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By Karen Nikos-Rose on November 2, 2018

Attended art exhibition of work of first art faculty in newly opened museum in 2016

Jane B. Garritson, who was in the first art master's degree class at UC Davis and was the first woman hired by the art department, died in October. One of only two women among the original 12 art faculty (the only other woman was Ruth Horsting), she made her name among the impressive roster hired by the late Richard Nelson, who started the university's art department in 1959. Garritson was one of the commonly known "first-generation" art faculty at UC Davis.

She died in Davis, her home for more than six decades, just two years after seeing her art displayed in a special exhibition at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art when it opened its doors in November 2016. For the artists, it was a day they thought would never come — a day when their art would be displayed prominently at a UC Davis museum at a prime entrance to campus, rather than the Quonset hut where they once made their experimental art (That would be TB-9, a somewhat hidden building where students still make art). 

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Museum staff greet Jane Garritson in front of her artwork displaying on opening day at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. Pictured are Ariielle Hardy, Garritson, and museum Deputy Director Randy Roberts.

Jane Garritson paid a visit to the museum on opening day, much to the surprise of those of us working that day as thousands crowded the lobby and galleries. (I was serving as the communications director for the museum opening). Her work was included in "Out Our Way, a special exhibition of the work of the original art faculty, who also included Robert Arneson, John Baxter, Roy De Forest, Tio Giambruni, Horsting, Ralph Johnson, Manuel Neri, Roland Petersen, Daniel Shapiro, Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley. They had all been hired by Nelson, known for assembling a "team of rivals" who created art together, and often wildly experimented, away from the cities from which many had come in a way that became, for the campus, and the art world, cherished lore.

A beautiful tribute to Garritson appeared in the Davis Enterprise this week.

Among her many accomplishments, she originated the area's first traveling art education van, according to the obituary, driving with her university students into local communities to share their great love of art in public schools where art was not usually taught.

In 1979, she wrote Child Art: Integrating Curriculum Through the Arts, which is still available at the UC Davis library. She wrote it to help elementary school teachers better understand the value of teaching art in the classroom. Her book included a play dough recipe, and a list of important "junk box contributions" for kindergartners.

In the Afterword of her book she wrote:

"Why is exposure to the arts important for the child or for any of us? Because the arts encourage us to dream, to imagine possibilities outside and beyond ourselves...Einstein considered imagination more valuable than knowledge."

Garritson was married and raised two children in Davis, where she lived for nearly 65 years.