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”
the Denison Cotton Mill, the Katy Railroad, and Perrin Air Force Base
swing. The Denison Dam was dedicated in 1947 with a speech by Sam
Bonham, then speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who had
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
engineers to the area. Some of the engineers married local women;
liked Denison and stayed. With the end of World War II, soldiers came
married, and got on with careers and starting families. At this time,
was rare for middle-class or well-to-do wives to work outside the home;
many educated, energetic young women had time for cultural endeavors. A
social scene emerged.
According to the Denison
of August 31, 1947:
A group of artists hanging pictures for a local
counting the number of men and women in Denison who painted. The total
amazing. So much talent organized into a club could do a great deal to
art, not only in Denison but in all of Northeast Texas and southern
they decided. So the first meeting of the Interstate Fine Arts Society
in the home of Mrs. V. A. Berry, 522 East Sears Street, November 11,
old, the Society can look back on these achievements: A successful art
with 80 pictures hung and a showing of other arts; the bringing of
Klepper, noted Dallas artist, to speak and later to teach a class;
of other artists as speakers and the addition to the membership rolls
artists from Dallas and other Texas towns and from Oklahoma as far
McAlester. The home of one member is in New York City.
first meeting were Dr. Clifford Mott; Mesdames Berry, Ruby Whatley,
Benedict, L. W. Holtier, Virgie Appleton, Maudella Megginson, Tom
Jennings; Miss Neva Munson, and Ted Schirmer. . . .
officers: Dr. Mott, president; Mrs. Megginson, first vice-president;
Pierce, second vice-president; Mrs. Harris, recording secretary; Miss
treasurer; and Mrs. Holtier, historian. Mrs. Harris has left Denison,
Lillian Polson was elected to succeed her.
the new organized society was to form sketching classes, under the
Miss Johny Beck. The first guest speaker was Miss Minnie Baker, head of
department at Southeastern College, Durant. Adele Brunet, portrait
Dallas, was also a speaker.
exhibit of the society was opened May 18 of this year  with Mr.
giving a demonstration of landscape painting. Included in the showing
oils, pastels, etching and showings of woodcraft, ceramics, and china
The exhibit lasted four days and was viewed by approximately 1,000
Klepper taught a six weeks course to 14 artists who met once a week in
auditorium of the Houston School. Plans are under way for other
paint instructors, to be conducted this winter.
With a membership
now of 175 active and associate members, the club feels that it will
long before one of its goals, that of having a permanent gallery or art
in Denison, will be realized.
The first activity
of the 1947-48 season will be when the society acts as host to the art
to be sponsored by the Garden Club in September, and loaned for a
showing by the Texas Arts Association of which Dr. Mott, Mr. Schirmer,
Berry are members.
September 12, 1947, noted that Dr. Clifford B. Mott was a five-year
the Texas Fine Arts Association. In 1946, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower,
United States president, had made a visit to his Denison birthplace.
general’s visit, Mott presented the general with two of his paintings
On November 2 and 3, 1951, IFAS held
its Third Annual Fall Art Festival in the Kohl Building, referred to as
E.M. Kohl building
300 E. Main
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.
event of the festival will be “Pageant of the Masters,” an exhibit of
world’s living pictures. All civic groups will be asked to submit
the art classes of Southeastern and Austin Colleges also have been
participate. The pictures will be judged and cash prizes will be
candy and other homemade foods may be purchased at the booths to be set
There will also be photographic booths, and clay modeling will be
has been started on the wall, called “Doodler’s Delight,” and may be
by the children for 10 cents each.
served each night, and sandwiches, coffee, and cold drinks will be
throughout the evening.
Dr. Clifford Mott
will be in charge of the picture auctioning to be held each evening,
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.
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
painting, taught by Mrs. Naomi Goode of Dallas, which began last
will meet each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the studio, for which
still open. Those interested may contact Mr. A. G. Johnson or Mrs. V.
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
had featured future baseball great Rogers Hornsby as “The Newsboy”),
Mrs. H. A.
Bauder, Mrs. Russell Hanna, and Mrs. V. A. Berry. Newly installed
1952-53 were Mrs. George Knaur, president; Mrs. Carl McLynn, first
vice-president; T. C. Schirmer, second vice president; Mrs. Mary
Curtis, recording secretary; Hugh Chesnutt, treasurer; and Mrs. Edwin
society’s annual meeting, held
in June 1952 in “the studio, 300 East Main,” heard Curtis speak on
The Denison Public Library had been desegregated in 1950, four years
U.S. Supreme Court handed down its historic decision outlawing
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
loaned to the society for the program by the art department at Texas
College for Women [now Texas Woman’s University].
headed by Mrs. W. B. Munson III. Committees representing IFAS and the
Community Players Association met to plan the creation of a Denison
Center. Representing IFAS were Mrs. Berry, Mrs. Knaur, and Dr. Mott.
Representing the Community Players were Mr. and Mrs. Dudley H. Snyder,
J. Levinson, and Mrs. H. A. Bauder. The Denison Herald
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.
. . . Arrangements were tentatively worked out for both groups to share
costs of operating the Art Center and for priority use by one of the
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
word but were joining forces to form an Art Center and sharing expenses
loss of identity to either organization.
1953, the Art Center, sponsored by the two groups, was in operation in
Building. What happened thereafter is unclear. Dr. Mott’s undated
merely refers to his participation in the IFAS, “which
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.