ASU KERR HISTORY
Louise Lincoln Kerr was a composer, violist and patron of the arts. She was born on April 24, 1892, in Cleveland, Ohio, and died December 10, 1977, at her ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona. She was the daughter of John C. Lincoln, an inventor and engineer. Her mother taught her to play the piano at age 6 and violin at age 7, and she later learned to play and preferred the viola. In 1910, she attended Barnard College in New York, where she studied music composition. She left New York around 1913 in order to join the early Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, one of the first two women to join the orchestra.
She married Peter Kerr (of Danish origin, his name originally spelled KJER), with whom she had eight children. In 1936, she and her family moved to Arizona for the health of one of her daughters, first living in Flagstaff and then in Phoenix. In Scottsdale, she bought 47 acres of land south of Lincoln Drive (was named for her father, who built Camelback Inn) with the dream of establishing an artists’ colony and retreat for professional and promising musicians, artists and writers.
Her five-room house was built in 1948, and this studio in 1959 as a performance hall. Both buildings are natural adobe bricks made and dried on the property. The doors were hand-carved out of sugar pine by a Tucson artist Charles W. Bolsius. The east doorframe is made of empty beer bottles set into the wall. Also on the property were a number of small cottages that she called “The Shacks” that served as guest houses for visitors such as Pablo Casals, Isaac Stern, both the Budapest and Juilliard String Quartets, and historians Will and Ariel Durant.
For nearly 50 years, this center has served as a place where musicians and other artists have come together to perform, work, talk, listen and learn. Louise Lincoln Kerr helped organize several local music organizations including the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Chamber Music Society, Arizona Cello Society, and the Phoenix chapter of the Monday Morning Musicale. The studio also was and is being used for concerts, lectures, plays, parties, weddings and religious services.
She composed more than 100 works including: symphonic tone poems, works for chamber orchestra, a violin concerto, numerous piano pieces, vocal pieces, string quartets, piano quartets and quintets, ballets and incidental music, and numerous duos for piano and other instruments. She was often called “The Grand Lady of Arizona Music,” and was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Before her death in 1977, she willed two acres and the buildings to Arizona State University’s College of Fine Arts. Since October 1981, the Kerr Cultural Center has been managed by ASU Gammage. On April 14, 2010 the ASU Kerr Cultural Center was officially entered into the National Register of Historic Places.