Entry hall of the Arts Club (Photo: Alexander Morozov)
A private club with a public mission to foster the arts in the nation’s capital, the Arts Club of Washington has welcomed painters, poets, sculptors, composers, musicians, architects, writers, dancers, and arts lovers since 1916. Join the club’s historian and archivist Martin Murray as he offers an illustrated overview of the architecture and history of the elegant Federalist-era clubhouse just a few blocks from the White House—a National Historic Landmark that once served as the official presidential residence of James Monroe—and a lively history of how Arts Club members helped shape Washington’s cultural landscape.
Defying social restrictions common to its founding era, the Arts Club’s roster of members has always included accomplished women creators alongside men. Murray introduces cartoonists Nina Allender of the suffrage movement and Clifford Berryman, the skewer of politicians whose cartoon “invented” the Teddy bear; sculptors Henry Kirke Bush-Brown and Felix de Weldon, who immortalized soldiers from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima; portrait and documentary photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston; conductor Hans Kindler and composer Mary Howe, founders of the National Symphony Orchestra; architect Lorenzo Winslow, responsible for re-building the White House under Harry Truman; Luther Leisenring, who executed the neoclassical design of the Smithsonian's Natural History museum, and his wife Mathilde, one of the founding faculty members of the Corcoran School of Art; bohemian painter, sculptor, philanthropist, and socialite Alice Pike Barney; and the District flag’s designer Charles Dunn.
Along the way, discover how club members showed Washingtonians how to loosen up at the annual costumed Bal Bohème from the 1920s to ’80s, supported the troops in two World Wars through their art, and live-streamed jazz concerts and contemporary dance performances in the garden during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Murray is a long-time member of the Arts Club who has served on its board of governors and as a trustee of its endowment. He connects to the arts as an independent scholar of the life and works of poet Walt Whitman.
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