Behind the Art
In 1958, the Junior League of Longview, knowing that every great city has cultural arts, began the long process of starting an art museum. Upon the recommendation of Jerry Bywaters, Dallas Museum of Art Executive Director at the time, the League ladies began conducting annual art Invitational competitions among area artists. By purchasing the winning pieces each year, the League acquired more than 50 paintings, and in 1972 the museum received its charter as the Longview Museum and Art Center. The paintings were originally housed at the Nicholson Memorial Library and later moved to the former Northcutt Furniture Store building on College Street, one of the five locations that have been home to the museum.
In January 1998 the museum moved to its location on Tyler Street. LMFA’s permanent collection has grown to nearly 1,000 works of art and includes paintings, woodcuts, photographs, sculpture, lithographs, serigraphs, collages, and works on paper. Works center on early Texas regionalist art from the 1930s to 1970s. The museum’s collecting philosophy makes room for consideration of all culturally and historically significant works from the 19th century to the present. In addition, the museum continues the more than 60-year tradition of hosting an annual student invitational. This exhibition spotlights more than 300 pieces of work from students enrolled in dozens of high schools across multiple East Texas counties. This outreach not only encourages and fosters budding artists, but also promotes art education programming in the region.
In 2005, with land donations from Ann Lowman, and Charlotte and John Wrather, LMFA created the JT Smith Sculpture Garden. In 2018 with the help of Ralph Pelaia and others the garden was redesigned and named the Pelaia Plaza JT Smith Sculpture Garden. The garden serves as a much needed green space respite for the community in the heart of downtown with a performance stage surrounded by beautiful landscape and outdoor sculpture.
Today, the museum is planning one final move - to the former Longview National Bank and Regions Bank Building across from the courthouse. LMFA is equally focused on preserving the Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern architectural elements of the Fredonia Street building while making necessary structural and environmental improvements to attract modern visitors.