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Leaving a Legacy Gordon and Wenonah Fay Holl

Historic Arkansas Museum - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Photo by James Grove, courtesy of Soiree“It will go to the Historic Arkansas Museum because they focus on Arkansas artists.” This is what Wenonah Fay Holl (1915-2011) told Soirée in 2004 when asked what would happen after her death to the remarkable collection of Arkansas art she and her late husband Gordon had amassed over the years.

More than just collectors, the two were a part of the community of artists and art patrons. They were actively involved in supporting the arts and could be seen at art openings and events all around the state.

“Wenonah Fay and Gordon were a gift to Arkansas artists,” said El Dorado artist Jorge Villegas. “They epitomized the American sophisticated refinement—quiet, gentle, brilliant, role models. They helped you discover the artist alive in you, and nurtured it.

They were open to everyone who approached them and they left a wonderful legacy.”

Their art collection began without intent. The two simply purchased a piece they both liked and went from there. Wenonah Fay told Soirée, “Collecting art is like breathing. You don’t have to think about it.” At the heart of the Holls’ collection is a significant body of work created by two of their closest friends, well-known Arkansas artists Louis and Elsie Freund. The collection continued to grow through the decades, from their first acquisition in the early 1940s through the early 21st century, and also contains works by Jorge Villegas, Maria Botti Villegas, Alice Ayers, Sally Williams, William Davis and Doug Stowe, among many others. The collection includes Arkansas-made fine art, furniture, pottery, glass, quilts, wooden objects and jewelry.

Over the years, Wenonah Fay worked with the museum in cataloguing her collection; and making sure that the bequest was a good fit for the museum. “The Holls were dedicated to Arkansas artists and their collection embodies their enthusiasm and loyalty to cultivating the local art scene,” said Historic Arkansas Museum Director Bill Worthen. “Because the museum collects Arkansas-made fine and decorative art, including contemporary Arkansas art, we are better off for this generous, thought-out bequest. The collection will remain intact, in Arkansas and preserved for future generations.” He added, “We may have gained this unique collection but we lost a dear friend and a great supporter of the arts. Wenonah Fay will be missed by many.”

If you would like to receive confidential information on how to include Historic Arkansas Museum Foundation in your will or trust, please call Ellen Korenblat, Director of Community Engagement, 501-324-9304.