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History Center Gifted San Diego-Focused Art

MUSEUMS: 15 Donated Pieces Span Several Centuries

Neither Bram Dijkstra nor Sandra Dijkstra were born or raised in San Diego but the couple share a deep love of and profound passion for the region.

Sandra Dijkstra
Patron
San Diego History Center

Married for nearly 59 years, the Del Mar residents met at UC Berkeley and moved to San Diego in the mid-1960s. Since that time, together they have acquired hundreds of paintings, many of them featuring San Diego County artists, from as far back as the 16th century to the present day.

The two art collectors have had more than 40 of their personal acquisitions on exhibit this year at the San Diego History Center and Archives, a museum at Balboa Park, and they recently gifted 15 of those exhibited works of art for permanent display at the History Center.

The 15 pieces were chosen for “what is most directly relevant to the history center, what would enhance their

Bram Dijkstra
Patron
San Diego History Center

collection, also the quality of the work,” Bram Dijkstra said. “In each case, the History Center will (receive) the best of San Diego art.”

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While the Dijkstras said it is difficult and complex to put a dollar figure on how much the gift is worth, Bram Dijkstra said “it would certainly be in the mid-six figures.”

As a whole, the 42-item “Collecting San Diego – Selections from the Dijkstra Fine Art Collection” is among about 1,700 pieces of fine art in the San Diego History Center’s expansive collection.

Local Artists Featured

The artwork ranges from stark to colorful; done with paint, ink or pencil on canvas, paper and wood; from watercolors to acrylics to oils, from abstract to realism. Included in the donation are significant works of women and artists who have previously not been part of the historical collecting focus.

What the paintings have in common: all were created by San Diego residents and most have an obvious focus on common themes that define San Diego.

The Dijkstras are particularly fond of San Diego artists Ethel Greene and Harry Sternberg, both of whom they befriended and both of whom have passed away, and have on display several works of art from each.

They also champion Armando Nunez, who painted the first mural in Chicano Park in 1973 and more recently designed the Barrio Logan gateway sign at Cesar E. Chavez Parkway and Main Street.

“We hope this gift will inspire future artists of San Diego and make more San Diegans more aware of the richness of the cultural heritage here,” Sandra Dijkstra said.

Bram Dijkstra said, “So few people realize how many good artists San Diego maintains and has maintained in the past.”

Bill Lawrence
CEO
San Diego History Center

The San Diego History Center, which also runs the Junípero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, was originally founded in 1928 as the San Diego Historical Society. Located next door to the Museum of Photographic Arts at 1649 El Prado, the San Diego History Center, as its name implies, is the primary catalyst for preserving and promoting the history of the San Diego region.

“Bram and Sandra made this art available in ways never been shown before, works normally you’d never you’d be able to see,” said San Diego History Center President and CEO Bill Lawrence. “They are actually the first of what we hope is going to be a long series of exhibitions that feature the works of San Diego collections. These works help us illustrate and celebrate this unique culture and heritage.

“Bram and Sandra are some of the most dedicated and visionary and wonderful people at (acquiring art) and they support the art community throughout our region and throughout our state,” he added.

Cultured Collectors

The Dijkstras moved to San Diego in 1966 when Bram Dijkstra became a faculty member of UC San Diego – where he taught English literature – but didn’t begin collecting art until 1980.

Bram Dijkstra, a painter himself, is a published author and curator who was born in Indonesia and former resident of The Netherlands. Sandra Dijkstra, a literary agent with a master’s degree In Comparative Literature and a Ph.D. in French Literature, was born in the Bronx, New York.

Their 42 paintings at the History Century came from a home they own in Julian. The couple removed the art because of fire concerns, and reached out to several museum directors and curators to inquire about interest in showing the paintings. Lawrence jumped at the opportunity to exhibit all of them

The entire works will remain on display at the San Diego History Center’s exhibition through Jan. 15, 2023.

“We hope that this gift will motivate other collectors to step up and help grow the History Center’s collection so that it becomes even more representative of the best work by our city’s and county’s great artists, contemporary and historical,” Sandra Dijkstra said.

San Diego History Center

FOUNDED: 1928
CEO: Bill Lawrence
HEADQUARTERS: Balboa Park and Presidio Park, San Diego
BUSINESS: Nonprofit museum
BUDGET: $2.2M
EMPLOYEES: 21
WEBSITE: sandiegohistory.org
CONTACT: 619-232-6203
SOCIAL IMPACT: Preserves, reveals and promotes the history of the San Diego region by “connecting the past to the present to create a better future.”
NOTABLE: A Smithsonian Affiliate, the San Diego History Center operates museums in two historic districts, the San Diego History Center and Archive in Balboa Park and the Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park.

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