By Jesus Figueroa
The Vincent Price Art Museum stands in testament to the art enthusiast and cements Vincent Price’s legacy in art history.
Price, with his smooth voice and piercing blue eyes, captivated the attention of many. He lectured on art history and brought his passion to all. Although coming from a prominent background he never took on an elitist roll.
He attributed his success to being able to being the self appointed mediator between the elite and popular taste. Price’s dedication to art is overshadowed by his career and contribution to the horror-suspense genre.
He started his career off professionally on stage in 1935 and moving onto film in 1938 with the film “Service de Luxe.” “Tower of London” in 1939 began his career in the horror genre. Then, in 1944 he established himself as a film actor in the film “Laura.” Price landed a role in the horror film “House of Wax” in 1953 which became the first 3D film to land in the year’s top ten at the North American box office.
Many consider Price’s performance as Oscar Wilde in the on stage play “Diversions and Delights” to be the best acting he had ever performed. Starting his performance in the summer of 1977 and eventually performing worldwide. Including a performance in 1979 at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville, Colorado, a place where Wilde had spoken to minors about art 96 years before.
Price’s contributions to the horror genre were matched by his passion for art and cooking. He wrote several cookbooks and hosted a cookery show called “Cooking Pricewise.” His dedication to art helped him get a seat in various art organizations, such as: Archives of American Artists, Center for Arts of Indian Affairs, as well as the Fine Arts committee to the White House.
Price started his half-century relationship with East Los Angeles College when he came to be keynote speaker for the graduating class of 1951. In 1957, Price and wife Mary Grant were inspired by the students of ELAC and made the first donation of about 90 pieces of art from his own collection which established the first “teaching art collection” owned by a community college in the U.S.
Price kept donating art till his death in 1993, dying of lung cancer after being a life long smoker. He donated about 2,000 pieces. These pieces were artwork including Mesoamerican, African, Native American and European artwork. Among them, he donated a pencil drawing of himself drawn by noted painter and sculpter Rico LeBrun.
Price’s donations inspired many others to donate art work to the Vincent Price museum. Now the museum has about about 9,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection valued in excess of $5 million. The artwork spans from drawings on paper to 3D objects.
The Vincent Price and Mary Grant gallery started in a small bungalow then moved to a section of the library. Finally, ELAC was able to build a building for the Vincent Price Art Museum.
The museum displays it’s permanent collection on the third floor. Not all the artwork can be displayed at once so they rotate the artwork. The museum serves as a place to exhibit works of art by artist that have not been shown in many museums as well as ELAC students. Price left his mark on the horror genre, he left a legacy in the art world, and he left a marvelous collection of art work for students at ELAC to enjoy and be inspired by.