Message from the Director
Twenty-five years ago, I wrote a letter to Beatrice Wood, inquiring if I could come and visit with her. She generously responded with a handwritten letter encouraging me, including directions on how to travel the road up the mountain from Ojai to Happy Valley. My wife Sheryl and I arrived with a number of questions for her. From a young age, I was interested in the Dada Movement and Sheryl and I were both working for a leading craft gallery, with an interest in how mediums including ceramic and wood have been central to civilization and self-expression. Visiting with Beatrice Wood, it was immediately obvious that we were in the company of a remarkable individual, who gave us the sense that she had nothing better to do with her time than to sit and talk together.
When I began working as an independent curator, I proposed an exhibition on Beatrice Wood to the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles. The resulting exhibition, Beatrice Wood: The Art of a Life, borrowed ceramics, folk art and other objects from the Happy Valley Foundation. It led to my being asked to create a similar installation in Beatrice Wood's home – an opportunity that I didn’t hesitate to take, despite the fact that I was told that it would ultimately have to be a self-supporting activity. At the time, I was not aware that Beatrice Wood had built her home on the land of the Happy Valley Foundation with the intention of it fulfilling the vision of one of her heroes, Dr. Annie Besant, who originally purchased the land and created the foundation.
Today, the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts is an activity of the Happy Valley Foundation, which is dedicated to creating and sustaining an environment of compassion where all forms of life are nurtured. Central to the Foundation’s work is the belief that constructive change in the human condition and the planet begins with the individual. The Happy Valley Foundation emphasizes development of insight, creativity, and the acquisition of perennial wisdom needed to face the challenges of our ever-changing world.
To be engaged in such work is an honor and, for Sheryl and I, the Center is a labor of love. As a Center for the Arts, we seek to fulfill the mission of the Happy Valley Foundation by utilizing the arts, which have the potential to nourish us spiritually and intellectually, revealing enduring truths about the human condition. Painters teach us to see, craftspeople teach us to feel, writers teach us to imagine, dancers teach us to move, filmmakers teach us to experience. Art is a means of stimulating the senses, encouraging greater engagement, and enhancing our ability to "see".
The arts have the power to expand perception, and broaden the perspective of others. The creative process requires that we gain an understanding of tools and media necessary to share experience, opening doors and expanding possibilities. We believe that engagement and interaction with the arts is a vital human experience, as the arts promote creativity, which is ultimately integral to all aspects of civilization.
The greatest challenge in our work is that we exist as a self-supporting activity – dependent upon membership, sales, donations and grants. For this reason, we depend upon an international community of like-minded individuals for sustenance. Unlike institutions in major metropolitan areas however, we are on a mountaintop and the majority of our members aren't able to visit on a regular basis.
One might ask, “Why join an art center on a mountaintop?” That’s the reason I began this message with our mission. We are working to create a better world, with Beatrice Wood as a model for living a creative, pragmatic, humanitarian life. We exist to support the arts, to inspire, to share the realm of ideas and the potential of creativity. I hope that you will join us in this important work.
Director, Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
& Happy Valley Cultural Center
(photo by Donna Granata, Focus on the Masters)
Kevin Wallace has guest-curated exhibitions for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles International Airport, and the San Luis Obispo Art Center. He has contributed to numerous international periodicals, and written a number of books.
Books authored by Kevin include Shadow of The Turning, Celebrating Nature: Craft Traditions/Contemporary Expressions; Transforming Vision: The Wood Sculpture of William Hunter, 1970-2005; River of Destiny: The Life and Work of Binh Pho; Moulthrop: A Legacy in Wood; Every Exit is an Entry: The Life and Work of Liam O’Gallagher, and The Cutting Edge: Contemporary Wood Art & The Lipton Collection.
Kevin has also co-authored a number of books, including New Masters of Woodturning: Expanding the Boundaries of Wood Art; The Art of Vivika and Otto Heino; Michael Peterson: Evolution/Revolution; Contemporary Turned Wood: New Perspectives in a Rich Tradition; Baskets: Tradition & Beyond; and Contemporary Glass: Color, Light & Form.