On April 27, 2022, Irma Hale and Katie Mills presented “The Art and Life of Reuben Hale” as part of the History Is Lunch series.
Born in Belzoni in 1920, Reuben Aldridge Hale moved to Greenwood with his family in 1934. After serving in World War II he used the GI Bill to attend the University of Mississippi. Hale earned his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA from Southern Illinois University.
Hale was a versatile artist whose work was exceptionally broad in scope. In sculpture, he worked in a variety of mediums, including wood, stone, steel, and bronze. He worked with lasers to produce holograms which he sometimes incorporated into his sculptures. As a printmaker, his work included etchings, lithography, and monoprints, and his paintings used oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolors, and tempera. “If that weren’t enough, my father was also a photographer, illustrator, and set designer,” said Irma Hale. “He was fascinated by the changing role of women in society, and especially through his later sculptural work he explored that subject deeply.”
“Reuben Hale’s art was inventive and experimental,” said Mills, executive director of the Museum of the Mississippi Delta, which hosted an exhibition of Hale’s art earlier this year. “His work in holography furthered his fascination with kinetic art—art that depends on motion or appearance of motion for its effects—and led to his groundbreaking use of optical glass in sculpture.”
Hale and his wife, the dancer Marie Stoner, operated the School of Ballet and Art in Greenwood for six years. The couple moved to Florida, where Hale was an art instructor at Palm Beach Junior College (now Palm Beach State College), and eventually chairman of the school’s fine arts department. Upon his retirement, Hale served as executive director of the school’s Duncan Theater and Lannan Art Museum.
Irma Hale is the president and founder of The Artwork of Reuben Hale in West Palm Beach, Florida, where she is also a theatrical electrician and photographer. She trained as a dancer, pianist, and physicist, then toured as a showgirl and aerialist with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Her interest in arts and sciences led to roles in stage management and lighting design with companies such as Walt Disney World, New York City Opera, and the New York City Ballet. In 1999, Irma traveled to Antarctica to join the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station where she worked as an electrician to set up research facilities on the ice, and discovered a passion for outdoor photography. A member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees since 1979, Irma is also affiliated with the American Polar Society, the Old Antarctic Explorers Association, Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the National Institute of Genealogical Research.
Katie Mills is executive director of the Museum of the Mississippi Delta, which holds one of the Delta’s most extensive collections of regional art as well as artifacts related to agriculture, Native America, and regional military history. Mills earned her BA in English from the University of Mississippi and her JD from the Mississippi College School of Law. She served as staff attorney for Leflore County Chancery Judge Jon Barnwell and attorney for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians before operating a private practice in Greenwood.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson.