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Women's Art Museum Taking Shape

Jody Jacobs

March 28, 1985

The official opening for the National Museum of Women's Art in its historic Washington landmark building (the 1907 Masonic Temple near the White House) is still quite some time away-- April, 1987, to be specific. But the museum is currently operating in temporary quarters and making progress in leaps and bounds.

The museum's first and current president and its guiding light, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, arrived in town the other day to see old friends, meet new ones and stir up still more interest in the museum. She's an effective spokeswoman for the cause as was proven at the luncheon Beverly Morsey, Rita Barrett, Erlenne Sprague and Virginia Milner co-hosted in Beverly's charming home. Among those impressed with the facts were Hannah Carter, Francie Brody, Onnalee Doheny, Jean Smith (just back from Washington's Gridiron Dinner), Caroline Singleton, Georgianna Erskine, Gerardine Frawley, Dodie Booth, Maggie Wetzel and quite a few more.

Introduced by Rita Barrett, Billy Holladay spoke about women artists ("There were women painting, and successfully, in every era, but their work was not recorded.") and showed slides of some of the museum's art collection and touted the establishment of the museum. "No such museum exists in the world," she told the group. "Our collection will be international in scope." The museum, she added, "will educate and entertain." Besides the art collection there will be a library of catalogues and out-of-print books, a gift shop and party areas.

Mrs. Holladay estimates it will take $15 million to renovate and redecorate the old building. "Ultimately," she said, "our goal is $30 million. We have already raised $8 million and that doesn't include some special gifts. We've been given marble, carpeting, plumbing fixtures. Fifty corporations have become sponsors and United Technology will underwrite the opening exhibition which will later travel (to other museums)." To help support the museum a founding member's program has been established for those donating $5,000 or more. "We're aiming for 200 members," the museum's president stated, "and today I was told that we have 190."

Two fund-raising parties have been staged. The third, in Washington's Departmental Auditorium, takes place April 10 with First Lady Nancy Reagan as patron and the Swedish Ambassador's wife, Countess Wachtmeister, herself a painter, as honorary chairman. Mrs. Paul Laxalt, wife of the senator from Nevada, will chair the event.

Lunch followed at umbrella tables in the patio where it got a little chilly Monday afternoon. But since most of the ladies were wearing spring suits (the Adolfo label predominated), no one was too uncomfortable. Settling down to salad, quiche, a custard covered peach that Beverly Morsey called "heaven" and cookies brought by Giney Milner were also Lee Minnelli (after lunch she went to visit Sir David Lean and his wife who were at the Hotel Bel-Air and celebrating his birthday on Oscar day), Joan Quinn (she and a few others were off to the County Museum of Art for Oliver Bernier's lecture for the Costume Council), archeologist Patty Anawalt, sculptor Pascal Regan, artist Ruth Munson, art historian Aileen Grey, Chardee Trainer, the museum's curator Roma Crocker, Jane Gosden, Nancy Dinsmore, Marje Brandeis and Sally Sturdy Stewart.

From L.A., Billie Holladay flew up to San Francisco for more tub thumping at a luncheon given by Gloria Getty.

Queen Sirikit of Thailand said goodby to Los Angeles Monday night with a dinner party she hosted for Thai and American friends in the Beverly Wilshire's Grand Trianon. The menu began and ended with American food. And in between there were Thai dishes. "Let me be your example," Her charming majesty told the Americans at her table as she proceeded to remove the top from the bamboo rice container.

The entertainment showed a similar balance. A young Thai woman sang some of the very American (romantic and jazz) songs composed by the queen's husband King Bhumibol, a talented musician who, his wife said, loves American jazz and who plays a number of instruments. "He was born here (Boston) and educated in Switzerland," she explained and, laughing, added, "He's not really Thai." Dancers from northeast Thailand performed the measured and graceful dances of their region. "I wanted Americans to see the authentic village dances," the queen said. Mrs. William Tilley, who sang professionally as Nadine Ames, sang one song at her majesty's request. L.A. attorney Maurice Harwick, whose wife Saowapa was born in Thailand, sang two popular American tunes and the queen applauded.

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