2012-02-09 / Dining & Entertainment
CLU gallery kicks off inaugural exhibit
Museum sits next to football stadium
But when benefactor William Rolland agreed to donate $5.4 million to California Lutheran University’s new 2,000-seat football stadium on Olsen Road, the sports fan/art collector decided to add a gallery to the ground floor.
“I never thought of displaying (my art). The idea never came to me,” Rolland said. “Then one of the regents came to me and mentioned that the university would love to have a football field. It was an idea I had to combine the two.”
From inside the museum football players can be seen just a few feet away running drills on the stadium’s artificial green turf. The display room features shatterproof glass to protect the art.
“I can’t wait to have a football hit the window,” curator Jeff Phillips joked.
Kidding aside, Phillips and Rolland hope the new gallery scores points with the region’s many art lovers.
On Sat., Feb. 11, the public is invited to a reception celebrating the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art’s inaugural exhibit, “ Highlights and Selections,” featuring about 40 pieces from Rolland’s personal collection.
The exhibit features oil and watercolor paintings and bronze statues, including one purchased from Elizabeth Taylor’s personal collection before her death. The works are from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Other pieces in the multimillion dollar collection are a 1980 Grant King Indy 500 race car and a letter written by Mark Twain. Rolland’s entire collection, which has never been accessible to the public, will be revealed in about six different exhibits during the year, Phillips said. His 10-car fleet of race cars will also be shown.
Rolland’s collection is on loan to the university but will eventually be donated to the school, he said.
“I’ve been successful in real estate. It’s just a matter of giving back,” said the collector, who also raced cars in the 1950s.
A touchdown for art
The studio’s curator says the gallery fills a “cultural gap.”
“There are not enough cultural venues in the region,” said Phillips, who also administers art exhibits in Los Angeles County. “What we have here is unknown treasure.”
Phillips said he sees benefit in the gallery’s proximity to a sporting venue.
“To me what’s so unique is that we’re reaching a mass audience. When you have a football field, you get thousands of (visitors). In an art gallery, you don’t get that in one year,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll influence younger kids that want to play football, but then they see the car and art and say, ‘I’m interested in that too.’”
Rolland said he began collecting art in the 1950s and continues to add to his inventory.
He’s passionate about the imaginative pieces he selects after careful research to verify authenticity and quality.
“They all tell a story,” said Rolland, who was awarded a Medal of Valor in 1969 for his part in a mudslide rescue in the Hollywood Hills.
One of his first valuable acquisitions was a 500-pound bronze statue of a boy bent over an electrical generator, created by turnof the-century German sculptor Hugo Kaufmann.
The vintage sculpture was created in tribute to the German power industry and once sat in the rotunda of one of the industry’s buildings. It was snatched after World War II began, Rolland said.
“Russians and Americans (in the military) grabbed a lot of art and stored it. That’s one of the pieces that the Americans came across,” Rolland said. “It’s priceless, one-of-a-kind.”
The statue is displayed at the entrance to the gallery.
It took two years of planning and 11 months of construction to complete the stadium and gallery, Rolland said.
The 16,000-square-foot facility, on the north side of Olsen Road near Campus Drive in Thousand Oaks, replaced Mount Clef Stadium, where Cal Lutheran had played since 1963.
Throughout the process, meetings were held at least once a week. Rolland didn’t miss a single session. He was part of every design detail and finishing touch, from the gallery’s floating panel ceiling to the huge clock tower at one end of the field.
Rolland is visibly pleased when he hears the clock’s bells chime.
He also helped design the bronze statue of a football player, created by Westlake Village artist David L. Spellerberg, which stands outside the stadium.
While Rolland would have liked a larger space to display his art, his namesake field and gallery are how he envisioned them, he said.
“I am very excited about the way it has turned out,” he said.
Saturday’s public reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. Assembly and City Council members will acknowledge the venue’s opening at the event.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 25, Spellerberg will lead a “Tea and Talk” at the gallery.
“High- lights and Selections” will be on display through March 10. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
There is no charge for admission to the gallery or events.
“We’re anticipating a lot more public response and involvement. We’re under the radar right now. We want as many people as possible to join us,” Phillips said.