Grace Morley, the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Early Environmental Agenda of the Bay Region (193X-194X)

Jose Parra-Martinez, John Crosse

Abstract

This paper addresses the instrumental role played by Dr Grace L. McCann Morley, the founding director of the San Francisco Museum of Art (1935-58), in establishing a pioneering architectural exhibition program which, as part of a coherent public agenda, not only had a tremendous impact on the education and enlightenment of her community, but also reached some of the most influential actors in the United States who, like cultural critic Lewis Mumford, were exposed and seduced by the so-called Second Bay Region School and its emphasis on social, political and environmental concerns. A number of seminal shows on architecture, landscape architecture and planning mounted under Morley, such as Telesis group’s 1940 Space for Living, engaged San Francisco Bay Area citizens in proposals of ‘smart’ urban growth relying on thoughtful land usage, natural preservation and regional integration, decades before the coining of terms like ‘environmentalism’ or ‘sustainability’. Archival research involving the examination of exhibition records and correspondence, as well as other primary sources, such as journal articles and oral histories, are compared with recent historiographical accounts to provide a better understanding of some crucial episodes in the early history of the Bay Region’s environmental movements. The contributions of remarkable women like Grace Morley and her close circles of female collaborators, including Dorothy Erskine, Catherine Bauer and her sister Elizabeth Mock, are to this day highly under-recognized.

Keywords

Grace McCann Morley; San Francisco Museum of Art; Architectural exhibitions and public education; Regionalism; Environmental thinking

References

«AIA Exhibition of Architecture, San Francisco». Architectural Forum 68. December (1938): 468-469.

Allen, Peter A. A Space for Living: Region and Nature in the Bay Area, 1939-1969. Diss. UC Berkeley, 2009.

Bauer, Catherine. «Planning is Politics, but are Planners Politicians?». Pencil Points 25. March (1943): 66-70.

Born, Ernest. «Exhibition of Residential Architecture». California Arts & Architecture 58. June (1941): 24-25.

Chermayeff, Serge. «Architecture and a New World». California Arts & Architecture 58. May (1941): 12-13, 38 & 40.

Chermayeff, Serge. «Birth of a Group. Telesis». Pencil Points 23. July (1942): 45-48.

DeMars, Vernon. «A Life in Architecture: Indian Dancing, Migrant Housing, Telesis, Design for Urban Living, Theater, Teaching». Oral History conducted in 1988-89 by Suzanne Riess. Regional Oral History Office. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 1992.

Eckbo, Garret. «Landscape Architecture. The Profession in California, 1935-1940, and Telesis». Oral History conducted in 1990 by Suzanne B. Riess. Regional Oral History Office. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 1993.

Eckbo, Garret. Space for Living. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950.

Erskine, Dorothy. «Interview». San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library, 1978. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMwFKfEgj10>, last accessed May 21, 2018.

Erskine, Dorothy. «The San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association». Interview conducted in 1971 by John Jacobs. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley.

Kirk, Kara. «Grace McCann Morley and the Modern Museum». San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward. Ed. Janet Bishop, Corey Keller and Sarah Roberts. San Francisco: SFMOMA, 2009. 71-77.

Knight Scott, Geraldine. «A Woman in Landscape Architecture in California, 1926-1989». Oral History conducted in 1976 by Jack Buktenica. Regional Oral History Office. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 1991.

Martenyi, Megan. «Wide Open Publics: Tracing Grace McCann Morley’s San Francisco». SFMOMA, August 2017. <https://www.sfmoma.org/essay/wideopen-publics-tracing-grace-mccann-morleys-san-francisco/>, last accessed May 29, 2018.

McLaughlin, Sylvia. «Citizen Activist for the Environment: Saving San Francisco Bay». Interviews conducted in 2006-2007 by Ann Lage. Regional Oral History Office. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 2009.

Mocine, Corwin. «Planning for the Region.» California Arts and Architecture 51. April (1941): 23 & 45.

Mocine, Corwin. «Space for Living.» California Arts and Architecture 50. September (1940): 20-21.

Mock, Elizabeth. Built in USA: 1932-1944. Exh. cat. New York: MoMA, 1944.

Morley, Grace L. M. «Art, Artists, Museums and the San Francisco Museum of Art». Interview conducted by Suzanne Reiss. Regional Cultural History Project. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 1960.

Morley, Grace L. M. «Foreword». Contemporary Landscape Architecture. Exh. cat. San Francisco: SFMA, 1937. 13-14.

Morley, Grace L. M. Oral History Interview conducted in 1982 by Porter McCray. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution, 1982.

Mumford, Lewis. «The Architecture of Bay Region». Domestic Architecture of the San Francisco Bay Region. Exh. cat. San Francisco: SFMA, 1949.

Mumford, Lewis. The Culture of Cities. San Diego, New York: HBJ Publishers, 1970 (1938).

Mumford, Lewis. «The Sky Line: Status Quo». The New Yorker, September 11 (1947): 106-109.

Olsberg, Nicholas. Architects and Artists: The Work of Ernest and Esther Born. San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 2015.

Shanken, Andrew. 194X. Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Treib, Marc. «The Social Art of Landscape Design». Garret Eckbo. Modern Landscapes for Living. Ed. Marc Treib and Dorothée Imbert. Berkeley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005 (1997). 1-105.

Wright, Gwendolyn. «Practicing Pragmatism in Urban Metropolitan Design». Making the Metropolitan Landscape. Standing Firm on Middle Ground. Ed. Jaqueline Tatom and Jennifer Stauber. London-New York: Routledge, 2009. 81-96.

Violich, Francis. «Intellectual Evolution in the Field of City and Regional Planning». Working Paper. UC Berkeley, 2010.

Violich, Francis. «The Planning Pioneers». San Francisco Chronicle. California Living Weekly Magazine 26. February (1978): 29-35.

Wurster, William W. «College of Environmental Design, University of California». Interview conducted by Suzanne Reiss. Regional Cultural History Project. Bancroft Library. UC Berkeley, 1964.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/fem.2018.32.04





Copyright (c) 2018 Jose Parra-Martinez, John Crosse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.