In an earlier Throwback Thursday, we put our spotlight on Mary Baker Emerick and her tremendous impact on the art program and students at first, Montana State Normal College (MSNC) and later Western Montana College (WMC).
It was under her guidance that the Art Club was formed in 1932 with eight charter members and Dola Taft as the first club president. The club grew to be one of the most popular and vibrant clubs on campus. The Art Club would feature a limited membership with high standards for admittance. The club’s charter claimed “the purpose of the club is to foster interest in art.”
Each prospective member had to agree and sign the Art Club’s pledge sheet. “I pledge myself to maintain, to uphold the standards here-to-fore set by the Art Club. As a member of the Art Club, I will do my utmost to help make the Art Club a success. I consider it a privilege to be of service to the Art Club.” After reading, and if in agreement, the student signed.
New Art Club members were inducted in special initiation ceremonies. After the ceremony, the club would conduct a short business meeting and then gather at Mrs. Emerick’s home. There would be refreshments and humorous initiation skits performed by the new members.
The Art Club met twice a month, on the first Thursday and third Friday. The club had an intricate point system for maintaining membership. Because of the Art Club’s popularity, many students joined, but only those dedicated to art seemed to survive the club’s point system in staying in the club. Those who survived, experienced the many projects conjured up by Mrs. Emerick and the dedicated Art Club members.
Over the years, the Art Club hosted banquets (sometimes four a year) and formals. Their spring floral formal was always a hit. The club made posters that advertised campus events, helped build stage sets, designed decorations, tickets and programs for other campus formals and events, painted rooms and murals, gave community lectures and much more. There were also field trips and Sunday sketching trips.
In a thank you note to the Art Club after attending one of their banquets, English professor Blanche McManus said “I am always interested in the activities of the Art Club. It’s nice to have a campus club that does something besides having a picture in the yearbook.”
Emerick and the Art Club started a gift shop on campus to raise funds for art scholarships. The shop sold many art club-made items that made the sale items unique and one of a kind. Virginia Crabtree was the first student to benefit from an Art Club scholarship.
Lucky for all of us, the history of the Art Club has been meticulously saved in series of scrapbooks. Back before digital storage, everything was on paper (oh wait, it still is!) Anyway, in the basement of the Lucy Carson library are Art Club scrapbooks that takes the reader magically back in time to a particular year. From newspaper clippings to member art, a year in the life of the Art club and the campus.
The Art Club has survived over the years, in different shapes with different faces but with that one common trait that has stood the test of time, the love of art.
The original post can be found on the University of Montana Western Alumni Facebook Page.