Every week approximately 15 students make the trek uphill from Hernando High School through downtown Brooksville to the historic wood framed building which is home to the Historic Brooksville Women’s Club of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC).
They file in quietly, but with much anticipation for the work to come. Laying down their backpacks, they partake of home baked cookies, made by club member Tina Dolan along with lemonade.
The students are members of Hernando High’s Art Club and have been given the job of creating Brooksville’s latest mural under the supervision of Hernando High Art Teacher Michael Nicholson. Nicholson holds a Masters of Fine Arts from The Academy of Art in San Francisco.
In return for their work, the Historic Brooksville Women’s Club (HBWC) will be making a donation to the Hernando High School Arts Program in order to support student field trips and other activities that help students develop their portfolios, apply to college and get scholarships. HBWC was able to obtain a grant from the Hernando County Arts Council in March 2017 in support of the project, but additional funds are needed to get the project completed.
The themes for the mural were developed by HBWC. The mural will depict seven themes relating to the club’s history and contributions to the community. Those are as follows:
1. Early days of Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, under leadership of former Brooksville resident, May Jennings, establishing Royal Palms Park
2. Women in a field and sweet potato vines represent how enough funds were raised to build the HBWC clubhouse. Club women obtained land in the 1920's and grew vegetables to sell in order to raise money to build the clubhouse. The clubhouse was built in 1932.
3. The club’s signature event, Historic Tea, will be depicted by women in period dress having tea.
4. Lena Culver Hawkins, former Club President, Clubhouse architect and the first woman to be Mayor of Brooksville will be shown in the mural directing the construction of the Clubhouse building.
5. Buildings in Brooksville, in perspective, will symbolize the long relationship between HBWC and the community. The women’s club early contributions to lending libraries and kindergarten will be represented by residents entering the library with books as well as children in front of the library and school.
6. A group of women of different periods, holding objects that represent GFWC projects and programs in the areas of Arts, Education, Public Issues, Home Life, Conservation & International Outreach.
7. Wedding party on the steps of the Courthouse, representing the clubhouse as community center and venue for family events, as well as the club’s connection with civil affairs.
Michael Nicholson compiled those themes to create a rough sketch of the mural. Ideas were again refined and Nicholson created a second sketch encompassing the core of the mural. Students are now working from this second sketch and transferring the sketch from paper to the 100’ wide by 10’ tall cement block canvass using graphite and cell phones.
The cell phone is an important tool for the muralists. Before they go outside to draw, each artist snaps a photo of their assigned portion of the sketch which has been divided into four sections. They draw the images from the photo on their cell phone onto the mural. Each of the four mural sections has a team assigned to it and a team captain. The Art Club President coordinates each team and brings questions and issues to Mr. Nicholson.
The students explain that they are using the skills they have developed in the classroom to create the mural such as sight sizing, gridding before you actually start drawing and creating simple shapes with detail to be added later on.
Alyssa Nixon, Art Club Treasurer says “learning to break it down into something simpler so we don’t get overwhelmed and confused with what we’re doing,” is a skill that is especially handy in tackling this project.
“We’re just really grateful Nicholson was able to give us this type of experience. A lot of us want to do something with art when we graduate. We would like that to be our profession… maybe this will be a stepping stone for that,” said Jessica Marlin, Art Club Vice President.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.
Jude Simpson, HBWC President explains that the organization’s roots can be traced back to Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist who “attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a women’s club—(called) Sorosis.”
In celebration of Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Jane Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to pursue the cause of federation by attending a convention in New York City. On April 24, 1890, 63 clubs officially formed the General Federation of Women’s Clubs by ratifying the GFWC constitution.
The GFWC Hernando County Chapter was founded and joined the Florida Federation in 1910. They were chartered in Hernando County around 1926. Charter members include many prominent members of the community like Lena C. Hawkins, Margaret Robins, Lisa Von Borowsky, Mary Coogler, and women of the Springstead, Law, Chelf, Rogers and Stringer families.
The early focus of HBWC was on community improvement, libraries, kindergarten, home life and women’s right to vote. Today the club is still very active in the community. Today, on-going community projects include comfort bears, chemo caps and the PHSC scholarship fund. The HBWC has given modest cash donations to Crescent Clinic and other service organizations in recent years. They support other community organizations, like Brooksville Main Street, through volunteering and helping to spread the word. Through rentals and events, the Club has been a part of community and family life for Brooksville residents for many years with the hosting of wedding receptions, baby showers, graduations, beauty pageants, reunions, birthday parties and performances.
Annual Historic Tea
The HBWC Annual Historic Tea will take place on October 19 and 20, 2017 during Brooksville’s Founders Week. Tickets are still available for this unique event which supports this wonderful community organization.
“We all dress up in costumes and we serve savories… Everybody comes, everybody comes from downtown on their lunch hour… this year we’re having Sweet Adelines perform,” remarked the club’s Arts Chairman Rosemarie Grubba.
“They come in their crystals and their furs… it’s a riot… People who you never see dressed up get really decked out and come have tea with us… We really have a good time,” she said.
The event begins at 11:30AM on Oct. 19 and 20 with Sweet Adelines performing at noon and 1:30 p.m. Call for tickets or to RSVP for groups of six or more.
Cost: Advance tickets are $12, $15 at the door; includes assorted tea sandwiches, scones, salad, dessert and fresh brewed tea.
Phone: (352) 340-4123, 799-4319
HBWC membership is open to all women living in Hernando County who wish to make a difference in their community. Active Members are expected to actively contribute to the goals and activities of the Club according to individual strengths and abilities. Active Membership costs $46 annually. Supporting members also contribute through paying a higher membership fee. To find out more about becoming a member, email Club President Jude Simpson: firstname.lastname@example.org