Charlotte Dempsey

Charlotte Dempsey served as Director of the Children’s Art Centre for over 40 years, from 1930-1971. She developed daily art classes for children and a variety of programs to help foster an appreciation for the arts. The quality of these programs brought the Centre international recognition. Throughout her career as director, she worked to secure funding for programs and scholarships and even maintained the garden in front of the Art Centre.

Before joining the Art Centre, Dempsey studied at the Laselle Seminary, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Massachusetts School of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts. She served as a member of the Museums Council of Boston and Cambridge, was a trustee for the Art Center for Children in the Germanic Museum, and taught creative drawing at the Country Day School in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1937, she traveled to France to serve as an art education advisor to the French Ministry of Education.

In addition to creating a variety of art classes and programs for children, Dempsey also arranged special exhibits. Before Dempsey became director of the Art Centre, most items on display were prints; she realized that children in the South End might grow up without seeing original art, so Dempsey arranged rotating exhibits of work by local artists. These exhibits not only provided inspiration for the children, but also exposure for the artists. Kenneth Brown, executive director of USES in the 1970s, explained that Dempsey “established a confidence among artists and art gallery owners, so they… willingly made loan of their exhibits.” More importantly, she “trained assistants in Art Centre work, so that they have gone on and made their mark in the arts. Not only staff, but she has also discovered and furthered unknown talents among the young people who have come to the Centre.” In recognition of her contributions to the Art Centre and USES, a scholarship fund was established in her name in 1972. This scholarship award offers financial aid to a Boston student who plans to study fine arts in college.

The letter below, written by United South End Settlements executive director Kenneth Brown in honor of Miss Dempsey’s retirement, perhaps best summarizes her contributions to the Children’s Art Centre.