A Lot Of Stuff In Our Closet

A Short History of ACA by Ruth Dirks

If you have ever moved, and who hasn't, you have learned that yesterday's mementos and irreplaceable treasures have become a stockpile of problems.  They have turned into "stuff".  Stuff creates a need for sorting, tossing out, refusing to toss out, and drying a few tears.  When you move to that new house or town you carry only the remnants of that erstwhile cache.  Like the rest of us, ACA has accumulated a generous supply of mementoes and records.  This baggage has been moved from one storage spot to another through the years since its beginning in '55 or '56.  The exact date is a bit out of focus.  Several boxes hide a conglomeration of papers that tell interesting tales about ACA.  Let me spin a few.

ACA grew from a seed of an idea that Bill Hummelbaugh and Ramon Froman germinated one day.  They posited that gathering the students of several teachers and some scattered small art groups into one organization would give a boost to art in Dallas.  Ray was a well-known, fine teacher and artist.  Inez, Bill's wife, the artist in the family, supported the idea.  Other teachers greeted the plan with enthusiasm.  So the artists gathered and ACA became a reality.   The first big festivity was an outdoor art show in downtown Dallas.  Members filled booths with their paintings, all for sale of course; a high school band played; and painting demonstrations were given all day long.  I can't give you the exact dates, location, or duration of the show, but one founding member of ACA told me that it was a smashing success.  The show was repeated for two more years.

What could top the takeover of downtown? A traveling show!  In 1957 the members packed the paintings from their local show in a pickup and trekked across Texas and New Mexico.  After a show at the Suttles Gallery in Dallas the tour began in December '57 and returned in May '58.  They opened in Albuquerque and moved to Santa Fe, Carlsbad, and Hobbs, N.M. before crossing back over into Texas to show in El Paso, Laredo, Harlingen, Port Arthur, and Tyler.  The total viewer count was 4,117 folk who saw the work of 29 ACA members.  The following year the tour added galleries and museums in Colorado and Louisiana to their travel.  Wasn't that "tall pickings" for this fledgling art organization?

Those pioneers, especially the teachers, longed for input from exceptional teachers.  They were thinking of artists such as Edgar Whitney, Helen Van Wyck, Milford Zornes, and others of similar ability.  Ray – no one called him Ramon – knew an artist from the east who was intrigued with the idea of exploring Texas.  So, William Henry Earle conducted ACA's first workshop.  For two weeks he taught oil painting to a class in a condo building under construction on Turtle Creek Boulevard.  It was a beginning for ACA and it introduced Bill to a state that he nearly adopted.  He loved to work in the Southwest.  He complimented Texas artists when he wrote his book, "Art, Music, Education".  Among other kudos for his Texas students, he said, "Here are people with their eyes wide open - folks who want to learn all, and they can work hard for it."  Bill returned to Dallas and other Texas towns over and over through the years.  In 1990, he gave his last ACA workshop after teaching completely filled one or two week workshops each year for more than thirty years.  William Earle was one.  ACA's long workshop list is crammed with names of superb teachers.  There were many other factors of course, but those outstanding workshops gave impetus for ACA's growth to a mature and influential organization in the Dallas art community.

Thus read scraps from the historical boxes of ACA stuff!  If someone could point a finger to the exact moment of our beginning, we could raise high our glasses and shout a toast of "Happy 50th, 51st, or whatever".  The best alternative is to give thanks for those two men who wove their ideas into an infant organization that they chose to name ACA.