Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Dallas Public Affairs Luncheon Club and the "Sport in Art" Exhibit: A Case Study in Art, Cold War Politics, Female Activism, and Wealth
by Gibson, Suze, M.A., Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, 2018, 86; 10843323
Abstract (Summary)

In 1955, a group of conservative women activists in Dallas, Texas, members of the Public Affairs Luncheon Club, attacked an upcoming art show “Sport in Art” planned to be shown at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. They centered their attacks on four artists whose work was represented in the show, and who they believed to be Communist subversives. Although the director of the museum, Jerry Bywaters, and his board were able to ward off the attacks by the women, the showing of the exhibit in Dallas hardly signaled the end of the fight. The exhibit was scheduled to be shown at select museums throughout the United States and ultimately was to travel to Melbourne Australia to be shown at the 1956 Olympic games. The women, using their connections in politics, took their battle to the national level and were able to force a cancellation of the show, thereby influencing America’s international art policy through their activism. Where the women thought they were fighting the infiltration of communism into their families and their communities, indirectly they were undermining the activities of the USIS and making room for the CIA to play an influential role on the international art stage in the post-WWII world by representing the United States through abstract expressionism. Therefore, this research argues that the cancellation of an international art show was caused by a grassroots group of conservative women who reached beyond their town’s borders to influence national policy, and with it changed the international artworld.

Current scholarship has examined and re-examined the topics surrounding the “Sport in Art” show as if they exist in separate spheres. However, when the topics are placed side-by-side and examined in their context of time and place, a picture emerges in which each event is interconnected within a bigger framework that will change the artworld based on ideology, politics, and what it means to represent freedom to the world. This research looks beyond merely the case study and examines the events that are directly or indirectly tied to, or influence decisions that were leading up to, or were a result of the “Sport in Art” exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1956 to show the interconnectedness between politics, wealth, the role of conservative Republican women, art, and culture. The picture that emerges in doing so is more far-reaching and influential than what has been portrayed about the “Sport in Art” controversy so far.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Manuel, Jeffrey
Commitee: McClinton, Rowena, Stacy, Jason
School: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 58/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Cold War, Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Female activism, Mccarthyism, Oil wealth, TX
Publication Number: 10843323
ISBN: 9780438285170
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