WPA Artist Mary Perry Stone Honored for SWAN Day

Mary Perry Stone

Mary Perry Stone

Dayton, OH –
On Friday, February 5, 2010, 70 people, including Dayton’s mayor, braved a snowstorm to attend the opening reception of “Art Makes Us Human,” an exhibit of work by Mary Perry Stone (1909-2007), a WPA artist who focused on social justice and civil rights. The exhibit inaugurates “The Mary Perry Stone Women’s Art Gallery” at the Missing Peace Art Space, which will house a permanent collection of works by Stone and showcase work by women artists from around the world whose art is dedicated to peace. The gallery will hold a SWAN Day event the weekend of March 5-7, 2010 in conjunction with the exhibit.

Mary Perry Stone was one of 40 women employed by the New York City Federal Arts Project as part of the WPA during the 1930’s as a sculptor and teacher. It was during this period that her work became focused on social protest, her lifelong subject. After working in the shipyards during World War II, Stone moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she continued to sculpt and paint. Much of her work during the 1960’s opposed the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. She moved to Ashland, Oregon, in the 1990’s, where she continued to sculpt, paint, and exhibit her work until her death in 2007. Stone’s art was shown in numerous group and solo exhibits at museums and galleries in New York, California, and Oregon, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, and Rockefeller Center.

Over the course of her career, Stone made over 50 social-protest canvas murals on subjects ranging from the struggle for civil rights to the exploitation of labor. Her work “was all grounded in her belief that an artist… has a responsibility to work for a more humane world,” said Ramie Streng, Stone’s daughter. According to Streng, her mother’s lifelong commitment to social justice was largely influenced by the Great Depression and her involvement in the WPA. Wanting to remain true to the anti-commercial, progressive spirit of her mother’s work, Streng created a website where visitors can view Stone’s social protest murals for free. With a new gallery home at the Missing Peace Art Space, Stone’s colorful, dynamic, deeply humanistic art will continue to inspire generations to come.

WomenArts is delighted to celebrate the life and work of Mary Perry Stone as part of our WPA 75th anniversary retrospective for SWAN Day 2010. Special thanks to Ramie Streng for getting in touch with us about her mother’s work, and to Steve Fryburg and Gabriella Pickett of the Missing Peace Art Space for planning the SWAN Day event in Dayton.

If you’re in or near Dayton, be sure to visit The Mary Perry Stone Women’s Art Gallery at the Missing Peace Art Space, 234 S. Dutoit St., Dayton, OH 45402-2215, T: (937) 241-4353. Read more about the exhibit and see a video at: http://www.missingpeaceart.org/past_exhibitions_at_the_missing.htm (at this link — scroll down!).

Visit http://maryperrystone.com/ to learn more about the life and work of Mary Perry Stone.