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First Friday in Downtown Tehachapi - 5 to 8 p.m., June 2

Two new exhibits at Tehachapi Museum 'Art on the Menu' and Zuni Bears


A large carving in white alabaster by Ben Livingston includes a bear, an eagle and a buffalo, with turquoise inlay that depicts Knifewing, a half man, half eagle spirit.

For June 2 First Friday, two new exhibits will open at the Tehachapi Museum. First is a collection of some of the most beautiful and expensive menus ever produced in America and created by Tehachapi resident Gene Stirm. It includes the menu from the Edwardian Room that Gene did for Donald Trump and seen in several films including Concerning Henry and Big Business. Also, included is the Pagoda menu, one of the most expensive printed menus ever produced. Several of the menus will be shown with the china plates that inspired the artwork.

Gene will be on hand at the museum for First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. to meet and greet, along with a showing of some of his other art displayed on the porch of the Errea House. Appetizers inspired from the menus will be served, along with wine and champagne.

In 1963, with diploma from Buchser High School in Santa Clara, Calif., Gene headed to West Valley College to become an artist. His father's sage advice was, "You will starve." So while at college he worked as a cook, figuring working in a kitchen he wouldn't starve. He ended up in other restaurants and even owned his own before graduating art school. He apprenticed as a newspaper/commercial printer at the Sanger Harold, after which he took a position as an artist with a full-service advertising agency and then as art director at Jostens Yearbooks at Visalia. It was at that time he married Patricia Button and started his family. "Along the way, I did create a few menus," he adds.

In 1979, working at O.C. Menu Printers, he oversaw the design and production of thousands of menus and wine lists. In 1987 Gene started his own menu company, Stirm/Collen's and Associates Inc. Besides doing all the Fairmont's work, his other clients included: Gene Autry, The Bel Air, The Honokalani, Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and The Plaza Hotel, New York, where he worked directly with Ivana and Donald Trump.

After selling the menu business in 1996, he followed other creative interests, including film work, sculpting, jewelry making and lapidary, and of course painting. Along with his wife Patricia, they moved to Tehachapi in 2003, where he did video production, photography and authored five books, including Oscar Goes Camping, with Chelley Kitzmiller.

The second new exhibit for June showcases a collection of Zuni Bears from a local collection. It traces the progression of a collection from a few tourist type bears to some of the best known Zuni carvers working today. The centerpiece is a large alabaster bear with turquoise inlay which features a bear, an eagle and a buffalo. A few carved bears from other tribes are included. Also featured is a painting by Begay, painted on shards of stone to evoke the feeling of Anasazi pottery shards and featuring a large, stylized bear.

The Tehachapi Museum and Errea House Museum are open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. For more information on the First Friday events, call the Tehachapi Museum at (661) 822-8152.


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