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Virginia Morris Pollak
Virginia Morris Pollak was born in Norfolk, Virginia to Authur Morris and Sadie Spagat Morris in 1898. During the 1920s, she studied with Harriet Frishmuth and Gutzon Borglum, as well as at the Art Students League and at Yale University. By the late 1920s, she was exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery, and the National Academy of Design. After the father's death in 1929, she abandoned her creative pursuits to manage his women's clothing firm, The House of Arthur Morris, in Norfolk. She stepped down form the director's position in 1939 when she married Leo Pollak, an engineer and moved to New York.
Her artistic career and her longtime community service collided in WWII when she used her deep understanding of clay, plater, and metal to revolutionize reconstructive surgery for wounded servicemen. In aid to the War effort, she began volunteering for the Red Cross, teaching art to wounded servicemen at Halloran Hospital on Long Island, before founding a medical laboratory at the hospital. There she worked with plastic surgeons to create quick-setting clays for reconstructive surgery molds and modelled skull plates and facial casts that aided the wounded's healing from their devastating injuries. She was instrumental in establishing the hospital's Medical Moulage Laboratory.
After the war, while visiting flower shoes with her husband, a passionate gardener and president of the Dahlia Society of America, Pollak's attention turned to the possibility of creating similar reproductions for public consumption. She worked with her medical research partner, Alfred Wolkenberg, to form Alva Studios with the goal to create high-quality sculptural replicas from originals in major museums. Though these pieces were, initially, created for gardens and smaller museums, in the postwar year of the Marshall Plan, portrait busts of the nation's first leaders were commissioned by the government for international embassies.
Pollak continued her philanthropic life when she was appointed by President Kennedy to his Commission for the Employment of the Handicapped and to the advisory councils of the planned Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution. She also found time in the 1960s to complete her father's dreams for Norfolk's beautification. Chairing the Fine Arts Commission, she created an outdoor sculpture museum at the Botanical Garden. Although, she is not known to have created sclupture after the onset of World War II, she continued to create beauty.