The Catalina Museum for Art & History: The gatekeeper of the Island’s Chronicles

Catalina Island has secrets to share, and they can be told at the Catalina Museum for Art & History.

CATALINA ISLAND— When crafting your itinerary for your Catalina Island vacation, include a visit to the Catalina Museum for Art & History. The Museum has been snuggly tucked away on Metropole Avenue in Avalon since 2016 after relocating from its original 1953 location on the ground level of the Casino.

The Museum is the Island’s knight in shining armor, protecting the art and history that will long tell the stories of Catalina. A ticket into the Museum will familiarize visitors with the rich history of the Island, like the time when the Chicago Cubs had practiced on the Island or its role in World War II when the Island served as a training center for the U.S. Maritime Service. In addition to the historical exhibits that inhabit the Museum’s showrooms, there are also rotating exhibits.

“Our main special exhibition for the summer is Tall Tiki Tales: Catalina as a South Seas Island,” the Museum’s Deputy Director of External Affairs

said, Gail Fornasiere, in an email to the Log. “It explores Catalina Island’s contribution (as a film set) in the popularization of tiki culture—tracing the origins from adventure books, their adaptations into Hollywood films, to the subsequent South Seas-themed restaurants and bars that dotted the country beginning in the 1930s. The role that the Isthmus and Avalon played in the development of this aspect of American culture is immeasurable. Plus, the guest curator for the exhibition is Sven Kirsten, who literally wrote the book on the history of tiki.”

Skirting Issues: Hula Moves Stateside is another display that complements the tiki exhibition. The exhibit spotlights hula via original artifacts, music, and related ephemera, including historical photographs exploring the Hawaiian craze of the late 1890s to the present day. Visitors are invited to dance through the gallery and directly into challenging histories of authenticity, American colonialism, appropriation, collaboration, and resistance.

The next exhibit to hit that floor is called Cabinet of Curiosities: 70 Objects for 70 Years. This exhibit will showcase rare and absurd objects to celebrate the Museum’s 70th anniversary. Visitors will experience feats of human endurance, items of implausible ingenuity, and artistry revealed through the treasures from the permanent collection. The exhibit opens Sept. 9.

In addition to the new exhibit arriving in September, on Sept. 9 from 4-7:30 p.m., the Museum is asking you to save the date for its 70th Anniversary Fundraising Extravaganza.

“Join us on Saturday, September 9, to view the new exhibition Cabinet of Curiosities: 70 Objects for 70 Years and to raise critical funds supporting the museum’s exhibitions and programs during one of the most exciting fundraisers you’ll attend this year,” said the Museum’s website. “The event features a silent and live auction with artwork, trips, unique experiences, vintage ephemera, certificates, and more! All items curated specifically for this event.”

The Museum also offers monthly events called First Fridays. These events vary from extended hours to let you enjoy the Museum, called ‘Culture between Cocktails,’ as well as dinner and a movie with Elvis (in Aug.), Oktoberfest (in Oct.), and many others. July’s event is a Paint and Sip night. The December, January, and February events are typically held virtually.

The Museum opened in 1953 – 70 years ago, making it one of the oldest non-profits on the Island. It was started by a group of community members, including Philip K. Wrigley, all of who were concerned the Island’s history was getting lost. They also felt passionate that the Island’s visitors should learn about its history to appreciate this little Island in the Pacific better.

“For 63 years, the museum was located in the ground level of the Casino building where Catalina Divers Supply is now,” said Fornasiere. “In 2016, we moved into our new permanent home at 217 Metropole Avenue in the heart of Avalon. As a private, non-profit 501(c)3, we raised all the funds to purchase the property and construction of the building from private individuals and foundations. Our name was always Catalina Island Museum, but we re-branded in 2021 and changed our name to Catalina Museum for Art & History. We felt that change better reflected what your experience will be when you visit. Our museum is the only institution dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing the Island’s history, but we’ve also been collecting art from the very beginning. When we opened the new building, we were able to have that art help tell the Island’s history and bring special exhibitions (history and art) to the Avalon community and its visitors. We have just about completed a renovation project in which we have added a multi-purpose room to be used for our educational programming (current and planned).

For more information about the Museum and its exhibits and events, please visit


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