Elma Lewis

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Elma Lewis
Born Elma Lewis
(1921-09-15) 15 September 1921 (age 96)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Occupation Arts educator, Activist
Parent(s) Clairmont Lewis
Edwardine Lewis

Elma Ina Lewis (September 15, 1921 – January 1, 2004) was an American arts educator and the founder of the National Center of Afro-American Artists and The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. She was one of the first recipients of a MacArthur Fellows Grant, in 1981, and received a Presidential Medal for the Arts by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. She is also an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[1][2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Lewis was born September 15, 1921, in Boston to parents who had immigrated from Barbados. [4][5]She graduated Emerson College (B.L.I., 1943), and Boston University School of Education (M.Ed., 1944).

Arts education[edit]

The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (ELSFA)[edit]

In 1950 Lewis founded The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts to provide arts education for the African-American community in Boston with a comprehensive program across the visual and performing arts. Lewis founded the National Center of Afro-American Artists two years later, which served as an umbrella organization for the school, local arts groups, and a museum.[6]

National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA)[edit]

Later life[edit]

Awards and affiliations[edit]

Lewis was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977.[7] She was involved in promoting African American culture through art forms, she served as a board member for various organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Congressional Black Caucus, Metropolitan Cultural Alliance, and NAACP [8] "Miss Lewis also received the Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts’ highest award in the arts, and myriad other honors including nearly thirty honorary doctorates from universities including Harvard and Brown. In October 2003, the National Visionary Leadership Project in ceremonies at Washington’s J. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named Miss Lewis, along with Ray Charles and John Hope Franklin, as a Visionary Elder." [9] She is commemorated on the Boston Women's Heritage Trail.[10]


On January 1, 2004, Elma Lewis died at the age of 82 in her Boston home from complications stemming from diabetes.


  1. ^ "Historical Note." Archives and Special Collections Finding Aids: Elma Ina Lewis Papers. Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections. Web. Accessed 21 May 2014.
  2. ^ Kahn, Joseph P.; Globe Staff; Edgar J. Driscoll Jr (2004-01-02). "Arts leader Elma Lewis dead at 82". Boston.com. Retrieved 2014-05-21. 
  3. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (2004-01-26). "Elma Lewis, 82, Arts Educator And Mentor". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  4. ^ Elma Lewis - Black Women's Heritage Trail
  5. ^ Elma Lewis Archives at Northeastern University, Boston, MA
  6. ^ "Elma Lewis: Biography" The History Makers: The Nation's Largest African American Video Oral History Collection. Web. Accessed 21 May 2014
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter L" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 29, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Elma Lewis." National Visionary Leadership: Project Oral History Archive. Web. Accessed 21 May 2014
  9. ^ Elma Lewis NCAAA.org http://www.ncaaa.org/ncaaa_elmalewis.html, The Museum of NCAAA: The National Center of African American Artists Web. Accessed 21 May 2014
  10. ^ "Elma Lewis". Boston Women's Heritage Trail. 

External links[edit]