History of the Scarsdale Art Association
The events leading to the founding of the Scarsdale Art Association make a very interesting story. Newcomers to the Association may not realize that its roots are deep in the foundation of the Scarsdale Woman’s Club, and that its very existence is due to its members. Among all those who were responsible for its creation in 1938, one stands out beyond others in doing most for all community art projects- that of Anna Richards Brewster, its first Vice President of Artist members, and one of the best known women impressionists of the early to mid 20th century. She was the daughter of William Trost Richards, the famous American seascape painter. As a child and young woman, she traveled widely with her father, and studied painting with John LaFarge and William Merritt Chase. At nineteen she moved to France and then England, where she painted for ten years until her marriage. She and her husband moved to Scarsdale in 1910 and after the tragic death of her young son, she taught studio art classes in her home and painted, but stopped exhibiting. However, Mrs. Richards entered almost all the Association shows until her death in 1952.
In the 1930’s, when the art section of the Woman’s Club exhibited at the National Arts Club, Gramercy Park, New York City, men artists exhibited with them. Recognizing the humor of this situation, Florence Tuttle Mott conceived the idea that a separate organization should be formed as a group of artists, which would enable the men to register in an art group independent of the Woman’s Club.
At the first meeting January 30, 1938, over 100 members were enrolled. Officers were elected and a constitution was prepared and submitted to the Board of Governors of the Woman’s Club.
In 1952 the Association published a catalogue of its Fifteenth Annual Spring show. In it there is a photograph of the first Scarsdale Out-of-Doors Art Show, held in the “meadow” on Chase Road on September 29th. Interesting to those who show their work there every September, the photograph shows the same snow fences holding the paintings that are still in use over sixty years later. In the President’s Annual Report, Wallace Wolcott wrote, “With such initial success and interest, it wouldn’t surprise me if this event becomes a yearly affair.”
When the Scarsdale Girl Scout House on Wayside Lane was being rebuilt after a fire destroyed the building in 1979, a distinguished abstract artist member of the Association, Jeannette Leahey, provided major funding for an art gallery and a permanent place for the Association to hold meetings, art programs and shows. Although the Association mourned Mrs. Leahey’s death in October, 1986, it undertook a successful campaign to establish the Jeannette Leahey Gallery as Scarsdale’s center for the visual arts. Artists can use the gallery rent-free and the Association uses it for lectures, demonstrations and meetings. Mrs. Leahey’s dramatic masterpiece Surge of the Odyssey overlooks the stairs. An oil portrait of Mrs. Leahey by SAA’s Nancy Abbe, as well as a painting by Arthur Beach, Jr. are hung in the entryway.
The Art Association has held an annual dinner on a Saturday in April since the 1970’s. It is always a warm, happy occasion at which members bring a first course, and a dinner is catered by a local restaurant. As Arthur Beach said almost thirty years ago, “We think the Scarsdale Art Association unique in being a congenial, cohesive group with a tradition in which many good friends are made.” That’s why the gatherings of so many talented artists is also a gathering of friends. Nothing has really changed over almost eighty years.