Mary Welch Higgins

Mary Higgins was born and raised in Washington DC. She received her BFA from The Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC. She worked for six years at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC before moving to Northern Virginia. She received her MA in Visual Information Technology from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia where she received a Graduate Teaching Fellowship. She served as an adjunct professor at George Mason University while working full time as a creative director for start-up technology company. She has twice received awards for Innovation for her creative approach during her professional career. Most recently she served for five years as a gallery director and curator for the Schlesinger Center at Northern Virginia Community College. Throughout her career she has maintained her artistic practice of drawing and exhibited throughout the Washington DC region.

In late 2021, Mary established Distinct Studios to promote and support the work of contemporary artists in and around Washington DC. With Distinct Studios, she combines her experience as a gallery director, her technology and digital marketing skills with her love and knowledge of art to draw attention contemporary artists living and working in and around the city of her birth.

The Deeper Dive Biography

Mary Welch Higgins is a fourth generation Washingtonian. Her art education began at a young age when her artist mother, Helen Schrider Higgins began taking her and her siblings on frequent excursions to museums in town. The National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn, the National Museum of Asian Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Renwick Gallery were visited so frequently they became second homes.

In addition to the museums, Mary has memories of “stop-in” visits to the legendary Franz Bader Gallery and bookstore. She remembers Franz Bader coming out of his office to greet and converse with her mother as she leisurely looked at the books in his store. Franz Bader’s warm approach to artists and gallery visitors made a lasting impression.

One of her favorite youthful “off the mall” museum excursions was the Phillips Collection. Mary first encountered the Paul Klee room as well as the mediative Mark Rothko room during these early visits. The Phillips Collection became another DC home and a haven to study contemporary visual art in an intimate environment.

Professional Background

Mary received her BFA at the Corcoran School of Art in 1986. She worked at the Phillips Collection for six years before moving to Northern Virginia. In early 1993, she entered the burgeoning Visual Information Technologies program in the art department of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA where she studied computer animation, programming, drawing as well as the philosophy of art. She received her MA from the program in 1995.

At GMU, she encountered the collaborative approach to programming code and was introduced to the ideas of groundbreaking computer interface design theorist, Brenda Laurel. In Brenda Laurel’s 1991 book, “Computers as Theater, she proposed a framework for human-interface design that connected theater design principles for representing action and engaging audiences to the new field of computer interface design.

These interdisciplinary and “ open source” ideas were transformative for Mary. Her early studio art education in the 1980’s with its emphasis on the individual “genius” artist in his or her garret to the idea of creativity and the arts as part of a continuum where ideas build on one another was a breakthrough for her.

Mary brings the principles of collaboration and community building to her work with her artists clients in her new Fine Art advisory firm, Distinct Studios LLC.