The other week, I visited the Riverside Art Museum, located in historic downtown Riverside, California. Riverside isn’t always the first place visitors might think to come when they are visiting the Southern California region. With so much to see and do in Orange County and Los Angeles, it often gets overlooked as a tourist destination.
While there isn’t too much that’s significant about Riverside; I’d recommend a quick look at what downtown has to offer. Aside from the historic landmark of Mission Inn where you can stay in the luxurious hotel, enjoy fine dining, or relax at the spa, there’s also this museum.
The art on display can differ from time to time as the art museum as the museum boasts a large number of art pieces on display. When I visited, some exhibits that were of interest included the pop exhibit, a presentation of Pop Art that can make anyone who was a child in the 20th century nostalgic; and an exhibit of ink and printmaking art showcasing techniques such as woodblock, lithography, and monoprints.
As a graphic designer, these two exhibits were especially interesting to me because it’s interesting to see what kind of creativity can be had using print and the sort of technology that was coming into its own in the 20th century, and what continues to this day.
What characterizes this small museum is the building itself and the woman who was behind its construction. It was initially a building constructed to be a YWCA facility in 1929. The YWCA is dedicated to helping women and girls during times of crises, and in the 30s and 40s with the Great Depression and World War Two, many women sought refuge here in this building. They were housed, fed, and provided for during a time when the Great Depression and World War Two left many in need of shelter.
During the 30s in particular, this sort of facility would have been especially important as a place of refuge for the many migrants who were arriving in California at the time from the drought-stricken midwest — referred to at the time as ‘Oakies,’ they were given shelter at facilities such as this.
The thing that is also noteworthy about the building itself isn’t just it’s original purpose, but the architect behind its construction. Julia Morgan was one of the very first female architects. Born in San Francisco in 1872, she was the first woman to graduate from UC Berkeley’s Civil Engineering program. She went on to help design over 700 buildings, including the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon in Central California.
Architecture is still a very heavily male-dominated industry, my own sister, who has studied architecture off an on for several years, often stated that she was often the only woman in her class. So, as I didn’t know of this woman before visiting the museum, it was interesting to learn about her and her achievements at a time when women were still seen mainly as only wives and mothers and at a time when they had only just won the right to vote.
There’s a display of the original blueprints designed by Julia Morgan in the lobby which I would certainly recommend looking at.
Aside from the museum and of course, the Mission Inn, downtown Riverside has plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy, and it’s certainly worth a quick visit for any tourist visiting the area.