Cool Outside – California’s Mid-Century Landscape

Dinah’s Motor Hotel, Palo Alto, courtesy of JC Miller

Marin Art and Garden Center celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding in 2020, and in 2021 we are putting the spotlight on the mid-century design heritage of the Center.  The founders of the Center commissioned distinguished architects and landscape architects including Thomas Church, Gardner Dailey, and Russell Emmons of the Wurster firm to create the suite of buildings that house the Center’s activities, from The Studio (Gardner Dailey, 1948) to the Caroline Livermore Pavilion and Northgate Building (Russell Emmons, late 1950s)  These buildings share the clean lines and simple materials that are hallmarks of the postwar mid-century modern style, which swept the West Coast in the 1950s and 1960s and has experienced a revival of interest (and increase in value!) in recent years.

Plan for Pixie Park, 1958, from the collection of Royston, Hanamoto & Mayes

 In 1957, Pixie Parents commissioned a fresh design for Pixie Park, the playground at the Center, from landscape architect Robert Royston.  The recent renovation of Pixie Park has brought back elements of Royston’s playful, organic design that had been altered over time, and restored the mid-century flavor to this beloved part of the Center’s landscape.

JC Miller, landscape architect, scholar, and passionate advocate for the garden designs of this creative period, was an associate of Robert Royston, and is an expert on Royston’s work and legacy.  JC collaborated with distinguished professor Reuben Rainey to write the recent definitive book on Royston’s work, “Robert Royston”, published by the Library of American Landscape History in 2020.

We are looking forward to presenting a significant exhibition of the work of Royston and other visionary designers from this period this summer.  Postponed from 2020, “Cool Outside” will feature images and objects that define the look of outdoor design in Northern California and the shift toward outdoor living that was so influential in those decades.

As a preview to the exhibition, JC Miller will join us for a lively virtual presentation and conversation with Reuben Rainey on March 4th.  Here is some background about the Cool Outside presentation and a glimpse of the exhibition to come:

Postwar design covered the entire spectrum of creative endeavor – including landscape architecture and garden design. With Cool Outside we step outside the sliding glass doors of the modern house and explore dynamic gardens, parks, commercial spaces and public places that enlivened life in the mid twentieth-century. California played a special role in this modern garden renaissance. The years following World War II saw extraordinary population and economic growth in the Golden State. It was an exciting and experimental time when new materials and ideas guided the built environment. This presentation, and the exhibit that follows at the Marin Art and Garden Center, draws from the rich collection of the College of Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley and on research done for the recently published Robert Royston: Landscape Architect (Rainey & Miller, University of Georgia Press).

More to explore

IRS Guidelines for Gifts from Donor Advised Funds to Support MAGC Events

Thank you for your interest in giving to the Marin Art & Garden Center events from your Donor Advised Fund (DAF) or Family Foundation.

We sincerely appreciate your generosity and support!

To ensure your gift follows the current IRS guidelines for DAF/Family Foundation support of an event, we would like to share the below guidelines with you.

  • Raffle tickets, tickets to galas and other special events, auction items, and benefits conferred in connection with a DAF/foundation grant are not permitted.
    • IRS has specifically ruled that fair market value associated with fundraising events cannot be separated, a practice known as “bifurcation.”
      • For example, with Edible Garden, if the price of the ticket is $200 and the FMV fair market value (non-tax-deductible amount) is designated to be $50, the donor must pay from sources other than her DAF/foundation for the full value of the ticket ($200) and not just for the non-tax-deductible amount ($50).
    • We recommend you confer with your financial advisor to confirm if any of these examples of how donors may still use their DAF to support an event would work for you:
      • A donor could sponsor the event, and not attend, and pay fully out of the DAF/foundation.
      • A donor could sponsor the event using DAF/foundation funds and attend by purchasing an individual ticket through non-DAF/foundation funds.
      • A donor could sponsor the event, join the event as a guest of another donor/table guest, and pay fully out of the DAF/foundation.
      • A donor could sponsor the event and host the afforded number of people at their chosen level as long as they pay for the seats at the lowest ticket price ($200 for Edible Garden) outside of their DAF.
        • As an example, a $1,500 sponsor that covers 2 guests, could pay for their sponsorship with $400 from a different source of funds, and then give an additional gift of $1,100 out of their DAF.


Please email Tod Thorpe, Director of Development at to discuss your gift to Marin Art and Garden Center