Philanthropist and writer Howard Ahmanson Jr. has long been a patron of the Los Angeles art scene. The son of insurance stalwart Howard Ahmanson, Howard Jr. inherited his father’s love of the arts.
Howard Sr. was known for many things; chief among them, his loans that allowed many Californians to afford homes, but no less significantly, Howard Sr. also patronized many LA artists, even commissioning artists to design his office spaces and decor. Howard Sr. was also instrumental in the founding of LACMA—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—and donating funds to the LA Music Center.
After the passing of his father in 1968, Howard Jr. continued to provide support for the arts. He has since donated artwork to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that his father helped establish, and funded major exhibitions at the National Gallery in London and the National Gallery in Washington, DC..
He has also made donations to the Pacific Symphony and their youth orchestra, as well as music education for schools in Orange County.
While the Ahmansons have been dedicated to art on a macro-level, they also act as patrons of the arts on a local level through a non-profit entity known as the Watertable Trust.
The Watertable Trust incorporates three separate entities; an art gallery called Bridge Projects in Los Angeles, California; a mixed-use studio/gallery space called Frogtown Studios; and an artist-in-residence home, located in Atwater Village.
The most public of these entities is Bridge Projects. Bridge Projects is an art gallery that was conceptualized and brought to life by Howard Ahmanson Jr.’s wife Roberta Green Ahmanson and LA artist Linna Spransy. The two envisioned it as a space to explore the relationship between religion and contemporary art. The gallery has been operating since 2017, and has already featured a diverse array of artists and speakers, representing a broad spectrum of spiritual and philosophical perspectives.
Although the Ahmansons are forthright about their belief in Christianity, Bridge Projects is not a distinctly Christian organization. The gallery welcomes artists of all faiths and backgrounds to join the conversation and share unique perspectives on art and spirituality.
Ann Hirou, director of special projects at Fieldstead, said the project is envisioned more as an artistic space than a gallery with a stable of artists. This will keep up a more diverse and productive religious and artistic conversation. Besides exhibitions, the Bridge Projects has also hosted lectures, workshops, performances, salons, conferences, and community programs that feature both scholars and artists.
The studio space, called Frogtown Studios, will be located in an area popularly known as Frogtown. Now called Elysian Valley by some, it will be built in a space that once held a kimchi factory. The area will soon be used to underwrite creative spaces for artists.
The home will be for an artist in residence. Located in Atwater Village, the space will be an ideal location for creating art.
The purpose of the Watertable Trust is to cultivate the conditions that produce great artists and to enrich the culture of Los Angeles with their art. Humanitarian and cultural issues are of great importance to both of the Ahmansons, and they believe in the power of art and beauty in tackling these issues.