Collector, Art patron
Active in York, Me.
Sound recording: 1 sound tape reel ; 5 in.
Transcript: 40 p.
Collection Summary: An interview of Mary-Leigh Smart conducted 1974 Apr. 26, by Robert Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Biographical/Historical Note: Mary-Leigh Smart (1915- ) is an art collector and patron of York, Me.
These interviews are part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
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Also in the Archives
This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Mary-Leigh Smart, 1974 Apr. 26, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Interview with Mary Leigh Smart
Conducted by Robert Brown
At Golf, ME
April 26, 1974
The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Mary Leigh Smart on April 26, 1974. The interview took place in Golf, ME, and was conducted by Robert Brown for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose. This is a rough transcription that may include typographical errors.
ROBERT BROWN: The interview is April --
MARY-LEIGH SMART: Twenty-six, six.
MR. BROWN: Okay, 1974, Mary Smart, in York, Maine. And I wanted mainly for you to talk about your involvement in the arts. When did this begin? Was your family involved with these things? What was your childhood like?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, on my mother's side of the family everybody was -- at least of her generation, was an artist. Her sister had formal art training, went to the normal school in Springfield, Illinois, where my mother and my aunt and my father grew up. And then she went to Teachers College at Columbia and studied with Arthur Dow and became his assistant.
MR. BROWN: What was her name?
MS. SMART: Her name was Ethel Winbrades [phonetic]. And she was asked by Mr. Dow to form the art department at the Lincoln School when the Lincoln School was first founded. And she did and taught there for -- I don't know how long, two or three years. And then the Metropolitan Museum asked her to go there and be on the educational staff, which she was until she retired. She retired during the Second World War. And young people coming along to lecture were scarce, and so the museum invited her back, and she stayed for several years, even after retirement age. And then --
MR. BROWN: You knew her well, your aunt?
MS. SMART: Oh, very well. Yes, indeed. Even though she lived in New York, of course, we came East every summer. Getting back to how I got involved, my mother didn't have a formal art training, but always was in some artistic endeavor. She had a business before she and my father were married, she designed clothes and had a dozen women that made them. And I look on that as something artistic. I think that she had to earn a living, and I think otherwise probably would have been a painter or in some way involved in the arts -- I mean, not commercial like she was.
MR. BROWN: In Illinois?
MS. SMART: In Illinois, yes. Well, she first was manager of a very fashionable dressmaking establishment in Chicago. It was called Madam Whitney's [phonetic]. And the Swifts and the Amors [phonetic] and so forth went there to have their clothes made. My mother -- I can't exactly remember what her title was. But she really learned the business there at Madam Whitney's and then went back to Springfield and had her own business. And it was with fashionable young ladies, and of course, she was in the social set in Springfield, so she knew them all. They naturally went to her for their clothes.
Then when she and my father were married, she did stage sets and costumes for the little theater. I guess mainly costumes more than the sets. It was just an amateur theater in Springfield, and around -- I was born in 1917. And when I was old enough to -- that she could get out of the house and do things, she began to paint. She studied with a man named Raab. I can't remember his first name -- R-a-a-b. He was a well-known painter at that time, at least in Illinois. He was the director of the Art Association. And she painted there through her whole life, just maybe once or twice a week.
MR. BROWN: What did she paint? Was she pretty bold in what she did?
MS. SMART: She became pretty bold later. Mostly still life, but toward the end of her life she got better and better as she went on. And she died at the age of 88. And the last year, year-and-a-half, she did her best paintings. And they were not done in a group at all, but by herself in Ogunquit. And she had set up these still lifes. Or the artist knowing that she was painting these, and they were getting very, very thick -- thick paint. And she'd always used very bold and striking colors. They would bring her arrangements, vases with baby's breath in it, something that was a real challenge. And of course, she'd just plunge right in and paint them, and always did a painting in one sitting. I mean by that a morning or an afternoon. Didn't go back to it, as a rule. Just done fast, and very freely and very -- you know, well, with her own individual way.
But aside from painting, what I started to say is, she was involved in other things. She became very interested in painting on textiles. And I think it was Ford Tunney [phonetic] things from Italy that really got her started. And she experimented with her own method of painting in silver or gold on cloth. Of course, the trick was to get it to stick because it would crack and flake off.
And Sangamo Electric -- they make the meter that's on the side of your house that the man comes to read. I guess other companies do too but they're the biggest one. Their headquarters was in Springfield, and they had a plant in England and one in Ontario, and I guess all over the world. But anyway, the two men that were the inventor and the man that backed it financially, were Springfield men and friends of my parents.
So my mother said to her uncle Rob Lanphier, who was one of the heads of it or one of the owners of it, "Couldn't your chemist devise something that would hold metallic -- well, to get the powdered metal on cloth?" And he said, "Well, we'll see." So she worked with the chemist there at Sangamo Electric. And they did get a medium that did work. And she decorated mostly pocketbooks and things of that kind. She'd just do the design and paint them.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] these things?
MS. SMART: No, no, just did it [inaudible].
MR. BROWN: This was when you -- you grew up --
MS. SMART: No, no. This was when I was a teenager and in college. It was during the '30s that she did that. And then when she was 80, she took up enameling. The group in Springfield that painted together got excited over that, and they got a kiln. And the director at that time sort of did some investigation; they never had any formal training in that. And my mother did a lot of enameling. I have her display case full of those enamels here now. But I've put them behind glass because they do chip and, because she is not alive to repair them. I decided after her death that I should preserve them.
But what's interesting is that she started when she was 80 and enameled till she was 86. And really, it's quite a production of them, and good enough that the Museum of Art of Ogunquit showed them. She died in May 1966, and they showed -- had a case of those enamels that summer in their display. So she really -- well, tried various things.
MR. BROWN: Did your father share in some of these interests? [inaudible]?
MS. SMART: He was a newspaper editor and publisher. And of course was interested because I think anybody in the newspaper field is interested in everything. And I mean, he was interested from a cultural point of view. But he didn't do anything creative. He did some writing, of course. But when we traveled, and we used to go abroad every summer during the '30s â he was fascinated to go to museums and so on. I don't know how much he understood of contemporary art, but I do know that he and my mother went to the Picasso exhibition at the Orangerie. I guess that would be in the late '30s. And they appreciated Matisse and Picasso and so forth.
And so I just took those things for granted. But I was pretty, I guess, grossly ignorant because I remember the American lecturer at the Louvre. That was probably my senior year in college, we were over that summer. And she was a great friend of my parents. And we were having an aperitif at the Dome or in one of the places on the Left Bank. And I made some remark about the -- I guess they were the Delacroix murals and Mrs. Taylor said, "Oh you need to go into such and such a church to see them and I said "Oh, I'm not interested in that kind of thing." And she said, "You know, I'm shocked at you, being the daughter of parents such as yours, knowing so little about art. I wish I could get hold of you for a little while at the Louvre and teach you something." And my father said, "Bertha" -- her name was Bertha Fanning Taylor -- "Bertha, you can have her every day from the time we're in Paris."
MS. SMART: And I think it was the month of July, or the month of August. I spent that month every morning for about three hours with Mrs. Taylor. And that was my art education. She just began with the Greek and Roman, and we toured. And she talked. And I think she was fabulous because it was never comparative. It was never, this era is better than that, or this style is better than that, or you just don't look at Millais because Millais is sort of old hat, or anything of that kind.
It was just that each one or each period was good in its way. And I think that while you can't learn very much in one month touring through a museum, that point of view was extremely important, and it's always been my feeling. I mean, I've never --
MR. BROWN: Were you receptive?
MS. SMART: Oh, yes, very.
MR. BROWN: Were you excited?
MS. SMART: Oh, very excited, yes. There's that feeling because it was just so taken for granted in my family. I mean, it was just -- art was part of our lives, and while I had no real appreciation or hadn't thought about -- it had been there ever since I was little.
MR. BROWN: Well, also you said your family had been coming East -- you mean to Ogunquit?
MS. SMART: Yes. They came here when I was a year old for the first time because they wanted to take me to salt water, and where there was the beach. Their friends used to go north to Michigan or Wisconsin, but they thought the ocean was more exciting. And they had lifelong friends in Illinois who, at that time, lived in Boston. So they wrote them and said, "Where is a good place for us to take Mary-Leigh?" And they did a little research and said Ogunquit is the place, has the most beautiful beach in New England, which I think is undoubtedly true.
So we came that summer when I was a year old, and we came every summer after that and finally bought a place in 1928 there. But of course, my mother, being an artist, was very interested in the art group. And she and my father, while they were not considered part of the artists group, when it was a large gathering, a big picnic or something like that, they were always asked along. And of course, they knew Charles Woodbury quite well. And they knew -- they got to know the Laurents, especially in later years, extremely well, Robert and Mimi.
And the Dirks, the Ashermans, and the Karfiols [phonetic] all started going to Ogunquit about the same time as we, in fact a little earlier. I think they started in 1914 and 1916, going there. And of course, they had children just about my age. The Karfiol children were a little bit older, the twins. And the Dirks' children were just my age. And we all grew up playing together. So we always knew the artists. And Rudy of course was both a painter and a cartoonist, though he was famous as a cartoonist.
And the Sterretts were in that crowd, too. Of course, Cliff Sterrett who did Polly and Her Pals. And of course, my father was a newspaperman, so he -- they immediately struck up a friendship. So that's how we got involved in art in Ogunquit.
MR. BROWN: Were the summers very relaxed? Or were the painters painting steadily?
MS. SMART: I think so. They also were playing golf steadily.
MS. SMART: You've probably heard that about the Fourth. And I think it was Rudy Dirks and Robert. And Cliff, of course, was a great golfer. I can't think who the fourth was, but they had some pretty good times, I guess, on the golf links. Rudy was the only man I ever knew that played golf backwards. He put his left hand down lower on the club than his right. It was sort of a crossover business. He taught himself. But he really could play an extremely good game. They all did, I think. I think those men really would have been successful at anything they did. They were sort of Renaissance characters.
MR. BROWN: What do you think brought them to Ogunquit? Same thing that brought you?
MS. SMART: I think Hamilton Easter Field probably was the art school, because he'd come at the turn of the century. And of course, when Robert was young, he brought Robert there. And he owned property there. And in fact, I heard my mother and father talk about Hamilton. I can't remember him because he died about 1921, as I recollect. And of course, we weren't in Ogunquit till 1918. I was too young. I was only about four, three or four.
MR. BROWN: What did they say about him? Do you recall what he was like then?
MS. SMART: Yeah. Well, he had the -- I think he called it the forum. I'm not perfectly sure of what he called it. But it was above what later became the Brush and Needle and is now Barnacle Billy's. He used to have evening gatherings, I think, once a week. And it was a forum, exactly that. He would bring up some subject, and then I believe everybody sat around on the floor and discussed the subject. And I know my mother went sometimes to that.
I can remember Karfiol talking about it. They had -- there were Smiths in Ogunquit, George Ferguson Smith who owned what's now a [inaudible]. That was their home. And George Smith, Evan Smith's father -- and I can't remember his middle name. But they differentiated them by George Financial Smith. That was George F. Smith, who had Â [inaudible] because they were very well-to-do from the mills in Massachusetts at that time.
And when they referred to Evan's father, it was George Educational Smith. And apparently George Educational Smith was quite a talker. He was the head of the school system in New Rochelle. And when Field had these discussions, I think that Evan's father, George Educational Smith, held forth at them.
MR. BROWN: Was he a rather commanding figure or a very respected one?
MS. SMART: A respected figure, yes. I don't think he was commanding, because I think he spoke in a rather thin, maybe high-pitched voice. I've heard him described that way. And I think a very aesthetic, sensitive person. But of course he was greatly respected, and he was responsible for bringing so many of the prominent artists to Ogunquit. That was what really made us the art colony. I mean, I'm not belittling what Charles Woodbury did. But Woodbury's following was more -- was more women painters â Gertrude Fiske. I mean, she was the outstanding one. Charlotte Butler, Amy Cabot, all that group of Bostonian ladies.
MR. BROWN: Who would come for the summer to be with their --
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. And my mother and my aunt went to his Saturday classes, I know, because I used to hear them talk about it. But Theo brought, well, you know. Kuniyoshi and Marsden Hartley were the real giants of the turn of the century, to Ogunquit. Even though later they may have gone other places in Maine, they really started coming there. He gave Karfiol a studio for many, many years before Karfiol really arrived and could afford to have a place of his own. And others, too -- in fact, in our catalog we got out in connection with the Field collection, it tells in there -- I can't seem to think of the others, but they're all of that group, you see, were brought to Ogunquit. And then some of them that weren't in other -- not painters or sculptors, but I'm thinking of Walter Abel, the actor -- brought him to Ogunquit; and then a number of people that settled in Ogunquit, that weren't necessarily well known as painters, like Mumford Coolidge and so forth, but became a real part of the community -- came first to study in Field's school.
MR. BROWN: In your girlhood, were you fairly aware of or close to certain of these artists more than others through your family?
MS. SMART: Well, when I was a child, the Ashermans and the Dirks I knew simply because their children were my age and I grew up with them. But later on, I became very close to Bernard Karfiol. I studied with him. And I was very fond of him and admired him enormously. And that was about the time that I was in college. I got to know him very, very well, up to the time of his death. And then the Karfiols were neighbors of ours. We'd bought a place on Pine Hill, and lived just two or three doors away from them.
MR. BROWN: What was Karfiol like as your teacher?
MS. SMART: He taught the life class in the Ogunquit School of Painting and Sculpture. Robert taught sculpture, and Bill von Schlagell taught landscape. Well, it's hard to say. I don't think Karfiol had taught before, and we had a live -- a nude model, of course. And I think the method is not what is considered to be good method in art schools. It was just, you used a rock and a plumb line, you see, and held it up to get where the head was and where the feet were and that kind of method.
But I do think what was good -- I mean, he taught nothing beyond just either sketching or painting a model. And I think, as far as that went, it was perfectly adequate. And what was good was, he said, "I have never drawn or painted before," and he said, "Anybody can be taught to paint or to draw. You don't -- you may not be the greatest at it, but that isn't the point. The point is you get pleasure from doing it. And you don't just outline the figure, don't draw the outline, but try to get -- think of the head as an apple, and just make a round shape. Don't try to draw features and the outline, of each side of the head or each side of the arms," which I think was very sound and very good.
MR. BROWN: It sounds as though he was very good bringing out these basic --
MS. SMART: Yes. But the thing that I didn't think was so good was that we'd spend a whole week with one pose, painting it. And of course, I wasn't advanced enough to be able to spend a week on a figure. After a couple of days, I mean, I had done as much as I could do, and I didn't know how to go ahead or what to do. But I think -- I don't mean to be critical of him as a teacher. Because I think --
MR. BROWN: You were thrown in with other, more advanced students?
MS. SMART: Some of them were. But I think it's rather interesting that that summer, Steven Henschel [phonetic] began when I did. Now, he's Hopkins Henschel and has made quite a name as a painter, especially as a fashionable portrait painter in Palm Beach. And I was always very complimented because when he sees me, he -- after all these years, he always says, "You ought to have gone on with your painting. I think you were really good." Of course, he stood out in the class. But we both started at the same time. He hadn't had any training before. And he really shone. You could tell if he kept at it he'd really go somewhere.
MR. BROWN: Did you work with the other men at all, the other teachers?
MS. SMART: No. Not at all. I just took the life class that was just one summer.
MR. BROWN: Did you follow up at all?
MS. SMART: I think the reason that I did it was so that I would understand more about paintings when I looked at them. It was not with any idea of really doing anything creative because if I have any ability it doesn't lie that way at all. And I think if you're creative, nothing can keep you from doing it. And everything can keep me from doing it.
I mean, I did it so I'd understand the difficulty of it and the intricacies of it. And I did some painting out at the Art Association in Springfield, Illinois, with Lillian Scalzo, who was the director out there and a very good artist, with that same group that my mother worked with. And again, it was to understand more about it. And I do think it gave me a very good appreciation, because when you try it yourself, you become aware of how difficult it is.
MR. BROWN: When you were in Paris, what were you chiefly pursuing, or working on?
MS. SMART: Well, I was going into the diplomatic service. I majored in French. And I gave that idea up right as soon as I graduated. So I really was without much aim at all. Then I went on and took my masters in French, I think with the idea that if I had to earn a living I could teach. And then the war came along, and I went in the Navy, and came out of that, and was married, and that was the end of my career.
MR. BROWN: Well, it's just that you have always come back here.
MS. SMART: Oh, yes. Well, of course.
MR. BROWN: You got involved in things.
MS. SMART: I got involved, really, in the arts in Ogunquit the year I graduated from college. And went back to Ogunquit, and Mrs. Whiteside was the curator of the Ogunquit Art Association. And she said that she wanted to have a junior committee at the Art Association, and she latched onto me, I think because I got bored after I'd been on the beach for a half-an-hour. Where all my friends lay in the sun all day, I couldn't do it. And I wanted something to do. And she evidently heard this, or I made the remark to her, and she said, "Will you start a junior committee?" And that, of course, is what got me going with the Art Association and eventually with Barn Gallery Associates.
MR. BROWN: Were those kind of lean times for the Art Association? This was the '30s, wasn't it?
MS. SMART: It was the '30s, it was the late '30s. I don't think they were lean times, really --
MR. BROWN: What was the activity of the association then during the summer?
MS. SMART: It was mostly the Charles Woodbury group, although Channing and a few of those good Ogunquit painters showed there. It was my first husband, David Asherman, that got the really big people like Karfiol into it, because of his family having known them. And he would have gotten Walt Kuhn if Walt hadn't become ill at that time. But as I think, he did show something there. I'm not positive of that.
But in the '30s, the really big painters in Ogunquit were not involved in it. It was more of a little, almost old-ladies group, except for Woodbury.
MR. BROWN: The other painters were on their own then?
MS. SMART: Yes, they were, very much, as they would be.
MR. BROWN: You saw them, though, didn't you, with your family?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, my parents knew Walt Kuhn very well. You see, he had that journalistic side, you know. He had done those Western sketches, and he and my father hit it off very well. And I can remember each summer he would say to my parents, "Come down to the studio and see what I'm working on now." And they'd take me along. I guess I was about eight or nine then when I first really remember going with them.
MR. BROWN: What was he like? Do you remember him now?
MS. SMART: Oh, he was marvelous, simply wonderful. He was a big, tall man, and flashing eyes and a great personality. You just never forgot him. He took over the minute he walked in a room, just commanded it. Of course, I don't know how he was socially and with other people. But that's the way he was with my parents. And I think he wasn't very socially inclined.
MR. BROWN: Of course, he had to manage the Armory Show.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: But he mostly had these organizational talents that you sensed.
MS. SMART: Yes. Yes. He was mostly involved with the Layman and the -- not Layman. Harriman, and the Harriman Gallery, I think. But he was a loner. Even though he had organized the Armory Show, he definitely was a loner. I think everything I read points that way. Of course, I knew him quite well at the very end of his life because then his daughter, Brenda, had been a very good friend of the Asherman children. And Brenda asked -- I was married to David at that time, David Asherman. And Brenda asked us to, well, sort of be next to her family in case anything happened to her and so on. And it was at the time that her father was out at Bloomingdale's or New York Hospital in Westchester. And I really knew more about the Kuhns then in that last year or two of his life than I had when I was growing up.
I sort of fell in between, you see. It's too bad. I mean, I never knew Field, and I was so young when Walt Kuhn was alive and active there, and so many of these people. As I said, I was kind of betwixt and between, although I, of course, knew John Milant [phonetic] and Dave von Schlegell from the time they were very young, and I watched that generation of artists grow up. But the older ones, I haven't much recollection of. [inaudible].
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, very well. Um-hm. But that, of course, was the later years, too. Because we were away during the '30s. We went away in the summer, and we were only there early in June and late in August, early September, before school or college opened. We were in Ogunquit [inaudible].
MR. BROWN: What did you then do once you took on the founding of the junior committee through your husband?
MS. SMART: Well, they needed money. It's the same old story. And so I thought it would be nice to put on a big benefit. I don't think Mrs. Whiteside had any notion of this kind at all when she asked me to form a junior committee and to do something. I think she simply wanted to get the young people in there to perhaps serve a tea or that kind of thing.
But I thought it would be nice to do a pageant. There had been a tradition. Mrs. E. R. Hoyt had had pageants at the Village Studio when I was a child and too young to go to them. But I always heard about them. And she had the summer people and the natives acting in them, and they were really great. And David Asherman had, as a boy, done the scenery for many of those and had grown up in that tradition.
And he was designing scenery for the Ogunquit Playhouse that summer, 1937. It was the summer I graduated from college. And it might have been the year before, really, that I formed the Junior Committee. I can't remember that. But the important summer when we did the benefit was '37.
So I asked David if he would put on a pageant. And he said yes, he would. So we did. And we had it at the -- the summer that Walter Hartley built the new playhouse over on Route 1, and he also was running the old one, which is now the Ogunquit Square Movie Theater. It had been a garage originally. And David's father was asked to do over the interior, and he turned it over to David, who I think he was 14 at the time that he did that -- I mean, did the theater. And of course, this was a bit after it, when they moved into the new one.
And David was -- they were putting on melodramas in the old playhouse. And David was doing scenery for it. So anyway, we got the playhouse, the old one, from Walter Hartley, and his cyclorama and a few things from him, and went ahead and designed the pageant. And it was a history of art in an hour.
MS. SMART: It was in tableaus and pantomime and dance.. And then there was a woman up at Kennebunk whose name escapes me now, but who was teaching dance that summer, and we had her modern dance, sort of Mary Vignone [phonetic] school of dance, and we had a surrealist dance at the end. It ended with that. It began with a tableau of the cavemen at the beginning. It truly was a history of art. And of course, everybody laughed just the way you're laughing.
But I remember I had a bet with my father because it was so disorganized, and of course, with a bunch of amateurs, you know, making costumes and trying to put this thing together. It looked as if it would never come off. And the dress rehearsal was the most ghastly anybody could possibly imagine. It went on all afternoon and all night the night before, which of course means it's going to be a good performance.
And I remember I had a bet with my father. And I just don't remember what it was. I think it was a lobster and a champagne dinner, that we wouldn't start on time and that it wouldn't get through in an hour. And of course, we started on time, and it did get through in an hour, and it was a howling success. And we sold out the house. I think it was -- I can't remember how many it seated, that theater. But I've a figure of 435 in my head, but that's probably what we cleared. And that was a lot of money in those days. I guess it seated over 200 people, and it really was a smashing success.
We got -- Mrs. Booth Tarkington was the honorary chairman. And I tell you Robert Cornell wrote it. Well, actually, my Aunt Ethel dug up all the facts about the artists. And then Mrs. Cornell was a professional writer, and she sort of put the finishing touches on it. Carl Banton Reed was the narrator. He read it. And of course, he was a very well-known actor at that time, lived in Ogunquit in the summer. So all the elements were there to make it a success. And it really was.
MR. BROWN: So this really focused attention again on the Art Association?
MS. SMART: I don't think so, really. I mean, what focused attention on the Art Association was Mrs. Whiteside and her connections in the art world, and Charles Woodbury, because I remember before that, back in '35 and '36 -- and I was really aware of what the Art Association was. And I went to the previews and all with my family. The Boston critics came to these openings. It was because Mrs. Whiteside sent a notice, and everybody sat up and paid attention.
And it must have been Charles Woodbury's reputation in Boston, you see, that brought the Boston critics there. But it really was on the map. It was one of the outstanding art associations at that time. And when I say it was the women who were followers of Woodbury, you see, some of them were really outstanding painters. Gertrude Fiske is a top-notch -- was the top-notch artist, and Susan Ricker Knox. I mean, I'm not a feminist, but they really were good.
Elizabeth Sawtelle, that was another one, oh, and Ada Williamson. She had graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy, had won some sort of a grant that took her abroad. And she was really a very sound etcher, painter. They were good people and had a reputation. The critics did pay attention to them. But that's how the Art Association was known.
MR. BROWN: But you got known, or at least you got confidence after putting on this pageant, right? Did you just sort of do your debut in --
MS. SMART: Yes. And it really was theatrical, you see, than it was art. I mean, this is all before Mrs. Taylor took me in tow, I believe, in France. I can't remember that. It might have been shortly after -- I guess it was the year after. I get confused about time. But I guess I was equally involved with theater as I was with art. And the next project had nothing to do with raising money for the Art Association, but it was the same kind of thing, only more ambitious.
It was the beginning of the Second World War, before we were involved, in 1939. And David Asherman and I put on a three-day [inaudible] fair in Southern Maine, with the proceeds going to various funnels through Britain and the Red Cross and one of the Polish groups, because he was involved with the [inaudible] Foundation in New York. And we made a lot on that. It was held in the grounds of the country club so that if -- I think we were sort of out to do anything that was a little bit theatrical, that was for a good cause.
And the Art Association had been a cause. That was it. It was as much that, or more, than the fact that it was art or the artists.
MR. BROWN: Were the summer people typically very receptive to these things?
MS. SMART: Oh, yes. And the native people, too.
MR. BROWN: And they always not stood off, but rather would have been pretty much involved, or at least some of them?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, I think the natives -- or the so-called natives. That's what they say here -- are so busy in the summer with their businesses and all, they can't be too involved. But they've been big supporters of the Barn Gallery ever since we opened, the local businesses. And I think that may go back to Mrs. E. R. Hoyt involving them -- Roby Littlefield and Amanda Littlefield and all of them, along with Mary Brijotti [phonetic] and Jenny Hare and the summer people, in those pageants. They all worked together.
MR. BROWN: You were gone during World War II, then?
MS. SMART: From -- I went in the Navy in '44. Let's see. My last summer in Ogunquit was '41. That's right, just before Pearl Harbor. Well, we couldn't get gas you see. And it wasn't any use coming and being stranded up on Pine Hill, that far from the village without gas to run an automobile. So I guess then I was in Illinois in the motor corps and then went in the Navy when the Waves first began, and went back to Ogunquit in '45, I guess it was.
MR. BROWN: Was it a different place when you came back?
MS. SMART: No. Our house burned in '44, and I went back in '45 to sort of get -- I mean, partially burned -- to get it reconstructed and all. And I guess the family came back then in '46. So there weren't many years that we missed going there, actually. And you asked if it was different. It was no more different than other places were immediately after the war.
I know David and I were married right after the â in 1946. And there was still shortages. We lived one summer without hot water, until August, in my parents house. My parents weren't able to come that summer, and we took over the house. And we were waiting for a copper-lined hot water tank. So I -- we heated the water for our baths, and to wash the dishes and so forth. And of course, everybody faced that all over the country. It wasn't just in a resort. But that's the way things were.
MR. BROWN: Were the artists regrouping and coming back there by this time?
MS. SMART: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. No, we all sort of picked up where we left off before the war.
MR. BROWN: Were you during these years in the late '40s involved with the arts in Ogunquit?
MS. SMART: Yes. I'm trying to think. Of course, David was an artist himself. And we were only married for two years. And of course, his parents always having been in that art group, his daughter was an interior decorator and an illustrator. And naturally, that group was our friends. And then we'd grown up with Barbara and John Dirks while they were involved with careers by that time, and only came back a short time. Of course, we were fortunate in that David was an artist and he could be in Ogunquit all summer long. And then we were in New York in the winter.
But the artists were there, and the Art Association was going along. I guess that was the time that David got the bigger names among the artists involved in the Art Association. But also, at that time -- was it then, or just before the war that -- I think '39 was the first year that I got the speakers for the Art Association. But I went on doing that right after the war. And then --
MR. BROWN: What sort of people did you try to get?
MS. SMART: Well, at that time we paid nothing for speakers. So we got whoever was around that could talk on anything. We had talks on flower arranging and the rocks of Ogunquit and -- oh, I can't begin to tell you. I remember another time trying to get Sinclair Lewis when he was there with the theater. But he turned me down. But of course, it was great fun because I got in to talk to all these people, trying to get them to speak for the Art Association.
I'm trying to think of the Welsh writer that wrote How Green Was My Valley. I can't think of his name. But he spent a summer here in York Harbor, and I went over to ask him to speak. Didn't get him, but you see, I was meeting with people and talking to them for five or ten minutes. And of course, it was fun.
MR. BROWN: Who was your public then?
MS. SMART: The associate members of the Art Association, mainly. And they were just what a group of patrons anyplace where there's a museum would be, really. And they weren't large audiences, but they were adequate. Then I sort of dropped out of it for several years. That was about the time that Jack and I were married; my second husband, J. Scott Smart. And he was an artist, but he wasn't exhibiting there with the Art Association. And of course, we were terribly involved with a very active social life.
And a few years afterward -- we were married in '51. A few years after that when Jack stopped acting and really began seriously to paint and sculpt, he submitted his work and was accepted in the Art Association. Well, then, of course, I became involved again. Because of his being in it, I wanted to help him. They needed somebody again to get speakers, I think, Andy Woodbury and various ones who had done it. Oh, Mrs. Brenton Lucas [phonetic], Adele Lucas had gotten speakers. And it still was on general topics, not specifically, if on the arts, certainly all sorts of art, decorative and otherwise, because it still was -- get whoever we could that would be willing to speak for nothing.
And I cannot remember whether it was before we built the new building that we began -- I think we began a year or two before we built the new building to pay a small fee to get speakers. And I think the first person that we paid a fee to was Fred Walker [phonetic]. Now, he came and spoke twice, and so did Bartlett Hayes. That was still in the days when you paid nothing, and he was so good, you know, he ran all over New England, and I guess all over the country, doing that. He was so generous with his time and efforts.
But we always had good people. And I think they were attracted to Ogunquit because it was an art colony. I don't know. We still had very good luck. We still pay a very small fee for speakers at the Barn Gallery. But we've had top-notch people. And I think they -- number one, they're generous and want to do something for a good organization. But they're intrigued with Ogunquit. They seem to enjoy coming there. I don't know. What about you?
MR. BROWN: Yeah. You call that an art colony. Now, was it the same kind of thing that you remembered say in the '30s, and now in the '50s? [inaudible]
MS. SMART: You have to understand, I wondered in those days because it was to -- those of us who knew Ogunquit from the early days, we began saying, "Now Ogunquit is spoiled. It's ruined. It's changed and all these people and all these automobiles. And it's terrible." But everybody I've ever known, artist or not, that's come there for the first time has fallen in love with it. So there is something captivating, still, about it. And I can't analyze what it is because I've known it too well over the years. But it has rather amazed me.
And younger artists have come along and been just as intrigued and hoped to settle there year-round if they possibly could, and some of them have. I mean, the Fitzhughs -- and of course, they've split up now, but Perry and Pat Fitzhugh, the sculptors, married and settled there. And George Kunkel and Beverly Hallam. I'm trying to think. I mean, there are always mentioned.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Chris, yes. Well, Chris is my age or older. But I was thinking of younger ones, you see. So the tradition has remained.
MR. BROWN: Was casual tourism something that you had in the '30s?
MS. SMART: It began with the automobile. When we went there, the only way to go was by train. I mean, we didn't own a car when we first started to go to Ogunquit. In fact, my family didn't own a car until 1927, I guess it was. And we went by train. It took two days and two nights to get there from Central Illinois. Of course, it's two-and-a-half hours by plane now to Boston from Chicago, or whatever it is.
MR. BROWN: Was it quite a break for you to come here each year through your college years, anyway, from Springfield? [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Well, you see, I never really knew Springfield. I went away to boarding school when I was 12. And Ogunquit was always home to me because I spent every summer there. So -- well, it just was home much more than Illinois. But I think that the tourism began in earnest -- it must have been in the early '30s or mid-30s. It was when people could drive from Boston. It was so accessible from Boston. But when the train didn't even stop in Ogunquit -- it stopped at Wells -- it was harder to get there. And there were very few people there in those early years. And when you went to the beach, you knew everybody on the beach. It was just a big village, is what it was.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] Henry Strater was there at that time?
MS. SMART: 1921, I think, yes, yes. Or maybe even later than that. He's a newcomer by my standards.
MR. BROWN: Did he delve into the Art Association? Was he involved with that?
MS. SMART: Not in the early years. He came in about the time Karfiol and the rest of them did.
MR. BROWN: Was Kuniyoshi or [inaudible] --
MS. SMART: No, no. Not at all. When he was there, there was no art association. It wasn't founded until, I believe it was 1928. And I don't think he would have been. We had that feeling at least in later years that there were two schools in Ogunquit, and literally there were. One was the Woodbury, and the other was the Hamilton Easter Fields. And the Hamilton Easter Fields group, those artists like Kuniyoshi and so forth had nothing to do with the Art Association until the late '30s or early '40s, and then very few of that group was left. I don't mean they were dead, but they'd gone other places, like Marsden Hartley was in Korea.
MR. BROWN: Now, in a sense, you've got them both together.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: What would you describe the '50s, around '58 or so when you began the Barn Gallery -- what's culminated now in the Art Association, the Barn Gallery and the Hamilton Easter Fields.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: How did it begin in the '50s? And whose idea -- was it yours? Was it your husband's?
MS. SMART: Yes. That was when my -- yes, that's when Jack was president of the Art Association. And I think really the group had outgrown the Barn. And people that owned that hotel that the old Barn was connected to probably wanted it for other purposes anyway. But every year there would be the business of trying to scrape up the money to pay the rent. And I think they just finally felt that they ought to have -- that the people who were interested in the arts should provide a building where exhibitions could be held and cultural events and so forth, rather than this business of paying rent out for pretty poor exhibiting facilities.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: I mean, the light wasn't as good as it might have been, and so on. So it was right after Jack was president of the Art Association, and they asked him if he would be willing to organize a group to provide a building. And he did.
MR. BROWN: Was he pretty involved with it?
MS. SMART: Yes. He -- they always felt, I think, all of the people that responded so generously to build that building that they were responding to Jack's request for them to do so. I mean, they felt that he was the moving spirit in it. But actually, it was -- he was a product of the time. And the fact that everybody in Ogunquit had supported the arts and wanted to see the thing thriving. And so Chris Ritter designed that building that we're in now -- he donated his designs and the working plans. And the materials for it, most of them were donated.
And, well, it just was a spontaneous, generous response to a need in the community. That's what it amounted to. And in no time, we had the building. I mean, it was conceived, and I guess the organization, because we wanted it to be a nonprofit organization and not connected with the artists. The Art Association is run, under their bylaws, by artists for artists.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: And this was to be a group. I don't mean the artists aren't in the Barn Gallery Associates because they are, some of them. But it was to be a group that was totally divorced from the Art Association.
MR. BROWN: And the Art Association [inaudible] the tenants of the Barn Gallery?
MS. SMART: Yes. And the Barn Gallery has been used for other exhibitions. They have put on, Barn Gallery Associates, two or three exhibitions of their own. The Maine Watercolor Society showed there one September, and we've always had ideas of having other groups because, especially tax-wise, we can't really say that the Art Association is the sole tenant.
And indeed, we would like to show other groups, but not in the middle of the summer, when the Art Association is -- actually, what it amounts to is, the Art Association rents the walls and the floor space to show sculpture. The Barn Gallery Associates really control the building and can let anybody exhibit there that they choose.
MR. BROWN: It seems to be quite fortunate then that, rather than the traditionaly artist-controlled association, you now have a much more broadly based group.
(END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A)
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. Well, I think that the -- one important factor in that was -- well, for one thing, the Art Association is considered to be a commercial organization. I mean, they exhibit things and sell them. And if they're going to have a nonprofit organization, you can't -- I mean, the law became very strict about the time that the BGA was founded on that score.
But I think also, we always had this feeling that if one faction got in control of the art association, and it -- we'll say that they were going to show very academic things, and it was all to be that way. I mean, what is shown, really, would depend on the board of the Art Association that particular year as to what the policy will be and the jury, the people applying for membership. And of course, if you got a very stultified group in there, you could have a very stuffy organization. And I think we always felt that if that came about, if it wasn't controlled by the Art Association, then we could say, "Well, this isn't the kind of thing really that we want to show."
We've tried to put emphasis on, and certainly the Barn Gallery Associates are responsible for the educational program, as you know. And we've tried to put emphasis on contemporary art.
MR. BROWN: The educational program involves your own choosings of --
MS. SMART: Speakers and films and demonstrations. Well, yes, even to the extent of renting the walls to the Ogunquit Art Association. And I mean, if they ever --
MR. BROWN: But they understand that they're one group.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: And you've allowed others to come in.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: And this is the mechanism that you used.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: Has it been pretty compatible?
MS. SMART: I think so. [inaudible] is a relative newcomer to Ogunquit and a prominent artist, in the two years has been president of the Ogunquit Art Association. I think he only arrived in Ogunquit about four years ago. He's been all over the country. He's belonged to the Rockport Art Association for many, many years. And he exhibits in Florida and various places.
And I remember he was at one of our meetings when he was raising money to have the walls recovered. The Ogunquit Art Association managed that for us, and very well. And he came to one of the Barn Gallery Associates board meetings, and he said that it was a better setup there in Ogunquit than he had ever known anywhere. He thought it only logical that the patrons should be one group and responsible for the building and the artists, and the other group responsible for their own organization and exhibits.
And it just makes sense to me. You see, we have no control, really, over Art Association policy. So it isn't a question of laymen dictating to the artists what type of thing they're going to show or what type of thing they're going to paint.
MR. BROWN: No, no.
MS. SMART: It's just that if -- I mean, those of us that are rather contemporary in thought, if we felt that it was getting awfully academic, we could just say, "Well, we're going to, this month, let another group come in," or something.
MR. BROWN: Sure.
MS. SMART: I mean, we have that much control.
MR. BROWN: To oversee or even to entirely -- ask the Association that they find other quarters, and you'll have others.
MS. SMART: Yes. But actually, I don't suppose it would ever come to that because the Ogunquit Art Association has great variety. It has every style. In fact, when Thomas Messer came to speak for us, he said afterwards, sort of on the fly to us, "Can't you get rid of some of these old fogey artists?" And his thought being that we'd be a lot better-looking if we were all contemporary.
Well, of course, that's not the point. The point is to have a place in the community for the best artists of the community to show their work. And some of them are academic. And some of them are abstract or semi-abstract or what-have-you. And I think that's the great interesting charm of it is the variety. We have a little bit of everything.
MR. BROWN: You have a combination of better-known, fine, good-reputation artists and other members of the Association.
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. Because so many with national reputations have come to Ogunquit.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: Over the years.
MR. BROWN: And you do find that the ones with national reputations like exhibiting next to their -- indifferent people who are here as well?
MS. SMART: What?
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Well, they always have.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] say to themselves.
MS. SMART: Well, that was in the early years.
MR. BROWN: But now [inaudible].
MS. SMART: Yes, yes, because we have gotten good and up-and-coming people like David Von Schlegell and [inaudible]. The younger ones came along and took an active part and served on the board. I don't think Dave ever did. He was very much of a loner. But John was on the board several times. He never would be president. But I didn't mention Ed Betts, and of course he was a great name to get in there, and had been an Ogunquit artist in the summertime for many, many years.
Well, when they became involved with it -- why, I mean, it's just been the making of it. And I don't -- well, of course, I'll tell you. It has to do with their -- with the way the organization is set up in the bylaws, in that, one passes a jury to get in, but then once in, for life. So I think that is why -- you asked if they didn't mind showing next to artists that are not as prominent. Well, it's just a fact of life. I mean, there they are. And of course, the artists have talked about jurying shows, or at least having one of their two or three in the summer, that show juried, of the juried members that belong narrowing it down. And of course, they would have, I suppose, a higher caliber exhibition.
But they talk about it, and that's all. They've never done it. And I think feelings would be hurt. And as long as they are so strict -- they have many, many applications, and many people are turned down every year. I don't know that the public knows this, but this is the case. They try to keep the quality up. So that regardless of the style, whether it's academic or not, presumably the artists are good, of high quality.
MR. BROWN: How's the sculpture course that was given in your husband's memory. Was this simply a question of a better facility for showing sculpture? Or what would they --
MS. SMART: When the organization, when the Barn Gallery Associates started, the idea was to have a building and to have a sculpture court. So it had been in the original plan. But it was just that we never had the money to do it. And then finally, after several years, someone said, "Well, we ought to revive that idea, because it would be nice to have a garden or a court for sculpture, where large outdoor sculpture is shown." -- because they were always showing sculpture, of course, but inside the building.
And at the time that Jack died, one of his old friends, who was a voting member of Barn Gallery Associates, wrote and said, "I think since we're going to have the sculpture court, it should be named for Jack." And everybody fell in with that idea, since he had been president and been responsible when the building was built.
And of course, it was where the Hamilton Easter Field collection, the Dunaway [phonetic] Room, is now. It was the Justin Dunaway Foundation, you know, gave the money for that room to house the Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation collection. We only have a little bit of land there, and so after the sculpture court was dedicated where that room stands now, Robert Laurent decided he wanted to give the Foundation collection to the Barn Gallery because it was just out in his barn, and I think he saw the end in sight. I mean, he was of an age -- he was perfectly well. I don't mean otherwise. But he wanted to dispose of it in his lifetime. He was the last of the directors.
So he came to me and asked if I would approach the board and see if they would accept it. And of course, what we had to do first was find a place to house it. And the little bit of land that goes around the building that makes a rather charming sculpture court now, because of the shape of it and the turns and twists, would not have done as a room to show that collection. In fact, I don't believe it all could have been hung at one time.
And then we had a zoning ordinance that you had to be 10 feet from the line for the building wall. So that would have made it very, very small. And Alec McLean [phonetic], who was the President of Barn Gallery Associates, or had been the first president, came to me and asked if I'd have any objection to moving the sculpture court and having it because the fence to the sculpture court could be on the line, or a foot inside of it, where a room wall couldn't be.
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: That gave us an extra 10 feet of width all the way around, for the sculpture court. And I said, no, I thought it was a splendid idea. So then we approached the Dunaway Foundation for the money to do a field collection room. And that's how it came about and how it got where it is.
Actually, we have had summers when we've had a good deal of outdoor sculpture. And then we've had other years where we've scarcely had enough to fill even that little bit of sculpture court that we have now, which is rather too bad. I mean, there seems to be, just because of the nature of the materials used, a lot more painters than there are sculptures. And even our -- one of our best sculptors, Bernard Langley, who's here now, ever since we invited him to show in one of our Barn Gallery Associates shows -- he is doing reliefs to hang on the wall.
MR. BROWN: Ah.
MS. SMART: Which was not the idea. We wanted him to do rather monumental things to go out in the sculpture court.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, yeah, we had that wonderful --
MR. BROWN: The lion.
MS. SMART: We had the lion. Well, that was in the Maine Invitational Artists' Show. We had some tigers one year, too, that hung on the fence outside there. But now, you know, we've gone into the smaller animals that are on a white, or plain background, that are kind of like silhouettes. At least, that's what he was doing last year and of course they are hung like paintings. And it was just too bad.
MR. BROWN: I was wondering why -- was there ever any thought of the Art Association or Barn Gallery joining forces and having collections with the Museum of Art of Ogunquit? Was that something that preceded?
MS. SMART: No. No, there's never been any thought of that at all.
MR. BROWN: Strater and others set that out separately in the earlier days?
MS. SMART: Yes, entirely separately. No, I think his museum was built --
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, I guess it was. I was there at the dedication. Henry Holt dedicated it, and I can't exactly remember the year. But of course, Henry Strater Art Association for quite a number of years before that. In fact, he was president of the Ogunquit Art Association back in the '30s -- no. No, no, later than that -- I guess it was the early '50s, about the time that Jack first came to Ogunquit or the late 40s. That's when it was.
And [inaudible] very active with it, but there was never any thought of any sort of combining.
MR. BROWN: He had his collection.
MS. SMART: Yes. And he invites whoever he's going to feature.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: That summer. Like Clark Fitzgerald's sculpture or Mark Tobey's paintings or whatever. But I mean,we've never combined forces. I think there's no thought whatsoever in doing that.
MR. BROWN: Do you think it's good having the two? [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes. Oh, I think it's extremely good, yes. And I think each serves really a different need or a different purpose, because obviously our organization -- Henry has no educational program at all. So we fill that need. I mean, I think of Barn Gallery Associates, as much as furnishing the building for exhibitions, what we really exist for is to bring that program to the summer public. And I think that's extremely important. That's our function.
Now, the Art Association serves the purpose of showing the local artists. And by "local," I mean local in the summers. Of course, Henry's is totally different. It's his permanent collection, as you know. Some of the rooms are showing his permanent collection, or selections from it. And then he features somebody who may or may not be an Ogunquit artist. It isn't always an Ogunquit artist. He has had Von Scheagell; he had Peggy Bacon. Was it last summer or the year before? It doesn't matter when.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: And Rudy Dirk. But then, as I say, he's had Mark Tobey, and he's had Lawrence Graves and so on, that really had no connection with Ogunquit at all. I think it's good to have that variety and have each doing --
MR. BROWN: Sure. They're all under one roof it might spell the end of - -
MS. SMART: Oh, I don't know. That would be good, too. It would make for a much larger art complex. We're restricted, of course, in size, which is too bad. Well, it's too bad in some ways; in some ways, it's good because we can't --
MR. BROWN: You've a rivalry setup, isn't it?
MS. SMART: Rivalry?
MR. BROWN: Well, I mean, people come to town. They go there, or will we go here?
MS. SMART: Oh, I think --
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] commercial galleries now, too. How do they relate?
MS. SMART: Well, some of the ones would have commercial galleries belong to the Ogunquit Art Association. So they show in the [inaudible] gallery [inaudible] has his own. Beverly showed things in my husband's cold studio for two or three summers. And well, I could name a number of them that run their own. [inaudible] did in the cold -- he showed his work in the basement under [inaudible].
MS. SMART: Yes. That's -- those are commercial galleries.
MR. BROWN: Sure, sure. And artists as opposed to a pure dealer.
MS. SMART: Well, there are a few that are dealer run, like that Durand [phonetic] or whatever it is that's downtown Ogunquit now. Well, of course, Ritter is a dealer. And he shows a number of the same artists that show in the Ogunquit Art Association. So I think it's just that in the Art Association, each artist is limited to two paintings for exhibition, because that's all there's room for. And if somebody is -- if a person comes in and is interested in some, let's just say, John Doe's work and says to the girl at the desk, "Where may I see more?" she'll either send him, if that artist has his own studio, she'll send him there, or Chris Ritter's or wherever more of that work is to be seen.
In fact, even broader than that, the girls send them to -- back to Betsy Galeton's [phonetic] Point Gallery or Town Cottage [inaudible] Gallery, where those same Ogunquit artists show pretty much all over the state now, or the southern part of the state. And they're very quick to send a person interested in the work on. I mean, we don't exist just to get the commission on that sale. If anybody is interested in the artist, we try to --
MR. BROWN: Right. It's part educational, isn't it?
MS. SMART: -- have his work seen as much as possible. No, I think it's good to have all those galleries.
MR. BROWN: You still speak of Ogunquit artists. Despite the fact that people are strung up and down the coast and automobiles, do you still think there is a magnet in this town?
MS. SMART: Yes. Oh, yes, I do. I do, because I think even though know John Laurent, for example, has moved to New York, he's still considered an Ogunquit artist. I mean, he grew up there and has shown there and is still showing there. And of course, the Art Association has established a radius. I mean, they're saying probably Southern Maine artists. But the people have to be within 20 miles of Ogunquit to show in the Ogunquit Art Association for at least two weeks of the year, at their stipulation.
So when I say "Ogunquit artists," it might be somebody that only comes for two weeks. Marilyn Quint Rose, for example, her parents had a house in Ogunquit. And she is mostly in Worcester now. But she's still showing with the Art Association. The only stipulation is that she be in that area.
MR. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. SMART: In that radius, of 20 miles around Ogunquit, for two weeks of the year.
MR. BROWN: Even just residually, the old idea that there's a place you come to and that there's some value in artists being together.
MS. SMART: Yes. It seems so. They certainly -- I would guess that the younger ones have been attracted by the fact that other artists are there -- maybe not. Maybe it's just because their parents were artists and were there, and they've inherited land or the tradition or something. Well it's true of John Dirks and John Rand and some of them. But then there are others like George Kunkel who simply came and settled there because they loved it. It is stimulating to have other artists around; no question about that.
MR. BROWN: I suppose at one time that there were tensions between the modernists and more traditional painters. Are these things still around?
MS. SMART: Oh, I think so. Oh, yes, because we haven't even mentioned the Art Center. And that is, certainly shows -- what was the Village Studio of Mrs. Hoyt. And it's been called the Art Center, and Nuntil Viana [phonetic] ran it until his death. And then his wife ran it. And it's up on Hoyt's Lane. And so there are very traditional paintings. And some of the artists who had commercial studios in Ogunquit, like John Barton[phonetic], show there.
I believe that the way Viana organized his exhibitions was to write to everybody who was in Who's Who in American Art and ask them if they wouldn't like to exhibit there. And they paid a fee. I'm sure I'm correct about this: They paid a fee and entered the show so that any artist, like Richard Wilbur's father, Lawrence Wilbur, who is a very well-known illustrator -- and he also painted.
And when the Wilburs came one summer to stay in Ogunquit, he had gotten this letter, and he assumed that that was the place for the Ogunquit artists to show. So he immediately paid the fee and put his pictures in the Art Center. And then he arrived in Ogunquit and, of course, discovered that it was the Art Association that he really wanted to show in.
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: And of course, then it was -- well, I won't say it was too late. But I mean, he wasn't known to them or didn't -- they didn't have at that point a specific time to submit the paintings the way they do now to be juried. But anyway, I know that happened. They may still approach that way; I don't know.
But somehow the two had become members of the Ogunquit Art Association, had shown at the Art Center first, or shows simultaneously, like Carla Riley[phonetic], who was a Pratt Institute graduate. She had a one-man show, I think, at the Art Center. And she's a member of the Ogunquit Art Association and lived at Kotch [phonetic] through the years, showed both places. So I mean, there's no reason why one can't.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: But I don't know that they'd know what to do with an abstract painting at the Art Center.
MR. BROWN: So there's the remnant, at least.
MS. SMART: They show -- well, to give you an example, there's a man named Hunter in Boston, who used to have a studio in the Fenway Studios. I remember Beverly really knew him. I can't --
MR. BROWN: Robert Hunter?
MS. SMART: Yes. You know that style. It's almost [inaudible] very, very realistic.
MR. BROWN: That would be the height of admired technique.
MS. SMART: Yes, yes, yes. There's room in Ogunquit for every style. There certainly is every style.
MR. BROWN: Was there ever any tendency here to potboil because of so many people coming through and many well-to-do people summering up here?
MS. SMART: Oh. Oh, yes. Well, I mean, there are a lot of people like that -- I can't think of his name -- Val McGann, that I think -- an advertising man people say, well, he has a little place up north of the village on Route 1. And it says Seascapes -- there's a sign out says Seascapes and then he rented that shack that used to be Henry Kurd's wood house next to my studio in the cove last summer, and showed his paintings there. They're in the style of Roger Dearing and those Kennebunk artists. Paintings of the sea with boats and waves, and, you know, the kind of thing that a lot of people when they go on vacation in Maine want to take home with them to remember the harbors and --
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. There are a number of painters that do that. And I think probably make quite a good living at it.
MR. BROWN: But you seem to be indicating that they're not a step beyond, say, [inaudible]. This was all done 60 years ago?
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: Or even better.
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, I mean, it's not -- I don't know much about that kind of painting. But when you said, is it pot boiling, there are people that are selling that kind of thing. But then there are very high-class top-notch potboilers like Bill Preston, you see The Whistling Oyster is carrying his paintings exclusively. I mean, he still shows at the Ogunquit Art Association. But they are the sole dealer in Ogunquit for Bill Preston, and those are very realistic and very well painted. And he certainly has a big name. He shows with the Shaw Galleries in Boston. And they are Seascapes and that kind of thing.
But I would certainly put him head and shoulders above these very, very commercial -- well, illustrative paintings, they are. There's every kind. And as the Chamber of Commerce booklet says, around every corner is a studio or a -- but then there are a lot of places, Rockport's that way, too, I think.
MR. BROWN: What's the future here with you?
MS. SMART: We were very nervous as I guess all resorts were, about the energy crisis. But it looks as if, at least this summer, there's going to be enough gas because I think the government realizes the importance of businesses in a community of this type. It relies -- and of course, that has to do with the arts, too. We wondered if we were going to cut back the program at the Barn Gallery because it is -- it's a pretty ambitious one. Many weeks, there are two events in a week, a concert and a lecture, or -- we always had workshops, along with whatever lecture or film or whatever we're showing.
And if you don't have people in the resort or nearby to come to them, you just shouldn't be undertaking a program like that. But we're going to have the same amount of program this summer, just hoping that people will be here. It's of the same caliber and the same type that we've had for the last few years. We have three concerts planned, and the lectures will be Clark Fitzgerald's on his sculpture, and Richard Land from Boston. I think he teaches at MIT.
It's a rehash because our audience is totally different from the winter audience in Boston. But this is a lecture he's giving at the Fogg Museum, in this color series that they're running with the Museum of Science. And the title got me. It's something like the Strange Case of Purple and Yellow. So I don't know whether you are going to this series or not.
MR. BROWN: No, I have not.
MS. SMART: I think it's this month and maybe next month. I'm not sure. But anyway, we asked him if he --
MR. BROWN: It's probable, then, you will very much have your eye out and your ear to the ground -- that is, the Barn Gallery does.
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: Things to have that are up-to-the-minute.
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. Oh, yes. And in the Pantry show we did that. We had Willoughby Sharp do some wild thing.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: He was very much the rage. And we've had Torich [phonetic]. And of course, we've had top-notch artists. But I was thinking, when Willoughby Sharp came, it was shortly after the Worcester Museum kinetic art show -- lights and all. And we just think that it's people haven't gotten out in the wintertime, wherever they are. Then we'll endeavor to give them an education when they arrive in the summer, without being too heavy because if you get it too scholarly, people won't come, I mean, in hot weather. And we don't have air conditioning; we can't afford it. So we have to keep things fairly light.
MR. BROWN: But this is still something that -- Tommy wasn't here before, was he?
MS. SMART: No.
MR. BROWN: At least only very irregularly.
MS. SMART: No, no. That's true.
MR. BROWN: Do you see this into the distant future?
MS. SMART: Yes.
MR. BROWN: Do you think it's a good thing?
MS. SMART: Yeah, I think so. The State of Maine thinks so, the Maine State Commission on the Arts and Humanities, because they've given us a number of grants -- or I won't say that. We had one matching grant, but we've had a lot of mini-grants. And I think they think what we're doing is extremely worthwhile, and fills a need. Well, I'll tell you. It isn't just visual arts. We are bringing now -- we did last summer and we will again this summer -- the Portland Children's Theater because they have wanted to branch out of Portland and get around to the people of Maine. And they've reduced their price considerably for us.
Well, there are two nonprofit organizations, both helped by the Maine State Commission, sort of helping each other because they were quite excited about coming to Ogunquit and putting on a performance. And the house was packed, absolutely jam-packed. We must have had between 200 and 300 people in there.
MR. BROWN: Was this a summer program?
MS. SMART: Yes. They did -- they did Don Quixote. And the director of the Portland Children's Theater wrote the musical version of it. The music was very, very good, surprisingly. So I mean, it sounded like a New York show. People were very impressed. I didn't know anything about that theater. I think it's the oldest children's theater in the United States. And it's done very unpretentiously. No -- well, I mean, they're in costume and makeup, but it's just like sackcloth or something, just the simplest kind of costuming. And really, they do a great job. Acted by children, you see, and written by the director of the theater.
Well, based on a traditional Don Quixote, but he had written the songs and all for it. And it just -- the audience was mainly children. But they did allow adults to go, especially with small children that had to be accompanied. And then some of us, like a big child like me, stood up on the ramp at the back. I wasn't there through the whole thing because they really had a capacity crowd and had to -- we very often had to put our sign out, not just for that kind of thing because there is a dearth of things for children. And we try to have one or two programs every summer. But sometimes for the concert and things, we've had families come.
MR. BROWN: Do you find that your efforts, your long-time interests and things sort of coalesce into peaking, does it? I mean, not peaking, but [inaudible]?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, I think it really --
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: I think it peaked. The first year at the Chamber of Commerce at Ogunquit, which is about a half-a-dozen years ago now, because we didn't have a Chamber of Commerce before that. We just had a resort association. And they got me involved in that right at the beginning because they felt somebody from the cultural side of the community, and specifically Barn Gallery, ought to be involved. And I took a dim view but when they put it that way, then I was very glad I was, the first year or two.
They wanted to extend the season. So the idea was to have programs in June and in September, which we had never tried to do before. And I think starting then -- let me see. It's longer ago than I've said, 1967, because that's when we had that big national art exhibition, or Barn Gallery Associates put it on after the season, trying to extend the season, after the Art Association had finished their August show. And the participants were anyone who had ever painted in Ogunquit, ever.
And of course, we sent the announcements all over the United States. And we had participants from all over the United States. And it was a juried show. And I think that's probably the most ambitious thing we ever did.
Well, starting that year, then we had more program than we ever had, and I still was very actively involved -- so I think that was the peak. And we've tried to stay on a plateau ever since. We've tried to keep it up. I'm not as ambitious an exhibition as that. But we had the main invitational one. But to have as many, as varied a program. By that, I mean, concerts and dance, and we've had poetry reading and a variety of the arts.
MR. BROWN: This has all been a pretty big part of your life now, ever since the Barn Gallery started?
MS. SMART: Oh, yes.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]?
MS. SMART: Well, yes, because it started on a shoestring. I mean, it didn't have any budget. And of course, in the beginning, I did the public relations and I got the speakers. And it sounds like, you know, the big "I am," and I don't mean it that way. But I mean I did it or it didn't get done.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: And then, of course, it got so big that we had to hire somebody. And that's when we got Mary Ellen Kunkle, and she, of course, just did a fabulous job. And we still were doing most of what we did for nothing. And then, of course, when we began to have members -- and I say that because in the beginning, Barn Gallery Associates was supported just by contributions. We had a drive for money every year. But we didn't have members.
And finally, it was Beverly Hallam that said at one of the meetings -- and I guess that was about 1965 -- I can't remember the years. But anyway, she said it would seem as if the Art Association ought to be all professional artists and not have any lay members. They had had about 150 Associate members up to that time, and they -- without any special membership drive, just the people that normally would support the arts just because it was a good thing.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: And of course, it wasn't much revenue, and the membership then -- it was five dollars, and that's all there was to it. And she felt that Barn Gallery Associates should have those lay members. And that was voted by both organizations, which of course, was a very wise move as our legal advisor said, because it really separated the organizations and it put the laymen into the Barn Gallery Associates and made it a clear-cut case of the two organizations being separate.
MR. BROWN: Yes, yes.
MS. SMART: And so about that time, you see, it got to be so big that we really -- that's when we first started to get out the booklet. And I guess I wrote the booklet the first year. And then they just sort of followed that pattern.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, it's -- the drive for membership is what it amounts to. But what we did -- of course, I've always followed what the [inaudible] done. And they've been kind of the pattern that we followed. And of course, they had three separate booklets or brochures out on their desk. And we just snitched those and snitched the material and got it done [inaudible] and put it all together in one because we couldn't do anything quite so ambitious.
But what I was going to say was, it just got so big that we hired Mary Ellen and she did that. And she packed the house. And then when we had members, we began to charge a nominal fee to the public to come in to the things that we did. And we still do that. They tried a year ago last summer, charging members for things. We'd say a dollar to members, two dollars to nonmembers, which was an unsuccessful thing to do. And you never know until you try it.
MR. BROWN: No.
MS. SMART: But it does seem too bad to ask people that support the organization and make the program possible to pay to get in, even if it's a nominal sum.
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: So they went back last year to no charge to members, unless it's a workshop or something where materials are involved. And it's been very successful. After Mary Ellen, she just couldn't keep on working for the organization for health reasons. And then we got Bonny Hart, who had been press agent for the Ogunquit Playhouse and had the background in public relations and -- well, first theater and then public relations, and handles advertising and so on for a number of successful businesses in Ogunquit. What should I say? She sort of combines everything that we need -- public relations and also the connection with the business community because we do look to the businesses to support the Barn Gallery. So she's been doing PR gal now.
Actually, the person that does that, really runs the whole thing -- I mean, the board presumably does. But it's gotten evolved more and more --
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] director?
MS. SMART: Just about.
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: That's it.
MR. BROWN: Well, you're now out here, now in York. Do you like to get away from it?
MS. SMART: Well, I don't get away from the job.
MS. SMART: No, I wouldn't be happy, I guess, unless they were asking me what I think, which they do consistently. I find I've arrived at that age where I now see myself on lists. That is dangerous because I feel that â as this wealthy club thing. I was showing you that they did in Portland -
MR. BROWN: Here you can be yourself and then the people who come have to come specially.
MS. SMART: Yeah. Well, I intend to go to everything they're going to have this summer because I wouldn't miss it for anything.
MR. BROWN: I was just commenting on the setting here, where you're facing -- is it your chosen view?
MS. SMART: I'm in my ivory tower. I always wanted to be a lighthouse keeper, and I think I've gotten the next thing to it by being out here at the end of the earth. And yet it's only about 20 minutes from Ogunquit.
MR. BROWN: And you're a person who's obviously in demand for a number -- still is, to be doing --
MS. SMART: Yes, well, anybody that will do the work is in demand. And that used to be me.
MS. SMART: Now as I said it's all advice. Well, Helen Durkes was polite enough to say a couple of years ago, "Oh, Mary-Leigh, it's just terrible you're leaving Ogunquit. We're going to miss you so." And I said, "Well, Helen, I'm not leaving. I'm just moving to the suburbs." And that's what it amounts to, although with the gas shortage, I began to wonder. But I've got one of those little cars that basically runs on nothing, so I'm all right.
MR. BROWN: One mile a day. Karfiol and your Cuban Nude.
MS. SMART: The first painting that I bought, I bought with the money I earned tutoring Henry Strater's son David, in French. He had to pass a French exam to get into Duke University. So at the end of the summer I had what, to me, was a huge sum because I had worked hard for it. But actually -- well, if you really want to know what it was, it was 64 dollars, which would amount to about 120 these days I guess, and nothing. And I said to Bernard Karfiol, "I have this money, and I'd like to buy a drawing of yours, if you'd sell me one for such a little bit of money."
And he said, "Well, I certainly would. You come to the studio in New York when you get down there this fall." And I did. And I looked over the drawings he had set out for me to choose from. And I picked one, and I was about to leave. And there was a trunk by the door, and on top of it was a watercolor. And I didn't notice it. But he said, "Oh, incidentally, here's my study for the Cuban Nude," which is the oil that's in the Metropolitan. It was selected in their first collection of contemporary -- when it first showed, contemporary paintings.
And oh, I admired it greatly. And he said, "Would you rather have it than the drawing?" Because he wanted me to have it, that was the whole thing. He gave it to me instead of the drawing for this little bit that I had earned.
MR. BROWN: And this was your beginnings as a collector?
MS. SMART: Yes. Yes. That was in -- I'm trying to think of the year. It was either '37 or -- probably 1938, maybe '37. I was just out of college, anyway.
MR. BROWN: When did you become a collector? Did you --
MS. SMART: Well, there. That's it.
MR. BROWN: That was when it started. Did you fairly regularly after that?
MS. SMART: Oh, no. I wouldn't say so. As I told you, I was married to David Asherman first. And of course, his family were artists and collectors. And David was a collector. And he and I had a -- he had studied with William Von Sshlegell. So we -- with the money we had -- and we had very little in those days -- we bought a Von Schlegell painting. And the director of the Springfield Art Association, a man named William Scalto [phonetic], gave us a painting for a wedding present. And, well, we had enough to hang in whatever house we happened to be living in at that time.
And then, of course, when I married Jack, he was an artist. I mean, he was acting at that time, but he had started after high school to be a commercial artist. So he was interested in the arts, and he began collecting John Laurent, since he and John were great friends. And John gave him some criticism on his work. And then we bought Bob LaBranch [phonetic], who exhibited at the University of New Hampshire. And I don't know whether you're familiar with his name, but we bought the first paintings he ever sold. He was in the school in Ogunquit.
In fact, we began to take pride in discovering these young artists, who seemed to have talent. But that still was not any sort of serious collecting. I guess really I've done more collecting since Jack died, and as I've known more artists. But the basis of my collection, such as it is, is really members of the Ogunquit Art Association, the artists that I've always known. And I think I have some pretty outstanding work by the outstanding ones of these.
I think I've got the best painting Harman Neal ever did. Maybe outside of the small self-portrait in Henry Strater's museum, and I think it's called Two Generations. It's supposed to be mother and daughter, nudes, sitting on the rocks. And it is a beauty. The art critic on the Manchester newspaper when he saw it was absolutely captivated by it and did quite a write-up on it. And of course, I'd been right there, you see, at home base. When they've shown the things at the Art Association, I've been at the openings, and I've been able to get them before they've been seen in the city galleries.
I've got a magnificent Rudy Dirk that I've bought from the Barn Gallery. It's stunning at best, and he won a National Academy prize for it. And many of the paintings that I have, I've known the artist. That's the fun of it.
MR. BROWN: Is there any particular, regular reason why you buy?
MS. SMART: Oh, it's compulsive. It's like people you know, I go to auctions. I just can't -- it's a disease.
MS. SMART: Well, it's more than that. I like to take some pride in thinking I can choose something that's well done. And if I know the artist, of course, it's that much more exciting to have something by somebody that you know.
And then when I built this house, of course, I began to think of all these great big gorgeous walls. It's one of the reasons I built it. There were two reasons. One was to have more gallery space because I had a collection that was largely in closets -- didn't have wall room to hang it. And the other was to have a swimming pool. And so I got the house with both, and now I can't afford the painting. Very ironical. I look at these great big walls and think I should have a Morris Louis.
MR. BROWN: What do you want to do with the paintings? To have them around you?
MS. SMART: Yes, yes.
MR. BROWN: Did you just pull them out of the closet and look at them?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, it's this exhibition now of my mother's. It's on over at [inaudible] and George Burke asked to see the paintings again after 10 years. And it was very funny because he thought I was all settled. This came about, oh, the show is almost over, so it must be five or six weeks ago he called me. I had just gotten the paintings put away. I just moved in and carefully put them away. Some in the attic and some in my paintings storage closet, and I had to pull them all out again. But of course, I was pleased that he wanted to have them up.
Yes, I used to pull them out of closets. I have a theory. And that is that if you leave a painting in one place on the same wall -- well, year in and year out, you get so you walk by, but you don't really see it. And I think by changing your works around, you see them more. And except for the Betty Bryden-Wills that I have in my dressing room that's so perfect for that wall -- I don't think I'll ever put anything else there -- I do really intend to rotate them.
You're seeing blank walls now because, for the most part because I really haven't gotten settled yet.
MR. BROWN: What do you want to see? What effects do you want around you, even as you rotate them?
MS. SMART: The kind of paintings I like?
MR. BROWN: No. I mean, as a collector, what is the effect you want? What kind of pieces do you want to have?
MS. SMART: Well, I never thought of effect. I just like to look at the paintings that say the most to me.
MR. BROWN: Um-hm.
MS. SMART: And I like --
MR. BROWN: You look at them a lot when they're out?
MS. SMART: Yes. And I like paintings that are complex and not necessarily as the most popular style of that year or that five years, but something that every time I look at it, I see something else that I hadn't seen before in it. And for example, that ledge painting that's in my living room of Beverly Howton [phonetic]. It was in her retrospective at the Addison. Every time I look at that, I see something more, something that I hadn't seen before.
Of course, I haven't had it up before because it was too large. I didn't have a wall in my house where I could show it. And the only time I ever saw it was when it was pulled out for it to go to the University of Maine or to the Addison or wherever it was going to be shown. So it's exciting to have it up, but now I've lived with it, you see, up for four or five weeks. And I still see new things in it. And I will leave it because it is such a large painting. It will probably stay there.
And the John Thornton that's at the end of my gallery I had in my living room in Ogunquit -- so I've lived with it ever since "Art Ogunquit" in 1967, and I can still see new things in that.
MR. BROWN: And sculpture, the same applies?
MS. SMART: Not as much. I'm excited about sculpture, but I like it for -- I think it's more decorative, to me. The sculptors will shudder to hear me say that.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Yes, yes, because I don't see something new in that when I look at it. I mean, that's just a majestic -- she called it a night figure. And that's what it seems to me. But I think in a painting maybe it's because there's both texture and color; paintings have more facets, I feel, than sculpture. Odd, because now that I think of it, I probably like minimal sculptures as a style better than other kinds. And that's just the antithesis of what I look for in paintings.
MR. BROWN: Do you think as minimal, you might be able to look at it time and again, walk around it.
MS. SMART: Yes, yes. But I wouldn't see something different every time I looked at it, which is what I find great -- I feel it's really repose. It's kind of like going to the movies or looking in a fire to see new things and see more things in a painting. And yet I do collect people like Byron Fallier [phonetic]. You know his work. He began showing at the Art Association last summer, and he certainly in his prints and all is hard-edged minimal. And I've got several of his things, and he's an exciting young talent. So it isn't that I exclude that kind of painting.
But I think it's that -- something that you're going to look at day in and day out that's on your living room wall or your bedroom wall, at least I say "your". I mean, from my point of view, I want it not so cut and dried.
MR. BROWN: What about disturbing works, Impressionistic?
MS. SMART: Yes, I like them. Of course, I again have theories. I think the paintings that you hang in halls that you walk by, those will be the disturbing ones, or things you may admire enormously in an exhibition you wouldn't want to live with. Just like people -- the most dashing and exciting people might be very trying when you have to live with them day in and day out. And it's the same way with works of art.
MR. BROWN: You think there a lot of works created in the last 15 years that are mainly for exhibition or should be seen in large, more public places?
MS. SMART: No. No, I don't think so. I mean, I don't know exactly what you're referring to. But when I think of large paintings, I think of Ellsworth Kelly and Morris Louis and Stella [phonetic] and people like that. And of course, I'd give my right eye to have any one of those I named. I don't care so much for Rauschenberg. I think he's disturbing. I mean, I would admire him in an exhibition, but I wouldn't want to live with it.
I think the size and whether it was really planned to be in a museum or a public place -- that hasn't any bearing on it. If I have a large wall, I'd like a large painting there.
MR. BROWN: Your home could take on some of the qualities -- it can share some of the qualities of a gallery or a large exhibition?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, I've tried to do the lighting that way. In fact, I consulted with Fred Woulkie [phonetic] about lights. See those spotlights?
MR. BROWN: Um-hm.
(END TAPE 1, SIDE B)
MS. SMART: They're the kind that the bulbs are on prongs. I didn't know that until I got them â a special bulb for the light and it requires a spread lens and a blue filter and all of that. And I really tried to do the lighting so that it would do the paintings justice. You'll have to come back when it's all finished and properly lighted and the paintings are really up.
MR BROWN: And then we'll have a discussion of the confirmation of your theory?
MS SMART: Yes.
[OFF THE RECORD]
MR. BROWN: You said something about the time, your meeting with Kuniyoshi?
MS. SMART: Yes. Well, I've been exposed to him twice, but never really officially met him. But this was when David Asherman was a student member of the board at the Art Students League. And I'm not sure whether he was in Kuniyoshi's painting class or just knew the monitor of the class. But Kuhniyoshi invited his painting class, advanced painting -- it must have been because it was a small, small group, to a studio on 14th Street. And David asked me to go along. So I went. And Kuniyoshi had just finished a large painting; or was finishing it. The final touches hadn't been put on. And that's particularly why he wanted the students to come that day because it was for them to ask questions and discuss his methods and so forth and see the painting. And they did, quite at length.
And of course, I was not as knowledgeable as they about it, but I was enjoying it all. And the monitor of the class, a girl, went up and looked closely at the painting, and then turned and said, "Mr. Kuniyoshi, tell us, is this texture -- how did you get this texture in the painting? It's curious." And so Kuniyoshi went up, and you know, he was very myopic. And he lifted up those glasses and he peered very closely at it and said, "Oh. My brush was shedding. Those are bristles from my brush." He went on, and oh, we loved it. We thought that was marvelous, because, of course, the students were hanging on everything as if that was just the most important thing that he'd done there. His brush was just shedding. He didn't even know he had done it.
MR. BROWN: He was a figure that you knew a bit about and having been here and all over the years.
MS. SMART: Well, yes, he was way before my time, of course, in Ogunquit. He was there at the time of the First World War, because he was painting near the Naval Yard at Kittery. The Portsmouth Naval Yard and he was stopped because he was foreign-looking. Of course, he was Oriental. But I mean, they prohibited him from painting. I guess they thought he was some kind of a spy. Even though back then at the time of the First World War, he was married to -- what was her name?
MR. BROWN: Katherine Schmidt?
MS. SMART: Yes, at that time, he was in Ogunquit. But my other encounter -- and he was not aware of my presence at all -- was when he came -- and I was thinking it was right after Jack and I were married, which -- and we weren't married until 1951, so I may have the date wrong. But I know that Jack said something, after Kuniyoshi had spoken to the art school in Ogunquit, Karfiol, Laurent and so forth, the group. And Kuniyoshi said, "I hear somebody talking in the back of the room. Will he please be quiet?" Jack was so embarrassed. But he did do, Jack did a carica-portraiture. He used to call these very caricature-like sketches he did of people -- he did a great one of Kuniyoshi at the time, while he was talking.
And I think Kuniyoshi went over to Dirk's house afterward, and Jack gave it to Rudy to give to Kuniyoshi. He was kind of pleased with it. But I don't believe that I was there for the talk. I just remember the end, when it was so embarrassing. I think people were asking questions, and Jack had a great booming voice and he didn't realize that he was interrupting or saying something when he oughtn't to be saying it. He was really very taken aback by it.
MR. BROWN: Was it a kind of, was Robert Laurent a close friend of yours?
MS. SMART: Yes. Oh, yes.
MR. BROWN: What was he like, he and his wife?
MS. SMART: Well, he was one of the most charming people I ever knew and one of the most brilliant. I think there had, again he was the sort of person who would have succeeded at anything he did. He just seemed to me to be a very well rounded and highly intelligent, capable person. I admired him so much -- quite aside from his being a sculptor or his proficiency in art, I thought the way he could write in a foreign language. He spoke with quite a heavy accent. And I think he wrote very, very well. He had quite a style. And I know if I attempted to write like that in French, I certainly couldn't succeed. Even though he lived in this country most of his adult life, I still think his mastery of English was quite remarkable.
And of course, Mimi was perfectly charming. Everybody just loved her. Well, they were just delightful people.
MR. BROWN: Was she very modest? Was he in the limelight? Was he a seeker of - -
MS. SMART: No. It's hard to say. You thought of them as one person. It was a perfect marriage. They complemented each other. But they were very socially inclined and very much alike when they were with people. I mean, they talked equally. He was not in the limelight. She had great charm and enjoyed people. And I think they entertained a good deal. They certainly went to everything going on in Ogunquit.
No, I didn't think of him as shining the way Walt Kuhn shone. You know he walked ahead of his wife on the street. She walked behind him. And he was the whole show. But not with the Laurents. They were -- as I say, you thought of them just as one person. You couldn't imagine one of them dying and the other one being left alone, you know. Sometimes you see a marriage like that, but not often.
MR. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. SMART: And of course, they very much in showing their art collection and all, you got that feeling, because it was always the Mimi and Robert Laurent collection when it was shown at Colby and at Indiana. And when they gave the -- when Robert gave on behalf of the directors the Hamilton Easter Field Art Foundation Collection to the Barn Gallery, the paintings that he added to the collection, the fake Renoirs and the Marsden Hartley and different ones that weren't originally in the collection -- were given by him and Mimi, not by him. They gave them together. I think they did everything that way.
MR. BROWN: Were the sons very close? Were they a close-knit family?
MS. SMART: Oh, I think so. The way French families are. I can't tell you, but I think so.
MR. BROWN: He was at Indiana for those many years. What did he seem to - - he settled there and enjoyed it?
MS. SMART: Oh, I think so. Yes. Well, he knew Kinsey very well, you know. The Kinsey Reports came out of Indiana. He had some funny stories about that, you know.
MR. BROWN: Henry Hope got him there.
MS. SMART: Oh, yes, yes.
MR. BROWN: Did he summer here for many years?
MS. SMART: No. He summers at Chatham on Cape Cod or used to.
MR. BROWN: He used to come up here?
MS. SMART: Came up to visit.
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: He sailed up. He and Sally.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: [inaudible] Of course, I got to know them in Rome when Jack and I were in Rome that winter, more than when they came up to visit the Laurents. You see, there again, I fell, I seemed to always fall between and not in on things. But I'm five years older than John and he's, he's the elder son of the two. And of course, years younger than Mimi and Robert so that I was too young for that artist crowd.
MR. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. SMART: And Paul and John went to their first cocktail party at my house, you see. I had graduated from college, and they were still just kids, I guess, in prep school. So that it's always been that kind of relationship, where I just fell between them in age. And while I knew them always, I didn't really know them well, I guess, until -- it's funny because Robert, used to -- when we were talking about the Field collection and working on that catalog together and so on, he said, "Well, now you remember Aolian Hall when we did thus and so?"
And it got so that he'd just take it for granted that I remembered everything and was in that crowd always. And of course, I was probably 12 years old when the things went on at Aolian Hall, and not even in New York at that time. But I used to be flattered by that because he considered me a contemporary and as if I just was in the group.
MR. BROWN: Has it stood you in good stead in that you haven't been in one group or another?
MS. SMART: Oh, yes, probably so. But I think that just happened, because I didn't stay where I was born and grew up, but went away for summers. And then even in Ogunquit, I never became a part of it because of the family traveling in the summers and taking me away so that I've never been a part of the group anyplace. And I think it's a disadvantage in many ways. But it's also an advantage in many ways.
MR. BROWN: And you preserve a bit of that removal by being in York rather than in Ogunquit now.
MS. SMART: Yes. Yes, I've always been able to choose, you know, just how much I'd get involved. And with people or things but as metamorphosis; this has nothing whatsoever and probably doesn't even belong on the interview. But I remember the head of my boarding school. And I was in that boarding school for five years. I went to prep school, high school, and junior college in the same institution.
MR. BROWN: Where was this?
MS. SMART: Monticello. It doesn't exist now. It's part of Lewis and Clark University in the Illinois university system. But it was a private preparatory school and junior college. And the principal of the school; it was back in the '30s, it was one of those very strict girls' school. And she said, "Your parents are making a dreadful mistake taking you traveling all the time. You'll be so restless. You'll never want to settle anyplace." Well, of course, it had the exact opposite effect because now I've got this place here in York and I don't ever want to travel again.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: I've sort of done it and seen it and have no desire even to go out to the Village, which is probably a very bad thing.
MR. BROWN: I think when you put your paintings on the wall, then you'll be ensconced.
MS. SMART: Even more so. Yes. Well, I hope not to fade completely out of the picture because one of the things I've enjoyed -- you asked me if it had been a major part of my life, or I've forgotten how you phrased it, but the Barn Gallery and being involved in getting the program together and so on. What I've enjoyed so much is entertaining the speakers and getting to know those people, because I not only have a hand in choosing them, but when they come up; because of the small budget of the organization, we're usually -- for some years there, about three or four, we were able to pay to have them put up in an Inn or someplace. But it's come back to the old way of a member having them for dinner -- and maybe having them for dinner and having them spend the night. And that's been extremely enjoyable in the last couple of years -- have been the Ipcars, Stella Ipcar [inaudible].
MR. BROWN: Zorach's.
MS. SMART: Zorach's daughter, yes. And Bernard Langley and people like that. And I hope I'm not so far away from Ogunquit now that I still can do this -- they'll come over after the talk.
MR. BROWN: Do you want to add something about the, with regard to the Ogunquit Art Association from years ago until now, the change in, I suppose you might say the dimention of the lecture program and the awareness of the Art Association.
MS. SMART: Yes. You asked about who we got to lecture in those early days. And I said we got anybody that would speak for nothing. And then I just mentioned -- I thought that Walker was the first one that we'd paid. So it does occur to me that it is of interest how a small organization that is just like any local art association gets the look about it that we have, which I think is pretty professional now. And even a friend of mine who is head of the ladies committee for the Corcoran Gallery in Washington wanted all of our solicitation letters and literature, our booklet and so forth, to have on file down there because she thought it had such a professional look.
And I did mention that we copied what the deCordova did. But I think it doesn't just happen overnight. And I am not getting just local speakers and then suddenly branching out and having this very professional -- oh, what shall we say? -- look and so forth that we have now. It doesn't happen suddenly, and I thought that we ought to mention -- when we did begin to have funds, for speakers it was a question of who to have and people connected with the Art Association in Ogunquit were not very knowledgeable about what was going on in the Boston area.
Well, Charles Abbott, the ceramist who teaches at Massachusetts College of Art, lived in Winchester. And his first wife, Dorothy Abbott, who had done programs for the Winchester Art Association -- well, she was a great friend of my mother's and she knew the place that I was in, and suggested some of the speakers the first year that we really were branching out and trying to get that.
MR. BROWN: What year was this, then?
MS. SMART: I think that it was about 1950, roughly, I would say. But that's just a guess because I really can't pinpoint it. I think it was after the Second World War, about then because I don't believe we had paid before that. So it must have been then. It might even have been later than that; I just can't tell you. She suggested -- and as a matter of fact, it's rather interesting that Beverly Hallam had been one of those figures in Winchester and one that was on her list. Beverly used to go around with her pots and pictures and so forth and demonstrate polyvinyl acetate in which she was a pioneer. And later, as you probably know, one of her talks is on slides so that she doesn't have to carry all those pots and trundle them all out to those settings around with her.
But in any event, we followed Dorothy's leads on some things. And then speaking of Beverly [inaudible] in Ogonquit, called me up, knowing that I was responsible for the program at the Art Association. Now, this must have been about the mid-50s. I think I told you the wrong date. I I think I was a little early on that. A realtor called me up early one summer and said that a prominent Boston artist had rented a studio on the river there, and she thought I'd like to know because possibly I could get her to speak. And it was Beverly.
And we did get her to demonstrate. We were still in the old barn at that point. And I remember it so well. Jack left just before the lecture was over and rushed down to the cove and brought some Elmer's glue and made us -- made a collage before she'd even quite finished her talk. And then we asked her to come by afterward and have a drink, and that was how we first got to know her.
But that, in turn -- I'm really not digressing much as I seem to be because of Beverly's professional background and her art education at Massachusetts College of Art. And she was then an associate professor at the college. And she began summering regularly in Ogunquit. We were able to follow up leads that she gave us because she was in touch very much with the art scene in Boston, and she suggested many of the speakers that we had from then on.
And also, we got out little mimeographed cards each week that announced who was going to speak. And we finally developed into having a regular program schedule that came out in the beginning of the season and could be posted on hotel bulletin boards. And even that, in the early days, was kind of what I called rinky-dink looking.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible] the speakers who were of some stature.
MS. SMART: They were -- yes, always. But we still didn't have the look that we have now about us. And when [inaudible] became president, I remember him saying, "Don't send out our announcements or even our solicitations for contributions in the U.S. Postal Service envelopes." I guess it was the postal service then, but one of those that comes with a stamp already on it. He said, "I would throw that right in the wastebasket."
And of course, he was a very prominent businessman in Portland and knew whereof he spoke -- and he also was President of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and had a lot to do with this kind of thing. He said, "I would throw it away. I think it should be a stamp that is pasted on, stuck on to the envelope and has that look."
Well, that's the first clue that I had that it was important, how the things arrived through the mail to you. And of course, having Beverly to draw on about this, with her professional background and her knowledge of this kind of thing, we really became very conscious of our look. And now, it's a standing joke in the post office in Ogunquit. When Bonny Hart and before her, Mary Ellen, or one of us on the board would go into the post office in the middle of winter and say, "What are your art stamps? What are your best-looking stamps?" They kid us about it.
MR. BROWN: [inaudible]
MS. SMART: Exactly. When those Robert Indiana love stamps came out, of course we were just in seventh heaven over that.
But, no, quite seriously, the presentation is extremely important, and we did learn this over the years. And I think that's why now, other organizations look on us as the arbiter of taste.
MR. BROWN: What sort of people do you think it appealed to that perhaps it wouldn't have if it had been a plainer or indifferent kind of presentation?
MS. SMART: Well, you know yourself what you get in the mail.
MS. SMART: If there's an ordinary-looking envelope, I mean, it --
MR. BROWN: Actually, finely designed, visually pleasing.
MS. SMART: Well, if you know it's going to be a solicitation and you aren't interested in all these things that come without -- as [inaudible] says, without thought or feeling in the mail, and you have no personal interest in, you're inclined to just drop it in the wastebasket. But if it has -- if it has stamps that are stuck on and not just imprinted on the envelope or one of these franked, not franked, but through meters, through a machine, you're more inclined to open it. Though maybe, hidden behind that insignia of Barn Gallery it might be a solicitation. On the other hand, it might be a program that tells you something that's going to be of interest to you that summer. At least it has a look about it that you just aren't going to throw it away without opening.
So I think it â you ask what type of people, I think, every type. Because this even appeals in the business community.
MR. BROWN: That's how it works, isn't it?
MS. SMART: It involves an awful lot of work. In fact, now I think we are paying additional to have somebody do the addressing. My aunt used to do it. She had a very beautiful hand, beautiful penmanship. And when we first began to give thought to this, we had her address the envelopes. And of course, it looked like a very personal message. And we began to stamp them. And of course, now they're typed. But they still are done individually.
And our letters -- Bonny Hart was responsible for this, with her public relations background. When we first had members and began to solicit them, to make each letter personal. "Dear Mr. Smith," or "Dear" -- each time we had a new president, the president goes through the file and marks on the address cards whether he addresses that person by his first name or not. So that when I was president, the letters went -- it would go to you, "Dear Bob."
MR. BROWN: Right.
MS. SMART: And, "Mr. Robert Brown, thus and so-and-so, Dear Bob."
MR. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. SMART: And if I didn't know you it would be "Dear Mr. Brown." But we do that, which goes an awful long way, too. In fact, we even, when people send in their memberships, have had them write a note on and, say, when Arnie was president, "Oh, Arnie, I'm so glad that you're doing this now. And that was such a nice letter." Well, of course, Arnie didn't write the letter. He did look it over, to make sure it was the kind of thing he'd want to say.
MR. BROWN: Yeah.
MS. SMART: But I mean, we try to make it just as personal as possible and we're getting a personal response by doing so. So we've grown in that respect. But it took many, many years to learn. And many different people advising us and saying, "Well, this isn't the way to approach," or if it doesn't -- if it doesn't grab you -- I know one summer, Louis said, "Sending out one letter asking people to be a member isn't enough. I always throw the first one in the wastebasket and wait to see if the organization is really serious by sending me one or two others." We learned a lot from him, as well as from Beverly.
So we began a follow-up letter. And that summer, Beverly designed the envelope for the follow-up. And it's one-third of the face of the envelope, the address side, the left-hand third, was black and blocked out so that it was white on it. It said, "Without you" -- and of course, you've got this envelope. Well, you had to open it. You had to know what was inside of that. And of course, the letter went, "Without you, we're not going to be able to continue to bring the community the program that we do." But it looked like mourning, you see.
MR. BROWN: Yes.
MS. SMART: Absolutely solid black on one-third of the face of the envelope. And then just the words in white, small, "Without you." So we really tried in every way to not only make it a personal thing, but make it outstanding and different. And really get to people and I think we've done it. In fact, I think we've made the community proud of the organization. It's what Ogunquit can do, and look what we have done, and look what we have to offer.
MR. BROWN: Quite a change then from the '30s when you First started.
MS. SMART: Oh, yes. Yes. Well, I remembered when I first came back to doing the program, and I hadn't thought of this until this moment. The first thing, speaking of Arnie Ginsburg, I remember he was 28 or 29 years old, and he was the most popular disk jockey in Boston at that time. And of course, started as a sound engineer. And he did Jack's and my hi-fi system just for the fun of it. I don't know whether you knew that about him.
But anyway, I had asked him to speak. And he was the first speaker in the summer series and this was the first summer that I had been doing this, for many, many years. And the talks were in the afternoon down at the old barn, about 3: 30 or something, which of course we eventually learned was a terribly bad time. People were on the beach or the golf course, and it had been geared to the little old ladies who came at teatime to the talks.
But anyway, be that as it may, we arrived there for Arnie's talk, and I still can remember the title, "Your Children and Music." And it was at the time rock was beginning, and of course, it was a generation gap, you know. And there were people not understanding kids listening to this kind of music. And of course, it was going to be a fabulous talk from a real expert. We had 11 people there for it.
So I sent out a letter or a card the next week and asked the members if they were still interested in having a program because if the attendance was going to be bad, it was too embarrassing. I remember saying to Arnie, "Let's postpone this. And don't do your talk today. Let's do it in the future when we've really got an audience for you." And he said, "No, no, that's all right," and went ahead and did it.
But it was enough to make you cry. Well, the response was enormous. Of course, there weren't a lot of members -- about 125 or 150 or something like that. But the ones who did bother to answer -- and there were many of them who did -- said, yes, they wanted programs. And they either were not aware that the talk was being held that day or -- in other words, we had to find ways of reaching them and changing the time and getting the right time and getting the right evening.
And that took some doing. We've had our program on different nights. We even had it on Tuesday night one summer, and then discovered that was the Art Center's night. And we were in conflict with them. And, oh, and when the Apprentice Theatre was running we had to change our night from Wednesday to Thursday because we didn't want to interfere with what John Lane was doing there. But it was partly a matter of time of day, and it was partly a matter of good publicity and really reaching a wide audience, which we certainly learned.
MR. BROWN: Oh, sure.
MS. SMART: But that shows you how from the old days, how we've progressed.
MR. BROWN: Well, I think that gives it enough -- in a nutshell.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Mary-Leigh Smart, 1974 Apr. 26, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.