A Life in Art: Miss Blanche Hutto (1902-1981)

Suzanne Slick, Collection Information Specialist

Teacher, Artist, Lecturer, Craftsman, Traveler

A portrait of Blanche Hutto.
A photo of Miss Blanche Hutto in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel March 5, 1966. The article discusses Miss Hutto speaking to the Exploring Arts Group of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. The title of Miss Hutto’s presentation was, “The Elements of Design”. Used with permission from the Journal Gazette Photo Editor.

An exotic-sounding name keeps popping up in my world – Miss Blanche Hutto – compelling me to take a deep dive into Fort Wayne’s art history.  If you read my December blog post about Bill Blass you know that Miss Hutto was Blass’ art teacher at South Side High School in the 1930s when the young designer was a Scholastic Award recipient. And if you attended the panel discussion on the Fort Wayne Art School in December, you heard Don Kruse reminiscing about Miss Hutto who was one of the teachers of the Art School’s Saturday Young People’s Classes when Don was a student. I heard her name as a teen in the 1970s when my mother would tell us about her fascinating experiences at various Fort Wayne Museum of Art lectures and demonstrations that Blanche organized. I loved her poetic-sounding name (her mother, Nellie, was a poet), and envied those who were entertained and educated while attending all sorts of lively talks and activities conducted by Miss Hutto.  When I began working at FWMoA, Blanche’s name appeared inside the front covers of many of the art books in our reference library – they were given by her estate in the 1980s.

Miss Huttos’ name also appeared in the local papers numerous times in the 1960s and 1970s as a “well-known local artist”; as her many lectures for the Museum’s Exploring Arts series were covered in the newspapers’ local culture pages.  In a February 1969 article, The Fort Wayne News Sentinel said “Fort Wayne audiences are accustomed to expecting an interesting talk with enlightening highlights when Miss Blanche Hutto is the scheduled speaker.”

Blanche Hutto sits in front of her loom and weaves in this photograph.
The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette October 24, 1965 image. “Miss Blanche Hutto, widely recognized for her unusual work both in weaving and enameling, will be among the many skilled artists and craftsmen whose work will be offered for sale at the Art Museum during the three-day ‘Art for Sale’ event. Miss Hutto has exhibited at numerous museums and art fairs and has received wide praise for her work.” Used with permission from the Journal Gazette Photo Editor.

The topics of her talks ranged from the Byzantine to the Impressionists, from the elements of design to portraiture, and were often supplemented by her travel photographs and objects of art and craft from her personal collection.  In her “retirement” after decades of public school teaching, she taught hands-on classes as part of the Museum’s Decorative Living Series – some of these were on needlework, enameling, making sculptures from found objects, ceramics, reverse applique, weaving, macramé, photograms, and jewelry crafting.

Soon after her death in January of 1981, The Fort Wayne News Sentinel roto Magazine published a remembrance of Miss Blanche Hutto. Sharon Little wrote, “Her friends, colleagues and acquaintances agree: Blanche Hutto was a woman, educator and artist they will never forget. They take comfort these days in the fact that the many art forms she eagerly pursued, mastered, created and then shared with others in settings as multi-faceted as her talents will continue to speak even though their creator died Jan. 4. Thousands of lives were touched by Hutto, who advised by a teacher in third grade she should become a teacher, followed that career for 48 years in elementary, secondary and college-level classes. Although she formally retired from public schools in 1967, that “retirement“ only signaled her prompt move into other arenas where she enthusiastically, and freely, shared her time and talents.”

A newspaper clipping shows Blanche Hutto and Mrs. Byron Kilgore working on an art piece.
The Fort Wayne News Sentinel February 12, 1972 image “Miss Blanche Hutto shares ideas with Mrs. Byron Kilgore during the Decorative Arts Workshop Series. Miss Hutto, former high school teacher, plants ideas in the minds of her class and says they are the creative ones.”

Her friend, Marcia Adams, is quoted as saying, “Blanche worked tirelessly teaching arts and crafts for the Museum’s Exploring Art Series, for which she refused to be paid. Blanche would say, ‘Just give my check to the museum, they need it worse than I do.’ Above all she was a show person. She knew how to market art using the idiom of the day. And she was always fair, never petty. She was a mentor to many of us at the museum.”

Blanche Hutto truly lived a life in art!

Some of Miss Hutto’s many credentials:

B. A., Ball State University

M.A., Columbia University

Continuing Studies: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Cleveland Institute of Art, Cranbrook Academy of Art, East Connecticut State College, University of Tennessee, University of Oregon and Indiana State University

Art Instructor, Fort Wayne South Side High School

Art Department Head, Fort Wayne Central High School,

Art Instructor, the Young People’s Saturday Classes of the Fort Wayne Art School

World Crafts Council member

American Crafts Council member

Indiana Craftsmen member

Indiana Weavers Guild member

Shuttlecraft Guild member

Fort Wayne Museum of Art Decorative Living and Exploring Arts Series lecturer and instructor

Fort Wayne Museum of Art docent

The exhibition 1026 West Berry Street: The Fort Wayne Art School, will be up through February 10, 2019.

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