Turner House Serves as the New Artist Incubator

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By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

Marylyn Ginsburg and Chuck Klaus possess high profile reputations as arts patrons in the Harbor Area. You will find their names on art buildings at the Palos Verdes Art Center, the Marymount College Klaus Center for the Arts in downtown San Pedro and the Norris Theater for Performing Arts.

But the program that is closest to their personal history is the Turner House in San Pedro. The house took on Ginsburg’s maiden name of Turner (Ginsberg is her last name from a prior marriage). The home was customized to house art students from Marilyn’s alma mater, Syracuse University. Each semester three students are chosen from the masters in fine arts program to live in San Pedro and undertake an intensive art study. The program includes internships, studio space at Angels Gate Cultural center and visits to Los Angeles’s most significant museums. The students are also provided with opportunities to tour galleries and contemporary artist’s studios, and to hear from prominent artists, curators and gallery owners, many of whom are accomplished Syracuse University alumni.

Ginsburg was inspired by her own past as a young disadvantaged student who was fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship for her education.

“I lost my father when I was seven years old and I had two younger siblings,” Ginsburg said. My mother worked very hard for many years for General Electric and found they had a scholarship program for children of the employees. Each year I applied and received a $500 scholarship, a substantial amount at that time.”

The scholarship allowed Ginsberg to attend the arts education program at Syracuse. While in school, she supplemented her scholarship by cleaning houses for 50 cents an hour, sometimes 75 cents if she vacuumed. She graduated magna cum laude in art and education. After graduation, she went on to teach ceramics, drawing and painting at Palos Verdes High School.

Many years late, Marylyn found success in real estate and took the inspiration she found in her youth to reach down and give a hand to other young art students. Eventually, the Turner House was established in San Pedro.

“I remembered my days at Syracuse University and I wanted show Syracuse I appreciated what they did for me,” Ginsburg said.

A Program is Born

The inception of the program seven years ago was a one-week practicum for Syracuse art students. The spring break program, entitled Art in L.A., was modeled after a one-week immersion program created by screenwriter and Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin, another Syracuse alumnus. Sorkin Week brings Syracuse writing students to the heart of the entertainment industry.

Art in L.A. eventually reached the point where it could bring students to California for an entire semester. This expansion required housing for the students, and the couple used their own resources to purchase a home in central San Pedro above Fort MacArthur. The mid-century home required considerable renovation. An entire wing was added to provide three bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs as well as a loft on the second floor.

The credentialed program is fully funded by Klaus and Ginsburg and supervised by Syracuse Professor of Painting Kevin Larmon, who serves as the faculty of record for the off-site program.

“Each week the students have artists visit their studio at Angels Gate Cultural Center,” Larmon said. “They also go to visit artists in downtown Los Angeles.”

Larmon, based in Syracuse, makes regular visits to San Pedro to oversee the program and coordinate the internships at Angels Gate Cultural Center, Palos Verdes Art Center and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Each student spends 10 hours per week on the internship. They are free to devote the rest of the week to their art.

Larmon encourages each student to create a piece of art to leave behind in the Turner House, and the home is building a significant collection.The most recent residents of the Turner House are third-year graduate student Taro Takizawa, first-year graduate student Rene Gortat from Brooklyn and South Korean student Sun Young. The students will be displaying their work in a group show at Yoon Space Gallery in Los Angeles.

When he is not in San Pedro, Larmon leans on Los Angeles curator Carole Ann Klonarides. As an independent curator and strategist for artists, she helps to guide the students. Her advice is invaluable in assisting with career objectives. She spends time learning about their experiences and backgrounds to shepherd them towards individuals and institutions that will help them reach their career goals.

“As I got to know each student it became more than an advisory relationship; it became a mentoring relationship,” Klonarides said.

Unsurprisingly, Klonarides recounts an experience that paralleled the experience of the young Marilyn Ginsburg’s scholarship at Syracuse.

“I had this opportunity myself when I was their age,” she said. “I was invited to the Whitney Museum independent studies program, which enabled me to go to New York when it was the art center of the country.”

“Now …  LA has become the art center,” she continued. “So, it’s basically allowing these students to take the shortcut, to come right in the midst of the professional art community. They meet first hand, by introduction, with art directors, critics and art dealers.”

Known primarily for her pioneering artistic and curatorial work in video art, Klonarides has been an active participant in two historic art communities — New York and Los Angeles — as they evolved to world prominence.

While giving back to the next generation of artists, Ginsberg and Klaus have helped them break into the art world — a daunting experience for any new artist.

“Some of the students use the connections they make here to take on some important positions,” Klaus said. “We recently had a student who was able to secure a mid-career track position because of the connections he made.”

Then there is the breathtaking location of their studio at Angels Gate. The students share a 1,000-square-feet working space on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Angels Gate Director Amy Eriksen said the students help out with exhibitions and assist the small staff that runs the art center.

Marylyn Ginsburg and Chuck Klaus’ love story is rooted in culture. Their story began in Syracuse, New York and, to the benefit of many, crossed the country to bring them both to California. In 2009 they exchanged vows at Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, and in the past eight years, they have enriched the cultural community with their love for the arts.