Women's Museum Feels Power of Purse

Article excerpt

The fiesta theme was Mexican. The dancing was lively and fun. Something about songs like "La Cucaracha" does seem to liven up a crowd even at the most elegantly restrained affairs.

That was certainly the case at the National Museum of Women in the Arts' 18th annual spring gala, which began Friday with aperitifs served on the third floor amid the permanent collection of works by prominent female artists, many donated by founding materfamilias Wilhelmina Holladay. The first to greet guests in the receiving line, Mrs. Holladay admitted to being highly pleased about the immediate success of the museum's year-old endowment campaign. "Helen Walton [of the family that started Wal-Mart] gave us $5 million to kick it off, and donations have swelled," she said in her gravely voice, going on to add that three other individuals had given $500,000 apiece.

The ebullient Mexican ambassador, Jesus F. Reyes-Heroles, was seen chatting with Mitzi Perdue - of the family that sells chickens - about her own artistic creations: handmade purses made from ostrich eggs and encrusted with gems to resemble those made by the Russian court jeweler Peter Carl Faberge. Ponying up $2,000 at the silent auction made it possible to own one (as do Mrs. Holladay and Queen Sofia of Spain).

There was no Frank Perdue, however, to put his inimitable spin on the scene. He was, his wife said, in the hospital recovering from a cracked vertebra after an automobile accident.

Mr. Perdue's daughter, Beverly, a Richmond-based watercolor artist who recently exhibited her work at the prestigious Watercolor Society exhibition in New York, accompanied her stepmother. Both women's work will be on view at a show at the Art League of Ocean City, Md., which runs through April 30.

Former gala chairwoman (1978) Dorothy McSweeny, the head of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, looked radiant, sweeping past this year's gala chairwoman, Catherine Bennett, and Mrs. Holladay's husband, Wallace, who confessed he had just spent $3,000 on a "Texas basket" of assorted goodies in the silent auction.

And what was in it? Mr. Holladay was asked.

"If the Alamo had had a back door, there would be no Texas," he answered, adding that he "didn't know and didn't care" what was in the basket. He said he buys one every year to support the cause. …