Skip to main content

Mildred Baker papers, 1882

Biographical Note

Mildred Baker (1905-1998) was an arts administrator who worked in New York City, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C.
Baker was born in Brooklyn, New York to composer and musician George Weiss and his wife Sophia Soennichsen, whose family were also musicians and writers. In 1925, while enrolled at the University of Rochester, she married the artist Ernest Holzhauer and together they moved to Europe for study and travel. In 1927, they returned to New York where Baker began working in administrative positions for the Van Diemen Galleries and the College Art Association. In 1934, she was hired by Holger Cahill to assist him in organizing Rockefeller Center's Salons of America Exhibition and First Municipal Art Exhibition. After the success of these shows, in 1935, Baker was hired as Cahill's assistant after he was selected to run the Federal Art Project for the Work Projects Administration in Washington, D.C.
While working for the Federal Art Project, Baker was appointed director of exhibitions and surveyed the work of over 100 art centers, organized over 500 traveling exhibitions, and managed the final allocation of artworks created for the FAP. In 1940, Baker divorced Mr. Holzhauer and married Jacob Baker, an economist and WPA administrator, union organizer, and a founder of the left-wing Vanguard Press, in 1947. After overseeing the closing of the Federal Art Project offices in Washington, Baker and her husband moved back to New York and became longtime residents of the Chelsea Hotel. Baker joined the staff of the Newark Museum in 1944, was promoted to assistant director in 1949, and to associate director in charge of exhibitions and programs from 1953 until her retirement in 1971.
In 1963, Baker was appointed by Governor Richard Hughes to the Commission to Study the Arts in New Jersey, and while serving as vice chairman, she oversaw the establishment of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She was a member of the Cosmopolitan Club, Women's City Club, Woman Pays Club, and American Association of Museums. Baker died on December 9, 1998.