Gertrude Barnstone, a Houston-based actress, artist and activist born September 5, 1925, died on Monday, December 23. She was 94. Randy Tibbits of Houston Earlier Texas Art Group (HETAG) and Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art (CASETA) describes Barnstone as a metal sculptor and glassworks artist full of exuberance and personality: “In 1936, at age 11, she had work juried into the Houston Annual Exhibition, presented at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, [and] she was the youngest artist to be brought into that long-running series of annual exhibitions,” Tibbets also recalls: “Through the 1930s to the 1960s she was among the leading, and by general agreement among the most beautiful, of Houston actresses, working under the direction of equally legendary Houston theater luminaries Margo Jones and Nina Vance.”
Barnstone’s work is in the archives of the Foundren Library at Rice University, and her biography on its website recalls Barnstone’s early start in art, studying in adult classes at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston when she was just seven years old. Receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from Rice University in 1945, and later marrying Houston architect Howard Barnstone, with whom she has three children, Barnstone will also be remembered for her grass-roots activism.
Via Rice University:
She was elected to the school board in 1964 and strongly promoted the desegregation of Houston schools. From 1970-1973 Barnstone produced the KPRC-TV educational children’s program “Sundown’s Treehouse” and from 1972-1973 served as Director of Development for the Institute for Storm Research. Barnstone served as President and Treasurer for the Texas ACLU Foundation, President of the National Coalition of Women’s Art Organization, 1981-1982, and president of the Houston Women’s Caucus for Art, 1980. In the early 1990s she founded Artist Rescue Mission, an organization that provided aid to people in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. In 1995, Barnstone received the Lifetime Achievement in Civil Liberties award from the Greater Houston chapter of the ACLU. In 1999 she received a Distinguished Alumni award from Rice University.