Arts Club of Washington – Wikipedia

Theater at the Arts Club, after a recital.

Interior of the Club before a reception. On the wall is the portrait of James Monroe, who lived at the Cleveland Abbe House at the start of his presidency.

The Arts Club of Washington is a private club to promote the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Founded by Bertha Noyes in May 1916, its first president was Henry Kirke Bush-Brown; Mathilde Mueden Leisenring was among its original members,[1] as were Susan Brown Chase, Catharine Carter Critcher, Lola Sleeth Miller, Bertha E. Perrie, and Mary Gine Riley.[2]

It is located at the Cleveland Abbe House. Since 2006, the Club has awarded the Marfield Prize, also known as the National Award for Arts Writing, for nonfiction books about the arts written for a broad audience.


The club supports visual, performing, and literary arts in Washington, D.C.[3] It hosts a noon-time concert series.[4] It awards arts scholarships.[5]

The Marfield Prize, National Award for Arts Writing[edit]

The Marfield Prize, also known as the National Award for Arts Writing, is given annually by the Arts Club of Washington to nonfiction books about the arts written for a broad audience. Intended to help increase access to the arts, the Prize “celebrates prose that is lucid, luminous, clear, and inspiring—writing that creates a strong connection with arts and artists.”[6]

The Prize of $10,000, which the Club asserts is the only one of its kind in the country, honors nonfiction books first published in the U.S., by a single author who is living at the time of the book’s nomination. First given in 2006, the prize’s endowment was established by long-time Arts Club member Jeannie S. Marfield in honor of Florence Berryman and Helen Wharton.[7]

The award is given to the author of a nonfiction book about any artistic discipline (visual, literary, performing, or media arts, as well as cross-disciplinary works. Works of art history and criticism, biographies and memoirs, and essays are all eligible. Anthologies, creative works of fiction or poetry, books for children, exhibition catalogs and self-published books are not eligible.[6]

Members of the club noticed that there was a lack of “good, accessible writing about the arts,” according to former award administrator Sarah Browning. Club members decided to use a bequest by longtime member Jeannie S. Marfield to remedy the situation.[7] In addition to the annual winners, the Club publishes the names of several finalists.

List of winners[edit]

Year awarded Winner Title Publisher Published year
2020 Maggie Doherty The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s Knopf
2019 Andrew McConnell Stott What Blest Genius?: The Jubilee That Made Shakespeare W. W. Norton & Company
2018 Wendy Lesser You say to brick : the life of Louis Kahn Farrar, Straus and Girou 2017 [8]
2017 Rachel Corbett You Must Change Your Life W. W. Norton 2016 [9][10][11][12]
2016 Michael Riedel Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway Simon & Schuster 2015 [13][14]
2015 Philip Gefter Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe Liveright 2014
2014 Sherill Tippins Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013[15]
2013 Anne-Marie O’Connor The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer Knopf 2012
2012 Yael Tamar Lewin Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins Wesleyan University Press 2011
2011 R. Tripp Evans Grant Wood: A Life Knopf 2010[16]
2010 Linda Gordon Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits W. W. Norton & Co. 2009
2009 Michael Sragow Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master Pantheon Books 2008
2008 Brenda Wineapple White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson Knopf 2008
2008 Jenny Uglow Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2007
2007 Scott Reynolds Nelson Steel Drivin’ Man—John Henry: The Untold Story Oxford University Press 2006


  1. ^ “Pat Moore on Mathilde Mueden Leisenring Exhibit”. YouTube. 2011-12-09. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
  2. ^ Virgil E. McMahan (1995). The Artists of Washington, D.C., 1796-1996. Artists of Washington. ISBN 978-0-9649101-0-2.
  3. ^ Montgomery, David (2011-05-20). “Arts Club of Washington’s quirky downtown haven of clubby culture survives the ages”. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  4. ^ “Friday Noon Concerts – DC Art Events | DC Wedding Reception Venue”. DC Art Events | DC Wedding Reception Venue. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  5. ^ “The Arts Club of Washington’s 2018 Scholarship Competition | Corcoran School of the Arts & Design | The George Washington University”. Archived from the original on 2018-04-06. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  6. ^ a b “2014 Award Guidelines”. Arts Club of Washington. Archived from the original on 2014-12-25. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
  7. ^ a b Thompson, Bob (April 27, 2007). “Tale of Folk Hero Wins New Award For Arts Writing”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  8. ^ “Wendy Lesser Receives $10,000 Marfield Prize for Arts Writing”. Arts Club of Washington. Archived from the original on 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  9. ^ Maidman, Daniel (July 17, 2017). “A Conversation with Rachel Corbett”. The Huffington Post.
  10. ^ Cascone, Sarah (20 March 2017). “Rachel Corbett Wins $10,000 Marfield Prize for Arts Writing”. artnet News.
  11. ^ Sturgeon, Jonathon (September 23, 2016). “Auguste Rodin and Rainer Maria Rilke Had a Strange, Moody Friendship: Rachel Corbett’s elegant ‘You Must Change Your Life’ traces the paths of the sculptor and the poet”. Artnet News.
  12. ^ “Rachel Corbett Wins $10,000 Marfield Prize for Arts Writing”. Artforum. March 24, 2017.
  13. ^ “Michael Riedel’s RAZZLE DAZZLE Wins $10,000 MARFIELD PRIZE National Award for Arts Writing”. Broadway World. April 30, 2016.
  14. ^ Lloyd Webber, Imogen (May 2, 2016). “Odds & Ends: Oprah to Star in George C. Wolfe Film, Drama Desk Awards to Add Book Category & More”.
  15. ^ Charles, Ron (March 11, 2014). “Terry Teachout among finalists for $10,000 Marfield Prize for arts writing”. The Washington Post.
  16. ^ “Award winning biographer Tripp Evans to Read at Baker Books May 4 at 7 p.m.” South Coast Today. April 28, 2011.

External links[edit]