Bywaters Special Collections Artist Profile: Ann Cushing Gantz

Featured in the exhibition Texas Women Artists: Selections from Bywaters Special Collections, on the 2nd floor of Hamon Arts Library.

Born in Dallas on August 27, 1933, Ann Cushing moved with her parents, Maurice and Margaret Cushing, to Memphis, Tennessee in 1940 due to her father’s work with the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  Interested in art as a young girl, Ann studied at the Memphis Academy of Art during the summers beginning in 1947 through 1952.  In 1953 and 1954, she took summer classes at Southwestern at Memphis, now Rhodes College, and continued her art studies at Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane University, in New Orleans, where in 1955 she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree.  While at Newcomb College, Ann Cushing studied oil painting with Patrick [Pat] Trivigno, professor of drawing and painting from 1947 – 1987.  After she graduated from college, Ann moved back to Dallas with her parents, where she immersed herself in the city’s art scene as artist, art juror and judge, gallery owner, and teacher.

In 1955, Ann Cushing was asked to have her first solo exhibition at the popular Black Tulip Gallery, located at Inwood Village in Dallas, by the gallery owner Everett Rassiga.  There she met her future husband, Everett Ellis Gantz, Jr., an aeronautical engineer and also a silent partner in the gallery.  On September 20, 1958, Ann and Everett married in Dallas.  They had two daughters – Elaine [born 1961] and Melissa [born 1963].

From 1956 to 1964, Ann Cushing Gantz taught art at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  Jerry Bywaters, then director of the Dallas Museum, asked her to demonstrate how to make a woodcut in the museum’s “Artists in Action” program.  In the same year her wood block print, Seated Girl, was accepted into the 6th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints & Drawings, sponsored by the museum and the Dallas Print Society.  Gantz continued to have oil paintings and prints accepted into competitions at the Dallas Museum of [Fine] Arts including – 7th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings [1957], 28th Annual Dallas County Exhibition [1957], 8th Southwestern Exhibitions, Prints and Drawings [1958], 21st Annual Texas Painting & Sculpture Exhibition [1959], 9th Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings [1959], 10th Southwestern Exhibition, Prints and Drawings [1960], 24th Dallas County Painting, Drawing and Sculpture Exhibition [1963].  Her work is in the permanent collection at the Dallas Museum of [Fine] Arts including Deidre [ca. 1957, color woodblock print] and Bayou [ca. 1957, oil on masonite].

Ann Cushing Gantz was also active in the Texas Fine Arts Association, the Texas Visual Arts Association, the Texas Printmakers organization, serving as president 1958 – 1960, and the Dallas Print and Drawing Society, serving as president 1958 – 1960 and vice-president 1963 – 1964.  Her skills received national recognition when she was nominated in the graphic artists division for “New Talent in the U.S.” in the spring 1958 edition of Art in America.  A year later she was nominated in the painting division for “New Talent 1959” in the spring 1959 issue of Art in America.  In 1963, her pencil drawing, Girl in a Sweater, was included in the XXth American Drawing Annual exhibition at the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, which toured the United States under the auspices of the Traveling Exhibition Service of the Smithsonian Institute.  Gantz showed her work in exhibitions in other national museums, including the Philadelphia Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and in Dallas and throughout Texas during the 1950s – 1990s.  In 1990, she was included in the exhibition The Texas Printmakers:  1940 – 1965 at the Meadows Museum at SMU; in 1996, her work was featured in a 40-year retrospective at the Dallas Visual Art Center.

In 1959, Gantz and fellow artist Ruth Tears, who she had met earlier at the Black Tulip Gallery, opened a studio referred to as “The Barn” on North Central Expressway. She and Tears taught adult classes in drawing, painting, and woodblock printing, and children’s classes in drawing and painting.  Their endeavors were highly successful.  In 1966, the studio moved to the newly opened Quadrangle in Dallas as “Cushing Galleries,” drawing in fellow artists and art enthusiasts Kay Hunter, Irving Bock, and Fran Newman.  Cushing Galleries included a frame shop, gallery, and teaching space for classes.  The location of her classes was sometimes referred to as “The Studio,” “Cushing Studio,” or “Cushing Atelier.”   The gallery remained at this location until 1971 when it moved into a 125-year old house at 2723 Fairmount Avenue where the business continued until 1979 when Cushing Galleries closed.  Throughout its years in operation, Cushing Galleries featured contemporary artists from Dallas and from across the country.  In addition to gallery work, Ann Cushing Gantz was diligent in organizing and exhibiting her students’ work in galleries throughout Dallas, among which were the Ethel May Brodnax Memorial Gallery at Highland Park Town Hall, Cushing Galleries, and later at her teaching studio, referred to as “The Atrium.” It was located at 11333 North Central Expressway.

Ann Cushing Gantz is known for her successful gallery business and her passionate approaches to teaching, but for over 40 years, she also used her art work and artistic skills in Dallas philanthropic work.  During the 1960s, she volunteered at the State Fair of Texas in the art division of the Women’s Department and participated in the Dallas chapter of the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee with book and art sales.  In 1960, she and Ruth Tears contributed their talents to painting a mural in the Ivor O’Connor Morgan Tuberculosis Hospital in the Children’s Medical Center.  In 1973 and 1975, Gantz designed Christmas cards for the Dallas Woman’s Forum Auxiliary to the Wadley Institute of Molecular Medicine.  In 2005, she donated a painting for auction to benefit the Retina Foundation of the Southwest.

In 2010, Ann Cushing Gantz retired from teaching and gallery work; she died in Dallas August 22, 2012.

Image: Ann Cushing Gantz, ca. late 1950s – early 1960s
Courtesy of Ann Cushing Gantz Collection, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

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