I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is G for Grace Hudson Museum, in Ukiah.
Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House
Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865-1937) was born in Potter Valley, California, the daughter of one of the first white women school teachers, educating Pomo children. Grace’s mother was also a commercial portrait photographer, while her father was a skilled landscape photographer, who chronicled early Mendocino County frontier enterprises such as logging, shipping and railroading. When she was fourteen years old, Grace was sent to study at the recently established San Francisco School of Design, an art school which emphasized painting from nature.
In 1885, after a brief one-year marriage to a man fifteen years her senior, Grace moved back with her parents. In 1890, she married John Hudson, M.D. (1857-1935) who had moved from Tennessee, to serve as physician for the San Francisco and North Pacific Railroad. The couple shared a keen interest in preserving and recording Native American culture. Out of this interest was born the museum bearing her name.
The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House in Ukiah is one of northern California’s cultural treasures. Within this museum one finds the story of Grace and her anthropologist husband, John. The museum showcases Grace’s oil paintings of Pomo Indians and John’s collection of Pomo basketry. The permanent exhibits outline the legacy of this family whose interests and talents involved them in notable historic events of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Changing exhibits in the museum’s main gallery focus on Western Art, California Indian cultures, the history of the West, and the works of contemporary regional artists.
Grace Hudson painted portraits of Pomo Indians with the intention that viewers should “know them as I know them, and before they vanish.” She gained national recognition for her paintings by the time she was twenty-eight, and by the end of her life, she had created more than 650 paintings of Pomo people.
The museum is a study of Grace and her family, of Grace’s personal and professional art works, and contains more than thirty thousand interrelated objects. The museum also tells much of the story of the white settlement of Mendocino County. Admittance to the museum costs four dollars per person or ten dollars per family. The Sun House, a 1911 redwood Craftsman bungalow home, In which Grace and John lived, is situated immediately in front of the museum and is available for tours.
This cultural treasure of Mendocino County provides a terrific venue for one-day field trips from Laytonville. There is a fairly significant Native population attending Laytonville schools, so this was an ideal way for kids to gain a better understanding and appreciation of Native cultures. Laytonville is approximately an hour away from Ukiah, so a day-long trip allowed for a visit to the museum, plus lunch at the nearby park, with plenty of time to get back by the end of the day.
One of the best dates I ever had with Annie was spent at the Grace Hudson Museum. We had the most enjoyable time, circulating throughout the museum, marveling at the oil and water paintings by various contemporaries of Grace and John, not to mention Grace’s paintings of the Pomo people. Though I have seen Pomo baskets before, I have never had the opportunity to see them up close, and to be able to examine the intricate patterns. And the sheer volume of baskets is amazing.
There are exhibits of common household objects such as combs, brushes, mirrors, utensils and a wealth of other items, all unique primarily because they are so old. For residents of Mendocino County, and for visitors alike, this museum is a must-see. When you finish touring the facility, you will feel as though you have revisited the Old West.