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In Memory of Claudia Steel

Watch our documentary about Claudia here


Claudia Williamson Steel (age 99) passed away peacefully with family at home on August 29, 2017. Claudia was born on March 19, 1918 in Van Nuys, CA, to J.G. and Ella Williamson. Claudia grew up in Chico and graduated from Chico High. She attended Mills College in Oakland and graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1939.

After receiving her secondary teaching credential, Claudia taught in Greenville for two years. In 1967 Claudia received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Mills College. On August 16, 1941, Claudia married her lifetime love, Lowell Steel. They had originally met during high school in Butte Meadows, where both families had cabins. Their relationship grew at the University of California, Berkeley and when Lowell attended and graduated from Stanford Medical School. They lived a life completely devoted to each other, supporting one another’s passions and interests.

Claudia and Lowell lived in San Francisco, Oakland, Washington, D.C., and Concord, CA, before returning to Chico. Dr. Lowell Steel practiced Internal Medicine in Chico and Claudia devoted herself to her art and family. Claudia was a very kind hearted, creative, passionate, adventurous, and determined person. She looked at the world as an artist, continually marveling at the beauty around her and expressing it through her art. She loved her family, art, friends, and community. Claudia and Lowell were loving parents to three children, Claudia (Sue), Douglas, and Roger. They were creative visionaries in their professions and were not afraid to be unconventional in their work. They also loved traveling and had adventures in many countries of the world. Both were generous donors to many community organizations, including original donors to the Chico Museum, Enloe Hospital Foundation, the Chico Art Center, the Janet Turner Print Museum, Chico State Art Department, Chico High Art Department, and the Museum of Northern California Art (monca).

Claudia seriously began creating art with the encouragement of her Chico High art teacher, Mrs. Stansbury, and remained active in the Chico art scene throughout her life. She was one of the original members of the Creative Art Center (now Chico Art Center). Claudia taught printmaking and painting at Chico State University 1965-68. She and Lowell were good friends of Janet Turner and helped support the creation of the Janet Turner Print Museum. Claudia’s work was exhibited in solo and group shows throughout California, the United States and abroad. Among her many awards, Claudia received the Chico Annie’s Visual Arts Award (1998), the Chico High School Foundation Award (2007), the Turner Award for Lifetime Achievement (2010), Chico Mayor’s Award (2010), Legacy Artist of the North State from monca (2014), and Chico Masters: Past and Present, at Chico Art Center (2015).

The monca has a permanent collection of Claudia’s work displayed in the Dr. Lowell and Claudia Steel Gallery. Claudia was preceded in death by her parents, husband Lowell, her daughter Claudia Suzanne Rosen, sister Alice Hutchins, brother Gordon Williamson, and sister Elinore Giberson. She is survived by her son, Douglas Steel (Viktoria) of Virginia, son Roger Steel (Suzanne) of Chico, five grandchildren and seven great -grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on September 18, 2017, at 10:00 AM at the Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, California. A reception will follow at the Museum of Northern California Art (monca). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to monca, the Janet Turner Print Museum, or your favorite charity. Online condolences can be sent to the family at

See more of Claudia’s artwork here.

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