Riverside Art Museum stands as a landmark in downtown Riverside

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Kelly Rider teaches children art in the Riverside Art Museum with the assistance by Sally Mazzetti.
Kelly Rider teaches children art in the Riverside Art Museum with the assistance by Sally Mazzetti.

Oct. 1, 2014

Photo by John Villanueva | Staff Photographer

Article by Michael Isberto | Staff Writer

Across the street from the renowned Mission Inn of downtown Riverside is an extraordinary building worthy of being referred to as a historic landmark – The Riverside Art Museum.

The Riverside Art Museum building, built in 1929 by honored architect Julia Morgan, was originally used by the Young Women’s Christian Association.

After humble beginnings for a small group of artists known as the Riverside Art Association, the RAM has grown to be one of the most well-known and revered establishments in downtown.

Their mission statement: “The Riverside Art Museum strives to integrate art into the lives of people in a way that engages, inspires and builds community, by presenting thought-provoking exhibits and providing quality art classes that instill a lifelong love of the arts.”

The Riverside Art Museum holds 15-20 major exhibits a year mixed with a handful of smaller shorter-run exhibits.

It features guest curators who come in to organize their exhibits because they don’t have an in-house exhibit curator. This allows them to be more diverse and creative when they invite interested people to organize exhibits. People apply by filling out an exhibition proposal form that can be found on their website.

Currently on display at RAM is a Baby Tattooville exhibit entitled Through the Looking Glass organized by Bob Self.

Baby Tattooville started in 2007 as a secret society of artists and has now grown to be a distinct and thriving collection of artists in the Riverside Area.

The exhibit shows the contemporary open-mindedness of the museum with the showcase of various types of artists from classic fine art, to movements known as Pop Surrealism and Low Brow art.

Although RAM is a time-tested organization, most businesses open for an extended period have their share of struggles.

“Like many nonprofits, RAM was hit really hard by the Great Recession,” said Ai Kelley, the communications and group liaison for RAM. “One of our obstacles is earning enough funds to support our full operations. Another obstacle is remaining relevant and accessible to our diverse community.”

Knowing it was in need of some renovations, the museum started a campaign in 1990 and successfully raised $1.25 million in a year’s time.

That money allowed the museum to accomplish widespread renovations throughout the entire building, which will keep them relevant for years to come.

The Riverside Art Museum also has a tremendous impact on the community’s aspiring artists. RAM is involved with the Riverside Arts Walk, which is held the first thursday of every month in downtown Riverside.

The Arts Walk is a free event for the public that celebrates an enormous range of artists from aspiring to established.

During the Riverside Arts Walk, RAM can usually expect a crowd of 300 – 800 people during the course of the night.

The Riverside Art Museum is an institution that has stood the test of time because of its collaborative attitude.

“It takes a village, as they say,” said Kelley. “As the city of arts and innovation, every arts organization, individual artist, and art lover is needed to promote the arts.

“We are strong supporters of community engagement and partnerships and regularly work with other art organizations in the region to help each other and the communities we serve. We believe we are stronger by working together.”

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