Adele Pruitt, longtime Ukiah art conservator, teacher, dies at 99
Adele Pruitt, an accomplished Ukiah fine art conservator known for her decades-long career as an art teacher, died late last month. She was 99.
Pruitt, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Ukiah in 1969 after her husband’s death, was found dead in her home Feb. 20 by an acquaintance who helped her with chores, Pruitt’s friends said. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
Pruitt became a fixture in the local arts community after owning the Renaissance Gallery shop near downtown Ukiah for 32 years. She shifted her focus to art restoration two decades ago, when she opened Pruitt’s Fine Art Restoration.
She ran the business up until the time of her death.
Pruitt was remembered as a knowledgeable instructor who gave straightforward feedback without judgment.
Days before she died, she had met with a core group of Ukiah-area artists who have taken classes from her for several years, said Redwood Valley resident Jeanette Bylund, one of the students in the class.
That final class ran as it always had, Bylund said.
“We knew it was going to happen, but you’re never ready for when it does,” Bylund said. said of Pruitt’s passing. “We’re all shocked.”
Priutt’s lifelong interest in art began when she was a child, she said in an interview with The Press Democrat in December.
Pruitt’s father worked as an architect and her paternal grandmother was an artist. Her mother was an illustrator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in San Francisco, Pruitt said. At-home art projects were common activity for Pruitt and her two sisters and brother, she said.
After deciding to make art her vocation, she graduated from San Francisco State University in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in art and a teaching credential, Pruitt said.
She then started teaching art at schools throughout the East Bay and in 1961 earned her master’s degree in education from the University of the Pacific, which allowed her to teach adults.
Pruitt continued her studies after moving to Ukiah. She enrolled in the Academy of Professional Art Conservation and Science in Sonoma and was trained in art restoration. She then began offering classes to the public on the topic out of the Renaissance Gallery to supplement her income.
Her willingness to teach others about the field outside of a formal, institutional setting was rare and drew students from throughout the U.S. and outside the country, said Jayed Scotti. He first met Pruitt about 30 years ago as a client at Renaissance Gallery, though he eventually became an informal apprentice in exchange for art, Scotti said.
He enjoyed Pruitt’s company, as well as learning about art conservation, he said.
“We were kind of like art doctors,” Scotti said of the art restoration work. “The goal was to make (the restoration) invisible.”
Pruitt held her last art show at the Medium Art Gallery in Ukiah a month before her death. The retrospective included about 40 pieces, mostly paintings, said Chris Pugh, the vice president of the Deep Valley Arts Collective, which runs the gallery.
Some of the artwork was from as early as the 1940s, when Pruitt was still a novice, he said.
About 100 people attended the show’s opening night on Jan. 7. Pruitt was joined by relatives who traveled to Ukiah from out of town, as well as many of her students, Pugh said.
“In the work you could definitely see trends and patterns throughout the years, styles that she was into,” Pugh said, adding that portraits and landscapes were common.
Pruitt’s relatives could not be reached for comment about her passing.
Jeanette Carson, a Ukiah artists who met Pruitt four decades ago, said she would miss hearing Pruitt’s stories during her twice-weekly art class. Carson first learned oil painting from Pruitt 15 years ago, and described her former teacher as self-assured.
“Up to the very end, if you asked her about color or anything, she’d tell you what to mix,” Carson said. “She was very sure of her advice. She just knew things.”
A memorial service for Pruitt is planned at the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah April 10 at 1 p.m.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.
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