Grayson County TXGenWeb
Interstate Fine Arts Society

  Interstate Fine Arts Society (IFAS)

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Kohl Building stood at the center of a cultural renaissance in Denison. This was “boom time” locally, with the Denison Cotton Mill, the Katy Railroad, and Perrin Air Force Base in full swing. The Denison Dam was dedicated in 1947 with a speech by Sam Rayburn of Bonham, then speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who had shepherded the project through Congress.

            The dam’s creation by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, forming Lake Texoma, had brought a group of bright young male engineers to the area. Some of the engineers married local women; others simply liked Denison and stayed. With the end of World War II, soldiers came home, married, and got on with careers and starting families. At this time, too, it was rare for middle-class or well-to-do wives to work outside the home; thus many educated, energetic young women had time for cultural endeavors. A lively social scene emerged.

            According to the Denison Herald of August 31, 1947:

A group of artists hanging pictures for a local exhibit began counting the number of men and women in Denison who painted. The total was amazing. So much talent organized into a club could do a great deal to advance art, not only in Denison but in all of Northeast Texas and southern Oklahoma, they decided. So the first meeting of the Interstate Fine Arts Society was held in the home of Mrs. V. A. Berry, 522 East Sears Street, November 11, 1946.

Less than a year old, the Society can look back on these achievements: A successful art exhibit with 80 pictures hung and a showing of other arts; the bringing of Frank Klepper, noted Dallas artist, to speak and later to teach a class; presentation of other artists as speakers and the addition to the membership rolls of artists from Dallas and other Texas towns and from Oklahoma as far north as McAlester. The home of one member is in New York City.

Present at the first meeting were Dr. Clifford Mott; Mesdames Berry, Ruby Whatley, Frank Benedict, L. W. Holtier, Virgie Appleton, Maudella Megginson, Tom Harris, Frank Jennings; Miss Neva Munson, and Ted Schirmer. . . .

The first permanent officers: Dr. Mott, president; Mrs. Megginson, first vice-president; Mrs. Paul Pierce, second vice-president; Mrs. Harris, recording secretary; Miss Munson, treasurer; and Mrs. Holtier, historian. Mrs. Harris has left Denison, and Mrs. Lillian Polson was elected to succeed her.

The first act of the new organized society was to form sketching classes, under the direction of Miss Johny Beck. The first guest speaker was Miss Minnie Baker, head of the art department at Southeastern College, Durant. Adele Brunet, portrait painter from Dallas, was also a speaker.

The semi-annual exhibit of the society was opened May 18 of this year [1947] with Mr. Klepper giving a demonstration of landscape painting. Included in the showing were oils, pastels, etching and showings of woodcraft, ceramics, and china paintings. The exhibit lasted four days and was viewed by approximately 1,000 people.

This summer Mr. Klepper taught a six weeks course to 14 artists who met once a week in the auditorium of the Houston School. Plans are under way for other classes, with paint instructors, to be conducted this winter.

With a membership now of 175 active and associate members, the club feels that it will not be long before one of its goals, that of having a permanent gallery or art museum in Denison, will be realized.

The first activity of the 1947-48 season will be when the society acts as host to the art exhibit, to be sponsored by the Garden Club in September, and loaned for a six-day showing by the Texas Arts Association of which Dr. Mott, Mr. Schirmer, and Mrs. Berry are members.

A news article of September 12, 1947, noted that Dr. Clifford B. Mott was a five-year trustee of the Texas Fine Arts Association. In 1946, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, future United States president, had made a visit to his Denison birthplace. During the general’s visit, Mott presented the general with two of his paintings depicting the birthplace.

            On November 2 and 3, 1951, IFAS held its Third Annual Fall Art Festival in the Kohl Building, referred to as “the studio.” 

E.M. Kohl building
300 E. Main

The Denison Herald announced on September 30, 1951:

The public will attend in costumes. Cash prizes will be awarded for the most original, most ridiculous, and most authentic costumes each night in a grand review before the judges. Dancing on the patio will follow.

The outstanding event of the festival will be “Pageant of the Masters,” an exhibit of the world’s living pictures. All civic groups will be asked to submit entries, and the art classes of Southeastern and Austin Colleges also have been invited to participate. The pictures will be judged and cash prizes will be awarded winners.

Homemade cake and candy and other homemade foods may be purchased at the booths to be set up. There will also be photographic booths, and clay modeling will be provided for the children.

A mural type picture has been started on the wall, called “Doodler’s Delight,” and may be added to by the children for 10 cents each.

Supper will be served each night, and sandwiches, coffee, and cold drinks will be served throughout the evening.

Dr. Clifford Mott will be in charge of the picture auctioning to be held each evening, with pictures furnished by the artists of the club. Included in this group will be a painting by Mary Totten Johnson, an outstanding artist from Sherman.

Dr. Mott’s class in colored [sic] theory will begin Monday at 7 p.m. at the studio, 300 East Main, and will consist of eight lessons.

Dr. Clifford Mott

The class in china painting, taught by Mrs. Naomi Goode of Dallas, which began last Wednesday, will meet each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the studio, for which registration is still open. Those interested may contact Mr. A. G. Johnson or Mrs. V. A. Berry, president.

By June 12, 1952, the Denison Herald could list past presidents of IFAS: Dr. Mott, Mrs. Franz Kohfeldt, Mrs. Albert Martin (nee Angie Keebaugh, a former dance instructor whose “morning dance recital” on June 3, 1932, in the Rialto Theater had featured future baseball great Rogers Hornsby as “The Newsboy”), Mrs. H. A. Bauder, Mrs. Russell Hanna, and Mrs. V. A. Berry. Newly installed officers for 1952-53 were Mrs. George Knaur, president; Mrs. Carl McLynn, first vice-president; T. C. Schirmer, second vice president; Mrs. Mary Cranfill Curtis, recording secretary; Hugh Chesnutt, treasurer; and Mrs. Edwin Young, historian.

The society’s annual meeting, held in June 1952 in “the studio, 300 East Main,” heard Curtis speak on African art. The Denison Public Library had been desegregated in 1950, four years before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision outlawing segregated schools in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. In her 1952 talk, Curtis:

touched upon the influence of this [African] culture on modern arts and modern home decoration, supplementing her talk with an exhibit of sculpture loaned to the society for the program by the art department at Texas State College for Women [now Texas Woman’s University].

In 1953, IFAS was headed by Mrs. W. B. Munson III. Committees representing IFAS and the Denison Community Players Association met to plan the creation of a Denison Arts Center. Representing IFAS were Mrs. Berry, Mrs. Knaur, and Dr. Mott. Representing the Community Players were Mr. and Mrs. Dudley H. Snyder, Dr. A. J. Levinson, and Mrs. H. A. Bauder. The Denison Herald reported a meeting called

for July 8 at the Fine Arts Center to ratify the action. If voted favorably by both groups, the Art Center would be founded as of Sept. 1, 1953. . . . Arrangements were tentatively worked out for both groups to share in the costs of operating the Art Center and for priority use by one of the groups. It was also understood that use of the kitchen and equipment would be shared. . . . It was brought out that the two groups were not merging in any sense of the word but were joining forces to form an Art Center and sharing expenses without loss of identity to either organization.

By November 1, 1953, the Art Center, sponsored by the two groups, was in operation in the Kohl Building. What happened thereafter is unclear. Dr. Mott’s undated obituary merely refers to his participation in the IFAS, “which was active in Denison for many years.”

On September 26, 1998 Denison Heritage, Inc., presented  "Rootstock Retrospective : A Glimpse of Denison's Cultural Heritage, featuring Dr. Clifford Mott's paintings along with accompanying newspaper articles from The Denison Herald, describing the activities of the IFAS.

1998 brochure

Frank Klepper




Back to the Grayson County Index
If you find any of Grayson County TXGenWeb links inoperable, please send a message.
This page is maintained by Elaine Nall Bay 2010