The Wayne Art Center, part 1 – Radnor High School

Like most of the large houses built in Wayne in the late 1880’s and the early 1890’s, Mrs. Craig Atmore’s home at 314 Louella avenue has a big barn in the rear of the building lot. Like many of its contemporaries this building is larger and more stately than the average house that is being erected these days. Aside from using a comparatively small part of the downstairs portion for garage space, most of the owners of these structures of a bygone era do not quite know how to utilize them. Indeed, a one or two-car garage would have much more purpose in most cases. And besides, it would not take up nearly so much of the building lot!

Mrs. Atmore’s barn is a notable exception to this rule, however. For it houses one of Radnor township’s most interesting and unusual organizations, The Wayne Art Center, founded 20 years ago this Spring as the result of a small meeting held on March 5, 1931 in Miss Mary Walsh’s apartment in Windermere Court.

This meeting opened, according to its minutes, as kept by Dr. Addison S. Buck, “with a brief statement to the effect that the purpose . . . was to discuss what might be done in Wayne for persons either out of work or with surplus leisure time at their disposal, by providing a suitable place for them to go, with opportunities to engage in avocational pursuits, or, more specifically, opportunities for self-expression.”

1931 was one of the years of “the depression”. There were more than a few among us “either out of work or with surplus leisure time.” Then, besides, such a project as this contemplated would give the children of the township “a suitable atmosphere and materials . . . to learn to use their free time with the development of an appreciation of the beautiful things of life.”

As an example of what might be attained, the excellent work of the Graphic Sketch Club of Philadelphia, under the guidance of Mr. Fleisher, was cited. Mrs. Ross W. Fishburn, who had questioned Mr. Fleisher in regard to what could be done along similar lines in Wayne, quoted him as saying that one thing that might be accomplished would be “the establish a center of beauty, where one may work creatively,” adding this terse statement, “America has no reserve in art.”

This meeting was attended by 22 interested residents of the township. A second meeting, held a week later at the Field and Shaw Shop, then located at the corner of Lancaster avenue and Louella drive, had a still larger attendance. Ideas on organization became more concrete and various committees were appointed. By the third meeting, held on March 19, a motion was passed “that an Arts and Crafts Centre be started to encourage the appreciation of the arts by instruction and by providing workshops and a place in which exhibitions may be held.”

These were the comparatively simple beginnings of one of Radnor township’s noteworthy institutions, The Wayne Art Center, now housed in the barn at the rear of 314 Louella avenue. Its first home was in the second floor of the large garage, formerly used as a stable, on the Humbert B. Powell property on Windermere avenue, the rental agreement for which was signed on May 28, 1931. Several years later the Art Center took up quarters in Radnor High School before moving to its present location.

The 20 years intervening between the Spring of 1931 and this Spring of 1951 have been interesting, colorful ones that will be described in later articles in this column. These years led up to the present time, when each week sees six classes in session, each taught by professionals, all of whom are recognized artists in their particular fields. The old barn is a veritable bee-hive of activity, with the large room on the second floor used as the studio for the various classes. Three smaller rooms of this floor, as well as the hourse stables on the main floor are used for storage of large quantities of supplies, such as easels, paints, paper, objects for still life, pieces of sculpture, plaster, indeed all actual necessities for painting and sculpturing.

Unique among the six classes is the lively Saturday morning one for children, taught by Mrs. Edward Fenno Hoffman, assisted by Mrs. Russell Moore. Daytime classes include those taught on Tuesday mornings by Margaret Chrystie, where part of the work is done in the studio and part in field trips. Mrs. Hill Kephart’s classes meet on alternate Thursday afternoons, for instructions in early American decoration, with special emphasis on tray painting and on the decoration of furniture.

Then there are three evening classes, among them the class taught by Reynolds C. Mason, in which some unusual talent has been developed among beginners. These classes are held on Thursday evening. On Tuesday evenings William Ferguson, who is critic rather than instructor, holds classes in oils, water colors, pastels and charcoal. On Wednesday evening there is available another class in tray painting, in addition to Mrs. Kephart’s, this one taught by Mrs. William C. Hurst. Mothers of young children and women emplyed during the daytime, are in the majority among those enrolled in Mrs. Hurst’s group.

The Art Center is now headed by one of its charter members, Arthur Edrop, of Radnor, as president. Vice-presidents include Miss Bernadine Tolan and John H. Ansley, of Wayne, and Mrs. W. N. Stilwell, of Radnor. Mrs. John J. Berg, of Wayne, is secretly of the board, while Mrs. Henry D. Booth, Jr., of St. Davids, is treasurer. Mrs. Davis W. Gregg, also of St. Davids, serves as executive secretary of the organization.

(To be continued)