LIMA — Lima entered the “Roaring Twenties” full of civic optimism. The city had grown from a market town of about 7,500 in 1880 to a bustling city of more than 41,000 in 1920. City leaders confidently predicted a population topping 100,000 by 1940.
The city’s cultural leaders also were thinking big. “Two years ago the city federation of women’s clubs in arousing the women to the necessity of more interest in art in our midst was fortunate in having for chairman of the art department Mrs. E.A. Williams and as secretary Mrs. Charles Schell, both well qualified to inspire others with a desire for beauty,” The Lima News wrote in 1921. “Through their efforts and with a fine committee, an art study club was formed that has done excellent work along various lines, bringing noted lecturers, artists and rare exhibits to Lima.”
One of those rare exhibits came to Lima in 1922 and stirred local interest in bigger things. “So intense has been the interest displayed by Lima people in a recent art exhibit in the Chamber of Commerce room, and so delighted are they at the prospects (no matter how distant of an art museum) that in two days more than $600 was contributed to be used for the purchase of a beautiful picture, which some day will grace the wall of the Lima Art Museum.”
That same year, the News reported the first tentative steps toward the realization of that dream, writing that the “nucleus for a future art museum in Lima was presented to the Art Museum Association by the Lima Art Study Club Friday. At a meeting Thursday night, members of the club voted to purchase one of the paintings exhibited by Robert Whitmore of Dayton, in the Chamber of Commerce Auditorium the fore part of this week. A scene of a forest in winter was selected by the art club as the work to be bought. After its purchase, Whitmore gave the club another picture, a spring scene in the mountains, to include in its gift to the proposed museum.”
The dream of an art museum wouldn’t survive but the dreamers — the Lima Art Study Club — would. On Friday the Lima Art Study Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a gala dinner for members and guests at the Shawnee Country Club, according to Jaye McCain, president of the 45-member club.
The art study club was organized Nov. 8, 1919, when the art committee of the Lima Federation of Women’s Clubs met for a “discussion of various plans which culminated with the idea of a regular study group,” Mrs. W.R. Daniels, one of the original members, wrote in a history of the group. “Miss Elizabeth Kelly, art supervisor in the public schools, moved that an Art Study Club be organized. The motion was seconded by Miss Margaret Jacobs and was carried.”
Charter members were: Mrs. Thomas Brady, Mrs. Mack Colt, Mrs. Phil Crow, Mrs. W.R. Daniels, Mrs. Charles Gamble, Mrs. Roy Gregg, Mrs. Harry Harper, Mrs. B. Harley Holmes, Miss Margaret Jacobs, Miss Elizabeth Kelly, Miss Frances Maire, Mrs. Charles Schell, Mrs. Harry Starrett, Mrs. Henry Wemmer and Mrs. Edward A. Williams.
According to the bylaws adopted by the club, the purpose of the “club shall be the study of art, and promotion of art interest in Lima.”
“In the early years,” Mrs. Daniels wrote, “the club frequently cooperated with the Lima Federation of Women’s Clubs in bringing the city exhibits of note. An outstanding example was one of American artists from the Milch Galleries of New York City. … The Art Study Club is motivated by the belief that the happiness and goodness of a race are in direct ratio to the beauty in the lives of individuals.”
Monthly meetings were devoted to the study of art, with members, some of them artists, often delivering talks. “The program for the first year was based on a systematic study of early American painters and sculptors and was followed by related subjects in succeeding years,” Mrs. Daniels wrote. “Members included Mrs. L.A. Larsen, author of “American Historical Views on Staffordshire China.” Mrs. J.K. Bannister, an authority on art needlework, was a valued member …,” adding that “the Club purchased representative paintings by Parkhurst of Toledo and Whitmore of Dayton. Mrs. A.T. MacDonell gave the club a Hiroshiga print purchased during her tour of Japan.”
In the early 1930s the group studied art from Persia, India and China as well as the “mystical” painting of Japan. In 1964, the group heard a program on “Art Against Anxiety” by Dr. Harry Wood, chairman of the art department at Arizona State University. The 1976-1977 program year featured a program titled “Paintings You Wouldn’t Want to See on Your Walls.”
With the 1964 Christmas season in full swing, a club program featured tips on a timely art-wrapping gifts. “Mrs. Roy B. Gregg claimed, ‘Don’t be a perfectionist.’ If you run out of material, just patch it up and go on,” the News wrote.” “A creator of Christmas gift packages which look perfect, Mrs. Gregg was one of a panel of Lima experts who demonstrated the art of gift-wrapping last week for the Art Study Club.”
McCain, the current president, said the art study club still meets monthly. Recently, for instance, the club heard a talk on Southwestern artist Georgia O’Keefe. McCain said the club has strayed a little from its original goals. “We’ve kind of become a social club,” she said, noting that she’s challenged members to think again about the club being about “not only self-education, but to educate the community.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.