That first garden party of the Wayne Art Center, which was held in June, 1933 in the third summer of that organization’s existence, thereafter became an annual affair. And it was but a summer of two years ago that for various reasons it was discontinued. The 1933 party was held in the lovely gardens of Dr. and Mrs. Henry G. Fischer, on Bloomingdale avenue, with Mrs. W. N. Stillwell as general chairman. For several years the H. B. Powell place on Windermere avenue formed the background for these garden parties.
Then one summer Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Tolan and Mr. and Mrs. Frank W. Conner, who lived in adjoining houses on Upland way, were joint hosts at the Art Center party. In the summer of 1938 the garden party was held for the first time in its own “front yard”, the spacious grounds of Mrs. Craig Atmore’s home on Louella avenue, with the garage studio forming the picturesque background for the party. As the years went by, this became its permanent location, sometimes supplemented by the adjoining lawn of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. P. Fronefield.
These affairs came to be big summer events for children as well as adults. Held always on a Saturday afternoon in June, sunny skies were eagerly anticipated by hundreds of people who were interested in the various kinds of entertainment that were offered. Usually there was a buffet supper served on the lawn as the twilight shadows fell. And always there were games and booths at which various articles were sold. Usually there were pony rides, a fish pond, a fortune teller, a “Flea Market,” an auction and a small animal zoo. Some years there were plays in which children were the actors, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, given in June, 1941, being a typical one.
Nostalgic memories of these picturesque affairs, as seen through the eyes of a yearly visitor, are stirred in your columnist’s mind as she looks through the Art Center’s old scrap books with their various newspaper clippings and their kodak pictures. Many of the same names appear on the roster from year to year. They are the names of women who worked long and hard that the Art Center treasury should be enriched each summer in order that the winter classes might be continued. Although it is impossible to list these names, since there are so many of them, it is but fitting to give recognition to the late Mrs. Clarence Tolan, since no one among the Art Center members worked more faithfully from year to year than she did. Mrs. Tolan, who was one of the charter members of the organization, was one of its early treasurers and later its president.
Another part of the Art Center’s yearly program has been its consistent featuring of the work of its students, through many exhibitions. The very first one was held in September, 1931, following the summer when 119 children and 17 adults were enrolled in its classes in the garage of the Powell place. It was called “Wayne’s first exhibition of Art” and the public was reminded that “it is the children who are leading us.” Intended principally for the parents of these children, it drew large crowds of visitors, many of them of professional standing. It was tribute indeed to those who had pioneered in this enterprise, among them the late Mrs. Charles A. McClure, of Wayne, a well-known artist who was an untiring teacher at the Art Center for many years.
The first exhibition was but the forerunner of the many that were to follow in the 20 years since the Art Center was founded. Later exhibitions featured much more of the work of adults than did that first one. Media included oils, water colors, pastel, charcoal and pen and ink. Sculpture exhibits also proved interesting as did those featuring ceramics.
At present there are two regularly scheduled exhibitions each year, one in May and the other in November. The former is held at the Studio, when the work of the exhibitors is subject to the approval of a jury of outsiders. The later is held on Election Day and is sponsored by the Saturday Club., in whose Club House the paintings and other works of art are put on exhibition. This is quite a party day for both organizations, when tea is served throughout the afternoon for all comers, among them many men, home because of the Election Day holiday.
A special children’s exhibition is staged each year at the Studio. The work of these young artists is also shown from time to time at the Radnor Township Memorial Library, and sometimes even finds its way to exhibitions held in Philadelphia. The Art Center is regularly represented at the regional shows of the Woodmere Galleries by invitation of that organization.
No other local organization has brought to Wayne speakers on such diversified subjects as has the Art Center. Their lectures, always open to the public, have included those of men and women distinguished along many lines.
Among the countless projects of Wayne’s own art organization that may have been forgotten by some is the class in woodworking and carpentry that met in the 1935-36 season in the carpentry shop at Radnor High School. Any one “with a hankering for self-expression in wood” was eligible to join for a very moderate fee. James B. Ives was chairman of this interesting project which provided much diversion for spare time and produced some worthwhile pieces of furniture.
Miss Mary L. Walsh was The Art Center’s first president, serving in that capacity until December, 1935, when she was succeeded by Charles A. McClure. Other presidents have included Frederick Richardson, Oswald Chew, Mrs. Clarence Tolan, Paul Davis, Mrs. Frank W. Conner and the present incumbent, Arthur Edrop.
(To be concluded)