Arts | Chaffey Community Museum of Art
By: Jamie Durante
Young children and adults do not always get enough exposure into the world of creativity. The world of art and self-expression are limitless and without boundaries. When you dive into the arts, as either a passionate creator or thoughtful spectator, you may learn something about beauty, emotions or someone else’s humble perspective.
Chaffey Community Museum of Art in Ontario, California is a great example of a place where creativity, passion and a love of the arts come to life. Home to various exhibits and events, this artistic haven is one of Ontario’s best kept secrets—but not for long!
Walking up to the museum, we instantly noticed the artwork living outside of the building, which was calling for peace and not war. We already knew, even before enterting, we were going to see some thought-provoking artwork.
Walking into the museum, we were greeted by the extremely friendly and knowledgeable Museum Coordinator, Jenelle Lowry. Lowry was very generous with her time and gave us the grand tour of the museum. The wall straight ahead showed us a preview into what we could expect in each of the museum’s four galleries, and we started off by entering into the large Main Gallery.
“Expressions” in the Main Gallery consisted of various works of art made by four different artists. All of these pieces were very unique, but their unifying quality was they did not depict objects in the real world. Instead, these abstract and creative pieces conveyed the internal thoughts and emotions of the contributing artists.
One of our favorite works was Karen S. Kauffman’s “Passion-Red Blossom Series: #1 through #4.” The acrylic paint on wood panels was vibrant, catching our attention. The marriage of bright and dark colors was intensified by the dramatic texture of these pieces.
Next, we moved further down a hall to the Line Gallery to see the exhibit, “Reflections… Looking Back, The First Ten Years.” Before entering into the room, we noticed two iconic paintings hung in the hallway. One was entitled Day at Corona del Mar, which is an oil painting done by famous watercolor painter, Rex Brandt. It was painted in 1943. To the left of this work of art there was another painting by Helen Lundeberg from 1947. Lundeberg was known for her oil paintings, however this one in particular, titled The Clouds was rather dark for her typical style of work.
Now it was time to head into the “Reflections” exhibit. This room displayed pieces from the first 10 years of the museum’s existence, which consisted of paintings the museum added to its permanent collection back in the 1940s, as its first exhibit opened on October 25, 1941. The museum's very first exhibit was huge, as it included work from 61 artists.
The Line Gallery also exhibited a Founders Corner, where a brief history lesson taught us more about the founders of the museum. Francis and Helen Line opened the museum in 1941 in memory of their daughter named Barbara. At the young age of eight, Barbara passed away from leukemia. The Line family was from Ontario, and they opened the museum in order to promote the interest, education and enjoyment of art for the community at large. It is clear that the museum is still holding strong to this important mission.
We went back through the Main Gallery to find the huge South Gallery, which was one of our favorite collections of the day. “Whimsical Celebration” by Dee Marcellus Cole was a ticket into the imagination of a true visionary. Marcellus Cole’s sculptures brought us into a fairytale-like experience where mythological creatures and powerful symbols seemed to have lives of their own. These two rooms gave a glimpse into a wonderful imagination, and you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate the detail.
Before we headed into the next gallery, we were captivated by the Young Artist Alcove, which consistently features artwork from students at Ontario High School. Lowry made a great point in sharing that children and teens don’t have year-round art galleries and museums at their own schools to display their art, so the museum happily dedicates the Alcove to showing their masterpieces.
Ruben Rincon’s abstract art was on display when we visited, and we could not believe this budding artist was only in high school. From the colorful pieces with clean lines, to the gloomier work that seemed to transport us into a dark hole of space, you could see this artist could express his emotions almost effortlessly through creating art.
The last gallery we visited was a mind-blowing photography exhibit by husband and wife duo, Nancy and Paul Speaker. “Slot Canyons Nature’s Abstract Art” consisted of beautiful photographs taken in the canyons of Nevada. The way the sun and sky reflected into these canyons created beautiful colors of orange, red, purples and blues. Printed on a special aluminum paper, these images were something like we've never seen before. You have to stop by to check it out before it’s too late.
Heading back to the entrance, we started to notice all the artwork that first greeted us when we walked in.
A giant piece that was attributed to Millard Sheets was a giant statement piece that spanned a good part of an entire wall. This Untitled piece is a mosaic that once served as artwork in a department store, until it was torn down. Luckily, this piece of work was saved, which is a relief considering some of the mosaic pieces are gold-plated. The way the sun lit up this piece was beyond gorgeous.
Two other sculptures caught our eye in the front room, one of which was a Terra-cotta statue, Bust of Jack Mercer, made by Pam de la Roche. The other sculpture is a retro-looking statue of a fawn, which was dedicated to the Ontario-Upland YMCA in 1966. The sculptor of this was Betty Davenport Ford.
Don’t forget to check out the Museum Store before you leave, as there are tons of wonderful pieces for sale, all of which would make great gifts. You can purchase greeting cards with many different prints of original artwork or fine intricate jewelry, discover your next favorite painting and more.
Overall, our visit to the museum was insightful, inspirational and a lot of fun! We recommend this daytrip to anyone who wants to open their heart up to a little bit of art and community. You won't be disappointed!
Chaffey Community Museum of Art, 217 S. Lemon Ave., Ontario, CA 91761. The museum is open Thursdays through Sundays from 12-4p.m. Admission is free. For more information call (909) 463-3733 or visit this website.