Louise was born Louise Caroline Meier in Azusa, California and lived in Los Angeles, California, and Newport Beach, California prior to moving to Yuma, Arizona in 1949 with her husband Floyd J. Tester, a well-known Yuma rancher and businessman, and her son Hank. Within a year, she had joined with other Yuma Artists to organize the Yuma Art Center, which later became The Yuma Fine Arts Association. Louise Tester Pollard was the group’s first Executive Director holding that position until she was named the Executive Director of the Arizona Commission of the Arts.
Louise Tester was an accomplished abstract expressionist painter. While living on the ranch in the Yuma Valley she would set up her easel on the back porch and paint for hours. Perhaps her art served as an escape from the harsh desert and ranch life. Her husband’s decision in 1949 to move from the coast of California, (Newport Beach), to Yuma, Arizona was not without stress for Louise.
Louise and Floyd
She had been painting since the 1930’s, mostly traditional still life and landscape oils, but it was on the ranch that her work became more abstract, very colorful with the use of very bold strokes. She was way ahead of the times for a small town in Arizona.
In Her Words
“I like the feel of the paint going on canvas. I like what I see when I’m painting on a well-sized canvas. Paintings begin when the painter sets the stretcher bars and stretches the canvas. I learned to paint and draw at the same time and my paintings show this. You don’t see the fine lines of the pencil on the canvas—you only see the wide, bold stroke of the paint.”
Art collectors in Arizona and Southern California after visiting her gallery would purchase her art. She also often traded her work with other artists such as, R.C. Gorman, John Waddell, Paul Dyck, Dean Faust, Gene Kloss, and Anesa Unidotti. Louise enjoyed the arts and was foremost an art’s advocate. As the Director of the Arizona Commission of the Arts and Humanities she instituted many art programs for Arizona and traveled through North America, Mexico and Europe extensively. Her own art work was secondary in her life and therefore, she rarely exhibited or marketed her own paintings.
Louise produced a great volume of her work during the late 50’s and through the mid 70’s. However, her true talent became evident in later years when she produced fewer works but each effort taking further steps into the world of abstract expressionism. Her last paintings were massive in size with large swaths of colors, and a far contrast from the dark and tightly constructed early works.
Louise sitting on a rock painting on a pond
Louise married Dean Pollard in 1983. Dean was an executive of Pacific Bell who retired and purchased a vineyard in Napa Valley. He devoted his time to growing quality grapes, which he sold to well known wineries in the Napa Valley area. He encouraged Louise to continue to paint in her later years and they were both supporters of the arts in Arizona and Northern California. Louise and her husband spent many years wintering in Yuma and summers on their beautiful and scenic vineyard in St. Helena, California. Their vineyard and the Napa Valley area were a huge inspiration and influence for many of Louise’s later paintings as can be seen in some of her works which are named after streets, flowers and other locations in the Napa, Valley area.
As executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts she established a traveling exhibition program that brought the visual arts to rural Arizona communities. In addition, in 1976 she initiated the Arts in Arizona Towns Project, which brought artists to live and work in local communities. Many artists such as Yuma’s George and Neely Tomkins were early participants in that project and continue to produce wonderful artwork in the North end Historical District in Yuma.
During her career, Louise was a prime mover in securing Yuma’s historic Union Pacific Depot for conversion into a permanent home for the Yuma Fine Arts Association.
Louise Tester-Pollard was a member of the National Endowment of the Arts, a board member of the Western Association of Art Museums and a founding member of the Western States Art Foundation.
In recognition of her contributions to the arts, Louise Tester received the 1977 Distinguished Achievement Award from Arizona State University, College of Fine Arts and in 1982, she was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award for her long service to the arts.
Louise Tester’s paintings hang in private collections in the Southwest, and in permanent collections of Northern Arizona University, Citrus College, Quechan Indian Library, Yuma County Library and the Yuma Fine Arts Association. Other works hang in private collections and in several galleries in Miami and Palm Beach, Florida.
Awards, Recognitions and Achievements
Below is a list of some of Louise’s numerous art awards, citations and achievements in the Arts:
Arizona Governor’s Arts award in 1982.
First woman to receive Citrus College Alumni Achievement Award in 1965.
Arizona Arts Education Association’s Arts Advocacy Award in 1977.
Arizona State University’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 1977.
Involved with plans for opening of Yuma Art Center in 1962.
Opened Yuma Fine Arts Association in 1963.
First Director for the Yuma Fine Arts Association.
Served on the Fort Yuma Museum Committee for Quechan Projects.
Served on the Arizona Western College Advisory Committee on the Arts
Developed an exhibition program for the Yuma City-County Library.
Directed the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Humanities in 1969 and remained on the commission until her retirement in 1981.
(During her years with the commission, she instituted many programs for Arizona citizens and traveled through North America, Mexico and Europe extensively. She also greatly expanded the Commission on the Arts and helped establish funding needed for many programs in Arizona. She obtained one of the first major grants in the US and the agency became nationally recognized under her leadership.)
Established a statewide Traveling Exhibition Program establishing cultural exchange agreements between Arizona and Mexico.
Worked towards establishing the Hopi-Navajo Exhibition touring the U.S.
Worked with Metropolitan Museum of Art to assemble the Hopi Indian children’s art exhibitions, which toured the U.S.
Encouraged Hispanics and Indians to promote their art and cultural activities.
Was a member of the Arizona State Capitol Restoration.
Was a founding member of the Arizona Humanities Council from 1973 - 1977.
Member of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, Arts and Cultural Committee 1973.
Founding member of Western States Arts Foundation- chairman 1974 - 1977.
Was member of the Board of National Assembly of State Art Agencies.
Served on museum city spirit and design arts panels for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Was Board member and President for the Western Association of Art Museums.
Represented Arizona on numerous other national boards and panels.