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Margaret Evans and Her Potent Influence as Butler Director

In the early days of The Butler Institute of American Art, Margaret Evans paved success for the museum with her sincere, earnest, professional and artistic capabilities. Joseph Butler, Jr., the founder and visionary of The Butler, appointed the Youngstown native as Director of the museum in 1919. Under his leadership, Evans gave all her thought and energy to The Butler as a way to bring the meaning of the arts to the people of Youngstown. Her desire to inspire others fueled her pioneering for The Butler moving it forward during her time here. This impact stemmed from her many roles while in administration.


One of her main duties was to plan the ‘transient’ exhibitions that came through the museum, (known today as traveling or temporary exhibitions.) She was also in charge of the permanent collection, of which was seen as very high standards of art, and is still considered today. Curating was another major undertaking of hers, as there is a multitude of elements to choosing, organizing, and hanging a show. Knowing this, Evans would diligently assess the works in the exhibition in relation to color, size, darkness and lightness as to not distract works from one another to allow the room to flow as if a work itself.


In addition to directing the museum, Evans directed the art classes held on museum property. At the time, The Butler hosted an art school in a house on Bryson Street in back of the gallery. She worked with Charles A. Hasz who instructed the adult classes.  Evans personally taught the children’s classes comprised of talented school children from the area. Her love of working with children in an art setting was evident in her interest in investing in young minds. So much so that she would organize exhibitions of her student’s work to display their talents. However, she never taught painting before doing so at The Butler.


Prior to being the Director of The Butler Institute of American Art, Evans was assistant to the principals of Princeton and Market Street schools where she taught the eighth grade students. She was very successful in this line of work, ultimately capturing the attention of Mr. Butler. From her success in the schools, Mr. Butler felt that she could interest the children enough that they would in turn interest their parents and others. Her love of education is still emulated in The Butler’s passion for education in present times.


Although Evans never taught painting prior to working at the museum, she had wielded a paintbrush since she was a little girl. Painting had always interested her and it then became her life’s work. By studying the different styles and processes of painting, she became an excellent judge of artwork.


Evans studied at Rayen and Chicago University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. Later, while at The Butler, she attended art school at Columbia University in New York for six consecutive summers. Evans found in her own life that a wide range of education opens new doors of usefulness for women, enabling them to be capable of big things.


While Evans developed and propelled the growth of The Butler, Howard Jones, the first President of Youngstown State University, was in the process of initiating an art department at the school. Jones saw the major role that the arts play in the development of individuals and planned to act on that by improving the education offered at the University. He implemented this in 1935 by enlisting the help of Margaret Evans to teach and direct the development of art courses and curriculum. Evans then established a career in art education in elementary & secondary schools. During the growth of the universities art department, classes were held at The Butler Institute of American Art, the Mill Creek Park art museum and various places around campus. It wasn’t until after World War II in 1947 that an official major in art was established, making Evans the first Chairperson of the Department of Art. She remained in that position until her retirement in 1953.