Document Provides Historical Insight to Wilmington Artists
Lauren Love is an intern working in Special Collections.
While reformatting the finding aid for the collection of St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church (also known as MS 180) an excellent piece of Wilmington art history was spotted. The small booklet from 1943 was created for “An Artistic Banquet” held at the Church of the Covenant just before it was merged with St. Andrews in 1944.
The Church of the Covenant
Before I continue, allow me to introduce myself: my name is Lauren Love and this summer I am interning in the Special Collections department of UNCW Randall Library. So far I have been buried, nose first, in MS 180 only briefly coming up for air to help move furniture and prepare for spring cleaning project which has taken over our domain (more on that in the future!).
Initially I was struck by the hand painted illustration on the cover of the booklet whose colors contrasted so sharply with the stale yellow of ageing paper. To satisfy my curiosity, I brought the find to my supervisor, Rebecca Baugnon. “Claude Howell!” she said excitedly after flipping through to the last page; “Claude Howell?!” came the voice of Jerry Parnell, the Special Collections Coordinator from across the hall. One can imagine how my interest peeked at such reactions. Upon further inspection we found that the pamphlet was an itinerary of sorts for an educational art program where lessons in painting, watercolor, drawing and much more were offered to attendees. The investigation became an eye opening revelation about the history of Art culture in Wilmington and how, unbeknownst to me, I held in my hands a small booklet which contained the names of some local art heroes.
Irene Price 1930s, photograph from Two Centuries of Art in New Hanover County
by Crockette W. Hewlett
Unassumingly printed are the names of Peggy Hall, Claude Howell, Rosalie Oliver and Winona Gration. The details of how these artists contributed to the booklet is unknown but further research proved that they were students together under Irene Price and Delbert Palmer. Price was a friend of Elisabeth Augusta Chant who is partially responsible for encouraging and cultivating the art scene in Wilmington. Chant and Price both taught art classes in downtown Wilmington during the 1930s and went on to found and direct various programs and institutions while maintaining connections with some of the artists listed above. Simple though it may appear, the booklet shows the efforts of these budding artists to work with the community to foster a love of arts which we still see in our port city today.
Peggy Hall with students 1941 (left), and Claude Howell (right)
Photographs from Two Centuries of Art in New Hanover County by Crockette W. Hewlett
Peggy Hall studied under Price and Chant and went on to become the director of the Wilmington Museum of Art, a museum which opened in 1940 and before World War II came to a close. She exhibited her work around the country and possessed a passion for art throughout her life.
Claude Howell would become a very influential artist who taught at UNCW and played a large role in the establishment of the Art Department. Some of his paintings are located on the first floor of the library near Port City Java and a beautiful collection of illustrated holiday cards are housed in the Special Collections Library upstairs.
Rosalie Oliver taught and spoke at the Wilmington Museum of Art.
Unfortunately I could not find any information on Winona Gration.
For more information come ask us about the following collections:
MS 063 – A Balkan Sketchbook by Claude Howell
MS 076 – Claude Howell – Classification of Art Prints
MS 326 – Claude Howell Christmas Cards
For a truly enlightening exploration of art in Wilmington read Two Centuries of Art in New Hanover County by Crockette W. Hewlett, both the pictures used in this blog post as well as the biographical information are from this thorough and entertaining book.
Sources can be accessed by visiting Randall Library and the Special Collections Library therein:
- An Artistic Banquet. Wilmington: Church of the Covenant, 1943. Print. Box 10, Folder 3. St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church Collection. Randall Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC. May 21, 2014.
- Hewlett, Crockette W.. Two Centuries of Art in New Hanover County. Durham: Moore Publishing Company, 1976. Print.
- Twenty Fifth Anniversary Celebration. Wilmington: Church of the Covenant, 1943. Print. Box 10, Folder 3. St. Andrews Covenant Presbyterian Church Collection. Randall Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC. May 21, 2014.