The Valley Art Association had its beginnings in 1938 when 11 Hagerstown artists met to discuss plans for the celebration of National American Art Week, November 1-7, 1938. Minutes from that first meeting, on October 6, 1938 reflect that "An exhibition of the works of Washington Co. artists will be held at the local museum during Art week. After further discussion, the idea of a permanent organization of local artists was presented by Alonzo Rutter. This met with the approval of all present and plans for a Society of Hagerstown Artists were discussed. As a result, Mr. Rutter was appointed Chairman Pro Tem, and a committee was appointed to draft and report by laws for the proposed society." Thus was born this venerable artists' group. Those first members were Mrs. Gertrude Rudy, Mr. Alonzo Rutter, Mrs. Florence V. Ankeney, Miss Josephine Baker, Mrs. Marcella Cox, Miss Kathryn Entler, Dr. Maud Hayman, Dr. Gifford Luke, Mrs. Ellen G. Northern, Mr. Charles Witmer, and Mr. Edwin Slick. In June of 1939, Mr. William H. Singer was elected and accepted the role of Honorary President of the Society, and R. Bruce Carson was elected an honorary member.
In September of 1939, the Society reported on its exhibit at the B&O train station, an event attended by 1,000 people. A second, equally well-attended event was held there in June of 1940.
On June 6, 1941, Dr. John Richard Craft, Director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts spoke to the society on the topic of cooperation between the Museum and the Society.
In March of 1942, during the war years, the Society' records report on 16 posters made for the Maryland Council of Defense, which were sent to Baltimore for exhibit at the Enoch Pratt Library.
On October 8, 1945, the name of the Society of Hagerstown Artists was changed to the "Hagerstown Art Club," and membership varied between 8 and 12 artists.
During this period, the Hagerstown Art Club entered paintings in the Cumberland Valley Show at the Museum, and awarded its own members prizes for their entries, judged by the Museum Director, Dr. Craft. In January 1949, the club had 13 entries for the Cumberland Valley Show. The club had 8-12 members during this period. Hagerstown exhibitors in the Cumberland Valley Show were invited to become members of Society.
On January 11, 1950, new museum director Mr. Bruce Etchison attended the Society's meeting and invited members to hold their meetings at the museum. They met there in June, and continued to meet there.
The Society regularly contributed to a recurring exhibit at the Museum for National Art Week.
In September 1952, the Society voted to discontinue the practice of giving prizes for work completed by members during the summer.
On March 11, 1953, Clyde Roberts, then an art instructor at Hagerstown High School, gave a lecture on Color and Composition in Landscape Painting. Until his death on January 24, 2011, Clyde remained an active member of the now Valley Art Association, attending meetings and giving periodic art talks and painting demonstrations.
In January, 1953, members voted to sponsor the National Art Week Exhibit at the Museum during the first week of November, 1954, and exhibit paintings and crafts along with the Museum art school. Paintings by member artists were shown during the entire month of December, 1954, in what was the Society's first art show at the Museum.
On April 13, 1955, Museum Director Bruce Etchison invited the club to have an exhibit in the Downstairs Gallery in November, 1955. In a letter from Mr. Etchison dated March 4, 1955, he stated "I would say, however, that the Hagerstown Art Club could count on an annual exhibit at the Museum separate from the craft material, if they are willing to have it hand in the downstairs gallery. This gallery has excellent lighting and a good neutral gray wall against which paintings work well." The Downstairs Gallery was reserved for November, 1955. Mr. Etchison periodically spoke to the club and did demonstrations at its meetings during his tenure as Director.
The Club continued to meet at the Museum, with a membership between 19 and 22 artists. At a meeting on November 4, 1959, members voted to remove the limitation that artists must reside in Hagerstown.
The minutes from the meeting of September 2, 1959 reported the following interesting observation: "...we wish to bestow an award posthumously to Mrs. Spence's able assistants, a hatful of night-crawlers, who diligently worked out some interesting designs on her canvases, resulting in their martyrdom. Tsk, Tsk."
On June 14, 1967, Hagerstown Art Club voted to have a representative on the newly-created Art Council of Washington County. (Eventually, this evolved into individual memberships)
In 1976, The Hagerstown Art Club began its newsletter, called "The Brushstroke." That tradition continues with the on line version of the monthly newsletter today.
On October 26, 1983, the members voted to change the name of the organization to "The Valley Art Association."
The group continued to meet at the Museum of Fine Arts and other locations until in August, 1991, it moved into its new home, the Mansion House Gallery, housed in the circa 1849 Heyser house located at 501 Highland Avenue in City Park. Membership of 100+ artists, artisans, and people interested in the arts continue to keep this organization alive and vibrant.
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