Theresa Pollak Receives Posthumous State Honor

Pollak in her studio on W Franklin Street, with her painting, Monroe Park.

On January 31, Theresa Pollak was honored at the 50 for 50 Arts Inspiration Awards hosted by the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Pollak was included among eight arts leaders and supporters commended by the state agency for their championing of the arts, community contributions, and dedication to the welfare of creative spaces, artists and art organizations.

Held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Cheek Theater, the event honored 50 programs, individuals and organizations who have influenced the arts in the Commonwealth since the Virginia Commission for the Arts’s founding in 1968. The winners were selected from a pool of over 350 nominees by former VCA commissioners and creative peers.

Pollak was honored alongside fellow icons of the arts in Virginia, including Sally Mann, David Robbins, Hon. Marian Van Landingham, Dr. Andrea F. Warren, Studio Two-Three, the Virginia Opera, Richmond Ballet, and 1708 Gallery’s InLight event.

Dean Shawn Brixey was in attendance to accept Pollak’s posthumous award on her behalf, with Governor Ralph Northam visiting for the reception in the VMFA Marble Hall. The program was closed with a performance by the Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion Ambassadors.

Born in 1899, Theresa Pollak was the central figure responsible for the creation of VCU School of the Arts. In 1928, with the blessing of Richmond Professional Institute’s first director H. H. Hibbs, she founded the school in a stable on Shafter Street. She taught its very first class, and continued to lead the school until 1950, after which she remained a teaching faculty member until her retirement in 1969—one year after RPI became VCU. She passed away in 2002 at the age of 103.

For a full list of 50 for 50 winners, as well as more information about the state agency, visit the official Virginia Commission for the Arts site at

Photograph by J. O. Fitzgerald, Jr., 1948. Courtesy of VCU James Branch Cabell Library, Special Collections & Archives.


January 31, 2018