This artist inspired her students through her love of the arts

Sara K. Smith inspired her students with a love for art.
Sara K. Smith inspired her students with a love for art. Courtesy Paul Jermyn

Pictured at her easel is Sara Katherine Smith who was the head of the art department at Gulf Park College for Women in Long Beach.

Born in 1877 at Rio Vista, California, Smith studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Boston Museum Fine Art School, and privately under well-known artists of her time. At age 46, Smith joined the Gulf Park Staff in 1923. Smith is listed in the book “History of Art In Mississippi” as a teacher, and a portrait painter, but further research showed that she was much more.

Smith graduated from Wheatly (Illinois) College Academy and taught there until 1912, when she took a position in Wilmington, Delaware. Her medium was mainly etching, illustrating and watercolor painting. Smith was a member of the National Association of women Artist in New York, the New York Association of Painters and Sculptors, the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts, the Southern States Art League in Charleston, South Carolina, the New Orleans Art Association and the Gulf Coast Art Association.

Her works have been exhibited at the New York Watercolor Club; Plastic Club, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Watercolor Exhibit, Boston, Massachusetts; Mississippi Art Association, Jackson; Gulf Coast Art Association.

This last organization was founded in 1926, and held exhibits in both Biloxi and Gulfport. Smith earned a gold medal from the Mississippi Art Association in 1939 and prizes from the Gulf Coast Art Association over the years.

During her tenure at Gulf Park, Smith endeared herself to her students and inspired them with her “soul-stirring” talks on art. Daily Herald newspaper articles report her many public speaking engagements and her leadership in school activities. Gulf Park students came mainly from the South, the Mid-west and South and Central American countries. In addition to high academic standards, the college put heavy emphasis on art, the social graces, and all forms of athletics. The college closed in 1971.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast’s distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS39535; call 896-2424; or email