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It all began...

Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit in New York City

... one balmy spring day in 1931, in the midst of the Depression Era. Jackson Pollock, desperately in need of funds to pay the rent on his Greenwich Village studio that also served as his home, took a few of his iconoclastic paintings down several flights of stairs and set them up on the sidewalk near Washington Square Park. His friend and fellow Village artist, Willem DeKooning, in equally desperate financial straits, soon joined him.

It is not known how many works of art, whose values would soon skyrocket, they sold that day. However, their enterprise was noted by some public-spirited citizens, including such luminaries of the art world as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of Art, and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Director of the Museum of Modern Art.

They organized the art show that would evolve into the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit, a twice-a-year happening, every Memorial Day Weekend and the weekend that follows, and every Labor Day Weekend and the weekend that follows.

Early exhibitors were Village artists Alice Neel, Saul Berman and Ilya Bolotowski. Beauford Delaney trekked down from Harlem. It is now a showcase for artists regionally, nationwide, and around the world, and is attended by art lovers from all over the world.

Among the milestones that mark its more than 80 years are the concept of the artists being selected as exhibitors by a jury of fellow artists, based on slides of their work being submitted; the abolishing of an early ban on nudes; the opening of the show to photography as an art form; and the recognition of crafts, provided each piece is one-of-a-kind and hand-made.


Cash prizes, donated by individuals, organizations and corporations, are awarded in various categories based on selection by artist-judges.

The Arch in Washington Square Park by Sonia Grineva. Ms. Grineva received her B.A. and M.F.A. from the Stroganov Institute in Moscow and later studied at New York’s  National Academy of Design and the British Institute in Florence, Italy.

“I Colori dell’Anima” is available through the artist at

Read more about us in The Brooklyn Rail


Carl F. Lebowitz

Chairman and President


Priscilla McCarthy

Vice President


Ann DiBiase



Paul Stockschlaeder



John DiBiase

Executive Director

WSOAE thanks the generosity of its corporate sponsors

Board of Directors and Membership

John DiBiase • Natalie M. Ballin • Elizabeth Forrest

Carl F. Lebowitz • Priscilla McCarthy • Ann DiBiase

Eloise Morehouse • Rebecca Pearson

Thomas Picard • Roger Rossi

Catherine C. Ruby • Leonia L. Sagasta

Marlene Schiller • Paul

Stockschlaeder • Bonnie Yousuf

Carole Teller • Ilene Skeen

The WSOAE Board mourns the passing of Olga Bacskay, a longtime WSOAE award-winning Exhibitor

Olga Bacskay, along with her daughter, Daniella Bacskay, a mother daughter team that worked mixed media oils, acrylics, leather, metal, and gemstones. Our sympathies go out to Daniella and all of Olga's surviving family.

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