Fifty years have passed since the opening of Brand Library and Arts Center, but for Kathryn Hull, who helped plan the weeklong opening event, the memories are still strong.
Hull was a founding member of the Associates of the Brand Cultural Arts Center, a support group formed during an expansion of Brand Library, the former home of Leslie and Mary Louise Brand.
Jack Ramsey, then head of the library, turned to prominent locals to plan the opening festivities.
“Jeanette Hunter and I were the two people who pulled it together,” Hull wrote in a series of emails from her desert home.
After touring the facility with Ramsey, they decided the new library needed a support system.
“With the blessing of the City Council, we pulled a few local citizens together and discussed ways to do that,” she added.
Hunter, organizer of the Glendale Symphony Women’s Committee, became the first president, and Hull, then president of the Glendale chapter of Music Teachers’ Assn., became the secretary and wrote the by-laws.
The officers were installed on July 23, 1969, by Mayor Warren F. Haverkamp.
Hull selected the artists for the first concert series and, along with two others from Music Teachers’ Assn., shopped for a piano.
She contacted Bernard Comsky, a well-known provider of pianos, who invited them to visit his Los Angeles showroom. There, they selected a Grotrian-Steinweg, which had a “beautiful, rich tone and had a velvet touch with real ivory keys,” Hull said.
Comsky gave them “an exceptionally good price. Now, of course, we had to raise enough funds to pay for it,” Hull added.
She arranged for a number of concerts. “The local Di Tullio Trio, and pianist Leah Effenbach both donated their services,” she added.
She also wanted New York opera singer Mary Costa, a former Glendale resident, but was told that Costa had previously turned down a $2,000 fee to perform at a local choral event and that “she would never give a concert for us,” she said.
Undeterred, Hull contacted Costa, told her of the new center and their acquisition of an excellent piano, and asked if she would give a benefit concert to defray its cost.
“She agreed. I learned it never hurts to ask,” Hull said.
On Oct. 4, 1969, the associates celebrated their formation and the new art center with a preview reception for members.
The dedication, the next day, was followed by a series of events open to the public, with concerts, art exhibits, films, receptions and tours.
Hull was on hand to greet visitors, answer questions, recruit members and accept donations.
Another vivid memory from that week was turning the pages for Costa’s accompanist, Brooks Smith.
“When I turned the page of one old book, a page fell out and fluttered to the floor directly in front of Mary’s feet,” he said.
Hull retrieved it before Smith got to that page and Costa continued singing without a glance down.
“That perhaps was one of my most embarrassing moments,” Hull wrote, adding that the pianist later apologized for not mending the book and that the group raised enough to pay for the piano and establish a fund for its maintenance.
Hull remained active in the associates group until 1990, when she moved to the desert.
This fall, the Associates of Brand Library & Art Center, as they are now known, will celebrate 50 years with several events highlighting the organization’s role in developing the Brand into a significant regional resource.
The public is invited to an event on Oct. 5. Additional information about the event will be available later.
Katherine Yamada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by mail at Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 453 S. Spring St., Suite 308, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Please include your name, address and phone number.