By Baraa Alkassir

Museums are more than places to preserve art and collect cultural objects. They also help us reconnect with our predecessors and learn about technologies and stories. Interactive collegiate museums in SoCal allow visitors a peek into collections that may be lesser known but no less innovative. Visiting these venues is sure to inspire and motivate art lovers.

USC Fisher Museum of Art

The University of Southern California Fisher Museum of Art, located in the heart of the city Los Angeles, has an incredibly rich history. Visitors get a chance to immerse themselves in art collections spanning five centuries. This museum was founded in 1939 by Elizabeth Holmes Fisher. It remains devoted to the founder’s original vision to exhibit and collect fine art.

The museum is home to a permanent collection of some 1,800 pieces from the likes of Albert Bierstadt, Jean Charles Cazin, Angelica Kauffman, Jan de bray, Peter Paul Rubens, Andy Warhol, Albert Contreras, Jenny Holzer, and more. Currently, the museum is celebrating 40 years of the work of painter, sculptor and printmaker Chuck Arnoldi. He is one of the most prominent contemporary artists of our time.

The Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum 

When a $10 million donation was given by artist and poet Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld, the museum was renamed The Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum. It’s is home to exhibitions and programs that provide space for critical interpretation of contemporary and modern art and culture. Exhibitions are only operational during the fall and spring semesters of each academic year. The primary focus is on contemporary art in the form of photography and sculpture. Exhibitions are often geared towards societal subjects that aim to give a platform to underrepresented artists and their art as well as create a conversation about some of the most controversial topics. Free admission is an added bonus.

Art, Design & Architecture Museum Santa Barbara

On the northernmost end of Southern California, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum Santa Barbara, located on the UC Santa Barbara Campus, offers an intimate artistic experience. Home to more than 8,500 works of art and architectural drawings, this museum is a perfect mix between fine art and architecture.

The AD&A Museum is a teaching museum, dedicated to the mission of developing critical thinking and visual literacy skills but it is also open to the public. The Museum has more than 1,000,000 drawings and 250 archival design-related materials. These include historic photographs, writings, scrapbooks, as well as three-dimensional objects in the Architecture and Design Collection. As for the fine art collection, it includes Old Master paintings and drawings, Renaissance medals and plaquettes, American realist prints, photography, and a growing collection of contemporary pieces in all media.


SDSU Downtown Gallery

Travel south across the SoCal region and you’ll find the SDSU Downtown Gallery. The museum is a part of the School of Art and Design within the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at San Diego State University. The gallery is filled with contemporary pieces dedicated to engaging students, faculty, artists and the public with contemporary works. The museum hosts a variety of exhibitions throughout the year featuring contemporary artists from the United States and abroad. There are also lectures, poetry readings and a variety of interdisciplinary events. Exhibitions and events at the SDSU Downtown Gallery are free and open to the public. 

Pomona College Museum of Art

The Pomona College Museum of Art is one of the oldest and most cherished museums in Southern California. The museum is located on campus and is home to an astounding 14,000 pieces from a diverse collection. The visually powerful pieces include Native American art, Italian Renaissance panel paintings and American photography from the late 19th century to the present. The museum is primarily focused on what the director of the museum Kathleen Howe coined in her interview with the LA Times as “contemporary art with an edge.” All exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Southern California offers an array of amusement options, but you’ll want to visit at least one of these art institutions. They reflect their students and the SoCal culture. The interactive collegiate museums in Southern California create a platform that enables the young and upcoming artists to showcase their work. They connect artists to the SoCal public and serve to inspire all who visit.

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