Museum dedicated to celebrating women in the arts


Founded 25 years ago, the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts at Washington, D.C, is the oldest state committee.

The committee’s founder was the late Helen Walton, wife of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, according to a statement written by former Pine Bluff resident, Mary Ross Taylor of Houston and Santa Fe, N.M. The late Elizabeth “Lib” Dunklin of Pine Bluff was a founding member of the Arkansas Committee.

This is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing and literary arts.

The Committee helps carry out the mission of bringing recognition to talented women artists, contributes funds and content for Museum programs and also presents Arkansas women artists around the state, Taylor wrote.

Arkansas has excelled at programs such as Women to Watch, a biennial competition introducing emerging women artists. Last year, Arkansas artist Louise Halsey was one of only seven artists selected for the museum show.

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas hosted a traveling exhibition organized by the Arkansas Committee featuring all the Arkansas nominees for Women To Watch. This exhibit of fiber art is touring Arkansas through 2014. Pine Bluff also benefited from a museum summer intern at the Arts and Science Center, through an annual award to a museum in Arkansas funded by the Arkansas Committee, Taylor wrote. Little Rock artist Jane Hankins was included in an Arkansas Committee exhibition at the museum early in her career, receiving national recognition.

Fundraisers, such as Saturday’s luncheon and readers theatre, help to cover the costs of organizing exhibitions and other programs in Arkansas and at the museum, according to Dabney Pelton of Pine Bluff. Nationally, the Arkansas Committee is a sponsor of “Workt by Hand:” Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts, which opens in December.

The Arkansas Committee is also the sponsoring organization for the touring exhibit by artist Linda Palmer of “Arkansas Champion Trees: An Artist’s Journey,” which is traveling to several venues throughout the state from 2012-14. The Arkansas Educational Television Network has produced a documentary of Palmer’s work. The website for the exhibit is championtreesexhibit.org.

The 2013 Polly Crews Scholarship was awarded by the Arkansas Committee to photographer/artist Maxine Paine of Greenbrier, who is using the funding for assistance with a project in conjunction with anthropologist Anne Goldberg in which she will photograph rural women living in the Vinh Linh District of Vietnam.

Membership is open to interested individuals, and there is a Friends membership form on the website at acnmwa.org, Pelton said. The cost is $65 and includes membership to the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the award-winning quarterly magazine, “Women in the Arts.”

The Arkansas Committee board of directors meets quarterly at The Butler Center in Little Rock. Members from Southeast Arkansas are Maribeth Frazer of Warren, Elgenia Ross of Monticello; and Kitty Rubenstein and Pelton, both of Pine Bluff. Taylor and another former Pine Bluff resident, Deborah Dunklin Tipton of Memphis, serve on the museum’s advisory board.