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A brief history of the Delaware Valley Art League

Celebrating 75 Years, 1947 - 2022
written by Jeanne Marston / images from the DVAL archives

In 1947, World War II was over and soldiers were returning home, some to take over the jobs that women had stepped in to fill in their absence. Do-It-Yourself Crafts and other past times that had developed during those hard years for the lack of industry, became popular as a hobby.  Women were back in their homes with more free time to pursue their artistic talents.  Garden clubs and crafters began to meet and socialize with exhibits and teas. Thus, the founding of Arts and Craft League of Delaware County was established.                                                                                                                                                           

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The founder and first president was Mrs. Edward (Catherine) Brogan. Meetings were held in private homes, always followed by a tea, complete with flowers, centerpiece and desserts made by the members. Hats and gloves was the attire for the day. 

The league began to grow, intermingling with other garden clubs and artists from the surrounding townships. Critiques and instructions on everything from gardening tips to drying flowers and making lampshades or sculptures was acceptable. Everything from textiles, weaving, China painting, pottery, home decor, making Christmas cards, Tole painting, to oil and watercolor instruction paved the way to show off their achievements to a wider appreciative audience.

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By 1951, combined efforts with other art communities, included Bryn Mawr, Chester County, Wallingford, Wayne, Norristown, and Woodmere Art Centers. The Philadelphia Fidelity Trust Company as the first host for a large exhibit, brought in over 2000 in attendance. This annual eleven-day event was avidly covered by the press with a quote; “Fostering the part-time interests should be a prime purpose” and Part-time Painters Displays Rare Talent”. Prizes were awarded to the artists in Portrait, Landscapes and Still Life categories. More exhibits throughout the years were held in libraries, banks, arboretums, yacht clubs and colleges, to ones in the Acme parking lot strung on a clothesline between parking meters. This was so popular and a novel idea, it expanded to the Media Courthouse annually.

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By the 1960’s, the league held their monthly meetings at the Strawbridge’s & Clothier auditorium in Springfield.  It included a lunch for $2.25.  By this time there were 160 artists and craftsmen exhibiting in all 4 counties. Dues were $1.00. Newspapers had a weekly social column that covered all the events along with photographs depicting various award winners or lecturers. Exhibits continued, sometimes 2 or 3 different ones a month that lasted for over a week or two which enhanced their sales considerably along with the encouragement of the social news features. Many housewives were free to pursue their passions while the husbands were at work and the children were in school. Numerous magazines were filled with how to articles that ignited the passions of that generation. Museums were filled with an interest in abstracts and an availability to reach a wider spectrum of viewers. Trips to NYC by bus was eagerly anticipated each year.  

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In 2000 the meetings were held at the Main Line Chamber of Commerce in Wayne, but they soon out grew the space and were able to move to the Paoli Presbyterian Church. A year round exhibit at Penn Med in Radnor became most successful and popular in exposure as well as sales. This also extended to Penn Med at Valley Forge which continues to this day. 

In 2008 the name changed to The Delaware Valley Art League or DVAL as we are known today.  Our presidents usually serve a 4 year term along with board members who volunteer their special interests.  At the monthly meetings, jurying takes place during the meeting for many of the current exhibits.  The annual luncheon is always held in May at a nearby country club. The league continues to exhibit as their main goal. They have shown at West Chester University, Jenkins Arboretum, Paoli Good Samaritan Church, St. David’s Episcopal Church and recently at Greenbank Mills historical property in Delaware.

By the 90’s the organization changed its name to The Art League of Delaware County with a new meeting place at the Media Inn.  Spread Eagle Village in Wayne became a yearly exhibit that was quite successful along with many others including the Franklin Mint, Wagner Museum, and Villanova University. 

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Workshops continued as this is a big incentive to become a member.  At each meeting a specially invited local professional artist gives a 2-hour demonstration with a one-day workshop that follows the next week.  Since the 1940’s, this combination has seemed to work successfully.  To be a full member and to participate in the exhibits, one must be juried in by a highly qualified committee to insure professionalism in the organization.

The league has expanded in numbers as well as technology, with a website as well as Facebook and Instagram pages. Membership has grown to about 235 and is still expanding since the Covid shut down.  During that time, we stayed afloat with Zoom meetings and online exhibits.  The annual bus trip to NYC has been cancelled (due to Covid)  but it is anticipated we will continue the tradition in the coming year.  Plein Air events are also on the agenda when the weather permits to many of the beautiful landscapes in the tri-county area.

DVAL’s purpose exists to promote interest in the fine arts within the community and to advance the skill and creativity of its members.  To enjoy the fellowship, exchange professional views, develop new techniques and participate in educational opportunities given by other professional artists, and to exhibit original work in many sponsored events is our goal.  We are a non-profit and volunteer organization.  In the past we have given scholarships to young potential artists or to specialized church projects that aid third world countries.

Surviving 75 years can speak for itself.  To want to volunteer to keep the wheels turning, one must be dedicated to its ideal;  One of education, friendship and with a love and passion for art.

 

Delaware Valley Art League 75th Anniversary
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