Art Scene – Kansas City Trailblazers
Never underestimate the power of a hungry, talented, artistic woman on a mission. What strikes us as we learn more about these mavericks, is the sheer length of each of these women’s lives. We think there must be some real health benefits to pursuing the arts on one’s own terms… . (Author’s note: Many thanks to Evelyn Craft Belger for her profound and gleeful assistance in researching for this article. She is indeed a maverick in her own time, to be sure.)
Ethlyne Jackson Seligman 1907-1993
Ethlyne was the acting director of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art from 1942-1945. Sandwiched in her tenure between Paul Gardner (1933-1953) and Laurence Sickman (1953-1977), she actually started her career as Paul Gardner’s secretary (having also served as curator of the decorative arts section). When Paul was commissioned as a Major in the United States Army in November of 1942, Ethlyne took over the acting director job. As Paul returned in December of 1945, Ethlyne moved to New York City after marrying an art dealer.
Ethlyne Jackson, acting director of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, observes her third anniversary this Saturday as the Gallery’s chief executive in the military absence of Paul Gardner, director. The December exhibition, “Portrait of America,” consisting of 150 paintings by contemporary American artists will open on the evening of November 30. Reprinted from the November 24, 1945 issue of The Independent.
Lindsay Hughes Cooper 1908-1997
While Ethlyne Jackson was working for Paul Gardner, Lindsay Hughes (to become Cooper in 1946) was working for then-curator of Oriental Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Laurence Sickman. Lindsay had practically stalked Paul Gardner for years seeking employment – even before the Museum opened. As Ethlyne ascended into Paul’s position, Lindsay also ascended into Laurence’s post as he was drafted into the army. Lindsay also moved to New York, but returned to Kansas City and resumed her position as assistant to the director, Laurence Sickman. They worked together again for five years.
Lindsay Major’s book about her namesake, Lindsay Hughes Cooper: A Portrait
Ruth Chaney 1908-1973
Ruth created serigraphs for the Work Progress Administration (also known as the Work Projects Administration). In printmaking, she created Subway Art, a commissioned project that would stand up to the harsh conditions in the underground. Born in Kansas City, but careering in New York, Ruth is known for her lithographs and woodcuts depicting everyday life in the city. She earned a MacDowell Fellowship in 1942 and studied at the Adams Studio, where several notable Fellows have worked in rural New Hampshire. Ruth’s works are currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum and Museum of Modern Art.
The Writer by Ruth Chaney (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Cloteele Raspberry 1910-1994
Having moved from Texas to Kansas City as a young girl, Cloteele attended Wendell Phillips Elementary School and graduated from Lincoln High School, where she was known for her sewing prowess. In 1955, Cloteele earned an associate’s degree from Isabelle Boldin’s School of Fashion Design. She was a member of the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers (NAFAD). Cloteele taught classes in Kansas City’s famed garment district, was a long-standing member of Kansas City’s Urban League Guild, and left an indelible mark on the up-and-coming women’s fashion industry.
Margaret Craver 1907-2010
Studying under the tutelage of Baron Erik Fleming, the court silversmith to the King of Sweden, was how Margaret used her post-University of Kansas time, as she was traveling in Europe. She went on to establish the department of jewelry and metalsmithing at the Wichita Arts Association in 1935. She then organized metalsmithing workshops in veterans’ hospitals to teach veterans the therapeutic motions in creating silver pieces. Margaret is largely credited for revitalizing silversmithing in the post-war United States.
Edna Marie Dunn 1893-1983
Also a giant of the local fashion world, Edna was sketching her own designs for clothes by the age of six. The Westport High School graduate also received a degree from the Chicago Academy of Art. After returning to Kansas City with her arts degree, Edna opened a studio, and eventually became the fashion illustrator for The Kansas City Star, working with Fashion Editor Nell Snead. She also taught clothing illustration and garment construction from her home studio for 33 years.
Ruth Harris Bohan 1891-1981
This illustrious printmaker and painter studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute (then the Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City), taught art at The Barstow School, and had The Ruth Bohan Teaching Fellowship named for her at The University of Kansas School of Medicine. (Her husband was a doctor at the school, and she illustrated Logan Clendening’s Romance of Medicine: Behind the Doctor in 1943.) Ruth was a noted influence on her niece, Artist Margot Peet.
Ruth Harris Bohan’s Jack Dempsey Championship Fight (Spencer Museum of Art)
Featured in the March 18, 2023 issue of The Independent.
By Anne Potter Russ
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