Guide to the Decorative Art & Women’s Exchange Minute Book Collection (Unprocessed) – History

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The Society of Decorative Art of Santa Cruz, a women’s organization, was founded on June 1, 1885, “for the promotion of art in Santa Cruz, and for the establishment of a depot where artistic products might be displayed and sold.” Its first president was Georgiana Bruce Kirby. F. A. Hihn donated the use of rooms on the second floor of his building at the corner of Pacific and Walnut Avenues. A woman manager was permitted to sell art and needlework supplies as compensation for her services. Art, embroidery, and china painting classes were offered, and little girls were taught sewing. Art objects were loaned for exhibit. Guest speakers helped raise funds to support the group’s efforts. In 1891 a Woman’s Exchange opened, where members could sell their art and handiwork. Later, scholarships were given to students to attend art school. The name of the organization was changed to Decorative Art Society and Woman’s Exchange in 1898. In 1910 the society purchased a lot on Walnut Avenue from Hihn. The organization’s building, designed by William H. Weeks, now 125 Walnut Avenue, was completed in 1913. After fifty-four years, the Decorative Art Society and Woman’s Exchange went out of existence in 1939. The minute book includes Board of Directors and membership meetings and a copy of the members’ approval to get a loan from Harriet Blackburn in 1913.