Nesta Dorrance (b. 1925, Wales; d. 1999, London), was the second director of the Jefferson Place Gallery, following founding director Alice Denney.

Educated at the London School of Economics, where she first took an interest in the arts, she studied art for a time in Paris and Heidelberg. Married to economist Graeme Dorrance, they moved to Washington, DC in 1951, where he took a job at the International Monetary Fund. Placed on an EMI diplomatic visa, and unable to work, Nesta took painting classes at American University. Although she didn’t exhibit often, her work, “Pencrugmaw,” won the second place prize of $50 from the Washington Society of Artists, in 1960.

By the time Nesta was approached by the members of the Jefferson Place to direct the gallery, she was divorced and had become a permanent resident. She assumed the directorship over the summer of 1961 and continued the organization of the gallery as a cooperative, as well as its schedule of supporting mostly local artists and the occasional exhibition of artists from outside Washington.

In 1965 she reopened the gallery at 2144 P street. It was no longer a cooperative. By 1966, the gallery’s focus had become almost exclusively focused on area talent. The gallery moved again in 1973 to 2000 P street, it’s previous location at 2144 demolished to construct an enormous apartment complex. Unfortunately, due to the increased costs at the new location, Dorrance was unable to keep up with the rent, or with debts to artists from sales. By the fall of 1974, the gallery closed.

For the next couple decades, Dorrance would assist former artists with projects, and dabble with art consulting. She took a home on the Eastern Shore, where a fire consumed her home and presumably the records of the gallery.

 

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Photograph of Foam Works, by Ed Zerne, installed on the outside of the Jefferson Place Gallery
Courtesy Lydia Zerne [ #145 ]

connected archival press clips

Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
September 21, 1969
The Washington Post
The JP’s national reputation rests on the Washington artists it has launched. Kenneth Noland introduced his brightly-colored “target” paintings at the early Jeff Place in 1958… Gene Davis, now handled by the Henri Gallery, first showed his eye-boggling vertical stripes at the JP in 1962…
Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
September 21, 1969
The Washington Post
When Nesta Dorrance took on the Jefferson Place in 1961 she got: the gallery’s name, a short list of patrons, and less than $50 in petty cash.
Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
Nesta Dorrance and the Jefferson Place Gallery
September 21, 1969
The Washington Post
The Jefferson Place Gallery (the “JP”), like its art, bows to few conventions… Although it enjoys a national reputation, it occupies two floors of nondescript commercial building, barely identified by the name on the second story window and a recessed yellow door.
The Light Touch
The Light Touch
January 6, 1969
The Washington Post
Washington sculptor Rockne Krebs has had three shows at the Jefferson Place Gallery here. During the first two he sold only a single work – to Nesta Dorrance, the Gallery’s owner.