Joan Wheeler Ankrum, 88, the former actress who founded the Ankrum Gallery to showcase the art of her deaf nephew, Morris Broderson, died Thursday of causes associated with aging.
She opened the innovative gallery on La Cienega Boulevard with partner William Challee, staged the area's first group show for black artists, helped organize the L.A. Art Dealers Assn. and was instrumental in launching the Monday Night Art Walk.
Born in Palo Alto, she studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she met and married veteran actor Morris Ankrum. She acted on Broadway opposite Van Heflin and, under contract to Warner Bros., appearing in such films as "Smarty," "Twenty Million Sweethearts" and "The Merry Frinks."
Ankrum first met Broderson when he was 14 and had been working in art for seven years. She steered him into classes at the Pasadena Art Museum, organized his first show, and in 1960 opened her gallery, where his figurative paintings and still lifes were displayed and sold.