Skip to main content

Mary Parks Washington papers

 Collection
Identifier: aarl008-009

Scope and Contents note

The collection primarily consists of newspaper clippings, art exhibit announcements, photographs, correspondence, photo albums and scrapbooks. These materials document Washington’s work as a visual artist, arts educator, and arts advocate; her lifelong educational pursuits; her friendships with artists; and her participation in civic and community service organizations. The materials on Chadwick School, Booker T. Washington High School, and David T. Howard High School are especially informative about African American education in Atlanta in the 1930s and 1940s.

Dates

  • 1936-2009

Creator

Biographical/Historical note

Mary Parks Washington was an Atlanta-born visual artist, arts advocate, and art educator.

Mary Parks Washington was born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 20, 1924. Her artistic talent was first recognized by her teachers at Booker T. Washington High School. She attended Spelman College where she majored in art, studying under artist Hale Woodruff and sculptor Elizabeth Prophet. While in college, Woodruff encouraged Washington to spend a summer at the Art Students League in New York, where she studied drawing with Reginald Marsh

Upon her graduation from Spelman in 1946, Hale Woodruff helped Washington receive a scholarship from the Rosenwald Fund to attend the Summer Art Institute at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. At Black Mountain she studied design and color with Josef Albers, painting with Jean Varda, and photography with Beaumont Newhall. It was here that Washington developed lifelong friendships with sculptor Ruth Asawa, one of her roommates, as well as with artists Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence.

In the fall of 1946, Washington returned to Atlanta to teach in the public schools, first as a second grade teacher and then for three years as an art teacher at David T. Howard High School. In 1947, Washington again spent the summer studying art, this time at the University of Mexico.

Upon returning from Mexico, she married Samuel Washington, a former Tuskegee Airman and a psychiatric social worker in the United States armed forces. Due to Samuel Washington’s job in the armed forces, from 1950-1958, the Washingtons resided in Fort Devins, Massachusetts; Sampson Air Force Base, New York; and Japan. In 1958, the Washingtons settled in Campbell, California where Washington taught art in public schools and raised the couple’s two children, Erik A. Takulan and Jan Lois Washington.

In 1978, Washington earned a Master of Arts in Art from San Jose State University. Washington also studied art at three universities in West Africa, studied Japanese brush painting under private tutors in Japan, and took a collage workshop with Romare Beardon in St. Martin.

Washington uses the art forms of drawing, painting, and sculpture. She also developed a unique collage form which she calls "histcollage," an assemblage of old documents that she incorporates into her drawings and paintings. Washington has exhibited her work extensively, including at the Asheville Art Museum, Atlanta University, Auburn Avenue Research Library, Oakland Museum, Spelman College, Triton Museum of Art, San Jose Art Center, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. In 1971, the Johnson Publishing Company purchased Washington’s painting Black Soul for display in its Chicago corporate headquarters. The Auburn Avenue Research Library owns a large collection of her paintings.

In addition to creating art, Washington is an arts advocate – working to improve and maintain art in schools, championing the creation and display of public art, and providing opportunities for the public to participate in artistic endeavors. She has served on the State of California’s Art Curriculum Criteria Committee and the advisory committee for the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, chaired The Arts Committee of the Links, Inc. and been an active member of the National Conference of Artist and the San Jose Art League. She has also led art workshops for educators and the general public.

Although her focus is frequently on arts advocacy, Washington is also an active participant in civic and community organizations. In 1978, she spearheaded the formation of the San Jose chapter of The Links, Inc. She has also been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Jack and Jill of America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Country Women’s Club of Campbell.

Washington retired from the Union School District in San Jose, California in 1988 and died in 2019 in Campbell, California.

Extent

11.0 Linear feet

Overview

The collection consists of the personal papers of Mary Parks Washington. The collection is primarily comprised of newspaper clippings, art exhibit announcements, photographs, correspondence, photo albums and scrapbooks. These materials document Washington’s work as a visual artist, arts educator, and arts advocate; her lifelong educational pursuits; her friendships with artists; and her participation in civic and community service organizations.

Arrangement note

The collection is arranged by series.

Series 1: Mary Parks Washington Art Subseries A: Mary Parks Washington Artwork Subseries B: Black Mountain College Subseries C: Exhibits Subseries D: Writings about Mary Parks Washington's Art Series 2: Art and Artists, Other Series 3: Correspondence Series 4: Organizations Series 5: Personal Materials Series 6: Teaching Career Series 7: Travel Series 8: Writings Series 9: Photo Albums and Scrapbooks

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Purchased from Mary Parks Washington, 2008.
Title
aarl008-009aarl008-009aarl008-009

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

Contact:
101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303
404-613-4032