2006 National Medal of Arts
Arts patron, Washington, DC
Wilhelmina Cole Holladay patronage has greatly benefited the American arts
through her founding the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington,
Mrs. Holladay and husband, Wallace F. Holladay, began collecting work by
women artists in the 1960s. The core collection resided in the Holladay
home. By the late 1970s as the collection grew, Mrs. Holladay's first thought
was to donate the works to an existing art museum. At the recommendation
of National Endowment for the Arts Chairman, Nancy Hanks, Mrs. Holladay
decided to devote her energies and resources to creating a museum that would
showcase women artists.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts was incorporated in November 1981
as a private, non-profit. The Holladay collection of approximately 500 works
by women and Mrs. Holladay's personal library form the foundation of the
museum's permanent collection of more than 3,000 works dating from the Renaissance
to the present. During its first five years, NMWA operated from temporary
offices with docent-led tours of the collection at the Holladay residence.
Special exhibitions also were presented.
Mrs. Holladay's vision and her ability to motivate others to share that
vision resulted in an ambitious capital campaign to purchase and restore
a landmark building in downtown Washington, DC. The former Masonic headquarters,
a 78,810-square-foot Washington landmark near the White House, was refurbished
in accordance with the highest design, museum, and security standards. It
won numerous architectural awards. After years of tireless effort and $17
million in funds raised privately, the museum officially opened to the public
in 1987 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mrs. Barbara Bush.
In creating the museum, Mrs. Holladay also established the foremost library
and research center dedicated to art by women, and an arts education program
that reaches diverse audiences throughout the country. Additionally, NMWA
has firmly established itself as a venue for exhibitions and important literary,
film, and musical presentations, which have received critical acclaim. The
museum is a national institution with a network of members in all 50 states
because of Mrs. Holladay's determination to engage people across the nation
as well as countries around the globe. National Museum of Women in the Arts
reaches out beyond Washington through state and international committees
and promoting cross-cultural awareness and understanding.
2006 National Medal of Arts recipient and arts patron Wilhelmina Holladay accepts her award from President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony on November 9, 2006. Mrs. Holladay's citation reads, "Her dedicated efforts have helped bring well-deserved recognition to some of history’s most talented female artists."White House photo by Paul Morse.
< 2006 National Medal of Arts press release
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