1985 saw the opening of the Sumner Art Block. After so many years in odd corners of the school, such as the music cottage behind Founders’ Hall, the science room off Farrar Way – where the only water obtainable came from fire buckets and the last, dark ‘studio’ in the Junior School dormitory, with its ghostly creaking stairway Art at Roedean at last acquired a permanent haven.
On her death in 1983, an Old Girl, Dorothy Sumner, bequeathed a substantial sum to the school to be used to create a centre for the Old Girls. Bearing in mind her great love for her sister, Maud, this project was extended by the Board and Roedean Trust to include an art studio. Dorothy was, in her own way, an artist too.
Maud Sumner, the sister of Dorothy, was one of South Africa’s most prolific artists. She was born in Johannesburg in 1902 of immigrant parents. At Roedean, she was taught art by A.E. Gyngell, the art teacher at the school, and the then curator of the Johannesburg Art Gallery. After matriculating, Miss Sumner moved to London. She graduated from Oxford University, with an M.A. in English Literature.