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California Library Hall of Fame: Ruth Stoever Fleming
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California Library Hall of Fame

Ruth Stoever Fleming (1910-1995)

Ruth Stoever Fleming was librarian at the Newport Harbor High School, in Newport Beach, from 1938 until 1960. During this time, she established the Newport Harbor Art Exhibit, which eventually helped the school become, what one art museum curator called, “a cultural force.” Like many high schools, during the Great Depression, Newport Harbor began acquiring professional paintings as senior class gifts. So, in 1946, Fleming initiated an annual professional juried art show, inviting artists to submit their work. For one week a year, the school library was converted into a gallery where paintings were judged by an esteemed panel of art experts. The school would then buy the winning watercolor and oil paintings. By the 1950s, hundreds of artists were submitting their work, but only 80 were exhibited. The result is a collection that today reflects changing California art styles from plein air (1930/40s) through abstract expressionism (1950s) to pop art (1960s). Among the most famous California artists, included in the collection, are Arthur Payne, William Wendt, Robert Irwin, and Millard Sheets. When the competition ended in 1966, members of the selection committee went on to found the Newport Harbor Art Museum. In 1984, the school’s art collection and library room were named in Fleming’s honor, which, in turn, led to the school receiving an ALA John Cotton Dana Award. In 2014, Fleming was among the first five inductees into Newport Harbor High School’s Faculty Hall of Fame.

 

Ruth Stoever Fleming was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame in 2015. For more information about her achievements, please see:

- Dennis McLellan, “School libraries art treasures were overdue for rediscovery: A brush with history.” Los Angeles Times (August 4, 1888). http://articles.latimes.com/1988-08-04/news/li-10343_1_high-school-libraries

- John McGinnis. Changing Times Changing Styles: The Ruth Stoever Fleming Collection of Southern California Art. (Newport Mesa Unified School, 1985).

- Newport Harbor High School. Ruth Stoever Fleming Art Collection. Website. http://nhhs.nmusd.us/artcollection