Approximately 30,000 guests visit Herron School of Art and Design each year to see what’s new in the Herron Galleries. In this beautiful space, they enjoy contemporary works by regional, national and international artists. But how did the school afford to provide some of the most welcoming and attractive gallery spaces to be found anywhere? Through philanthropy.
One of the three main galleries honors the memory of Eleanor Prest Reese, named by Peg Watanabe and her late husband, Gus, for Peg’s mother. “She was such a modest woman and a humble artist. She never self-promoted her work,” says Peg. “Naming a gallery in her memory gives her the recognition she never received. I think she would be so very touched. It is a fitting tribute to the most perfect woman I have ever known.”
Eleanor was born in 1907 in Philadelphia, PA. She wanted to go to art school, but her father insisted she go to college. To please him, Eleanor enrolled at Mt. Holyoke College for Women, but never opened a book. When she managed to flunk out, her father had to let her go to art school. She graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art and Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design). Eleanor’s major interest was portrait painting. A selection of her extraordinary figurative sketches adorn Herron’s administrative office suite.
Peg inherited her mother’s love of art. She has a studio in her Carmel home, and proudly displays more than 50 of her mother’s landscape and still life paintings throughout her home. “Mother created artwork because she intrinsically loved it,” says Peg. “I remember an extended stay in the hospital, prior to breast cancer taking her life. She would create portraits of everyone who entered her room. She was at her most prolific between the ages of 65 and 80.”