Mary Elisabeth Hutchinson (1906-1970) grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. Hutchinson participated actively with Atlanta’s emerging arts community during the 1920s. In 1926, she accepted a scholarship to study art in New York at the National Academy of Design. Hutchinson had already moved to New York by the time Atlanta’s High Museum of Art opened in 1926, but she participated in some of the museum’s earliest events and exhibitions. Throughout her career in New York, she remained an active participant in Atlanta’s arts scene, and the local papers kept the hometown crowd up-to-date regarding her achievements.
Hutchinson studied at the National Academy of Design from 1926-1931. She began submitting her work professionally in the fall of 1931. Her work began attracting critical attention the following spring. This led to an invitation from Atlanta’s High Museum for a large solo summer show in July 1932. Her first solo exhibition in New York followed in 1934 at the Midtown Galleries.
Hutchinson participated with diverse groups simultaneously as a professional artist in New York. Like many artists, she worked for various New Deal art programs from their inception in 1933 to their dismantling in 1943. For much of the New Deal, Hutchinson served as a supervisor of teachers for the New York Federal Art Project. Because she worked as an artist-teacher-administrator, her artistic production remained her own outside the purview of the WPA unlike her peers who worked for the easel division or on mural projects. Throughout the duration of the New Deal, she exhibited independently through the Midtown Galleries, and as a member of various artists organizations including the National Association of Women Artists, the New York Society of Women Artists, the Society of Independent Artists, and the American Artists Congress.
Mary E. Hutchinson returned to Atlanta in 1945 and quickly joined the faculty of the Atlanta Art Institute associated with the High Museum. Around 1949-1950, Hutchinson appears to have severed her ties to Atlanta’s official arts community. The circumstances remain unclear. In 1950, she mounted two solo exhibitions in alternative Atlanta forums, the Castle Gallery and the West Hunter Street Library which served as Atlanta’s African-American Carnegie Library. This proved to be Hutchinson’s final solo exhibition.