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Smithsonian exhibition reveals inspirational story of the entrepreneurial women behind one of the most iconic arts and crafts brands of the late 19th and early 20th centuries

6 years ago

Exhibition features largest collection of Newcomb Pottery to tour North America in three decades

TORONTO, FEBRUARY 4, 2015—The Gardiner Museum presents the Smithsonian exhibition Women, Art, & Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise opening February 5 and running through May 18, 2015, in the George R. Gardiner Exhibition Gallery.

The show tells the inspirational story of a group of women in the Deep South who achieved economic independence through making and selling pottery, and by establishing Newcomb Pottery, one of the most iconic arts and crafts brands of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Set against a backdrop of social change and women’s rights, the Smithsonian exhibition features the largest, most comprehensive collection of Newcomb Pottery to tour North America in three decades, with more than 125 objects of the iconic pottery on display, along with lesser known textiles, metalwork, jewellery, bookbinding and historical artifiacts.

”The exhibition brings together a variety of objects created during the lifespan of the Newcomb enterprise,” says Sally Main, curator of the exhibition. “The finest examples of the pottery art form will be displayed alongside pieces that will come as a revelation to many – not only a rich variety of crafts but also photos and artifacts that breathe life into the Newcomb legacy.”

We are thrilled to be presenting this exhibition by one of the world’s leading cultural institutions,” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum. “Not only is this a show of beautiful objects, but it has an extraordinary behind-the-scenes story with an added layer about women’s rights and social change in post-Civil War New Orleans. These themes and Southern backdrop make these women’s stories more powerful – they were arts and crafts pioneers who paved the way for entrepreneurial women of today.”

Newcomb Pottery was established in 1895 as an educational experiment of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, Tulane University’s former women’s college. The quasi-commercial venture offered an opportunity for Southern women to support themselves financially during and after their training as artists. Inspired by the flora and fauna of the Gulf South, the pieces offer insight into the extraordinary women who made a lasting impression on American art and industry.

The exhibition is complemented with a program series relating to the themes and history of the exhibition:

Be It Resolved that Women Entrepreneurs are Disadvantaged in Today’s Society
Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 6:30 – 8 pm
Debate co-presented by The Next 36, Canada’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative
Moderated by Claudia Hepburn, Co-Founder of The Next 36
Panelists: For the Motion: Daniel Debow, SVP, Salesforce.com; Susan J. McArthur, Managing Partner, GreenSoil Investments; Against the Motion: Rebecca Macdonald, Executive Chairman of the Board, Just Energy Group Inc.; Richard Powers, National Academic Director, Directors Education Program and Governance Essentials Program, and former Executive Director of the Rotman MBA and Master of Finance Programs.

Justice for Women and Girls with Disabilities
Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 6:30 – 8 pm
Lecture co-presented by Human Rights Watch
Speaker: Shantha Rau Barriga, Director of Disability Rights, Human Rights Watch

The Arts and Crafts of Newcomb Pottery
Thursday, April 16, 2015, 6:30 – 8 pm
Lecture with Martin Eidelberg, Professor Emeritus of Art History, Rutgers University
Lecture and debate tickets are $15 for the general public. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit gardinermuseum.com or call 416.586.8080.

Women, Art, & Social Change: The Newcomb Pottery Enterprise is organized by the Newcomb Art Gallery in Tulane University and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.


The Gardiner Museum is grateful to exhibition supporters VERITY, Susan Crocker, Laura Dinner, Senator Nicole Eaton, Lorna Marsden, Lynda Palazzi, Lynda Reeves, Senator Nancy Ruth, Karen Sheriff, and Deborah White. These women brought this exhibition to Toronto and continue the story of the Newcomb Pottery Enterprise through their own careers.

Exhibition Partners include CAMH, Far & Wide Collective, House & Home, Human Rights Watch, The Linden School, The Next 36, and The Women’s Canadian Club of Toronto. Farrow & Ball is the Official Paint Sponsor, and The Globe and Mail is the 2015 Media Partner.

Representing 45 years of achievement in decorative arts from 1895 to 1940, the exhibit is supported by grants from the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works, which were matched by supporters of Newcomb Art Gallery.


SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for nearly 60 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.


Located in the heart of Toronto at 111 Queen’s Park Crescent, the Gardiner Museum is Canada’s only ceramics museum, and one of the world’s great specialty museums. The Gardiner is committed to making a contribution to the medium of ceramics, as well as the community it serves, and is an inviting destination that inspires and connects people, art and ideas through clay. The Gardiner’s permanent collection comprises several extraordinary collections from sophisticated, dedicated collectors, making it one of the most significant centres of ceramics in North America. The breadth of the Museum’s holdings include pottery from the Ancient Americas, rare examples of Meissen, Du Paquier and Chelsea porcelain, Chinese blue and white porcelain, Japanese and Japanese-inspired porcelain, to contemporary ceramics – including an exceptional donation from contemporary ceramics collector, Raphael Yu. For more information, details on exhibitions, events, workshops, clay classes, and more, please visit: www.gardinermuseum.com.

For more information, for details on exhibitions, events, workshop, clay classes, and more, please visit: www.gardinermuseum.com.


To preview the exhibit or receive images or more information, please contact:

Rachel Weiner
Gardiner Museum
Communications and Volunteer Assistant

Antonio Tan
Gardiner Museum
Marketing Manager

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