In our Who is…? series, we’ll put the spotlight on Redlanders who played a major role in shaping the city into what it is today.
Without Grace Stewart Mullen, the Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival would not exist.
A philanthropist and humanitarian, Mullen believed the arts were for everyone, whether you had a penny in your pocket or wads of $100 bills stuffed in your wallet. She was born in Tennessee in 1875 to a family that appreciated music, reading, and education — one grandfather was a college trustee, the other the founder of the first public library in White County, Tennessee.
She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1900s to work as a schoolteacher, and on a trip back home she met her future husband, George Emmett Mullen, a public accountant and auditor. After they married in 1905, the couple, who went on to have two children, returned to California, settling in Redlands in 1917. Immediately, Mullen became active in the community, joining civic clubs and organizations and finally, after deciding Redlands would benefit from bringing professional classically-oriented performers to town, founded the Redlands Community Music Association in 1924.
Since the inception of the Redlands Bowl Summer Music Festival, admission has always been free, with visitors paying what they can, fulfilling Mullen’s dream. Through the Redlands Bowl, she brought international recognition to the city, and was called the First Lady of Redlands. She died on May 19, 1967, at 91. She is buried at Hillside Memorial Park. —Catherine