Cathrine Barr’s Influence, Mother (Marion), and Barr Art

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(Aside from the photos and caption text, this post is taken from page 114 of the Pocahontas County, Iowa, History, compiled in 1981 by the Pocahontas County Historical Society Members and Friends, copyright 1982 by the Pocahontas County Historical Society, Rolfe, Iowa.  If you have anything–including photos–regarding Barr Art and/or Cathrine that you’d be willing to share, please comment at the post at the top of this page and/or email me at mariongundersonart@gmail.com.  Thank you.)

“Throw away your fear and timidity. Polish up your gambling spirit, and pick up your brush, ready for the dare.”

Mother (Marion) and Daddy (Deane) Gunderson with their first four children, (L to R) Clara, Martha (born October 1948), Charles and Helen.  The future Barr Art Association began meeting just months before this photograph was taken, while Mother was pregnant with Martha.  (Click photo to enlarge.)

Mother (Marion) and Daddy (Deane) Gunderson with their first four children, (L to R) Clara, Martha (born October 1948), Charles and Helen. The future Barr Art Association began meeting just months before, during the summer of 1948, while Mother was pregnant with Martha. (Click photo to enlarge.)

That’s exactly what happened when, in the summer of 1948, Cathrine Barr, a commercial artist and illustrator from Weston, Connecticut, came to Rolfe to visit her mother, Myrtle Anderson, and her grandmother, Addie Beam. This was the first of several summers from 1948 to 1952 when Cathrine organized classes and taught watercolor painting. Her emphasis was on basic techniques, originality, creativity and working directly from subject matter rather than copying other works. The classes proved popular, and each summer enthusiasm for the art of watercolor grew until the students numbered about 76 persons from Humboldt to Spencer, with a large nucleus in Pocahontas County.

On October 25, 1949, a group of these students met in the Shaw and Shaw Law Offices in Pocahontas to organize an Art Association. Marion Gunderson, Rolfe, was the first president, and Maude Herrick, Gilmore City, was the first secretary.

The name "Barr Art Association" was adopted in the fall of 1951, the same fall that my sister, Peggy, was born.  Here Mother (Marion) is pictured with (L to R) Clara, Martha, Peggy, Charles and Helen.  I (Louise) was born in the fall of 1955.  The artwork on the wall was painted by Charles.

The name "Barr Art Association" was adopted in the fall of 1951, the same fall that my sister, Peggy, was born. Here Mother (Marion) is pictured with (L to R) Clara, Martha, Peggy, Charles and Helen. I (Louise) was born in the fall of 1955. The artwork on the wall was painted by Charles. (Click photo to enlarge.)

It was not until the fall of 1951 that the group adopted the name of Barr Art Association, giving recognition to the person who had been their teacher and motivation.

The purpose of Barr Art was “to promote and stimulate interest in art.” This they accomplished in two ways. First and foremost was meeting regularly in each other’s home or else on location to pursue what they had learned from Cathrine. Secondly, they exhibited together annually at such places as the Blanden Gallery and the KVFD “Little Art Gallery” in Fort Dodge, sidewalk art shows, various women’s clubs and churches, and at Regional Amateur Art Shows sponsored by the Iowa Arts Council.

The Association thrived through the ’50s and ’60s, but in the late 1970s interest dwindled and the group disbanded.

Barr Art Association was “open to anyone interested in the various arts.” Its members painted together and enjoyed the satisfactions of artistic endeavor that only a group of working artists can enjoy in an atmosphere of relaxation and creativity.

To view names of many of the people who attended Barr Art, and also the communities they represented,

Other people joined the students and during the years there have been about 14 members from Humboldt, and others from Emmetsburg, Lake City, West Bend, Fort Dodge, and Spencer.

Rolfe members were Lena Vaughn, Marie Wiegman, Fae Schon, Myrtle Anderson, Darlene Brinkman, Marion Gunderson, Dora Barker, Cora Pollock, Alta Hewlett, Elizabeth Wheeler, Minnie Peterson, Eleanor Graeber, Stella Sabino, Janet Dixon, Jane Webb, and Ruth Simonson.

There were Mr. and Mrs. Don Colvin and Kenneth Anderson from Fonda, Mary Martin from Laurens, and Shirley Bush and Audrey Simonson from Plover.

Among the 14 or 15 Gilmore City members were Myrtle Sabo, Agnes and Nina Neel, Percie Van Alstine, Frances Cirks, Mae Roberts, Maude Herrick, and Esther McBride.

Those from Pocahontas were Irene Shaw, Florence Beneke, Frances Hatteberg, Charlene Viktor, Avis Reid, Loretta McCurnin, Berniece Sedlacek, Isabel Strathman, Jane Levene, Julia Schmitz, Agnes Eichler, Bette Beekmann, and other short-term members to make about 20 persons.

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2 Responses to “Cathrine Barr’s Influence, Mother (Marion), and Barr Art”

  1. Teri Says:

    Love the photos! They remind me of my family photos from the same era.

  2. Nina Neel Gower Says:

    Hi Louise,

    Enjoyed seeing your Mom’s paintings this morning. I remember her as having a very bold style and use of color, my Mom did also. Some of the Gilmore women were real close friends of my Mothers and friends of mine also. There were some Humboldt women members and a good high school friend of mine Carol Cirks was also a member. Thanks for
    bringing up those memories. I still can’t remember whether Catherine was a sister or cousin or how she was related to Donna Malcolm in Gilmore but I will ask her son Doug when I corresponde with him again.

    Thanks, nina

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