History of KAA

70th Anniversary History of the
Klamath Art Association and Gallery

On December 16, 1946, the articles of incorporation for the non-profit Klamath Art Association (KAA) were filed a group of supporters:  B.B. Bloomquist (KU drama teacher & artist), Sheldon and Catherine Brumbaugh (architect; photographer), Vern Swanson (art teacher & artist), Helen Ballentine (artist), and Dr. & Mrs. Sprague (dentist; professional artist).  In July of 1947 the first Officers and Board of Directors were elected, and the first official function was an open-air art exhibit in Moore Park that summer.  The KAA went on to offer annual summer workshops featuring nationally-known artists that were the first off-campus programs that qualified for college credits through Oregon Technical Institute.  Low-cost noncredit courses were also offered in all media.  This commitment to art education has continued to the present time. 

For its first 12 years, the KAA had no permanent location and met in a series of temporary facilities, ranging from the KUHS Little Theater, the Brumbaugh Studio in Pine Grove, vacant store buildings, and any spot available for exhibits.    From 1950-58, the KAA was permitted to meet in the recreation spaces of former World War II Naval Housing – which is now the location of Ponderosa School.

In 1959, the Oregon Centennial Arts Committee awarded the KAA with a rare cash grant in the amount of $3,750, to be used towards establishing a permanent home for the KAA.  The grant required matching funds and land where a gallery would be built.  Roberta Bloomquist and Rita Glesin went door-to-door downtown asking for donations and contacting businesses for building supplies.  Within three weeks they had secured twice the amount that the grant match required.

With funding assured, the KAA approached the city council to ask for land, perhaps in Veteran’s Park.  But when Mrs. Rufus Moore died in 1946, she had willed her property at the intersection of Main and Riverside to the city for use as parkland.  Two councilmen were especially enthusiastic about this and suggested that the KAA take over and Maple Park and the Moore house, which the Moore heirs were threatening to take back.  The proposal was unanimously approved by the city council and the first 20-year lease to the KAA was put into place.  This was followed by a second 20-year and a subsequent 99-year lease which remains in effect.

Plans for the gallery were drawn and donated by local architect Nina Pence, a KAA member.  The gallery was built next to the Moore House, and opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on February 27, 1960.  The building has been in continuous use by the KAA since that time.  The Moore House was extensively remodeled to allow for office, studio and classroom spaces, with a pottery kiln being added.  The Moore House ultimately fell back into Moore family hands in 1989 and the KAA lost access to it.

From 1967-72, the Oregon Arts Commission granted the KAA with a total of $3,500 to support free or low-cost classes for the public.  This tradition has continued, as the gallery has free admission and is seeking to bring new low-cost art activities to the community.  The gallery also gives artists an opportunity to exhibit their work after Board approval of their portfolio.

 *Information provided by Nina Pence, Jeanne McBeth and numerous other contributors.  Originally written by Past President Peggy Gratzler and edited by Jonne Goeller.  This edition written by Kenneth Simpson, May 2016

 Early Day Founders and Members:

Picnic August 1951. Pictured left to right. Pictured left to right. Front Row: Robert Banister, Unknown, Georgiana Sprague and Roberta Bloomquist. Middle row: Georgiana's aunt, Nora Zweybruck, Hellen Balentine, Emma Jane Banister, Doppie Gramatke, Lorraine Johnson, Ed Johnson, Dr. Boyd Sprague. Back row: Hardie Gramatke, Sam Harte, and U.S. Balentine.

Summer Workshop taught by David McCosh in 1950's. Pictured left to right: Nina Pence (local architect who designed the current gallery building), David McCosh , visiting artist instructor, and member Gordon Kensler (a local high school art teacher.