbering eighteen) began to plan for the craft show. With support of friends and businesses in the community, funds were raised for awards and other expenses including a modest illustrated catalog. The exhibition opened in 1959 and because of the show’s aesthetic and popular success CALS and the Crocker Art Museum decided to make the craft show a biennial event.
California Crafts II and III (in 1961 and 1963) were also statewide juried shows. As with the first show, each exhibition was accompanied by its own illustrated catalogue. As these craft exhibitions increased in size and complexity, the other endeavors of CALS were phased out. Membership in the organization gradually increased, and the biennial craft exhibition became their major project.
In planning for California Crafts IV the members of CALS realized the time had come when the finest artists were no longer entering competitive show. In order to bring their work to Sacramento, CALS decided to make this show an invitational. The exhibition included the work of artists with an international reputation as well as that of a number of younger fine craft artists whose work showed exceptional promise.
In an effort to highlight the newest ideas in the burgeoning crafts scene, California Crafts V, in 1967, was a juried show open only to artists under thirty. California Crafts VI was a competitive show open to fine craft artists from all of the five Pacific states.
For the 1971 show, CALS decided to feature a retrospective exhibition of the work of a single outstanding fine craft artist, Ruth Rippon. This was the first retrospective exhibition undertaken at the Crocker Art Museum. It was installed on both floors of the Museum’s Herold Wing because it was accompanied by the organization’s first scholarly catalogue, the budget for this retrospective (California Crafts VII) was three times that of previous shows.
California Crafts VIII, IX, X & XI (1973 though 1979) were a combination of invitational and juried exhibitions. In 1981, CALS organized the first retrospective exhibition of the work of San Francisco Bay Area Ceramist, Viola Frey. Again, the Museum made available both floors of the Herold Wing to accommodate this large and comprehensive show. The exhibition (California Crafts XII) later traveled to the Oakland Museum.
California Crafts XIII, in 1983, was the organization’s last competitive show. With Lloyd Herman, Director of the Renwick gallery of the Smithsonian Institution as its juror, CALS continued its tradition of engaging the most outstanding jurors in the field.
In 1985, the organization presented the exhibition California Crafts XIV Living Treasures of California, honoring nineteen living California craftsmen and women who, over a period of at least 25 years had done work of a sufficiently high level of craftsmanship and creativity to influence the development of other artists in their medium. At CALS’ request, the artists selected for the exhibition were also honored by the California State Assembly as California “Living Treasures”.
Later in 1985, Fred Uhl Ball, a leading artist in the medium of enamel and the author of the definitive text on enameling (Experimental Techniques in Enameling), was tragically killed. CALS decided to make California Crafts XV (in 1987) a retrospective of Fred’s work. For the first time, a member of the Crocker staff, curator Janice Driesbach, curated the show.
When it became time to select the California Crafts XVI exhibition (for 1989), CALS decided to exhibit ceramics from the extensive collection of the University of California, Berkeley professor Hubert Arnold. Members Ruth Rippon and Anne McHenry spent four years narrowing down the collection for the exhibit. Largely as a result of this exhibition, Dr. Arnold decided to give his entire collection of 1,500 objects to the Crocker and set the stage for a major curatorial area, a resource for study and research.
With changes in the administration at the Crocker Art Museum during the 1990’s, Museum policy regarding outside personnel working within the museum changed. CALS was no longer permitted to select, curate, design and install shows on a biennial schedule. There was no assurance that CALS Sponsored statewide crafts shows would continue.
In 1991, at the Crocker Art Museum’s request, CALS underwrote a small exhibition of the large ceramic figures of Viola Frey. This show, mounted in the Museum’s Ose Gallery, was held in conjunction with the Northern California Ceramics Conference.
In late 1992 and early 1993, CALS underwrote the entire cost of bringing the traveling exhibition, Clearly Art – Pilchuck’s Glass Legacy, to the Crocker. The show was originated by the Whatcom Museum of History and Art in Washington, and was curated by Lloyd E. Herman.
By 1994, CALS had built up a significant surplus in its exhibition fund raising. On June 30th of that year, CALS presented a check for $50,000 to the Crocker Art Museum Foundation to establish an endowment earmarked for a permanent Contemporary Crafts Gallery within the museum. Over the years, CALS has raised more than $550,000 for exhibitions at the Crocker.
As the year 1999 approached, the 40th anniversary of CALS first exhibition, CALS and Crocker staff decided it would be a good opportunity to document and showcase the importance of forty years of exhibitions. Material Witness – Masters from California Crafts includes the work of 19 fine craft artists, each of whom has been in a previous California Crafts Exhibition, but each is also doing new creative work not previously seen in Sacramento.
As the millennium approached, CALS began to assess how we could continue to bring Contemporary Crafts to the Sacramento Community. If our goals were to be reached we had to seek other ways in which our talents could be used. In 2001, our first Art Show/Sale was established with a two-day exhibition/sale at the new home of Ann Ragland Bowns.
Also in 2001, another change in the Crocker Museum Administration once again “opened the door” to the possibility that CALS participation in bringing fine contemporary craft exhibitions to the Museum would be welcomed.
At the request of the Crocker’s curator Scott Shields in 2003 CALS once again became the underwriter for the entire cost of bringing to the Crocker an exhibition of nationally known studio goldsmiths, Behind the Mines – the Art of Gold. This exhibition was sponsored by the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) and was curated by Michael Monroe an independent curator, formerly Curator-in Charge at the Renwick Gallery. In addition to the National Goldsmiths exhibition, Scott Shields, curator of the Crocker, mounted an exhibition of approximately 50 California Studio Goldsmiths that was shown concurrently. This dual exhibition opened in January and after the successful opening CALS learned from the SNAG president that without our early commitment to sponsor this exhibition, the traveling show could not have been produced.
In 2008 CALS sponsored a retrospective of the work of artist Birdie Boyles (1916-2008). A native Sacramentan, Birdie began creating woodblock prints and became a leading member of the Sacramento arts community and was an early member of Creative Arts League of Sacramento.
CALS was instrumental in bringing The Vase and Beyond: The Sydney Swidler Collection of the Contemporary Vessel and underwriting the accompanying catalog for the opening exhibit of the newly expanded Crocker Art Museum in 2010. Mr. Swidler later donated his entire collection of 880 pieces to the Crocker adding to the increasingly comprehensive holdings of the museum. The CALS Endowment Donation provided for the expansion and naming of the gallery with over five thousand square feet of new exhibition space dedicated to the display of fine craft.
In 2011 CALS funded the catalog that accompanied the exhibition Clayton Bailey’s World of Wonders, a major undertaking featuring more than 180 sculptures, vessels, and related ephemera created by the artist over a fifty-year span. Clayton Bailey is an influential sculptor in clay and a leading figure in the artistic movement called Funk.
In 2013 CALS sponsored By Hand – Extraordinary Fine Craft in California, a juried exhibit of fine craft by artists and craftspeople residing in California. The exhibit was curated by Julie M. Muniz, Associate Curator, Design and Decorative Arts, Oakland Museum of California.
CALS also contributes to the, I CAN DO THAT! a non-profit corporation providing high-quality Arts education opportunities through teaching-artist residencies to children of all abilities in Sacramento. I CAN DO THAT! brings the arts to 3,000 Pre-K through 12th grade students (70% of whom have mental, emotional, developmental, or physical disabilities and 71.4% of whom belong to the low- to moderate-income population) at 60 school sites annually.
2016 – BY HAND, A National Biennial Fine Craft Competition & Exhibition sponsored by the Creative Arts League of Sacramento was exhibited at Blue Line Arts in Roseville, California January 16 – February 27, 2016. This exhibition featured a variety of media and represented work by artists from 28 states. The selected pieces exhibited cutting-edge innovation in the use of materials, aesthetic vision and the highest standards of workmanship. We were honored to have renowned juror, Elisabeth R. Agro, the Nancy M. McNeil Associate Curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts and Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Co-founder and Advisor of Critical Craft Forum.
2017 – CALS is sponsoring the Ruth Rippon Retrospective exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum in Fall 2017. Ruth Rippon received national and international prominence for her whimsical, beautiful and groundbreaking ceramic work and was a critically acclaimed Professor of Art at California State University for over three decades inspiring and influencing thousands of students with her well-informed scholarship, creativity and disciplined teaching style. This exhibition will coincide with Ruth’s 90th birthday.