Former Museum Director Passes Away

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Tom Kenneth Enman, 1928-2012 Photo by George Hurrell

Tom Enman, former director of the Laguna Beach Museum of Art (now Laguna Art Museum), passed away on February 23, 2012, the day after his eighty-fourth birthday. Tom shepherded the museum through many years of controversy and change. He was initially hired by Roger Armstrong to manage the Laguna Beach Art Association’s gallery, a position he held for eighteen months. During that time he lobbied for increasing the size of the association’s permanent collection by awarding purchase prizes to artists exhibiting with the Orange County annual exhibitions. Enman became director in 1967, a position he held until 1980. During his tenure, he successfully lobbied for having the association show all periods of art, historical to contemporary.

Tom Enman and his assistant with Maurice Block at the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation exhibition, 1978

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In his first five years as director, Enman presented monographic exhibitions on Karl Benjamin, Roger Kuntz, and Robert Natkin, and a two-person exhibition for Arshile Gorky and Hans Burkhardt. It would be these museum-quality exhibitions and the leadership of board president Jack Glenn that propelled the association to strive for museum status, which they achieved in July 1972. That status afforded the museum the ability to apply for local, state, and federal grants, funds that were sorely needed for the struggling institution. Barbara Steele Williams took over as board president in 1976 and buoyed up the museum’s finances with grants from the Harry and Grace Steele Foundation. In the years following, many other exhibitions of both contemporary and historical work were mounted, including the First All California Photography Exhibition; An Exhibition of Twenty-nine Paintings from the Collection of Mrs. John McLaughlin; and Hard and Cheap, featuring the work of ten funk ceramicists. Historical exhibitions included the ground-breaking Southern California Art, 1890–1940, which showcased many works from the museum’s permanent collection and paved the way for future exhibitions focusing on the early years in California.
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Enman resigned in 1980, after which Dr. William Otton was named director. Through the years Tom donated numerous works to the museum’s collection, two of which—Florence Arnold’s Dark #3 and Jack Zajac’s The Green Airplane—were recently on view in The Postwar Era: From the Collection, 1945–1980.