Preserving the Legacy of Historical California Art
The mission of the Historical Collections Council of California Art is to promote, develop, and maintain an appreciation of historical California art. Founded in 1985, the HCC, a 501 (C) tax-free status, nonprofit organization, provides an ongoing opportunity for its members and the community to experience and learn about early California art. Members visit important art collections, both private and public, attend educational lectures, curated exhibitions, and enjoy social events with fellow art lovers.
Through our membership, the HCC has provided grants to non-profit institutions with a variety of requests, such as the underwriting of catalogues and publications, the purchase and conservation of paintings, busing programs for children, and grants to help fund exhibitions. Some of our beneficiaries have been The Irvine Museum, Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, the Bowers Museum, the Hilbert Museum of California Art, the Laguna Art Museum, the Oceanside Museum, the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah, the Santa Monica Historical Society, the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO), the Palos Verdes Art Center, Casa Romantica, and the Gardena High School Collection.
This website is intended to be a resource for both HCC members and non-members. Please enjoy the website and consider becoming a Member.
The History of the Historical Collections Council of California Art
During the 1980’s, the historical California art from the early twentieth century enjoyed a reawakening of interest among art collectors and art aficionados. Fueled by several major exhibitions and their catalogs, a series of books focusing on the impressionist artists of early California, an upsurge of availability of fresh art from art dealers and at auctions, and perhaps a bit of nostalgia, a new group of collectors discovered these respected yet somewhat forgotten artists and their art and legacies.
One of several early galleries that specialized in the resurgence of California impressionism, the Peterson Gallery in Beverly Hill would become a key part in the creation of our organization. With Jean Stern as gallery director and Janet Blake as an associate, it was at the forefront of the movement. Jean Stern would eventually become Executive Director of the Irvine Museum while Janet Blake would become Chief Curator at the Laguna Museum of Art. Both, along with author Ruth Westphal researched, documented, and worked to educate the public about early California art. Their efforts along with others included curating traveling exhibitions, writing and publishing about the importance and impact of the art and its significant artists, and lecturing widely to diverse audiences.
The history of the Historical Collections Council began with a lunch meeting In 1985, when a young collector, Bob Ehrlich, together with Stern and Blake met and brainstormed on ways to bring these newly passionate collectors together to exchange their knowledge and experiences, visit each other’s collections, and enjoy their shared passion for collecting historical California art. Working from their contacts, on May 21, 1985, thirty-five interested collectors met at the Peterson Gallery for the inaugural gathering of what would become the Historical Collections Council of California Art (HCC). The group organized and moved forward and early presidents included Ty Brenner, Bob Hall, and Allen Lay while Jean Stern served as an honorary advisor.
At the time, Bob Ehrlich and Bob Hall were board members of the Laguna Art Museum and the HCC became a formal part of that institution. In 1988, the Laguna Art Museum and the Newport Harbor Museum merged into a new institution, The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) and the HCC became a council within the new entity. Then in September 2004, the new Director of the OCMA had redefined the museum’s mission to focus solely on contemporary art which left no place for the historical California art organization. The ensuing split led to the establishment of the HCC as an independent, incorporated 501 (C) and an informal affiliation with the Irvine Museum, the pre-eminent institution featuring California’s early art at the time.
The organization’s early years saw the HCC financially support a number of seminal projects and exhibitions that helped grow the interest in historical California Art. The group’s first major project was in 1986 with Janet Blake's publication, "Early Artists in Laguna Beach--The Impressionists." The accompanying catalog was planned to be printed in black & white and the Historical Collections Council encouraged and funded color printing so that the reproduced paintings could be seen in their full glory.
In 1990, the HCC and many of its members including Peter Ochs, contributed heavily to the exhibition success of Dr. Patricia Trenton and Dr. William Gerdts collaboration "California Light, 1900-1930" which was the first early California traveling exhibition. Opening at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento and traveling widely, the show proved to be a great success and generated further interest in the genre.
In the years since and through the dedicated leadership of founder Bob Ehrlich, the HCC has provided grants and donations supporting the awareness and exposure of historical California art through a number of exhibitions, catalogs, monographs, publications, documentaries, educational programs and lectures, as well as the selective restoration and framing of important pieces of California art history. Today the HCC continues to fund worthwhile projects supporting the historical legacy of the California art scene and enjoys a thriving membership who share their interest in California’s historical art with visits to private collections, curated museum tours, and a wide range of educational and social opportunities.
Meet The Board
Richard W. Reitzell
President & Interim Treasurer
Born in downtown Los Angeles as a third-generation Californian and a direct descendant of the early California artist Jean Mannheim, Richard Reitzell grew up in Pasadena very close to the fabled Arroyo Seco, center of the area’s art community in the early 1900s. He graduated from the University of Southern California and enjoyed a long and successful career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Among myriad interests, he has a strong enthusiasm for fine art, particularly the early California art scene, of which Jean Mannheim was an active contributor.
Reitzell belongs to several early California collectors’ organizations, serves as President of the Historical Collections Council of California, served on the board of the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO), and is a member of the California Art Club. He previously served on the Jonathan Art Foundation’s Board of Directors as Outreach Director for several years, as President in 2012-13, and remains an active advisor. He was the editor of the organization’s book, Art at the Jonathan Club, authored From a Versatile Brush: The Life and Art of Jean Mannheim, and lectures on a range of art topics.
Brian Ross is the owner of Orange County Fine Art Storage and Display Art Services. This brings him in contact with all the major museums, galleries, Universities, and large art collectors in Southern California. His favorite art is the watercolors of Millard Sheets.
Brian is a third generation Californian and grew up going to the Getty Villa and Huntington Library. He attended Mater Dei High School and studied art at Santa Ana College. He lives in Orange County with his wife Therese and their two dogs. They are the proud parents of three children, two of which are currently finishing their degrees and the third recently graduating from the University of Utah. Brian and Therese are proud to support diverse institutions throughout Orange County such as the Corona Del Mar Baroque Music Festival.
B. Allen Lay
Mr. Lay has 60 years of business experience in Southern California and an extensive and successful record in founding, developing, and bringing companies public. He was a founder and senior executive of Pertec Computer, President of Cado Systems which became a part of Verizon in 1982, and later was CEO of two companies, Meridian Data and Westbury Natural Inc. that were successfully sold in M&A transactions. From 1982 to 2000 he was General Partner of Southern California Ventures, an early-stage venture capital company. During this period Mr. Lay served on a number of private and public corporate boards. From 2000 to 2014, Mr. Lay was engaged as a consultant and board member in the venture capital arena.
Allen has been extensively involved in his community over the past several decades. He was an early President of the HCC and has served on its Board for years. He was President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Palos Verdes Art Center and served as a Councilman for the City of Rolling Hills from 1994 to 2015. He served as the Treasurer of the Los Angles Yacht Club before retiring in 2017. Until recently, he also served on the investment committee of the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy and on the Boards of the Chamber Orchestra of the South Bay, and the South Coast Britannic Gardens.
Linda Stern was raised in Belmont, MA, a suburb of Boston. She holds a B.S. from Cornell University and an MBA from Santa Clara University. Her academic field was agriculture economics and she worked for many years in Washington D.C. at the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA and the International Trade Commission. She later moved to Orange County and worked as a financial analyst for Calavo Growers, the California avocado company.
Linda has a long history of community service in Orange County. She served as Director of Development of the Jewish Community Foundation and later served on its Board of Directors. Linda is also an advocate, volunteer, and past board member at Heritage Pointe, the Mission Viejo home for seniors living in the Jewish tradition, visiting and assisting residents on outings.
After she married Jean Stern, she became more involved in the arts in Orange County and supports Jean with his lectures and writing projects and assisting in his active schedule. She remains a long-time volunteer for the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painters Annual Invitational, for which Jean is the judge of a prize in his honor.
As a dedicated proponent of community art education, she currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Historical Collections Council of California Art and is also an active member of the California Art Club. In 2011, she and Jean were awarded the Samuel Gendel Community Service award from the American Jewish Committee of Orange County for their many volunteer activities.
Mr. Jean Stern
Director Emeritus, The Irvine Museum
A recognized authority on California Impressionism, Art Historian Jean Stern has extensive experience in the field as an author, curator, lecturer, and teacher. He was the founding director of The Irvine Museum from its inception in April, 1992 until his retirement in 2020. As director, Mr. Stern worked to establish a national presence for California Impressionism through a noteworthy series of books, exhibitions, lectures, articles and video documentaries. In his career, he has presented over 275 lectures and judged and juried more than 125 local, national and international art competitions. He has authored, edited or contributed to over 30 books on California art.
Mr. Stern is an actively sought educator and has presented tours and lectures on California Art in numerous museums throughout the world including in Krakow, Paris, Madrid, New York, Chicago, and many others. He appears on the PBS documentaries Impressions of California, and Plein Air: Painting the American Landscape.
He was a consultant to the Fleischer Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is an adviser to the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University, in Orange, California. He currently serves on the board of the California Art Club, founded in 1909, and is a board adviser to the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, in Laguna Beach, California. Since its inception in 2012, he has presented lectures at every annual Plein Air Convention, organized by Plein Air Magazine.
In 2017, Mr. Stern received the prestigious Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture. He has also been awarded three Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, the Plein Air Painters of America, and by Plein Air Magazine.
Tracie Sullivan is CEO of Risk Information Inc., a conference and newsletter company serving the insurance industry for the past three decades. She has extensive experience as an event planner for corporate and nonprofit events. Born in Newport Beach to a family that first moved to Balboa Island nearly a century ago, Tracie has been active in, and surrounded by, the arts from childhood. She holds a B.A. in Art History with a minor in fine art from the University of Southern California. She is a member of the board of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA), and is active in the Decorative Arts Trust as well as a wide range of Orange County philanthropic organizations. Tracie is an avid collector of studio and plein air art, particularly from Laguna Beach artists but also from around the world. She and her husband Brian are residents of Dana Point and New York City.