Title of Work
Arthur Harold Beal Nitt Witt Ridge 1
Date of Work
Super 8 film
Art & Design Study Collection: James Smith Pierce Collection
Stored: JSP.FAST.FILM BOX 1
UND Art Collections Repository
Born in Brooklyn, New York, James Smith Pierce received his PhD in art history from Harvard University. During his career as a professor, Pierce also became an accomplished artist, whose artworks were included in important exhibitions (including a show on land art at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC) and books on contemporary earthworks and site-specific sculpture. Pierce was also a photographer, exhibition curator, and art collector.
About Arthur "Art" Harold Beal:
Arthur "Art" Harold Beal was born in Oakland, California, and lived with his mother, a member of the Klamath tribe. She passed away in 1906, and Arthur spent the rest of his adolescent life in an orphanage. Once he was of age, he began working in the steel industry and as a merchant seaman. Arthur was also known as Dr.Tinkerpaw and as Captain Nittwitt for his most famous creation Nitt Witt Ridge.
In 1928, he purchased 2 ½ acres of hillside in Cambria Pines, California, covered in Pine trees. On the 250-foot ridge, he constructed a series of buildings with only one rule during construction: Do not pay for anything except cement. He collected shells from the ocean, broken plates from the neighbors, wood from his hillside pine trees, and anything and everything from the dump.
Construction on the environment took nearly 50 years as he used only hand tools. Arthur used stone and concrete to create the foundation's base, which he constructed wood-framed structures on top. Once the structures were stable, he adorned them with scrap-metal, shells, glass, and other industrial discards he found. To terrace the property, he used only a pick and shovel. Once finished, rock and mortar were used to retain the walls. He designed handrails that also functioned as irrigation pipes and sprinklers.
Nitt Witt Ridge boasts nine levels that are all connected with winding walkways. As age progressed, site maintenance proved harder for the aging Arthur to do so. In 1975 volunteers founded the non-profit Art Beal Foundation, which allowed Arthur to live on the property as long as he wished. The non-profit organization's founding allowed access to public funding to protect Nitt Witt Ridge from developers or future destruction. 1981, the site was awarded California Historical Landmark status. Beal remained on the property until 1989, when he moved to a nursing home and died a short three years later. Years passed, and in 1999 a young couple purchased Nitt Witt Ridge and began restoration. They shored up staircases and cut back the landscape, which had become overgrown. The final restorations consisted of repairing the walls and portions of the foundation.
Digitally preserved, 2021.
Images and film are provided for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced in any form without written consent. ©University of North Dakota. All rights reserved.