DMA Insight

Dallas Art Institute

The most influential large scale teaching effort [in Dallas' art community] occurred in 1926 when Olin Travis, recently returned from extensive study at The Art Institute of Chicago, established the Dallas Art Institute on the second floor of a building at 1215 1/2 Main Street. This school offered the first selection of classes in several art fields, such as painting (portrait, landscape, and still life), composition, life drawing, sculpture, art history, costume design, illustration, and commercial art. The faculty included Kathryn Hail Travis, painter and wife of the founder, Thomas M. Stell, Jr., and other professional specialists. Summer classes were held in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas.

The Dallas Art Institute produced a wide range of talented students who also enriched the local art ranks such as Everett Spruce, Charles T. Bowling, J. O. Mahoney, Jerry Bywaters, Lloyd Goff, Ruby Stone, and Ralph Rountree, already listed among entrants in the early Annual Allied Arts Exhibitions of Dallas County. Others who studied at the Institute and became professional artists included William Lester, William Elliott, Grace Turner, Allie Gatteys, Amelia Urbach, James Brooks, Bertha Landers, Bill McClanahan, Honore Guilbeau, Emil Guidroz, Bill Cole, and Mike Owen.

In the early years of the Great Depression, student enrollment decreased dramatically. The Institute was reorganized with a civic board, and the school was moved to the grounds of the Civic Federation, an enlightened institution headed by Elmer Scott and Gaynell Hawkins. The Institute flourished under these benevolent influences and an enlarged faculty. It also became a focal point, at Maple Avenue and Alice Street, for the famous Alice Street Art Carnivals where an average of some seventy artists developed an avid audience for their wares at depression prices.

In 1935, the Dallas Art Institute moved to larger quarters at 2503 McKinney Avenue, an early Dallas home built of hand-made "south Dallas pink" bricks and remodeled to suit the needs of art classes. The next, and final, move of the Institute was in 1941 into the school wing of the recently completed art museum in Fair Park. There the Institute continued for two years until it was deemed wise by the Trustees of the Museum that a new school should be developed with an art curriculum more compatible with the opportunities available at the museum. Thus for some fifteen years the Dallas Art Institute and Olin Travis and his faculty were influential in the development of an entire generation of Dallas artists.

Excerpt from

Jerry Bywaters, Seventy-Five Years of Art in Dallas: The History of the Dallas Art Association and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1978), 10-12.

Web Resources

Dallas Art Institute
Read more about this school in Kendall Curlee's essay on the Handbook of Texas Online.