E. J. (Evangeline) Montgomery worked for Rainbow Sign as its Black Art consultant — at the time, a title held by only four or five people nationwide. Typically, Mary Ann Pollar would connect first with an artist who was to be featured at the club, then would pass the baton to Montgomery, who would handle all arrangements. As Rainbow Sign’s Black Art consultant, Montgomery oversaw the exhibitions and art programming, designed the invitation cards, titled the shows, and publicized events.
Originally from the East Coast, Montgomery spent several years in Nigeria before moving to the Bay Area in 1965 to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she specialized in metallurgy. Alongside her work at Rainbow Sign, Montgomery served as the Black Art consultant for the Oakland Museum.
The Oakland Post praised Montgomery for her “knack at making art exciting to non-artists through the use of imaginative titles for her exhibitions and by making them social as well as aesthetic events.”
In the above photograph, Montgomery and UC Berkeley grad student Garret McDowell look over a mural created by visitors and staff on the opening weekend of Rainbow Sign.
A few messages from the mural:
“Right on, Mary Ann and Henry! — Warren Widener” (next to a drawing that Berkeley Mayor Widener made of an upraised fist, for which Mary Widener’s hand had served the model).
“Black is Love, Peace, Happiness, Life — Mary Ann”
“They’ve been asking ‘What is it about?’ Here it is!’ — Belva Davis Moore”
“This is great!”
“Maybe this is a new beginning!”
Montgomery was a vital part of Rainbow Sign throughout the life of the club. In 1980—two years after Rainbow Sign shut its doors—she moved to Washington D.C., where she worked for the Department of State Cultural Program and the National Conference of Artists.
Over her career, Montgomery has had several one-woman shows and has curated over 200 exhibitions; she continues to make art to this day. Many artists owe Montgomery—a passionate collector, curator and documentarian—a large debt of gratitude for the attention and acclaim she brought their way.
In the video on the Rainbow Sign homepage, E.J. Montgomery can be seen talking about its arts programming and mission.