Artists in the Archives – Grace Spaulding John (1890-1972)

Spaulding painting mural at MFAH, detail

Born in Michigan, Grace Spaulding John spent her childhood in Vermont; the family moved to Beaumont, Texas when Spaulding was a teenager. She studied art at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Students League of New York, the National Academy of Design in New York City, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Chester Springs, where she worked under Charles W. Hawthorne.  She became one of eight young artists in the nation who received a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship, allowing her to study for a summer at the New York home of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

In 1921 Spaulding moved to Houston and married Alfred Morgan John, with whom she had two children. In 1927, Spaulding John went to Europe, painting in France, Italy and Spain. In 1928, she made her first visit to Mexico, returning to Houston with enough paintings for a one-man show at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. During her career she travelled to New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, California, New York, Canada, and back to Mexico and Europe to paint. Spaulding John was adept in many mediums – oil, dry-point, lithography, pastel, charcoal, pen and ink, watercolor, block print, and plexiglas. A hallmark of her work was her use of natural brown linen for her canvases, sizing it first with rabbit skin glue, a technique she learned from Hawthorne. She painted over a hundred and twenty-five portraits, among them Thomas Mann, Edgar Lee Masters, and Oveta Culp Hobby dressed in her uniform as first commander of the WAACS.

Oveta Culp Hobby

Spaulding John was deeply involved with the artist community in Houston; many of her colleagues appear in her papers at the WRC, including Chillman and McVey. She also published three books of poetry, illustrated with what she called her “living line” drawings. She died in Houston on July 22, 1972.

Memorabilia Monday: Kaleidoscope


Inside this fancy kaleidoscope is the Rice seal and perhaps other Rice-specific items, though it’s hard to tell. Honestly, we don’t have a story about why there’s a Rice branded kaleidoscope or who Van Cort is.


We thought we would instead give you a view of the images inside.


Artists in the Archives- Vera Prasilova Scott (1899-1996)

Gail Singer portrait

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Portland Art Museum in Oregon to see a collection of photographs by the extraordinary photographer and artist Vera Prasilova Scott. Prasilova Scott moved with her family from Houston to Portland in 1937, following her husband Arthur Scott’s appointment as a Professor in Chemistry at Reed College, and continued her career in the area. I was the guest of Curator Dr. Julia Dolan, Registrar Anne Crouchley, and Nadja Scott Lilly, Prasilova Scott’s daughter; they welcomed me warmly, and we shared our excitement over her works.

Exodus, courtesy of Nadja Scott Lilly

Mrs. Lilly was kind enough to show us sculptures created after the family moved to Portland. Prasilova Scott used her work to reflect her humanitarian response to social, political, and emotional events of the time. Exodus, shown here, was given with the Jordan Davidson Humanitarian Awards.

We have discussed the Prasilova Scott collection several times in the blog; both the beauty of her work and the techniques she used to accomplish it. Many of her photographs can be viewed online in the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive. You can also view a podcast narrated by Paul Hester discussing her portraits of Houston society here.

KTRU Tuesdays: Digitization Update

Over the past few weeks, we’ve embedded metadata in all of our WAV and MP3 files. Now, we’re moving on to the next steps.


First, we split up the files into two groups: what can go online and what can only be listened to in our reading, otherwise known as nearline.


Second, we’re currently working on addressing the needs of these two groups. For the online files, we are creating a massive Excel document that will hold all of the Dublin Core metadata that our institutional repository will need. For nearline, we are following our standard preservation procedures for handling digital files, which in this case is creating an AIP. This part of the process will take a few weeks and lots of patience.

After the second step is complete, we’ll be moving on to uploading all of the online files to the institutional repository ( It will be quite exciting.

Artists in the Archives – William Mozart McVey (1905-1995)

Bill McVey, artist, teacher, and athlete, was born in Boston in 1905 and moved to his home town, Cleveland, Ohio, with his parents in 1919. Big and athletic, he enjoyed football in high school, and after entering the Rice Institute in 1923 as an Architecture student Bill was promptly recruited for the team. McVey was elected Slime President (president of the freshman class at the Rice Institute) and became notorious for his good-natured shenanigans: there is a wonderful story in the Thresher about his escaping the pursuit of the sophomore class for days before the Freshman Ball. He made All-Southwest Conference as a defensive tackle in his first year at Rice, playing for Coach John Heisman’s football team. McVey fully enjoyed undergraduate life in Texas; however, by 1925 he decided to return to home to attend the Cleveland School of Art.

After graduating from the Cleveland School of Art in 1928 McVey set sail for Paris, became a student of Charles Despiau (an assistant of Auguste Rodin), and attended the Académies Scandinave,  Colarossi, and  la Grande Chaumière. Returning to Cleveland in 1932, McVey sculpted early works for the Works Progress Administration. He also married Leza Marie Sullivan, a ceramics and textile artist. In 1934 McVey returned to Texas to work, receiving the commission for the frieze and bronze doors of the San Jacinto Monument. He sculpted the bronze statue of Jim Bowie in Texarkana and the pink granite memorial to David Crockett in Ozona in celebration of the Texas Centennial in 1936. His most controversial work, a nine-foot statue of Sir Winston Churchill smoking a cigar, stands on the grounds of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. One of his last works was a life-sized bronze of John Heisman, now on the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Several pieces of McVey’s work can be seen at Rice University. The figure “Energy” at the entrance of the Abercrombie Engineering Laboratories depicts man converting energy from the sun. Cohen House, the faculty club, is decorated with his bas-relief portraits of distinguished professors. McVey and his wife, Leza, created terra cotta plaques depicting college life for the commons at Will Rice College and the original Hanszen College. The Woodson Research Center in Fondren Library holds a bronze bust of Architecture professor William Ward Watkin that we spoke about here. You can find more about Bill McVey and his work in his papers at the Woodson Research Center.

Images from:
Rice University Review, Vol 2, No. 1
1925 Campanile
Rice University Photo Files, Abercrombie Hall

KTRU Tuesdays: KPFT Bombing

KPFT has been in the news lately with a staff shake-up. While the KTRU archives recount the KPFT Pacifica strike dating from 1971, today we’d like to highlight the news reports surrounding the KPFT bombing by the KKK in 1970 and its aftermath. What follows is a series of news accounts from KTRU, usually featuring KPFT’s station manager Larry Lee, which document the aftermath, the Houston Police Department’s response, as well as the role of the FBI.

Image from: The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 58, No. 6, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 8, 1970