The Museum encourages all people to develop and increase their understanding and appreciation for modern and contemporary artwork via a variety of exhibitions offered in its two gallery spaces, as well as educational programs, artist talks, lectures, and symposia.
Through its emphasis on contemporary artistic expression in Southern California and globally, the Torrance Art Museum brings together visual artists and community members; fosters personal and civic well being by inspiring understanding and appreciation of the visual arts; promotes meaningful experiences in the arts to strengthen creative and critical thinking skills; and builds bridges between the visual arts and other disciplines in the humanities and sciences.
The Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery becomes the Torrance Art Museum
From its beginnings as a recreation center to contemporary art museum
In 1960, entrepreneur Marcellus L. Joslyn created a philanthropic foundation with a mission to build facilities for senior citizens, aid hospitals, and provide gifts to colleges and universities which provided loans to worthy students in need. In 1961, the City of Torrance became a major beneficiary when the Marcellus L. Joslyn Foundation contributed $75,000--half the total cost--to the construction of a new Recreation Center. The architectural firm of Weldon Fulton Associates was hired to design the 8,760 square foot facility that would soon house a social hall, theater, kitchen, office space, and arts classrooms. The Joslyn Recreation Center was dedicated on April 11, 1964. It offered adult craft classes and special events for senior citizens, such as potlucks, dances, bingo, flower arranging classes, and concerts.
Fine Arts Supervisor Erika Grubb was the first to realize the full potential of the Joslyn Recreation Center. She developed adult and children's arts classes, offered in four-week sessions for $1.50. Exhibitions were displayed in the social hall. Excursions were arranged to other arts facilities in the Los Angeles area. Soon the Joslyn Recreation Center was overflowing with daily activities and evening social events.
The Joslyn becomes an arts center
When the Senior Citizens Association had grown too large for the Joslyn Recreation Center to accommodate, the City of Torrance found other facilities to house their programs. This freed the Recreation Center to become a fully dedicated facility for the arts. In 1978, Erika Grubb pushed for a full-time art gallery in the Joslyn Center for the Arts, believing that aspiring artists and students needed exposure to contemporary art in order to enhance their education. Receptions for the artists, art lectures, and demonstrations complemented the exhibitions.
The Joslyn Center for the Arts began to make a vital contribution to the community through its exhibitions and art classes. Six exhibits of a month's duration displayed contemporary work by professional artists. The remainder of the year, the social hall-turned-gallery hosted events by city-chartered arts organizations including the Torrance Traditional Artists and the Torrance Craftsmen's Guild.
Changes leading to its current renovations
In 1991, responding to the need for arts in the community, the City opened the Torrance Cultural Arts Center (TCAC). Conceived of as a "town square" for the citizens of Torrance, the TCAC hosts arts classrooms and dance studios, the 500-seat James R. Armstrong Theatre, the Torino Festival Plaza, the Toyota Community Meeting Hall, and the Pine Wind Japanese Garden.
In 1995, informal discussions began between City staff, citizens interested in the arts, and Torrance City Council members on the future of the Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery and its role within the relatively new TCAC complex. The City applied for and received a Museum Assessment Program (MAP) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Gallery.
It became clear that to achieve excellence, the Joslyn would someday have to meet the necessary standards to obtain "museum status," that is, accreditation by the American Association of Museums. By becoming accredited, the Joslyn has greater access to grants, becomes eligible for high quality touring exhibitions, and is better positioned to encourage private contributions for its operations.
A citizen's MAP Committee, working in conjunction with a professional art consultant, identified many strengths in the Joslyn Center, including its reputation for strong arts exhibits. But problems were also apparent. While the new TCAC complex had outstanding facilities for arts education and the performing arts, the Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery, by comparison, was in drastic need of both cosmetic and mechanical upgrades. The MAP Committee also identified a need for greater attendance of events and increased financial support, as well as for more professional exhibition space to better present artworks.
The MAP Committee, with leadership from the Cultural Arts Commission, Torrance Artists Guild, and the TCAC Foundation, determined it could not go forward with the accreditation process until the physical problems of the building were resolved. Issues to be addressed included abatement of asbestos and lead, climate control, security, exhibit lighting, space for art storage and preparation, and office space for Gallery staff. As a final challenge, the MAP Committee strongly recommended that methods be explored to more effectively connect the Joslyn, physically as well as psychologically, with the Torrance Cultural Arts Center.
Further motivation to transform the Joslyn Center arrived in the form of a wildly popular exhibition of fine art prints by the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. The 1998 Dalí exhibit attracted thousands of visitors, thereby proving the public was willing to support fine arts programming in Torrance. This experience revitalized momentum to create a high quality institution for the display and interpretation of art.
The Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery becomes the Torrance Art Museum
With funds provided by the Marcellus Joslyn Foundation, an architect was commissioned to create a preliminary design and cost estimate for renovation of either part or all of the existing 9,200 square foot Joslyn Center building. Both the Cultural Arts Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission endorsed the concept of renovating the entire building as the best way to help ensure accreditation. Both commissions gave unanimous support for the project in recommendations to the Torrance City Council, pending the procurement of necessary funds.
In March 2000, the Torrance Parks and Recreation Department received a grant provided through California Proposition 12, the Safe Parks and Clean Water Act. Additional funding was contributed by the Torrance Artists Guild and the Joslyn Foundation. In April of that year, the City Council requested more complete architectural plans for the renovation. Three architects submitted proposals. The firm of Renzo Zecchetto Architects was selected, based upon their record of highly successful museum projects in Southern California as well as their innovative design concepts.
Construction on the Joslyn Fine Arts Gallery began in May 2004. The main entrance to Torrance Art Museum is now located to the south side of the building, nearer the Cultural Arts Center. A landscaped plaza is designed to bring the two structures together. Two galleries and a video darkroom exhibition space form the artistic core of the museum.