Another Maysie Dimond Mural Mystery: What Happened to the Dyess Colony Mural Given to Eleanor Roosevelt?



courtesy Special Collections, University of Memphis Libraries

Just a few days ago, I wrote about the wonderful murals that local artist Maysie Dimond had painted across the walls of Ellis Auditorium. I'm sure you remember that charming story, and told it to your children as you tucked them into their beds at night.

At the time, I didn't have any photos of the actual Ellis Auditorium murals, but ran a photo of Maysie standing in front of a nice mural (above) she had painted of the historic Dyess Colony in Arkansas, which — so the newspapers reported — she planned to present to Eleanor Roosevelt. This was back in the 1930s, you understand.

Well, we know the Ellis Auditorium murals bit the dust. And now it seems the Dyess Colony mural (above) has gone missing, too. Good grief. Has nothing by Maysie Dimond been preserved?

Dr. Ruth Hawkins, who is the director of Arkansas Heritage Sites at Arkansas State University, read my blog post (as did everyone else in North America, I presume) and wondered about the Dyess Colony mural. So she actually contacted the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, to see where they had stored such a precious artifact.

Imagine her surprise and disappointment when they replied that not only did they not have it, they don't even have any record of receiving it. Oh, c'mon! This is the response from the library/museum officials:

"Dear Dr. Hawkins, as the Museum Collections Manager here at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum I received your inquiry regarding the Maysie Dimond painting of Dyess Colony.

"Unfortunately, a search of our Museum collection yielded no such painting, and a search of several reference sources also proved unfruitful. I notice that in the blog excerpt regarding the 1937 Memphis Press-Scimitar article, that it states the painting 'would' be presented to Eleanor Roosevelt. There is the possibility that it never made it to Mrs. Roosevelt.

"On the other hand, if the presentation of  the painting did indeed take place, it is difficult to know what may have happened to it, since the Presidential Library was not yet in existence as a repository for such gifts.

"If I come across any information regarding the painting, and whether or not it in fact was given to Mrs Roosevelt, I will be sure to let you know. — Michelle M. Frauenberger, Museum Collections Manager, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library"

Well, she's right about that. The Roosevelt Library didn't even open until 1940. So where would that painting have gone in 1937?

Back to Dr. Hawkins. She tells, "I am leading the restoration of the historic Administration Building in Dyess (pictured in Ms. Dimond's work) and would love to be able to find that painting. Perhaps it remains somewhere in Memphis?"

Perhaps, Dr. Hawkins. Perhaps . . .

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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