EventMay 22 - June 27, 2021

Century-Old Benches Paint a Picture of Chouinard Art Institute

The exhibition Chouinard Art Institute Benches (1921-1972) is currently on view at Marta gallery in downtown Los Angeles through Sunday, June 27. The collection of century-old artists’ benches, “present themselves as humble primary documents whose graffiti, adornment, and patina tell the story of Chouinard perhaps better than anyone or anything else could,” according to the program. 

The Chouinard benches featured in the exhibition were built in 1921, by then-students Millard Sheets (1907-1989) and Phil Dike (1906-1990) as partial exchange for tuition fees. For over 50 years. these functional works of furniture facilitated the making of artworks by students who would become some of Los Angeles’ most renowned artists, such as John Baldessari, Milo Baughmann, Mary Corse, Sadamitsu Fujita, Edith Head, Corita Kent, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, and Peter Shire. 

Chouinard Artist Bench, 2021. Numbered Edition of 25. | Photograph by Erik Benjamins, courtesy of Marta Los Angeles.

To celebrate the beauty and function of the original Chouinard benches, the exhibition also includes an edition of newly built replicas of the artists’ benches. 

The Chouinard Art Institute was founded in 1921 by artist and educator Nelbert Murphy Chouinard (1979-1969). The progressive and influential art school later merged with L.A. Conservatory of Music in 1961 to form CalArts. However, Chouinard continued to operate at its original location for another decade while CalArts’ campus in Valencia was being built. When Chouinard closed its building in L.A. in 1972, the benches were recovered by artist and alumnus Corinne Hartley. Hartley later donated the benches to The Chouinard Foundation

Event Details

Chouinard Art Institute, Benches (1921–1972)

The exhibition closes on Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Marta Gallery
1545 W. Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Wednesday – Sunday
Noon – 5 pm by Appt.


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  1. Bill Brewer // //

    At last, welcome, deserved recognition for these very inspiring Chouinard student
    benches! Think of all the talent who knew them well! I love them.
    Bill Brewer

  2. Stephen Robert Johns // //

    Wow, my first life drawing class at Chouinard was taught by Watson Cross. When I entered the classroom, you could sense an aroma of history. Paint and ink dibbled across the wooden floors, and the drawing benches. Those benches were so uncomfortable at first, but with time you adjusted to the bench. They were actually very efficient, with a wooden strip located about 10” from the front riser of the bench, making it easy to set your drawing board in front of you, with clipped on paper pad, upright. Great memories!