Mary Ann Hall – The Evolution of an Artist

Stories / June 3, 2015
Mary Ann Hall at Stonehawk Studio

Mary Ann Hall at Stonehawk Studio

When you mention the arts, Mary Ann Hall’s name almost always comes up. An artist for almost 50 years, she has worked tirelessly to support and expand the arts in this community. Her most visible effort is founding the Art Bazaar to showcase the work of other fellow artists and crafts people in the area.

“Jefferson City really has really been blessed with Mary Ann’s commitment to the arts,” said Lucia Kincheloe, chairman of the Cultural Arts Commission and Foundation. “Without her, the artistic community would not be nearly as evolved as it is now.”

“Many though, aren’t aware of the breadth of her impact. She’s comfortable leading the charge but is also often behind the scenes,” she said.

Involved in theater, marketing and graphic design, she has also served as the president of the Historic City of Jefferson, an organization dedicated to preservation in the city. A true renaissance woman with an independent spirit, Hall’s work and significant community involvement is somewhat overshadowed by the adventure of her life. Exuding charm, character and joy, Hall, it seems, has made living well her art.

She grew up on a farm in Iowa and moved here when she was 11 after her father transferred with his job as associate director of State Farm Insurance. Her mother worked as an office manager for the company. Hall attended the old Moreau Heights Elementary School, Simonsen Junior High and Jefferson City High School, while her family moved around living in  many different neighborhoods, including on Moreau Drive.

In 2010, her own historic home at 1110 Moreau Drive that she shares with her husband of 31 years, Stuart Murphy, became a Designated Landmark for the City of Jefferson. She mounted the official medallion, which she coincidentally designed, on the iron metal fence that her son, Sean, built across the front yard.

MAH_2“As a child I lived only one block from where I live now. I didn’t get that far but a lot has happened in between,” cracked Hall. “My life has been very serendipitous.”

It does seem that Hall was destined to be part of Jefferson City’s future. Interested in art from an early age, her first official recognition in art design came when she was 18 and won the citywide Christmas Lighting contest for the family’s home built on Green Berry Road that was designed by prominent architect Hurst John.

While she had never taken any formal art classes in high school, at Columbia (formerly Christian) College, then a two-year girls school, she remembers art teacher Sidney Larson, who studied with Thomas Hart Benton.

“He really inspired and encouraged me to pursue art,” she said.

After graduating from the University of Missouri with a bachelors of fine art in 1963, she worked two years as a litho artist at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. She got married in 1964 with plans to pursue her master’s degree in art from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

During her coursework she decided to become a caseworker with the Department of Welfare in the Division of Family Services Aid to Dependent Children in Jackson County. Later she transferred to Boone County DFS, Child Welfare Services.

With her husband in graduate school, she started drawing homes to earn extra money for a trip to Europe, where she visited many famous art museums and lived for six months on the island of Mallorca, Spain.

MAH_3“We left on a Norwegian freighter and camped and studied and created art,” she said.

“We returned a year later on a Yugoslavian freighter, pregnant and broke but with a different world view. We didn’t know where we were going to live but we had a wonderful experience.”

They ended up on a farm outside Ashland with their newborn son, Sean.

“I became a hippie mom, gardening, canning, cooking, baking bread and sewing,” Hall said.

After moving back to Jefferson City in 1972, she took a part-time job doing floral arrangements and window decorating for a downtown business.

She also resumed doing ink drawings of homes and public buildings, including the Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Supreme Court and Cole County Courthouse. She has continued to do the ink drawings throughout her various careers and has drawn hundreds of private homes in the area.

After Sean started school, she took an administrative job with the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) dealing with the interstate placement of children in foster care and adoption. She would later change her job to serve as the graphic artist for all the DSS divisions.

Eventually, after 13 years, her marriage ended. Her son lived with his father, his new wife and her two boys, while she stayed in Jefferson City

“It was a difficult adjustment for all of us but I really explored my interests. I studied metaphysics, took belly dance classes and traveled,”
she said.

In 1979, she met Murphy, who also worked at DSS. They married in 1984 and after she retired from the state in 1988 they started the M&M Agency, with Murphy consulting and offering board training for non-for-profits. She also was a co-owner in Marble Graphics with her brother, Dan Basler, and his wife, Kim. For 15 years, she served as the creative director for Daily Plan-It, an event planning business owned by Jill Snodgrass.

“Mary Ann is one of the most creative and giving people I’ve ever worked with,” Snodgrass said. “She’s certainly had many incarnations in her life.”

Both Snodgrass and Kincheloe point to Hall’s ideas and her ability to bring both an artist perspective but also understand marketing and logistical applications.

“Mary Ann is one of those people who can work with her right and left brain, and that’s rare,”  Kincheloe said. “I can’t count the number of times we’ve sat down to brainstorm a project.”

Always ready to help, Hall remembers the ‘90s as a time of “growing pains.”

“We were really questioning what we were supposed to do here in Jefferson City,” she said.

Ready for a change, the couple decided to spend a month in Taos, New Mexico as a potential place to move.

“We considered retiring there but the cost of living is very expensive and we wanted to be close to our aging parents,” she said. “A friend gave us some very good advice, to grow where we were planted so we stayed in Jefferson City.”

They purchased their home on Moreau Drive, which was built in 1909 and contained a three-story stone carriage house. It became Stonehawk Studio, in the style of the pueblo style studios on the side streets of Taos and the small villages in New Mexico.

“Stonehawk is my son’s birth given Indian name and the studio became my New Mexico,” she said.

Inside are some of the props and sets she designed for numerous theater productions and special events. Some pieces are still used or loaned out for events. The top floor is her private gallery filled filled with artifacts and collections from a variety of art ventures, including her old belly dancing costume on a mannequin, along with magazines, catalogs and art books for inspiration.

“My time as art curator for Central Bank opened many doors to learn about an unfamiliar period of art which I grew to appreciate beyond any studies in a college class or travels and I got paid for it,” she said.

But after all of the major art pieces were hung at Central Bank’s new Finance Center on East  Miller in 2005, she moved on to other endeavors, like the Connect to the Arts Festival with Kincheloe.

“When Mary Ann closes one door she purposefully opens up another,” Kincheloe said. “She doesn’t rest on her laurels but is always doing something out of the box. A lot of times artists are not recognized, but we owe her a lot.”

While her pen and ink drawings of landmark buildings are well known, founding the Art Bazaar is the culmination of years of effort to create a place for artists to showcase their work. Sean, a longtime chef presently at Capital City Cork & Provisions, also exhibits his metal sculptures at The Art Bazaar.

“We proudly exhibit many pieces from area artists in our home. Stu is a big supporter of the arts community and one of the Art Bazaar’s major customers,” she said. “Everything, all the pieces of art in my home and in Stonehawk Studio have an interesting story.”

“When I look back and recall some of my more vivid memories, it feels like I have lived several lives throughout all these decades,” she said.

-Article photography by Anthony Roderman-

Alvin Leifeste

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