A child of Norwegian immigrants, Arne Nybak was born in Duluth, Minnesota and grew up in the wild and rugged beauty of Canada. In 1940 Mr. Nybak moved to Los Angeles to work in theater. He worked on murals for UNESCO and exhibited his work in area galleries. It was his wife, Margaret Nybak, who discovered the Central Coast and shepherded her family to Cambria for a summer vacation in the 1950s. Mr. Nybak was then the chief designer for Robinson’s department stores in Los Angeles. Soon after he secured work as a member of the curatorial team at Hearst Castle and the Nybaks established year-round residence in Cambria, where in time the artist opened Gallery West at Greystone. A few years later, the Nybaks moved to San Luis Obispo.
Mr. Nybak’s guidance and vision helped establish the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, when it was just an Art Association and later the Art Center. For 32 years, he served as the Art Center’s curator in a volunteer capacity. A one-man retrospective of his work in 1997 served to initiate the Arne Nybak Curatorial Endowment.
There is virtually no area of the visual arts in San Luis Obispo County untouched by Arne Nybak’s zeal, beginning with the Art Center’s Permanent Collection. When the Permanent Collection was first shown to the public in 1998, Arne Nybak remarked, “This is not necessarily the most distinguished art you’ll ever see, but it’s historically important, both to the Art Center’s history and as an example of what artists were painting at certain periods of time.”
Water Lilies + Marsh Marigolds was purchased by Karen Kile, SLOMA’s executive director, from the estate of Priscilla & Myron Graham and donated to the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art’s Permanent Collection in 2013.