Peggy Phelps: An Appreciation


Dear Friends,

I am sad to report that Peggy Phelps, our dear friend, passed away on May 29, 2020 at the age of 93.

Peggy was a creative force and unstoppable arts enthusiast in Pasadena and Claremont. She helped lead major art organizations, serving as a trustee of the former Pasadena Art Museum and board member of the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. Especially devoted to contemporary art, Peggy relished being a docent at Art Center College of Design. She also helped build funding for new art as the past president of the Pasadena Art Alliance and a founding member of the Fellows of Contemporary Art.

In Claremont, she focused on helping students become artists and curators. At Claremont Graduate University she sponsored the Peggy Phelps Gallery, where for years students have presented their MFA exhibitions. And at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, at Scripps, she created a Peggy Phelps Curatorial Internship for a student to gain experience creating exhibitions for Mt. San Antonio Gardens and the Clark Humanities Museum.

She understood the positive impact on students who learn directly from art. Peggy was an invaluable member of the Williamson Gallery’s Advisory Council, and even helped to create a new Scripps tradition, the Collectors’ Circle. She and MaryLou Boone underwrote its first of five galas. “When we launched the Collectors’ Circle,” recalls Eric Haskell, Professor Emeritus of French and Humanities, as well as Circle co-founder, “Peggy underwrote our opening event so that all membership funds received could be used for acquisitions of artworks to enrich our teaching program. All of this she did with enthusiasm.” Although Peggy did not like the term philanthropist, she was one of the most faithful and generous.

Peggy enjoyed being with interns, whether they were presenting works to the Collectors’ Circle, or introducing the exhibitions they had organized for the gallery at her home for the last decade, Mt. San Antonio Gardens. Peggy was like a favorite aunt, who showed them how to bring friends together at the table and entertain with style. For us, Peggy was a warm and generous woman, who helped us build our Williamson Gallery program at Scripps to launch students into careers in the arts. For them, and for us, she was a model of courage and leadership. We miss her very much.

Mary MacNaughton ’70
Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Director
of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery


Photo of Peggy Phelps by Nathaniel Taylor, courtesy of Pasadena Magazine.