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Arts & Crafts listings compiled with the
assistance of Dave Hampton

Donald Brewer (1925-2011)


(L-R) Don Dudley, Donald Brewer, H. Harvard Arnason, Lynn Fayman and Eleanor Forester

Donald James Brewer was born on July 22, 1925 in Los Angeles. Following service in the US Army Air Corps in WWII, he studied at UC Santa Barbara, graduating with a BFA in Fine Arts in 1950. That same year he began his career at Art Center in La Jolla – ultimately spending 16 years and eventually becoming Director (of what became the La Jolla Museum of Art and then Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego).

While major art world developments such as abstract expressionism were still unfamiliar to most San Diegans in the late 1950s, the Art Center in La Jolla played a significant role in the acceptance of new modes of painting and sculpture in the area. Contemporary photographer Lynn Fayman served as president of the board, artist and architect Russell Forester chaired the exhibitions committee, the Art Center's director Donald Brewer was an abstract painter and so was the assistant director, Don Dudley. With a staff that was dominated by progressive artists, the Art Center established the experimental La Jolla School of Arts and Crafts in January, 1960. The school lasted only four years but attracted artists from far and wide as students, educators and artists-in-residence. Faculty members including Fred Holle, Sheldon Kirby, Guy Williams, Beatrice Levy, Rhoda Lopez and Malcolm McClain were brought together at the Art Center during a dynamic time in its development as an institution devoted to contemporary art.

During his time at Art Center, Brewer authored the text 20th Century Latin American Naïve Art – released by Art Center in La Jolla in January 1964 – covering an exhibit of primitive art from Central Latin America that ran March 15th - April 22 1964. According to Dave Hampton, as “the institution’s director Don Brewer began to focus its exhibition program on contemporary art - a choice that many feared would alienate the organization's conservative benefactors.”

Brewer would go on to serve as curator, teacher and director at CSU Fresno, Haggin Museum in Stockton, and at USC. He was the founding director of the Fresno Metropolitan Museum. After leaving the Fresno institution, in 1986, Brewer taught art and museum studies at Fresno City College. He enjoyed several exhibitions of his work at Spectrum Gallery, Plums Contemporary Arts and the Fresno Art Museum. Mr. Brewer passed away on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, at Hinds Hospice after a long struggle with emphysema.