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Portrait of Mayme Dear

Betty L. Donahue
Artwork Type
Media & Support
Oil on canvas
1 ft. 8 in.x 1 ft. 4 in.* (0.5 x 0.4 m)
Public Library
Gardena Mayme Dear Library
1731 West Gardena Boulevard
Gardena, CA
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Latitude: -118.307567 - Longitude: 33.882216
Image: Portrait of Mayme Dear

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In November, 2015, Los Angeles County acquired 124 artworks that were originally part of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance art collection. The Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company was once the largest collection of African American art in the West. William Nickerson, Jr. started the company after he moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s and discovered that many Black residents in the city could not obtain life insurance policies. The company amassed one of the largest collections of African American art in the United States. William Pajaud, who worked in the public relations division, founded the collection.

An established artist himself, he became the curator of the collection and oversaw its growth over 22 years, collecting more than 200 artworks by well-known artists such as Richmond Barthé, Hale Woodruff, Charles Alston, Varnette P. Honeywood, Charles White, Betye Saar, David Hammons and Willie Middlebrook. In 2007 the company went out of business and was forced to sell the art collection to cover debts. LA County Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas heard about pieces from the art collection being sold off throughout the United States. He felt strongly that the remainder of the collection should stay intact and in Los Angeles County. He wanted to make this important collection more accessible and known to the citizens of Los Angeles County. The Arts Commission in collaboration with the Second Supervisorial District has created exhibits of the artworks at the AC Bilbrew Library, Bebe Moore Campbell View Park Library and the Willowbrook Senior Center