Art and architecture at La Jolla’s Athenaeum.

The southwest corner of the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla.
The southwest corner of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla.

Visit the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla and you’ll find yourself moving through a warm, polished, light-infused world where beautiful dreams are sustained. Last weekend I stepped through the library’s doors and was amazed by what I discovered.

The Athenaeum is home to a large, regionally important collection of books and media concerning music and art, and a permanent collection of artwork. It is a repository for beauty that is timeless. The library is refined and welcoming, like a fine museum.

Each quiet room is a refuge for the contemplative mind. And a richly furnished temple for the heart. And a universe brimming with inspiration and creativity to nourish the human spirit.

The Athenaeum is one of only 16 nonprofit membership libraries in the United States. As you might imagine, it has a very unique history.

In 1894 a group of six women came together to create the La Jolla Reading Club. Five years later a cottage-like Reading Room was built at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue. The most notable founding member, the first president of the Library Association of La Jolla, was wealthy newspaper publisher, philanthropist and La Jolla resident Ellen Browning Scripps.

In 1921 a larger Spanish Renaissance-style building replaced the Reading Room. The elegant new structure was designed by famous architect William Templeton Johnson, who also designed the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Much of the funding for the new building came from Scripps. Kate Sessions, the horticulturist often referred to as the Mother of Balboa Park, planted an outside garden.

In 1957 the library opened the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room with its striking rotunda, designed by artist and architect William Lumpkins.

In subsequent years additional expansions were made, which allowed for the founding of the Athenaeum’s School of the Arts. Today the expansive library hosts art exhibitions, galas and musical concerts throughout the year.

How does one describe the rare beauty of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library?

Here are a few photos…

Posted at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue are many cultural events hosted by the Athenaeum.
Posted at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenue are many cultural events hosted by the Athenaeum.
Plaque in Memory of Florence Sawyer Bransby, who purchased this corner lot in 1895 and on it built La Jolla's First Library, The Reading Room.
Plaque in Memory of Florence Sawyer Bransby, who purchased this corner lot in 1895 and on it built La Jolla’s First Library, The Reading Room.
People walk along Girard Avenue beside the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library.
People walk along Girard Avenue beside the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library.
Banner by window of the library building designed by William Templeton Johnson.
Banner by window of the library building designed by William Templeton Johnson.
Photo of the library's iconic rotunda, designed by William Lumpkins.
Photo of the library’s iconic rotunda, designed by William Lumpkins.
Bronze artwork near the Athenaeum's rotunda. Young Girl Holding Book by Merrell Gage, 1925.
Bronze artwork near the Athenaeum’s rotunda. Young Girl Holding Book by Merrell Gage, 1925.
Approaching the entrance to the Athenaeum.
Approaching the entrance to the Athenaeum.
A library cart full of books entices passersby.
A library cart full of books entices passersby.
By the front door is a plaque. This library built and furnished through the generosity of Ellen Browning Scripps.
By the front door is a plaque. This library built and furnished through the generosity of Ellen Browning Scripps.
Inside the beautiful, welcoming Athenaeum. Gazing east at shelves and windows.
Inside the beautiful, welcoming Athenaeum. Gazing east at shelves and windows.
Gazing west toward the the Joseph Clayes III Gallery.
Gazing west toward the the Joseph Clayes III Gallery.
When I visited the Athenaeum, I enjoyed an art exhibition in the Joseph Clayes III Gallery titled Music in the Key of Blue.
When I visited the Athenaeum, I enjoyed an art exhibition in the Joseph Clayes III Gallery titled Music in the Key of Blue.
As I walked about the library, I spotted many works in the Athenaeum's permanent art collection.
As I walked about the library, I spotted many works in the Athenaeum’s permanent art collection.
10 Items or Less, 1974, Kim MacConnel. Gouache on paper.
10 Items or Less, 1974, Kim MacConnel. Gouache on paper.
Sheet music collage by Alexis Smith, 1997, used for Athenaeum music program covers 2015/2016.
Sheet music collage by Alexis Smith, 1997, used for Athenaeum music program covers 2015/2016.
The Athenaeum, 2004, Derek Boshier. Hand-colored silkscreen print. Patron Gift.
The Athenaeum, 2004, Derek Boshier. Hand-colored silkscreen print. Patron Gift.
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 2002, Raul Guerrero. Ink and collage on paper. Patron Gift.
Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 2002, Raul Guerrero. Ink and collage on paper. Patron Gift.
Gazing into the North Reading Room, which features Athenaeum’s Erika and Fred Torri Arists’ Books Collection.
Gazing into the North Reading Room, which features Athenaeum’s Erika and Fred Torri Arists’ Books Collection.
An exquisite bouquet of flowers by one bright window.
An exquisite bouquet of flowers by one bright window.
In Loving Memory - Ernest (Ernie) Silva 1948-2014. Trumpet Player and Light House, 2004. Ink on paper.
In Loving Memory – Ernest (Ernie) Silva 1948-2014. Trumpet Player and Light House, 2004. Ink on paper.
Untitled (Baby, It's cold Outside), 1999, Italo Scanga. Mixed media.
Untitled (Baby, It’s cold Outside), 1999, Italo Scanga. Mixed media.
Artwork on wall near the School of the Arts entrance.
Artwork on wall near the School of the Arts entrance.
I was told these pieces were all painted by teachers at the Athenaeum School of the Arts.
I was told these pieces were all painted by teachers at the Athenaeum School of the Arts.
Walking beside the Children's section of the Athenaeum.
Walking beside the Children’s section of the Athenaeum.
Linnea doll on shelf by the book Linnea in Monet's Garden.
Linnea doll on shelf by the book Linnea in Monet’s Garden.
Erika on the Portico of the Athenaeum, 2010, Grace Matthews. Tempera on paper.
Erika on the Portico of the Athenaeum, 2010, Grace Matthews. Tempera on paper.
Houseplant, Monstera Deliciosa, by artist Jean Lowe. Alkyd and acrylic on papier mache.
Houseplant, Monstera Deliciosa, by artist Jean Lowe. Alkyd and acrylic on papier mache.
Devil With a Blue Dress On, by currently exhibiting artist Jim Machacek.
Devil With a Blue Dress On, by currently exhibiting artist Jim Machacek.
Oh Grid, 2019, Sibyl Rubottom. Etching on linen with sashiko. One of many textile pieces by the artist currently on exhibit in the Rotunda Gallery.
Oh Grid, 2019, Sibyl Rubottom. Etching on linen with sashiko. One of many textile pieces by the artist currently on exhibit in the Rotunda Gallery.
Gazing toward the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room.
Gazing toward the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room.
Library of Music small plaque on drawer.
Library of Music small plaque on drawer.
More beauty on display inside the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room.
More beauty on display inside the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Music Room.
A perfect place to read and think inside the sunlight-filled rotunda.
A perfect place to read and think inside the sunlight-filled rotunda.
Shelves with newspapers and magazines.
Shelves with newspapers and magazines.
Tantra Indigo, 2019, Sibyl Rubottom. Accordion book.
Tantra Indigo, 2019, Sibyl Rubottom. Accordion book.
Music breathes what Poet cannot write.
Music breathes what Poet cannot write.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

4 thoughts on “Art and architecture at La Jolla’s Athenaeum.”

  1. I think every city has its version of a women’s arts & letters club/association, founded because, at the time, they weren’t allowed to join the “real” (male) institution, or were heavily discouraged from doing so. We’re all the richer now, for their courage (and stroppiness) then.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.