DMA Insight

Dallas Art Association

The following excerpts explain the individuals and events leading to the creation of the Dallas Art Association (DAA) and a city-owned art collection. The complete essay appeared in the DAA's first catalogue after the opening of its first public gallery in Fair Park.

The Dallas Art Association was organized in 1903 and was a direct outgrowth of the Art Committee of the Public Library. At the suggestion of Frank Reaugh, the well-known Texas artist, an art gallery, properly lighted and arranged, was provided for in the building.

When completed, this room was most attractive, and the late Mr. J. S. Armstrong, himself a member of the building committee, became so interested in procuring pictures for the gallery that he offered to give half of any amount that could be raised for the purpose. Accordingly, the Art Committee of the Dallas Public Library was formed and consisted of the following members:

Mrs. Henry Exall

Mrs. Sidney Smith

Mrs. J. E. Schneider

Mrs. George K. Meyer

The members immediately set to work raising funds for the purchase of pictures of recognized value. In the autumn of 1902, they gave an exhibition in the art gallery that was by far the best collection which had ever been brought to Texas at that time.

These works of art were secured through the influence of the late Mrs. Sidney Smith from the Fair Association, which generously loaned its entire collection to the new gallery. An admission fee of twenty-five cents was charged for the exhibit, and the first person to present herself was Mrs. C. E. Fargo, who paid one dollar for admission, the first dollar collected for the art gallery.

From this collection, two pictures were purchased by the Art Committee, the selection being decided upon by popular vote. The first two pieces purchased by the Art Committee were My Gondolier's Kitchen (1898, 1902.1) by Herbert Faulkner and September Moonrise (1900, 1903.2) by Childe Hassam. At this time, Frank Reaugh also presented to the gallery one of his best paintings, The Road to the Brazos . Gustave Wolf, of St. Louis, also presented one of his pictures—a landscape—making four fine pictures acquired by the Committee in its first year.

Perhaps no woman in Dallas has ever done for the cause of art what Mrs. Sidney Smith did by her persistent efforts to establish an arts community and by her encouragement of artists. She was esteemed and beloved by all who knew her, and her passing away the next year was a sad affliction to her friends and associates.

Foreseeing the possibilities of the future and feeling the necessity of a closer and larger organization, the Dallas Art Association was formed in 1903 under its own constitution and bylaws, with Mrs. Charles L. Dexter serving as president and the following on the board of trustees:

Mrs. W. H. Abrams

Mrs. J. S. Armstrong

Mrs. A. H. Belo

Mrs. Wm. Charlton

Mrs. S. P. Cochran

Mrs. Geo. B. Dealey

Mrs. Chas. L. Dexter

Mrs. J. W. Everman

Mrs. Henry Exall

Mrs. E. J. Kiest

Mrs. George Noble

Mrs. A. V. Lane

Mrs. Geo. K. Meyer

Mrs. Geo. H. Plowman

Mrs. J. E. Schneider

Mrs. Sidney Smith

Mrs. A. P. Tenison

Miss Ruth DeCapre

Mr. Frank Reaugh

Mr. E. G. Eisenlohr

Mr. Clifton Church

Soon after the organization of the Association, Mrs. Henry Exall presented a check for one thousand dollars from Mrs. A. H. Belo, to be used to further the work of the Association as they might see fit. Closely following this gift came Mr. Armstrong's check for five hundred dollars in fulfillment of his offer made to Mrs. Exall on the completion of the Library building, and with the money came also a renewal of the offer for the coming year.

These two gifts gave the young Association a splendid impetus, and enabled them to purchase several additional pictures. Mr. Clifton Church succeeded Mrs. Dexter as President in 1904, and continued to hold the office until his move to Boston [ca. 1906]. Mr. Church promoted the interests of the Association in every way, striving with the courage of his convictions to create and maintain a standard of art, which had become the most vital factor in the development of the Association.

The Association had one Treasurer, Mrs. E. J. Kiest, who presented the claims of the Association to the financial support of the citizens of Dallas in an incomparable manner. The Association was supported by voluntary membership fees of five dollars each year and gave to its members an annual exhibition of pictures and a lecture by someone recognized as an authority on art. Besides this, the Association gave an occasional social function in honor of some artist or distinguished guest, when the members and friends came together for a better understanding and acquaintance.

The Contract

Until February 1909, the pictures were hung in the gallery at the Public Library, which was open to the public every Saturday afternoon from November to May.

With the completion of the beautiful building at the fairgrounds, negotiations were opened with the city through Mr. Edgar Pike, representing the Park Board, who wished to place the collection there and transfer ownership of the pictures to the city, that they might formally recognize the gallery as a permanent institution and give to the people a more liberal use of the pictures than was possible under the old management.

A contract transferring ownership of the art to the city was signed in March of 1909, and the gallery was formally opened and presented to the city of Dallas in April 1909.

Timeline of Events

1903 The Dallas Art Association (DAA) was founded by a group of 50 citizens at a meeting, Monday, January 19, 1903, at 10:30 a.m. in the Dallas Public Library. The DAA was established to support the visual arts in Dallas, with the goal of creating a permanent art organization.

1903–1909 Exhibitions were held at the Dallas Public Library. In 1904, the DAA hosted its first annual exhibition.

1909 The DAA donated its permanent collection to the City of Dallas and moved to the state fairgrounds into a new arts building, the Free Public Art Gallery of Dallas, the Museum's first official facility.

Adapted from

Dallas Art Association, Official Catalogue of the Dallas Art Association, Dallas Art Association Gallery (Fair Park), Dallas, Texas, 1909.