Guide to the Gertrude Barnstone papers, 1956 - 2015 MS 587
Gertrude Barnstone was born in Houston, Texas on September 5, 1925. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Rice University in 1945 and also studied art at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and Stanford University Art Department. In 1953, Gertrude Barnstone was comissioned to create a sculpture of two large, curved aluminum pieces for the exterior of the U.S. Green Stamp building in Houston. She continued to contribute artwork to local exhibitions as well as create sculptures for private residences, working largely with steel, but also with wire, glass, mirrors, fabric, and other materials.
In the 1960s and 1970s Gertrude Barnstone took an active role in politics and social activism, championing women's rights and civil rights. She was elected to the Houston Independent School District School Board in 1964 and served a five-year term while achieving significant changes regarding desegregation and federal aid.
In 1969 Gertrude Barnstone divorced from her husband of thirteen years, Howard Barnstone, a prominent architect and co-designer of the Rothko Chapel. She began studying welding at Houston Community College in 1969 and worked at a factory making plexiglass skylights in help support her three children, a job that also provided the inspiration to incorporate glass into her colorful and intricate metal sculptures. From 1970-1973 Gertrude Barnstone was producer of the KPRC-TV educational children's program "Sundown's Treehouse" and from 1972-1973 served as Director of Development for the Institute for Storm Research, focusing on minority needs and representation in both positions. Although her 1972 campaign for a seat in the State Senate, District 15 was unsuccessful, she remained dedicated to building a stronger community, serving as President and treasurer for the Texas ACLU Foundation, President of the National Coalition of Women's Art Organization, 1981-1982, and president of the Houston Women's Caucus for Art, 1980. In the early 1990s she founded Artist Rescue Mission, an organization that provided aid to the people in war-torn Sarajevo. In 1995, Barnstone received the Lifetime Achievement in Civil Liberties award from the Greater Houston chapter of the ACLU.
Gertrude Barnstone continues to create distinct glass and steel sculptures ranging from floor lamps, to tables, to abstract outdoor scultpures for both private and public spaces.
This collection contains the personal files of native Houstonian Gertrude Barnstone, including information on her careers in politics, social activism, education, and art.
Series I includes newsclippings, brochures, reports, campaign realia, and other materials related to Barnstone's involvement in local, state, and national politics.
Series II primarily includes materials related to Barnstone's activism during her five year tenure on the HISD School Board from 1964-1969 and her role as producer of the educational children's program "Sundown's Treehouse" from 1970-1973. Included are brochures, newsclippings, articles, awards, scripts, and other materials.
Series III is divided into three subseries. Subseries A contains general files on Gertrude Barnstone's career in art and the Houston art community, including newsclippings, exhibition invitations and programs, awards, correspondence, and other materials. Subseries B contains photographs of Barnstone sculptures spanning her entire career as well as photographs of Barnstone herself and documentation of events at which she was honored for her diverse pursuits. Subseries C contains her personal sketchbooks and loose sketches of ink drawings and watercolors. Likewise, the oversize materials consist of sketchbooks and loose drawings, as well as campaign posters, photographs and magazines.
This material is open for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish material from the Gertrude Barnstone papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Gertrude Barnstone papers, 1956-2015, MS 587, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Donated by Gertrude Barnstone, October 10, 2011.
Detailed Description of the Collection