|Reba Stewart was born in Hudson, Michigan in 1930 to a family of poor farmers. At an early age, the State placed her in the care of a family that later moved to Miami, Florida. She graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1948. At 18, Stewart traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she paid her way by doing odd jobs. Stewart received several scholarships and was able to travel to Mexico many times. In 1958, she received the Bartlett Traveling Scholarship from the Museum of Fine Arts and journeyed to Japan for a year to study the art of woodcuts with Japanese artists. Upon her return, she went to Yale where she received her MA in 1961. Stewart then taught art at Monticello College in Alton, Illinois for two years. In 1963, she was appointed professor at the Maryland Institute, College of Art where she taught for seven years. During this time, she regularly went to San Juan, Puerto Rico to draw, paint, and create mobiles. During her sabbatical in 1971, she traveled to Africa and contracted malaria. She died of the disease that same year.
Reba Stewart's art has been displayed in the US (Swetzoff Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts), in Japan (Yoseido and Yamada Galleries in Tokyo and Kyoto, respectively), and in France (Galerie Davidson in Tours). Her art has also been part of many group exhibitions at such places as the DeCordova Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Maryland Institute of Art, Fitchburg Museum, Deerfield Academy Museum, Ueno Gallery (Tokyo) and the Boston Arts Festival 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958.
Currently, Reba Stewart's artwork exists in the Fogg Museum at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA), Wheaton College (Wheaton, MA), and in private collections.
Scholarships have been established in her name at the Maryland Institute, College of Art (Baltimore, MD), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA), and Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research and the Harvard Film Archive. A student scholarship to travel abroad has been set up by Geneviève McMillan in the
print department at Massachusetts College of Art.
A catalogue of her work is available.