Ethel Hutson was a talented painter and pottery decorator and is recognized as a significant, well-connected figure in the New Orleans art world of the early twentieth century.
Ethel Hutson was a talented painter and pottery decorator, reflecting her training at Newcomb College in New Orleans under Ellsworth Woodward and Mary Sheerer. Her works reflect the Arts and Crafts aesthetic associated with the Woodward brothers and the art studios for young women at Newcomb College, as well as her awareness of the unique vision and techniques associated with the evolution of art by her well-known father, Charles Woodward Huston, after 1908. She is recognized as a significant, well-connected figure in the New Orleans art world of the early twentieth century. To no small degree, this was related to her respected position working with Ellsworth and William Woodward, beginning at Newcomb College and Tulane University.
Hutson was the eldest child of artist Charles Woodward Hutson and Mary Jane Lockett Hutson. She was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1872, and reportedly moved nine times across the South with her family before beginning her college studies, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, while her father taught there. An avid, early reader of Shakespeare (reportedly beginning at the age of seven) as well as other classic literature, her family recognized her abilities and encouraged her to sketch and paint at a young age.
When her father left the University of Mississippi, she moved to New York and studied at the Pratt Institute, the Art Students League (with Cary Lockett McAuley) and the National Academy of Design, before completing her studies at Newcomb College. She rejoined her family in College Station while her father taught at Texas A&M University, before the family moved to New Orleans when her father retired.
Hutson became a reporter for the city’s newspapers on art and other topics. In 1912 she was appointed head of the women’s department at the New Orleans Item. She was active in local women’s organizations and, as a member of the Era Club, focused on health care issues in New Orleans. She also became an active member, and later press officer, of the Woman’s Suffrage Party of New Orleans, which was an outgrowth of the Era Club. The first state convention of the party was held in New Orleans in 1913 and continued until women gained the right to vote, whereupon the party dissolved and reemerged as the League of Women Voters.
In addition to her role as an artist, Hutson worked professionally as an arts and museum administrator to advance New Orleans as the preeminent art center of the Gulf South. The Isaac Delgado Museum of Art (now the New Orleans Museum of Art) opened to the public in in 1911. Ethel Hutson served as the museum’s administrative secretary during its formative years. She also played a vital role with the Southern States Art League. As noted in the WPA’s New Orleans City Guide (1938), “The Southern States Art League has for its object the union of local art groups and individual artists and patrons, and the promotion of art in the South…Mr. Ellsworth Woodward has been President of the League since its inception, except for one year, and Miss Ethel Hutson has served as Secretary-Treasurer since 1924.” In her diverse roles as an artist, writer, arts administrator, and arts advocate, Hutson was a pioneer in the advancement of the visual arts in Louisiana and the larger South during the first half of the twentieth century.