The Kingsley Art Club has been in existence for over 120 years, making it one of the oldest arts institutions in the West.
Over A Century of Supporting the Arts
Started as a women’s study group, the Kingsley was founded in 1892 for “the creation and development of artistic spirit in the members and the dissemination of artistic sentiment generally in the community, thus elevating the tone of society”. The club was named for Elbridge Kingsley, a leading engraver of the time. While based in Massachusetts, he was active in California from 1892. In that year, he donated a large group of his prints which were being exhibited at the California State Fair to Mary Higgins who then established an art club in his name. Membership originally was limited to 50 women in “good standing.” Today Kingsley’s focus continues to be education.
In 1927 membership increased and the Kingsley found a permanent home at the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery. The club featured an annual program of art lectures and art exhibitions of its members’ work, as well as sponsoring occasional exhibitions by artists outside Sacramento. Responding to a community need, Kingsley instituted an invitational art exhibit that provided an opportunity for emerging artists to show their work to the general public. The show became a juried competition that included cash awards, and a number of artists such as Wayne Thiebaud received their early recognition in the Kingsley’s annual show. Now known as the Crocker-Kingsley at Blue Line (in Roseville), the 77th show was held in 2015. Winning entries are displayed in the Crocker Art Museum.
Besides promoting the arts among its members and community artists, Kingsley has also encouraged the teaching of arts and has facilitated educational opportunities. In 1954 the club began a scholarship program for deserving college students. The Kingsley Art Club Merit Awards are presented annually to a promising art student selected by faculty from each of the local community colleges. From 1993, high school art students were honored by an annual juried art exhibition as well. Kingsley is evaluating a new approach for that age group. In an elementary school, Kingsley sponsors a program of art appreciation and hands-on activities for three grade levels. In addition, a bus trip to the Crocker Art Museum increases art exposure for these students.
Kingsley Art Club members, both men and women, continue to meet for a series of lectures by prominent artists, art historians, and recognized experts in the arts. Lectures often relate to current exhibitions at the Crocker Art Museum and recent speakers have ranged from recognized masters such as Gregory Kondos, Stephen Kaltenbach and Tom Killion to cutting edge artists like Jamie Vasta and Rachel Clarke. Field trips to artists’ studios, museums, and galleries are offered throughout the year.
With the completion of the major expansion of the Crocker Art Museum in 2010, Kingsley Art Club now enjoys larger exhibitions, new acquisitions, and a state of the art lecture hall for its programs. After close to 125 years, Kingsley has a secure role in this region’s cultural life, and continues to inspire the “artistic spirit” in our members and encourage the arts in the community.