Young and lovely Mildred Lapson – Courtesy photo
Mildred and Herb Stevens, celebrating their 70-somethingth wedding anniversary – Photo by Terry Miller
Mildred with her own art book – Photo by Terry Miller
It is with a heavy heart that we let you know about the passing of one of our community icons and cherished local resident, Mildred Lapson Stevens. “Milly” as we knew her, was featured in our paper with regularity— both for her gorgeous artwork and her wonderful long-lasting marriage. We remember Milly, and wish peace and comfort on those who knew her, and love her still.
Artist Mildred Lapson Stevens, 91, pioneer and contributor to American culture, passed away October 4, 2014 surrounded by her beloved family. Mildred was born on January 4, 1923 in Brooklyn, New York to Charles and Edith (Weinshel) Lapson. She married Herbert Stevens on July 14, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York.
She is survived by her husband of 74 years; Herbert Stevens; daughters; Anita (Brent) Hunsaker of Tujunga, California and Deborah (Dennis) Hutton of Bend, Oregon; three grandchildren; James Parra of Glendale, California; Melanie (William) Steinkirchner of Corona, California; Jarrod Parra of Los Angeles, California; Brian Keller of Bend, Oregon; eight great grandchildren; one niece, and three nephews.
Mildred was an honor student in the first graduating class of the High School of Music and Art now based at Lincoln Center, New York.
Throughout the depression years, money was hard to come by. Mildred was working in commercial art at that time. She did textile designs. She designed packages for “Ideal Toy Company” and fashion illustrations for Bloomingdale’s Department Store in New York. After making a name for herself, she began working freelance out of her own home which she called her studio.
During the years of climbing the ladder, pursuing her chosen career of a fine artist, it was difficult as a female to get ahead in a field that was mainly dominated by males. Mildred was determined to succeed in her career as a fine artist and teacher, so in order for her work to speak for itself and not her gender she dropped her first name from her professional signature. By keeping her signature gender-anonymous, her work could compete fairly in the art world.
Mildred also taught at Pasadena City College, instructing students in drawing, painting, and art history for over forty-five years. She received numerous awards and accolades over the years.
Final resting place is at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California. Services were held Sunday, October 5, 2014.
But let’s hear more about Mildred–she was also an accomplished pianist, and a gourmet chef. She and Herb, a linguist and highly decorated World War II Navy veteran, though married for 74 years, knew each other for more than 77! She once told us the secret to that long-lasting love was, “When you’re handed lemons, you make lemonade…plus, we laugh a lot!”
Before they were married in 1940, when she was only 17, Milly told Herb that no one, not even he, would be able to keep her from pursuing the art career she was passionate about. Herb agreed, and became a steadfast partner in artistic enterprises.
In Monrovia, in 1963, Mildred Lapson founded the Monrovia Art Festival that continues to this day. She’s listed in “Who’s Who of American Art,” and Milly let us know, “During the U.S. Bi-Centennial, the Department of Justice and Immigration chose my work to tour the U.S. in all the major museums and Presidential Libraries for three years. At the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Regan hosted a gala reception!”
In addition to her works shown in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY; the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum, Hartford, CT; Los Angeles County Museum, CA; the Frye museum, Seattle, WA; and Plymouth Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA to name a few among over fifty major museums and galleries across the country, Lapson’s works are also included in numerous private and corporate collections in the United States and abroad, and are included in the Permanent Collection and Archives of the Pasadena Museum of History, Pasadena CA; the Permanent Collection and Archives of the Colchester Historical Society, Colchester, CT; the Permanent Collection and Archives of the Monrovia Historical Museum, Monrovia, CA; the Permanent Collection and Archives of California’s State Theater; the Pasadena Playhouse; the Archives of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and the Permanent Collection in Perpetuity of the Ellis Island Museum, at Statue of Liberty Island, NY. Even when she retired, Milly continued to do guest lectures, critiques and to jury Art Competitions throughout the U.S. including Catalina Island and Hawaii.
Milly said about her philosophy, “Light emphasizes the forms of life, and makes me strongly aware of the dimensions of the dark. As in the facets of life, it is impossible for me to feel one without the other. Rays of light punctuate the prisms of brilliance on the jewels of life, which light my way in the creative expression of my art.
“To express my aesthetic feeling of a subject, be it an old boot, the time of day or year, a ripple of water, music, a person, a mob, a breeze, a piece of satin or burlap, heat, laughter, sadness, rain, fog, or an event…I must feel the close touch both physically and emotionally. Every sense must be stirred.
“Since art in every age is a reflection of life, I feel that it is important to have a deep appreciation of its varied facets, and to be empathetic to human nature.”
We at Beacon Media pay tribute to a wonderful teacher, student of life, and master artist whose deep love and passion for art, for her family, and for humanity will never be forgotten. Goodbye, Milly. We miss you already.