“My interest in art started all over again when I
came to Chicago,” she says. There, she started taking
evening classes in sculpture at the Art Institute of
Chicago, working predominantly in clay. In 1951 Fred’s
work brought them to Dallas.
“Shortly after I arrived I looked up the Dallas
Museum of Fine Arts (the precursor to today’s Dallas
Museum of Art) and went to the sculpture department
to study with Octavio Medellin. He gave me a real
understanding of what sculpture was,” she explains.
The class involved making one’s own clay. When she
became pregnant with her second child, she had to
switch media or stop making art. The latter was not
an option. She found a place in Otis Dozier’s painting
class. “I was in awe of paint and color,” she explains.
Baker says she worked quietly in class for some
time before Dozier, already an established regional
artist, called out to her and said, “Hey, you in the
corner! Good work—keep doing it!” This was a
golden time for the Museum. Another one of her
instructors, Jerry Bywaters, served as its director,
and the faculty included many well-respected artists.
But as much as painting was a revelation, Baker
says, “My passion was sculpture,” which led her to
a bronze sculpting class offered by Mary Albrecht.
Baker eventually began to teach painting in a studio she
and Fred built in their garage. For 15 years, her thrice-weekly classes were fully subscribed with enthusiastic
Then another opportunity came knocking. A friend
was opening a gallery and asked Baker if she would
like to become a partner in the venture. She decided to
try it. After 18 months, the friend and another partner
left. “That’s when I opened Edith Baker Gallery. I was
determined to succeed and stick with it,” she explains.
“The main thing was the love of art,” Baker says
of her decision to continue with the gallery. She also
saw a real need for local artists to have local galleries in
which to show their work. “We have a lot of artists in
Dallas and I thought, ‘Why don’t I show their work?’
The relationship between artists and gallery made it
a second home for them and for me. We did create a
family of artists. That’s what I counted on: loyalty and
longevity. Every artist I had stayed for years.”
Baker was also instrumental in the founding of
two of the city’s visual arts organizations: the Dallas
Art Dealers Association (DADA) and the Emergency
Artists Support League (EASL). Realizing that other
cities had an association for galleries, she and other
gallerists banded together to create an organization
with the dual purpose of implementing ethical practices
for galleries and providing an educational resource for
the community. What began with 12 galleries is now
a thriving non-profit organization comprised of more
than 30 galleries, educational institutions, and alternative
art spaces spread across North Texas. In honor of its
20th anniversary in 2005, DADA created the Edith
Baker Art Scholarship and Artist Career Development
Fund. It continues to provide funding for area visual art
students. At the age of 90 Baker still attends meetings
and participates in discussions about the fund.
My love for art started in childhood,”
she says.“From the time I was six
or seven I copied everything.”
This carved bowl by local artist Denise Brown was a birthday gift from
Kenneth Craighead and Steve Green.