It's not too often you meet someone who actually starts a museum from scratch. It takes more than an art lover and visionary. It takes an altruistic, inspiring leader willing to work really, really hard—that's Gene Sasse. Check out the website of the new Inland Empire Museum of Art, http://www.iearts.org/
We met Gene because he curated two museum shows of Zornes' work and has written and published two books on the artist as well. So naturally he was high on our list of people to talk to. We were surprised to find that besides a few Zornes paintings, he had the walls of his photography studio covered with artwork from more than 100 artists! And did I add sculpture? Lots of interesting and very creative sculputure. Many of the works are from artists living in the Inland Empire—that great swath of Southern California starting about 30 miles east of LA with the Pomona Valley and stretching past San Bernadino to the Colorado river but also encompassing most of Riverside County as well. It's not an official entity--just a cultural one. It is HUGE! About 4 million people live in the area, but of course they're all spread out. And that's the problem.
Gene saw the acute need for another art museum to serve this large population—and did something about it! He started with what he knew best—the artists. He created a non-profit organization and immediately started collecting works from not just local artists but anyone he knew. The result is an impressive collection of over 200 works. Most of them are from contemporary artists with a few older pieces included. But there are artists from all over represented as well. Currently, it's a relatively small collection if you compared it to an established museum, but remember they're just getting started. Gene's and his supporters are looking for a permanent space but that's not slowing him down from the mission. He's still taking donations from artists, holding an opening reception on April 12th and organizing exhibitions. We recommend you bookmark the website and join the museum as a member. Why? Their mission says it all: IEMA will be a place for you to bring your children, open for everyone, free admission, a place where inspiration, education and connections come alive.