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 Alice Walton Dunbar  (1923 - 1996)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut      Known for: sculpture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information about Alice Walton Dunbar, sculptor, is submitted by her sister Susanne Dunbar Barrymore, and includes material offered by other siblings and friends. 
Alice was born in 1923 in Kingston, New York; died 1996 in Lomontville, New York.  The family lived in Hurley, 2 miles outside of Kingston, in a rural area.  Her father was a teacher of physics and chemistry at Kingston High School, and also ran a one person farm, where they could raise much of their food, have chickens and a cow, and Alice and her sister Violet had horses.  Other siblings were Eva, Susanne, Edward, and James.  Ilse Knauth Dunbar, their mother, managed the household, but was also a very artistic person and had a professionally trained soprano voice.  It was an atmosphere where we were all encouraged to learn to do creative things, making things and playing music.

Alice was named for a paternal great aunt, Alice Walton, who was a classics professor at Wellesley College in the late 1800s.  Interestingly, neither Alice ever married.

Alice had a studio at the family home in Hurley, until 1947 when the parents moved to another place in Lomontville, New York..  There they built a two car garage and attached space which became a studio for Alice when she was there.  She was awarded a traveling scholarship, and went to France for a year to study in 1947-48. 

Alice was artistically creative at an early age.  Although I was 9 years younger, I can remember her participating in art classes while in high school.  She then went to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts, and studied there 1940-1945 with Frederick Allen; bluestone carving with Tomas Penning in Woodstock, NY; bronze casting with Angelica Bodky Lee in Boston, and later in 1969, on sabbatical leave, with Walter Weber in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; resin casting with Elizabeth Mac-Lean Smith in Boston, MA.

Alice taught for two years at Spelman College, the African American women's branch of Atlanta University.  She was there from September of 1945 to May of 1947.  She then went on her European trip in 1947, returning to teach the second semester, January to May, of 1948. ( This information was provided by the archivist Taronda Spencer at Spelman College.)

From 1948 through 1956, Alice worked in her studio at the family home in Lomontville, NY.  She had some students occasionally, and was already a member of the Woodstock Art Association, showing there and at the Ulster County Community College nearby, but I don't have dates or records from that period.

She taught 35 years at Pomfret School, Pomfret, Connecticut from 1956 until 1991.  In the Pomfret Winter/Spring 2003 Bulletin her student Peter Borgemeister'69 wrote a tribute to Alice Dunbar, in which he mentions she started teaching there with a single classroom on the third floor of the school building.  When she left, Pomfret had a complete sculpture, ceramics, and metal-casting facility, which is a rarity at a secondary level school.

Ben Morgan, a colleague at Pomfret, who taught science and shop there, became a valuable support for the technical projects which Alice would initiate at the school, such as the bronze and aluminum casting.  An incidental note of interest for them is that they both enjoyed playing chamber music together, Alice on flute, and Ben on keyboard. 

Alice's sister and brother-in-law, Eva and Ralph C. Bailey, MD, were in Afghanistan on a two year US government program, and in the summer of 1958 Alice visited them.  An early student, William Hayes, recalls on that trip she gathered some good ideas for sculptures, and one notable result was several versions of Afghan dancers, cast in bronze.  This design was popular, he recalled, and there were several more commissioned.  In 1961 Alice went around the world with her maternal aunt, Dr. Susanne K. Langer, who is known for her work in the field of philosophy of art.  On this trip she amassed an extensive collection of sketches and notes which contributed to her art work later.  In 1963 she traveled to Africa with Pomfret School International Seminar with 10 students, where she gathered more ideas for art work.

Alice Walton Dunbar worked in a variety of media, including marble, local Catskill, NY, "blue stone", bronze, wood, resin casting, and clay.  Group shows in museums and galleries in New England and NY, in addition, she was invited to show in one or two person shows in:

Woodstock Art Association, NY
New England Sculptors Association
Essex Art Association, CT.
Ulster County Community College, NY
Reeves Gallery, Nacogdoches, TX
Middlesex, MA Mt. Hermon, MA
Weyhe Gallery, NY, NY
Pomfret, CT
Waterbury, CT
Norwich, CT
Hampton, CT
Mystic, CT

Commissions or where represented:
Executed many commissions for portraits of people and animals, fountains, garden sculpture, tombstones.  Except for realistic representation in portraits, I believe the design of her work would be considered stylized forms of animals and people.  Some commissions of which I have a record is the six foot bronze of a falconer in the courtyard at Pomfret School, CN. Mosaics and wood carvings for Rectory School chapel, Pomfret. Conn.  Ten foot wood carving of  Davey Jones in Elmendorf Heights, Kingston, NY.  Large stone carving of 8 figures in front of the Episcopal Christ Church in Pomfret.

Honors and awards: 
Mrs. David Hunt scholarship Boston Museum School 1941-1945; Mrs. David Hunt traveling scholarship for European Travel 1947-48; Croquis prizes, Boston Museum School:  prizes in group shows in New England Sculptors' Association and in Essex Art Association.

Art Association Memberships:
Woodstock Art Association since 1948; New England Sculptors' Association - one time president, and on the board for several years; Essex Art Association; Mystic Art Association.

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