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John Outterbridge papers, 1953-1997

Biographical Note

John Outterbridge is an African American painter, sculptor and arts administrator in Los Angeles, California.
John Wilfred Outterbridge was born in Greenville, North Carolina in 1933. He attended Agricultural and Technical University in Greensboro, North Carolina and studied engineering for one year before joining the U.S. Army in 1953. He served two years in Europe where he started painting street scenes in his spare time. His paintings were liked and his Captain found a studio space for him, where he painted murals and artwork in offices, clubs, and American schools.
Outterbridge decided that he needed a formal education in art and after his discharge from the Army in 1955, he relocated to Chicago and enrolled first in the Chicago Academy of Art, and later in the American Academy of Art. He became active in the Chicago art scene and opened a gallery with artists John Pinkney, Elliot Hunter, and Jose Williams. While attending school, he also worked for a graphic arts firm running errands and as a Chicago Transit Authority bus driver.
Outterbridge married his wife Beverly in 1960 and they moved to Los Angeles in 1963. He worked at a production studio for a while and got an offer from another studio to become its art director. After a few years, Outterbridge took two years off and began experimenting with with other medium, such as found objects and sculpture.
Outterbridge then took a job in the art installation department of the Pasadena Art Museum where he met artists such as Peter Alexander, Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol while helping with their exhibits. In addition to working on installations, Outterbridge taught sculpture classes at the museum and at several colleges such as Pasadena City College, Claremont College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, and University of California at Irvine.
From 1969-1975, Outterbridge was the director of the Compton Communicative Arts Academy. From 1975-1993, Outterbridge was the director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, a focal point in Los Angesle for African American visual and theatrical arts and the sponsor of the Watts Towers Jazz Festival and Day of the Drum Festival. He retired in 1993 to dedicate more time to his art.
Outterbridge's art can be found at the California African American Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has received awards throughout his career including fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Getty Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He received an honorary doctorate from Otis College of Art and Design in 1994.