Contemporary Jewish Museum explores legacy of Pond Farm in special exhibit

 In Arts and Culture, Public Lands
View of interior of Pond Farm barn/studio. Photograph: Anthony Veerkamp. Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation. Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism. On view April 24–October 6, 2014. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

View of interior of Pond Farm barn/studio. Photograph: Anthony Veerkamp. Courtesy National Trust for Historic Preservation. Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism. On view April 24–October 6, 2014. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

Last year in February I wrote a story for BayNature.org on a significant but little known historical site tucked away in the rolling hills above the Russian River Valley in what is now Austin Creek State Recreation Area – a California state park. Here a French Jewish woman by the name of Marguerite Wildenhain became one of the most influential ceramic artists in the United States. The peace and natural beauty of this area inspired her works.

The park is still home to what remains of Marguerite’s home, studio, workshop and school: Pond Farm Pottery.

Now through October 6, 2014, you can view work from Pond Farm at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in a special exhibit titled Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism.

As part of the special exhibit, the museum is hosting a series of gallery talks called Focus on Design on select Fridays, July through September, from 12:30-1pm. This Friday, July 25th, the series will focus on Marguerite Wildenhain and the Legacy of Pond Farm.  Anthony Veerkamp, field director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an expert on Pond Farm, will give a special talk. I interviewed Anthony extensively for my Bay Nature article, and you will not want to miss the chance to learn from him.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum exhibit focuses on six hubs across the United States that were critical in the broad dissemination of modernist design principals, through networks, between the 1930s and the 1950s. The lesser known Pond Farm, near Guerneville, California, was one of these powerful hubs.

19th Century Barn Converted into an Artist Studio and Workshop at Pond Farm

19th Century Barn Converted into an Artist Studio and Workshop at Pond Farm, Austin Creek State Recreation Area. Photo: Christine Sculati

The large iconic barn, which served as the main studio for Pond Farm Pottery, is visible from the main park road that climbs through Austin Creek State Recreation Area.  You can also visit Pond Farm  during special events organized by the local nonprofit that runs the park, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.

Since Marguerite Wildenhain’s death in 1985, California State Parks has maintained the historic property using a policy of “arrested decay.” The park system has struggled to uphold Wildenhain’s legacy under years of deep cuts in operations and maintenance. Today, the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, together with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the California State Parks Foundation are partnering with California State Parks to preserve the site. Once rehabilitated, this significant historic resource can return to active use.

Related articles:

Blog post: Nonprofits join forces to save artist’s historical legacy inside a California State Park

Bay Nature story:  National Trust hopes to save slice of history at state park

Showing 2 comments
  • Andrea Daniel

    After viewing the legacy of Pond Farm at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a friend and I had to take a look at where it all took place. We tried to imagine Marguerite Wildenhain making her life in the wooded hills of Sonoma County after a journey that had already taken her from France to Germany (where she was expelled for being Jewish) to Holland, and at last to the United States. Pond Farm must have been pretty rustic when she arrived in 1942. Even today, the road that travels from the entrance to Austin Creek Recreation Area would be better taken by horse or on foot than by car.
    The buildings that remain may be forlorn but you can see they have “good bones.” There is a clearing where other buildings might have stood, or could it have been a vegetable garden that would have provided a welcome taste of summer for people a long way from the closest provisions?
    I don’t know what is in store for for Pond Farm, but it would be wonderful if it could be filled with works of art from Wildenhain’s time and students intent on making beautiful objects for the next generations. I’d like to see that happen.

    • christine

      Andrea,

      Thank you for sharing your experience of visiting the museum and Pond Farm and for your perspectives!

      Christine

Hendy Woods State Park in Philo, California. Photo by Christine Sculati.
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