Polly Smith: Fair Park, Photography and the Texas Centennial

Join us for a captivating webinar that will take us back to 1936 and the work of intrepid photographer Polly Smith. We'll also check in with the current renovation of the Fair Park's Hall of State.

This event was held October 15, 2020. Click here to see what events are happening now!

Join the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, Dallas Historical Society and Dallas Center for Photography on Thursday, October 15 at 6:30pm CDT for a fascinating online event about Texas history, women photographers, photographic history and processes, Depression-era works, and the birth and history of Fair Park and its crown jewel, The Hall of State.

In 1935 a young photographer named Polly Smith was commissioned by officials of the Texas Centennial to travel around the state and make a series of photographs capturing the people and places that made Texas unique. The images were to coincide with the 100-year celebration of independence, and it was the first time that photography was used for state marketing and the promotion of tourism. A select group of those photos were printed using the unique orotone process and have been hanging in the Hall of State ever since.

This year, the Hall is undergoing an extensive $14 million interior and exterior renovation. The Polly Smith orotones have suffered from environmental damage over the years and to prevent further deterioration should be preserved. Though not part of the overall remodel, efforts are being made to acquire grant money to preserve all 18 of these beautiful prints.

Polly grew up in various Texas towns and studied photography with Edward Steichen in New York City. She shot for publications as varied as House Beautiful, Architectural Forum, Pictorial Review, and many others. Texas Parade called Polly “one of Texas’ finest artists with the camera.” After her work was shown at Fair Park, she went on to photograph for industrial clients in aviation, agriculture, oil, and livestock.

The history of her early Texas Centennial photos is tightly woven into the history of photography, women as commercial artists and the history of Texas and our city. Join us for this captivating webinar that will take us back to 1936 to the work of an intrepid photographer and the huge Centennial celebration that gave us Fair Park. Learn about the renovation of the Hall of State and the orotone process used to make those unique photographic prints.

  • The webinar is Thursday, October 15 at 6:30pm CDT and lasts until 8pm CDT.
  • This event is free and open to all. Registration is required to receive the Zoom meeting information.
  • We recommend that you log in to the Zoom webinar at least 10 minutes before the panel discussion starts to become familiar with the program and work out any technical issues that may occur.

VELETTA FORSYTHE LILL has been a change agent in Dallas for more than 3 decades. A former member of the Dallas City Council and long-time community advocate, Lill has played multiple roles in the development of the cultural and physical city and the policy that has guided it. She created and served as Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and served on numerous non-profit boards from the Dallas Museum of Art to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In her current role she serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Dallas Historical Society where she is actively engaged in the $14.7 million restoration of the organization’s home, the Hall of State at Fair Park in Dallas. Her past work in historic preservation, urban planning and the arts has been honored by organizations at a local, state, and national level.



LYZANNE GANN is an independent conservator of works of art on paper and photographic materials. She holds a B.A. in Art History from Southern Methodist University, a Master of Arts from State University of New York College at Buffalo and an M.A.E. from the Université Paris I (Sorbonne). She consults with private and institutional clients both locally and internationally to preserve fine art and historical artifacts. Her focus ranges from preventive conservation methods addressing environment, storage, and exhibition practices to treatment of artifacts. Ms. Gann previously worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rodin Museum, The Williamstown Art Conservation Center, the Instituut Collectie Nederland, the Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques (CNRS), and established the conservation lab at the Nationaal Fotorestauratie Atelier in Rotterdam. Now based in Dallas, her interests include research into silver mirroring treatment methods, coatings on photographs, pastel techniques, and a wide range of early photographic processes.


EVELYN BARKER is a proposal writer for Istation, an educational software company located in Dallas. Previously, she was a librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington and the Dallas Historical Society. Besides writing A Texas Journey: The Centennial Photographs of Polly Smith (2008), Evelyn co-authored four books about Arlington, Texas, and shared writing responsibilities for the twice-monthly feature “Arlington Time Frames” which appeared in the Northeast Tarrant County edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She has curated many exhibits including the 2011 UT Arlington Libraries exhibit “What You Wish the World Could Be: The Early Years of Six Flags Over Texas” to celebrate the park’s 50th anniversary. Barker earned her BA at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and her MLS at the University of North Texas in Denton.



LYNN N. RUSHTON, Dallas Public Art Collection and Conservation Manager, oversees a collection valued at more than $100 million, spanning from newly commissioned works to heritage sites stretching across every district and neighborhood in the city. She is part of the restoration team to return the Texas Hall of State to its condition upon its opening in 1936. Through a National Parks Service Grant Civil Rights grant, she is also working with a team of scholars to explore the history of the 1936 Hall of Negro Life at the Dallas Fair Park. She holds a BFA in Fine Art – Painting and BA in Communication from Vanderbilt University, an MA in Art Education from Texas Tech University, and completed additional graduate work in Art History at Tulane University. She is a member of American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Work and the Honor society of Phi Kappa Phi.



ELLEN MARIE LEATHERS-WISHART, a Dallas photographer whose love of photography began with a film camera that was a gift from her father on her 12th birthday. She was fascinated by the ability to preserve a single moment in time by capturing light on film. In 2005 she graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA in Photography and has worked as an aerial photographer in both Oregon and Texas. Along with photography, Ellen has explored various other types of creative work from oil painting to carpentry. Always enchanted by the striking quality and magic of the wet-plate-collodion process, in 2015 learned this type of photography herself. In the spring of 2018, Ellen designed and built her own mobile photography studio. The Tintype Studio is located off of lower Greenville on Bell Street in Dallas, Texas where Ellen offers authentic tintype portraits by appointment at www.ellenwishart.com (Instagram @ellenwishart).



PETER POULIDES is the founder and executive director of Dallas Center for Photography. His degree is in TV & film production from UNT where he worked as an educational video producer. Always a still shooter at heart, he began shooting for publications and corporations including Travel & Leisure, Smithsonian Magazine, Food and Wine, American Airlines, Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, New York Times, Exxon, Frito Lay and Texaco. In the 90s, he transitioned to shooting stock photography, becoming a top selling producer for Getty Images. He started teaching photography on the side in 2008 which grew into Dallas Center for Photography which converted to a nonprofit in 2019. Peter believes in the power of photography; that good photographs deserve to be released from their current-day electronic cages and given physical form on a gallery wall, print or book, telling their visual stories to engaged listeners.