Artistry Still in Motion

When The Helen L. Smith Scholarship Fund for Children and the Arts was created in 1994, no one imagined that more than 5,400 youth between the ages of six and twelve would have participated in art classes at The Delaplaine Arts Center to date. The Helen Smith Free Workshops for Kids are supported with grants from the fund, and one sign of its success and popularity is the waiting list of kids hoping to secure a spot.

Helen Smith, one of Frederick County’s renowned artists, was born in 1894 and would have celebrated her 125th birthday on January 21, 2019. Her 100th birthday was honored in 1994 with a luncheon and exhibit of her works, organized by the Community Foundation, Hood College, and numerous local organizations of which Helen was a member, and the fund to provide art scholarships for children was announced.

Helen attended Maryland Institute of Art on a scholarship her uncle discovered was available, which provided for one student from every county in Maryland to study. She graduated in 1916 and then taught art at Hood College for the next eight years. In a time when it was acceptable for women to be teachers but not entrepreneurs, Helen opened an art shop on North Market Street. An article in the January 21, 1994 edition of The Frederick News-Post quoted her as saying “It was very daring. I had my kiln I set up in my shop, and I painted right there.” Ten years later, Helen moved her business to what was then considered the “country” in Frederick County – Braddock Heights. Many said she wouldn’t survive, but her business thrived. Her reputation as an artist, including the painting of clock faces, silhouettes, plates, other dishware, family coats of arms, flowers, landscapes, animals, and portraits, even captured national attention at times, including Mamie Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, when he served as Vice-President of the United States.

Helen’s artistry is still in motion beyond her lifetime not only through the countless pieces of her art treasured by so many but through the workshops at the Delaplaine. The classes are taught by qualified instructors, and each class focuses on a specific artist, art movement, technique, or art period. It includes creative time for each student to make a piece of art using the lessons learned. A schedule of upcoming classes in 2019 includes yarn wall art, landscape drawing, experimental painting, and more. And while not every student ends up with an art career, youth who participated have later entered the Bettie Awards, the Delaplaine’s high school art contest, and other youth have come back to help with the workshops as interns or volunteers. Helen would be proud of this legacy.

You don’t have to be a renowned artist to create your own legacy. Simply wanting to do something to benefit others is enough. Scholarships supporting education at many levels, or grants helping organizations or causes important to you can happen through your own fund at the Community Foundation. Just like Helen, your legacy is unique to you.