Friday, June 25, 2010

Jerry Bywaters Special Collections at SMU

Back, l. to r. Emily Grubbs, Sam Ratcliffe, and Ellen Niewyk
Front, Light Cummins and Victoria Cummins

Over the last two years, my wife Victoria Cummins and I have spent considerable time doing historical research at the Bywaters Special Collections of the Hamon Arts Library at the Meadows School of the Arts on the campus of Southern Methodist University. We again spent the day immersed in its valuable collections of materials, which include the papers of Jerry Bywaters, E. G Eisenlohr, Velma and Otis Dozier, Octavio Medellin, Olin Travis, and other important Texas artists associated with the regionalist movement in the southwest during the twentieth century. In a related set of archival materials also touching on the fine arts, the Bywaters additionally holds the papers of the actress Greer Garson. The special collections archive carries the name of Dallas artist and arts administrator Jerry Bywaters, 1906-1989. He was a faculty member in the arts at SMU for many years while also serving as the long-time director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The director of the Bywaters Collection is Dr. Sam DeShong Ratcliffe, who is an accomplished Texas historian and an expert on the art of the Southwest. Among his publications are two important books, Painting in Texas History to 1900, and Jerry Bywaters: Interpreter of the Southwest. Bywaters Curator Ellen Buie Niewyk has a BFA from the University of North Texas and an MFA from Southern Methodist University. Her recent book, Jerry Bywaters: Lone Star Printmaker, examines printmaking in the early years of the twentieth century and the role artist Jerry Bywaters played in that movement. She is also accomplished in the design of artistic jewelry. Emily George Grubbs is a more recent addition to the Bywaters staff, having received a BA degree from SMU in 2008. At present, she is researching an historical article on the art exhibitions at the Dallas Little Theatre during the regionalist era. The holdings of the Bywaters Collection are well-indexed by a computerized finding aid that is available in the reading room. The beautiful office suite and research room of the Collection displays an impressive group of paintings and statuary from the era during which Jerry Bywaters was active as an SMU faculty member.

Click here for the Bywaters Special Collections Web Site.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Old Voices New Stories

Steve Cure, Director of Educational Services for the Texas State Historical Association, will traveling for the next two weeks through over a dozen states with approximately 50 young people and a staff of teacher/chaperones as part of the "Old Voices New Stories" summer program. The Texas State Historical Association has been involved during recent years in a partnership with the Colorado Historical Society to provide history-related summer programming for young people. Last year, in 2009, "Old Voice New Stories" operated a summer camp at historic Fort Kavitt near Menard, Texas. This summer, they have taken to the road in a travelling entourage that will visit Civil War sites from New Mexico to Maryland, with stops enroute all across the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys as well as the deep South of interior Dixie. This ambitious effort is providing a unique activity that will make for life-time memories. This exciting trip will last until July 3rd, when the campers and staff will return to their homes.

There is a blogsite and a facebook page of the trip.
For the homepage of the Texas State Historical Association, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Humanities Texas Summer Teacher Institutes

Dr. Todd Kerstter speaks at the Teacher Institute, Fort Worth
Humanities Texas has been sponsoring summer teacher institutes for a number of years, in the process making a positive impact on the state and its educational system. Thanks to a generous appropriation from the Texas legislature and the "We the People Grant" from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this summer witnessed a greatly expanded program that encompassed six different institutes across the state in an effort to reach a previously unprecedented number of teachers. Institutes took place during June of this year at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M International at Laredo, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas Christian University. All of these institutes revolved around the common theme "Shaping the American Republic to 1877" with special reference on the 8th grade curriculum. Keynote speakers at various of these institutes included H. W. Brands, Peter Onuf, Alan Taylor, Gordon S. Wood, and Daniel Feller. Distinguished scholars who have recently published on the various historical topics of United States history rounded out each of the programs by talking on their areas of expertise. Each of these institutes lasted for three days, with sessions dealing with chronological and topical analyses. Presentations alternated between presenting recent historical interpretation and providing classroom strategies for improving teaching effectiveness. It was my pleasure to have participated in the Humanities Texas Institute held at Texas Christian University. Scholarly presenters included Frank de la Teja, Gene A. Smith, Theresa Gaul, Charles Flanagan, Alan Taylor, Albert S. Broussard, George Forgie, Stacy Fuller, Ken Stevens, Gregg Cantrell, and Rebecca Sharpless. TCU Professor Todd Kerstetter served as the coordinator of the Institute. Additional activities included guided tours of the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, The Fort Museum of Science and History, and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Click Here for the Humanities Texas Website.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Visit to the Grace Museum in Abilene

The Grace Museum in Abilene is becoming a museum with a statewide impact to be classed as an equal to those in the largest metropolitan cities of Texas. The Grace houses three different but inter-related museums: an art museum, a children's museum, and a history museum. It is located in the fully restored and modernized 1909 Hotel Grace building, located across from the historic Texas and Pacific Railway Depot in downtown Abilene. The 55,000 square foot building is today the tenth largest general museum in Texas, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first floor of The Grace Museum features an elegantly restored marble ballroom, a glass loggia, a large enclosed brick courtyard, and a restored lobby, showcasing the building's original architectural details and colors.

I visited the Grace Museum for two reasons: first, to see the fantastic new art exhibition "Drawing on the Past: Selections from the Bobbie and John Nau Collection of Texas Art." Organized by the Grace's Senior Curator Judy Deaton, this exhibit presents a sampling of paintings and works on paper selected as representative works from the total of almost 700 pieces of Texas art acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Nau of Houston. This exhibit includes highlights from that collection including paintings by dozens of notable Texas artists. "Because of the depth and breadth of the Naus’ collection, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to examine the important visual dialogue between artist and artist across time," notes curator Judy Deaton, "There is a palpable directness, pride of place and drive to be authentic that transcends specific subject matter and style and reinforces the strength of each artist’s unique personal vision." This exhibit will remain in place until August 21, 2010.
Victoria Cummins Researching
at the Grace

The second reason for my visit to the Grace was to conduct historical research on a project that involves joint research with my wife Victoria H. Cummins. We are writing a biographical article on the life of Frances Battaile Fisk, who was an Abilene woman who worked very hard to advance the appreciation of Texas art from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was the wife of publisher Greenleaf Fisk, who published the Abilene "Times" newspaper. Mrs. Fisk was born in Georgetown, Texas in 1881. She attended Southwestern University before her marriage, thereafter teaching school before she turned her attention to newspaper writing. She became a correspondent to a number of Texas newspapers and became active as a member of various women's clubs, especially the Texas Federaton. In that capacity, she wrote a 1928 book entitled "A History of Texas Artists and Sculptors," which has today become a classic of early Texas art.

Click Here for the Grace Museum Website.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Over the last month, it has been a pleasure for me to have made several visits to the recently reopened Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, an established north Texas institution founded back in 1941. Over the decades, this museum has been a destination for thousands upon thousands of families and children because of its hands-on exibitions, its special programs, the ground-breaking OMNI theater, and its stellar museum school. In November of 2009, the museum debuted an entirely new 166,00 square foot facility designed by father and son architectual team Ricardo and Victor Legorreta of Mexico City. Richardo Legorreta has said of this new building: "For us, the goal was not only to create a building that reflects the family-friendly character of the Museum of Science and History, but also to make a building that attracts people to come inside." They have succeeded in doing so. I enjoyed the tour of the building given me by Dr. Gene A. Smith, who is the curator of history, in addition to his being a Professor of History at near-by Texas Christian University. The Enegry Blast, a multi-media show in four dimensions, is a new highlight of the museum as it uses a wide array of "Disney-like" techniques to give visitors an understanding of the science and history of the Barnett Shale which is currently transforming the north Texas economy. The success of such exhibits can be traced to the infuence of the museum's President, Van A. Romans, who previously worked with Disney Imagineering in additon to having an academic background in southern California. Earlier this spring, the Texas Museum Association gave the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History its coveted President's Award. "The Association is very proud to recognize the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History with the President’s Award,” said Texas Association of Museums Executive Director Ruth Ann Rugg. “Museum professionals across the state understand the tremendous vision, hard work, and precious time necessary to create such a spectacular educational facility."

Click Here for the website of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day at the TCU Press

I recently spent a day at the TCU Press visiting with its staff, including Susan Perry and Melinda Esco. Susan is the press editor who worked with me on the publication of my recent biography of Emily Austin that appeared as part of the Texas Biography Series. This series is published by the TCU Press in cooperation with the Center for Texas Studies at TCU. Susan is an accomplished editor who also has an interest in art history. She reviews books for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram while she also hosts a book talk program on a Fort Worth television station. It was my pleasure to appear as a guest on Susan Petty's television program, "Books in Review," of which she is the host. It was a delightful experience during which Susan (seen above with me at the TV studio) gave me the chance to talk a good bit about the Emily Austin book while I also had an opportunity to discuss some of the background research for this biography. It was also fun to visit the press offices on the TCU campus. It was my pleasure there to spend some time with Melinda Esco, who is the production manager of the press. Melinda handles production for the press that includes working with designers and printers, archiving digital files, working with online repositories and vendors, and keeping the Web site up-to-date. The TCU Press brings out as many as a dozen books a year, mostly dealing with Texas history and the culture of the state. It also publishes books on Mexican history, women's studies, and literary criticism.

Click here for the TCU Press

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Press Release Today Announces New Texas State Archvist

AUSTIN, Texas - Peggy D. Rudd, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, has announced the appointment of Jelain Chubb as director of the Archives and Information Services Division and Texas State Archivist. In her new position, Chubb (at left) will oversee the commission’s three public service areas: the Texas State Archives, the Reference and Information Center, and the Texas Family Heritage Research Center. As the State Archivist, she is responsible for ensuring that permanent records documenting Texas’ history as a colony, province, republic and state are preserved for future generations. She also is charged with leading efforts to expand public access to historical documents, photographs, maps and other materials and integrating primary source materials into educational curricula. Her strong background in electronic archives will prove an asset as the commission begins planning for digital archives.

Chubb joins the Texas State Library and Archives Commission after serving as State Archivist of Ohio for the Ohio Historical Society, based in Columbus. She also served as administrative archivist for the Missouri State Archives, and held positions with the Kansas State and South Carolina historical societies. A South Carolina native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the College of Charleston, and master’s degrees in library and information science and applied history with a specialization in archival administration, both from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She is a certified archivist and records manager.

For the Website of the Texas State Archives and Library, click here.