Siskiyou Artists Association’s Long History in Siskiyou County–Over 60 Years of Making and Sharing Art

By Betsey Shuteroff

The Siskiyou Artists Association (SAA) noted a significant milestone in 2017. This dedicated and long-standing organization had been meeting, sharing, creating, promoting, and learning about art for 60 years. (Now, 2021 begins the group’s 64th year.)

Organized in March of 1957, the founder was May O. Stevens of Yreka. Gerald Jenkins, Grenada, was the first president, with Margaret Dunham as vice president. Also figuring predominately in the formative group was Mrs. Calla Lukes, of Yreka, who along with many others was instrumental in the growth and success of the club.

The group met at the old Yreka Inn on Main Street for some years, and staged the first annual “Siskiyou Artists Association Art Show” at the Inn in June 1958.

The organization membership expanded in numbers and enthusiasm; by the end of 1958, they had grown to 50 members, and in the ensuing years membership numbers were much higher, at times as many as 80-90 names on the roster. The art enthusiasts shared a common interest and passion for the arts, seeking and achieving a strong community of practicing and beginning artists that has endured and moved forward through the years.

Long before the days of the Internet, the club historians were diligent in keeping extensive scrapbooks and news clippings of their activities. For this reason, the present day SAA has volumes of notebooks and photos of members and events, their art, awards, copies of show programs and years of club newsletters. In the earliest years, the activities and events were widely reported and pictured in many area newspapers including The Sacramento Bee, Weed Press, South Siskiyou News, Herald and News Klamath Falls, the Dunsmuir Press, Pioneer Press, The Medford Mail Tribune, Siskiyou Arts Council Newsletters, and the Siskiyou Daily News.

While most of the earliest members are no longer living, many of them are well remembered for their talent and enthusiasm.

Many fine artists have been part of this vibrant art community through the years. The SAA archives are filled with the literally dozens of names of critique artists, show judges, workshop presenters, and monthly award winners.

In the early 1970’s the association found their “home” in the old Grenada Community Clubhouse. The members painted and remodeled the old building, calling it “The SAA Clubhouse.” The Clubhouse was home to meetings, classes, shows and various arts and related social events for many years. Throughout these years, but especially in the earlier times, the late 1950’s through early 2000’s, membership and interest was high.

The SAA sponsored many ways for local art to be seen and enjoyed. They held monthly meetings, workshops, critiques, exhibits, classes, demonstrations, dinners, holiday parties, and potlucks. The association also staged “traveling art shows” which hung in various banks, local galleries, convalescent hospitals, branch libraries, hotels, and restaurants throughout the county.

SAA has a long history of supporting and encouraging art for all ages, and through the years, the “Siskiyou Artists Association Art Scholarship” has awarded literally thousands of dollars to county students to pursue art studies. Scholarship monies are raised through auction of member’s art, cash donations, and memorial bequests. The 2017 recipient was Miss Adrienne Van Summern of Mount Shasta, who is presently studying art in Florence, Italy.

The popular Annual SAA Art Show has now been held for many years at the Sisson Museum and Fish Hatchery in Mount Shasta. The Museum has proved to be an excellent venue for the show as many tourists and travelers enjoy the museum, hatchery, and the art show. Guest professional artists judge the show and awards are presented in the various categories. The 2017 show, held in August of that year had 88 entries and over 700 visitors.

In 2018, the SAA looks forward to yet another year of making and promoting and enjoying art, and encourages anyone interested in learning and sharing art to contact the group. New members are needed to keep the long-standing group vibrant and active.