Gafford, Alice Taylor (15 August 1886 – 27 October 1981), noted artist, teacher, nurse and community leader was born in Tecumseh, Kansas. She was one of ten children of Benjamin and Alice Armstead Taylor.
In 1910 she began a nursing career after completing a three-year course at Douglas Hospital and a post-graduate year at General Hospital in Kansas City. She served with the Red Cross in Alaska in 1915-16. She worked on private cases in Chicago for the renowned Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, first surgeon to perform a successful operation on the human heart. After moving to California in 1922 she continued in this profession until she was 70 years old. She spent twenty-five years in the nursing profession before deciding to pursue her first love, painting.
In 1935 Alice Gafford embarked on her art career at 49 and attracted the attention of the critics when she won second prize in a juried show at the Stendahl Art Gallery in Los Angeles. She completed a two-year course at Otis Art Institute in 1937. A few years later A. Atwater Kent, a noted collector, purchased one of her still life studies at the Biltmore Art Galleries to exhibit in his gallery in New York City. Art critic Arthur Miller published a photograph of this painting in the Los Angeles Times with the caption. "Art Thrill of the Week."
In 1951, at the age of 65, she entered the University of California at Los Angeles to earn her art teaching credentials and then added a third career to her list. After teaching five years in Newhall and Val Verde Park under the adult education program of the Los Angeles County School system, she retired to devote all of her time to creative work.
Mrs. Gafford played a prominent role in the development of several pioneer art groups including the Los Angeles Negro Art Association (1937). She played an influential role in the founding and development of a number of other art groups in southern California, including the annual Val Verde Art and Hobby Show inaugurated in 1946, and the Eleven Associated Artists, Inc., which established an inter-racial art gallery in downtown Los Angeles in 1950.
Through the years Mrs. Gafford's work has been shown in a number of note-worthy exhibitions including more than ten one-man shows in museums, universities and other public institutions. Her paintings are to be found in public and private collections in Europe, North and South America, notably the Los Angeles Country Natural History Museum; Long Beach Museum of Art; Bowers Memorial Museum, Santa Ana, Calif.; Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.; Wiley University, Texas; A. Atwater Kent Gallery, New York City; Carver Research Foundation, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama; Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company Art Collection, Los Angeles; the Orthopaedic Hospital, Los Angeles, and many others. Her painting entitled The Tea Party is in the collection at the Long Beach Museum.
From a group of five hundred artists who submitted their work for the Sixth Annual Southern California Exhibition at the Long Beach Museum in 1968, Gafford was among the seventy-nine selected for this honor by New York critic Clement Greenberg. She was considered a traditional painter, noted particularly for her still-life studies, florals and landscapes. On her eighty-first birthday, Mrs. Gafford received a commission from the Family Savings and Loan Association in Los Angeles to paint twelve portraits of famous African Americans for a permanent gallery in the Association building.
Among the more than twenty-five awards and citations received by Mrs. Gafford over the years are those from the Los Angeles Country Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles City Council, the California State Assembly, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, the League of Allied Arts, the National Association of College Women, the Beverly Hills Art League and the Los Angeles County Employees Association Art Club.
She died shortly before turning 89 and is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery next to her husband Louis Sherman Gafford, whom she married in 1928.
PHILADELPHIA (PA). Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center. Afro-American Artists, 1800-1969. December 5-29, 1969. 40 pp.
Black Women in America: an Historical Encyclopedia. Edited by Darlene Clark Hine. Brooklyn, New York, Carlson Publishing Inc., 1993. 2v.
Black Artists on Art. Edited by Samuella Lewis and Ruth Waddy. Los Angeles, Contemporary crafts, 1971. v. 2, p. 84
Williams, Ora. American Black Women in the Arts & Social Sciences. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1994. 197p.
Jarrett, Mary. The Otis story of Otis Art Institute since 1918. Los Angeles, Alumni Association of Otis Art Institute, 1975. 80p.
One of L. A.'s finest, Alice T. Gafford –
Submitted by Constance Porter Uzelac, Fellow W. E. B. DuBois Institute Harvard University