THE FIRST 25 YEARS
The Art League of Nassau County, Inc.
History of the Society
Written by Stephen J. Voorhies, Chairman, Art Exhibition [in 1950]
The Art League of Nassau County, Inc. was founded in 1925 when a group of men and women, many of whom were not artists, decided to organize a Society in Nassau County for the appreciation of the Arts.
Among the founders were Surrogate Judge Leon D. Howell, the late District Attorney Elvin N. Edwards, Mrs. Clare Brown, of Mineola, Mrs. H. G. Wahlig, of Sea Cliff, Mr. Ralph Latham of Herrick, the late Nathan J. Westermeyer of Roslyn and the late Daniel Harrington of Mineola, who was with Tiffany Studios of New York for many years.
With Mr. Harrington as the first President the members of The Art League of Nassau County held their first meetings in the cafeteria of the old County Court House in Mineola. In 1926 they held their first Exhibition of paintings there, which, though small, eighteen paintings in all, was the beginning of an active Art Association on Long Island.
Under Mr. Harrington’s guidance the Art League continued to expand. He was tragically killed in an automobile accident, after which Mr. Westermeyer became President, and he accomplished much for the League.
In 1928 the Art League received the support of the late Thomas D. Talmadge of Lynbrook, a nationally known portrait painter, who became its President in 1929. Umder Mr. Talmadge’s supervision the first extensive Exhibition of the Society was held in Memorial Hall, Roslyn, consisting of paintings, sculpture, etc. Many well known artists contributed their world to this show, which was the forerunner of many such Exhibitions.
At this time the scope of the Art League was extended to include eminent professional artists, and to encourage amateurs and lover of Art. Its growth became rapid thereafter. In 1930 Mr. Walter Louis White of St. Albans, Long Island, a noted water colorist, was elected President. Mr. White worked actively to further the aims of the League, these aims are—
To bring into helpful cooperation those who practice, and those who are interested in the Arts, fine and applied.
To stimulate public interest in these Arts by exhibits, and public programs.
To encourage Art education.
To create civic consciousness of the value of beauty in the community.
To encourage Municipal investment in works of Art.
To seek the affiliation of other organizations whose aims are similar, to the end that an Arts Centre be established in Nassau County for their joint use.
In 1936 Stephen J. Voorhies of Rockville Centre, the well known illustrator, was elected President, and further expansion of activities followed. During the time Mr. Vorhies was president two extravagant Beaux Arts Balls were held at the Garden City Hotel to raise Scholarship Funds for deserving Art Students. These Balls were sponsored by such Art Patrons and civic leaders as Mr. Henry Root Stern, the late Col. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Mrs. Henry P. Davidson, Judge Francis G. Hooley, Mr. Robert Moses, and others.
In 1935 the Art league had acquired Gallery space in the Bohack Building in Hempstead, permitting the Art League to sponsor and old more frequent art exhibitions, and One Man Shows, and permitted the establishment of art classes and sketch groups. At this time the Art League established and supported to a large degree, the Nassau Institute of Art. Classes in all phases of art were held daily, the instructors being professional artists, actively engaged in their respective fields. Some 600 students passed through the School, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the Art world. The School was suspended at the outbreak of World War II when a large percentage of the teachers and many of the students, turned their attention to the War effort, many of them going into the armed forces. It is the hope of the Art League to re-establish this branch of the Society’s activities as soon as circumstances permit.
These added activities greatly increased the interest in Art on Long Island, as the Art League’s influence extended beyond Nassau County. With the need for more space and atmosphere other exhibition space was sought. The management of the Garden City Hotel generously offered the use of their spacious Palm Lounge for the Art league Exhibitions, and here, through the following years, the League has held many outstanding shows.
In 1939 Mr. Jesse Merritt, Nassau County Historian, of Farmingdale, was elected President, to succeed Mr. Voorhies. Mr. Merritt continued to carry on the work of the League until pressure of his duties as County Historian necessitated his resigning. He was succeeded in 1940 by Mr. John W. Wagner, of Manhasset, who in turn accomplished much during his term of office.
In 1941 Mr. Cyril A. Lewis, of East Williston, became President. Mr. Lewis is one of the best known water colorists in the country, and under his leadership, which included the War years, the program of more active participation was continued. Exhibitions were arranged at Hofstra and Adelphi Colleges, and the Art League continued to arrange Fine Arts Exhibitions at the Mineola Fair, which the League has done annually for many years. The Art League worked in collaboration with the National Headquarters in sponsoring National Art Week programs in Nassau County, and was designated to arrange and promote many Art Shows and exhibitions in connection with this movement. During National Art Week in 1940 and 1941 two very large and representative Exhibitions were assembled and hung under the supervision of the Art League. During the Tercentenary Celebration on Long Island the Art League held several timely and interesting exhibitions. During the War years the Art League assisted the Red Cross and other groups in furthering the War effort, and in fund raising campaigns. The League has always stood ready to assist any deserving movement, and has assisted many charitable groups in their fund raising, by the judging of posters for the American Legion Poppy Drives, the Infantile Paralysis Foundation in the March of Dimes Drives, the Scouts, etc. During the current March of Dimes campaign the Art League secured 52 original paintings, which were donated by the artists, members and affiliated groups, to be auctioned off, the entire proceeds to go to the March of Dimes.
Following the War period several local art groups have sprung up throughout the County, due largely to the interest in Art which has been stimulated by the Art League of Nassau County since 1925.
In 1949 Mr. Joseph M. McIntosh of Malverne became President and though his efforts he is bringing these new groups into closer affiliation with the Art League through joint exhibitions, in the hope that by their combined efforts an Art Center for all interested groups may be acquired in Nassau County. It is the aim and hope of the Art League to have such organizations work with them that this great need may be realized.
The Art League, through its President, Mr. McIntosh, co-operated with the Management of the Calderone and Rivoli Theatres in Hempstead in assembling an exhibition consisting of all the prize winning paintings of 1949 from the various art shows held throughout the County. The Calderone Theatre is now showing a series of One Man Shows which the Art League has assembled. These shows will exhibit the works of many of the outstanding artists of Nassau County. It is through the cooperation of such public enterprises that Art can be brought to the general public.
Among the Charter Members of the Art League was the late Lily Richardson-Jones of Hempstead, whose two daughters, the Misses Gladys and Christina Richardson-Jones of Hempstead, both talented artists, continued, after their mother’s death, to carry on her interest in the League and its aims, and to have served the Society in various official capacities. Miss Gladys Richardson-Jones has served as the Art League Corresponding Secreatry since 1939.
Thus has the Art League of Nassau County grown from a Charter Membership of fifteen Art enthusiasts to an active membership of 128 members, consisting of professional artists, art patrons and art students.
The 25th Annual Exhibition of The Art League of Nassau County, Inc., to be held at the Garden City Hotel, Garden City, Long Island, marks the Silver Anniversary of the Society.