Eugene Newstrom. Narrator. Thomas O'Sullivan and Susan Meehan Interviewers. January 14, 1987 Richfield, Minnesota

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1 Eugene Newstrom Thomas O Sullivan Susan Meehan Eugene Newstrom Narrator Thomas O'Sullivan and Susan Meehan Interviewers -EN -TO -SM January 14, 1987 Richfield, Minnesota TO: Mr. Newstrom, perhaps we could just get started if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from, your date of birth, where you grew up. EN: All right. I was born in Richfield, as a matter of fact, which now, the part that I was born in, is now Minneapolis. The boundaries were pushed outwards. I was born July 17, I spent most of my life here, except for a period in the service, and a seven year period in Chicago and a year in California. Shortly after my wife and I were married we lived in California and stayed there for a year. I was looking for art work, couldn't find any so I worked in a foundry and gained some very interesting experience that way. I've spent most of my life as a pattern maker along with doing commercial sculpture - had a sculpture studio in Chicago for about three years. I've worked doing lamp designing in that period of time, and mostly worked for industrial designers - sculpture for industrial designers. And on occasion, gift and art shows. We'd do art work for gift and art shows, which were always a mad house because they'd want things yesterday and we'd have to work... well, at times we'd get by with about four hours of sleep trying to get things done. But that varied. Overbusyness varied with periods of slack where we didn't know where our next dollar was coming from. I've been working at art all my life. I studied originally with the WPA art center which was located, started out in the Sexton Building in Minneapolis and moved to the University campus later on. And I studied there, too, and helped with the student art program and had a little bit to do with the moving of the school over to the Walker Art Center. But at that time I found that I was making some [unclear] to the Minneapolis Art School, the Minneapolis School of Art. The teacher there took me on as a helper. TO: Who was the teacher? EN: Warren Monson - took me on as a helper. I was paid through being a helper. That's the way I 1

2 got my schooling there. I didn't have the money to attend it so I earned my way through the school there. I'd help him with casting his own statuary. I kept the clay wet for the sculpture classes [laughter], and on occasion would sub for him, taking care of the class as a kind of an assistant teacher. TO: What years were you with the WPA? EN: Well, I was in... let me see now. This is reaching back. It was in the latter part of 1938 through TO: Just after high school were you...? EN: Well, no, first I went to the Minneapolis Art Center. While I was going to high school I was taking night classes at the Art Center. And then after that I continued on, after I graduated. Then, after - I didn't graduate from the Minneapolis School of Art. In those days they had a - well, some of the students did. But I had to find my way out into the working world [laughter] and make a living and I did surveying for a short time. I had an uncle who was a surveyor and he took me on as an assistant. Then the army - the war came on and I was drafted in the army. Because of my surveying experience I, well, I had basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood and then it was because of my surveying experience I was sent to specialists school in Ft. Bellver [sp], near Washington, D.C. I joined an outfit that did map making and model making, terrain model making, in Spokane, Washington. We moved to Douglas, Arizona where we were mapping the border between Arizona and Mexico, doing photo-mosaics and layouts of it and map making. And then we were sent overseas to North Africa, Biazzarte [phonetic] and Tunis, Tunisia where we again engaged in map making. We worked out of Lamarsa [phonetic] Airfield in North Africa, Tunisia. Then we were sent to Italy. We were in southern Italy for a short time, then sent to Florence, Italy. And [laughter] I had the misfortune of making contacts with the Academia there and spent the time I was in Florence, which was over two years, working at the Academia as well as my model. I did terrain model making in the service, and also picking out pinpoints of targets of where we'd drop supplies to the Yugoslav partisans. That was a kind of an intelligence work that we were also involved in because we were map makers. So from the partisans' data that was smuggled to us, we'd pick out the spots that we'd drop the supplies in the mountains. It was very difficult because the coordinates were usually footpaths and trying to figure out where we would drop them was a challenge, really. TO: Some art activity at the same time at the Academia? EN: Oh, yes. I was working nights and going to the art school days. Actually, it was more of a place to work. They did have classes there, but most of them were fairly primary classes. There were three of us that became friends and chum around together. We'd go out painting landscapes 2

3 and so on while we were in the service. And then when we moved to Florence, we went to art school together. Two of them were painters. A friend of mine, who is retired now but was quite a well-known architect in Chicago, Richard Tawndy [phonetic], became well-known. He taught at the University of Illinois for awhile and then had his own practice in Chicago. We've remained good friends and when we meet we go painting together [laughter]. Still we retain the old tradition. After I was discharged from the service, I joined another friend of mine in Chicago where we set up a commercial sculpture studio and worked on any kind of jobbing work that we could get. Most of it was through industrial designers where we'd do models of any design that they had in mind. And occasionally we'd get work for gift and art buyers who were producing a line of gift and art ware. TO: Figurines and... EN: Figurines, that type of thing. Yes, uh-huh, vases TO: You mentioned work for industrial designers. Would that be more like machine parts and that type of thing? EN: Yes, that's right. Mechanical, more mechanical type things that they wanted to get a prototype made so that they could study it and perhaps they would - they could change their designs that way. It would be a simple way of getting a three-dimensional picture of things so then they could study it and perhaps vary it a little bit according to what they saw as their goal. TO: I see. EN: So - and one of our biggest customers was a firm called Exstay [phonetic] -Jackson, which had its headquarters on Michigan Boulevard, lower Michigan Boulevard in Chicago. We were constantly on call for work for them. I didn't realize it at the time, but what I was doing was in a sense pattern work which later became a career for me and I earned my living at that. I apprenticed in it in Chicago and moved back to Minneapolis, which has always been kind of home to me. TO: When did you move back here? EN: In about, I'd say, roughly, around Then worked at a couple of different pattern shops here for many years. Shortly before - about five years before I retired, we had a strike at one of the pattern shops and I got a job at Tonka Corporation doing model making and sculpture work, which was a delightful end to my working career. And since retirement, well, before retirement, I got back into the art field and was working more directly with art and doing painting and sculpture. I'd always kept up some type of sculpture. I worked free lancing for a number of years for a firm that did vacuum forming medallions and did many different things - medallions for them for sales, promotional work and for --. I did one of the Freedom Seven for medallions given to them, and I did an awards for the Cotton Bowl to be given to the players there after the completion of the game. 3

4 TO: Right. EN: And that had to show the stadium and a couple of cotton - what do they call them, the little round cotton pieces that they pick? - and any number of industrial firms that would require those things. I did portraits of doctors and dentists for awards for them also. That was another thing I got into. I would be sent photographs and work from the photographs. I never did work from the actual person, but because I was always rather adept at being able to do portrait work, it worked very well for me. TO: Right. EN: And since my - since having retired, I joined the Minnesota Artists Association, which I was aware existed but I'd never been - had enough work available to display. So I got back in the organization and started out working on the exhibition committee and that led to their asking me if I'd head it up. I did that, I was president for one year and since then I've been concentrating on my own work. TO: One applies for membership in the MAA, as I understand it. EN: That's right. And they have a Board that makes sure that your work is of good enough quality to warrant your being a member of the organization. It's not very stringent, but they want to make sure that the standards are, that the artists who are in the organization have good quality work. There's no restriction as to realistic or abstract. It's very open to whatever method that the artist is working in. It's just that they do have, I wouldn't say professional, but a good amateur standing as far as their work is concerned. TO: Interested in your student experiences and your work experiences with the WPA's art centers. Any particular teachers that were especially helpful or inspiring? EN: Well, when I was first starting out in night classes, I studied under Mack LeSeur. He had drawing classes there and I took drawing classes. And I developed an interest in sculpture and started working in that field. The head of the WPA school was Charles Wells. I don't know if you're familiar with that name, if that name ever came - TO: I've read the name, but I don't know anything about the man. EN: Fantastic, fantastic person. He was a sculpture himself and worked...floyd Olson. There was a reformatory in Red Wing that was having some problems with the guards being very violent and so Floyd Olson asked Charles Wells if he'd teach a class under cover and find out what the conditions were like there. So he was sent there and found out that there was a lot of brutality going on. His information was fed to Floyd Olson and completely changed the system so that there was 4

5 absolutely no brutality used after that. Mr. Wells claimed that there was no need for any kind of violence and disciplining. He had classes himself and the students seemed to respond to his kind treatment, so that the entire emphasis was changed at the reformatory. TO: Was Wells, I presume, a Minnesotan? EN: No. Mr. Wells was originally from Scotland. He worked in New York City. He came to Minneapolis to erect a piece of sculpture. I can't recall the sculptor he worked for, but the piece of art was on Lowry Hill. In the forefront was a stature of Lowry and in the background was a decorative background with two figures. And he was instrumental in setting that up. Having arrived here, he stayed here. He was director of the Minneapolis School of Art for a period of time. When the WPA came on he took over the directorship of the art school. TO: Would that be just the school in Minneapolis, or Minneapolis and St. Paul both? EN: I'm really not certain about that. It seems to me it was just Minneapolis. I think that - I'm not really certain about the St. Paul school, just exactly who headed that up. I did attend a few classes there, but I was not aware of the directorship, who headed that. I know for a period of time Claudette Halpers [? name unclear] taught classes in St. Paul at the WPA school, which was at that time in the Landmark [unclear], in the upper stories of the Landmark building. Quite poorly lit [laughter]. Awkward area, but effective nonetheless. [I'm]trying to reach back. In the building on the University campus, it had originally been a Lutheran seminary, or a Lutheran school, and it was used not only by the students, but by the whole WPA project. It was all brought together there. The artists would bring in their easel paintings. They had, I believe it was in the auditorium, the sculpture department of the WPA - was doing large sculptures that were sent throughout Minnesota. There were wall plaques being done, and large figures that were being worked on, which was a great experience - to have that ability to go through and see the professional artists at work. They also had a department that contained four or five woodcarvers. They were professionals at woodcarving, but their designs were generally worked on by the artists and they reproduced them. They did some beautiful woodcarving there. TO: Right. Did you get a bit of or kind of informal teaching or tips from people like this? EN: Oh, oh, absolutely. When I'd - somehow they seem to allow some of the students from the school to talk to them and I got quite a few tips on woodcarving from the wood carvers. They used to - a number of them made their own tools from files, their woodcarving tools. I learned a little bit about hardening and annealing tools from them and it's since been valuable in my own experience. I've made a number of my own woodcarving tools. So it was a delightful experience. And then just being in that sort of an atmosphere you absorb a lot of what's going on in the art field. It's a matter of being acquainted with these artists and talking to them. It really was just a great, a tremendous experience. It was almost like a Minnesota art movement in that period of time. 5

6 And then there were two rival organizations. I shouldn't say rival, but two art organizations. One was the Minnesota Artist's Association, which had started in thirty-five, I believe, wait, somewhere in that, thirty-seven I think it was that it started. Also the Artists' Union. The Minnesota Artists Union used to call the Minnesota Artists Association the organization of old women [laughter] and the Artists Association called the Minnesota Artists Union the union of radicals. There was a little bit of controversy there between the two groups. But they both - eventually, I think, they all combined. After the WPA was through and everyone went their own way, the Union disbanded and they formed - the members of the Union, many of them joined the Association. It was kind of an evolution or whatever you call it. TO: The Association being non-political or less political kind of choice that an artist might have? EN: I think so. I think that was perhaps the case. The Artists Union did have many of its members were left wing or, you know. In those days there was a great deal of political activity by the artists because of the Depression and the hard times. And quite a number of them were communists and socialists. Any, you know, any kind of left wing movement seemed to be attracted toward the Union. Not that the Union itself was politically active. It was more or less the members that were, but not the Union, because it held many different political views in the Union. But the Association was very non-political and perhaps a little socially, or, you know, as more of a social element rather than a political element is perhaps the way I can describe them, trying to think back on that. TO: Did you exhibit your work or begin to enter shows before the army got you? EN: Yes. I had exhibited. I exhibited at the Harriet Hadley Gallery. In those days I was working on sculpture almost entirely. The painting was just kind of a relaxation so I never did it as seriously as I did my sculpture. But I exhibited at the Harriet Hadley Gallery and I exhibited at the St. Paul Library and I was in a number of shows. In those days every year there would be an annual show of - the Minneapolis Institute of Arts would put on an annual show. So I exhibited in that and also at the State Fair. I took a first award at the State Fair for a piece of sculpture in those days, which kind of helped, encouraged me, pushed me along a little bit because I felt I was going somewhere in the sculpture field. TO: Do you recall what year that was? Your ribbon year? [laughter] EN: Oh, let's see. It probably was in about 1938 or '39, somewhere in that area. Then after I came back from the service, again I was doing some sculpture work in my spare time. I entered a piece in a show. At that time there was still an annual show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and I took a second award for a wood carving, an abstract wood carving there. And that would be in, perhaps, let's see, forty-nine, forty-eight forty-nine. TO: You mention your abstract work, your work for that and so forth. I'm kind of curious about the different styles - representational styles, abstract styles during the thirties, forties, that period. Was there some sense of controversy or preference in general among artists, or among exhibit goers? 6

7 EN: Ah, no. Among artists there wasn't. There didn't seem to be too much controversy there. I don't think they were as polarized as they are today in different groups. I think today, because there are so many different organizations, it tends to polarize people in different ways. For example, the nature, I mean, oh, what is...there's a name for it. TO: Wildlife artists? EN: Wildlife artists! That's the one I'm trying to think of. They have their own organization and they kind of are a separate entity and don't seem to cross the boundaries between their type of work and anything else. They're kind of exclusive. And also, again they're coming to a more realistic period of time where realism is gaining more footholds in the world. So that tends to polarize the artist in one way or another, although many artists can work both sides of the street, you might say. But in those days there didn't seem to be any feeling of exclusivity or anything like that among the artists in their own field. They seemed to intermingle quite well. No one had any - there was no name calling or anything like that [laughter]. Each one was working their own way and everyone seemed to accept that and see it as valid. I think there was more of a broad viewpoint. I think today we're narrowing our sights in many ways, both politically and artistically. TO: You mentioned the Harriet Hadley Gallery, and I've heard others speak of that as being a real active place in the thirties and forties. Any other private galleries come to mind? EN: I was not familiar with any of the other galleries. That was the one that we chose and enjoyed. They were constantly running exhibits there. Of course the Beard Art Gallery has existed from time immemorial and they had their own thing, but it was an entirely different part of it. It was an extremely...there was a group of work that they displayed, but it was out of the context of the working artists of that time. They were artists that were working, but they were a separate type. It was kind of a very conventional work that was exhibited there and the artists that were searching in that period of time didn't work at exhibiting there. Usually the people that were at the Beard Gallery were artists who had made their name in the past and were relying on that. I have a hard time defining just what it was or how it was, but that's the best I can do in that respect. TO: You referred to others who were searching - searching in their own style, finding their own way. EN: Right. Right. Where the others were... TO: Had already gotten where they...[laughter] EN: Yeah, and were perhaps older artists. The group of artists that were involved in WPA were - there were a number of older artists, but they were mostly in the younger group that had perhaps not, had left art school within the past decade. 7

8 TO: You mentioned leaving for Chicago for a number of years and then coming back to Minneapolis. EN: Our family was here. My wife and I were married in the forties, the late forties. We have a family of three children and we always wanted to get back to Minneapolis because many of our friends and family were here. And having learned the pattern - making trade, it made it possible for me to come back here. Commercial sculpture at that time in Minneapolis was almost nonexistent so I couldn't get back with that. But learning the pattern trade, I had a chance to come back to Minneapolis and work in pattern shops here. So that enabled me to get back to Minneapolis without any undue financial problems. So that's one of the reasons. And then Minneapolis was Minneapolis - it's home [laughter]. So that always been a point that we've come back to. Even after the war... [tape change] TO: You mentioned coming back after the war and returning to Minneapolis. EN: Well, it seemed like my thoughts always gravitated toward Minneapolis. My wife came from here too. We lived only four blocks from one another and met in Chicago [laughter]. My sister came down to Chicago and my wife came along, her girlfriend at that time and what not. I was soon running back and forth between Chicago and Minneapolis to see her on the train [laughter]. She's always been my great supporter, as far as my art work is concerned. Thank goodness I have her as a moral backup because I'm sure it's been a problem with many artists - they don't have a backing in their work. Of course our children, they're in the area. We have two daughters and a son. Our son works at General Electric in Rochester, in medical equipment. He's a specialist in magnetic imaging and scanner equipment. We have an older daughter that works at Honeywell and a younger daughter that works at the Park Nicollet Clinic. So our children are all pretty well established and a delight to our lives, of course. Our grandson is another bonus [laughter]. TO: We see his artistic tendencies around us [laughter] in pictures. We talked a bit about, kind of the art scene, galleries, exhibits and so forth in the thirties when you were kind of getting started. How about the fifties and later on when you returned to Minneapolis permanently? EN: Well, later on I was so involved with the family and making a living that the only kind of art work I did, that I was involved in, was doing some commercial sculpture for plaques and that sort of thing for a company that did vacuum forming. Outside of that I really wasn't at all involved in the art scene. I had exhibited before going to Chicago, like I mentioned, some sculpture. After getting out of the army I was doing some of own sculpture. But trying to make a living occupied most of my time and so what little work I did on the side I didn't exhibit. I did do a few pieces but I didn't exhibit them. I didn't feel I had enough work to really do much exhibiting so I just kind of did my own thing and bided my time. Hopefully I thought I would get into it again, which has turned out to be the case. I'm very thankful for that...having lived long enough to do it [laughter]. 8

9 TO: Were you able to at least kind of keep an eye on the galleries and exhibits and so forth during those days? EN: Oh, yes. The galleries. They were proliferating. And there are many lovely galleries now, although they seem to have a definite bent for the innovative. And I think that's one of the problems that many of the members of the Minnesota Artists Association have. They either don't produce enough work or are not as innovative as the galleries require. So, many of them find the Association an outlet that they otherwise wouldn't have. It kind of fills the gap in the gallery scene. Also, it enables people out of the Cities to exhibit with us when we have our open show. I think that's a very helpful thing for up and coming artists who hasn't quite made the gallery scene yet. TO: Open shows available to non-members as well as members? EN: Oh, yes. They're available to anyone that wants to exhibit. They're juried. All of our shows...a few years ago we voted that all of our shows would be juried so that we would have a respectable group of work when we do have an exhibit. Unfortunately that leaves some of the artists out, but it also gives them a goal to work toward, if they are serious. It's worked out very well. We've been very fortunate to work with the St. Paul Winter Carnival every year on an open exhibit. They've been very helpful to us. The Winter Carnival Committee has been very helpful to us. Many organizations...we've had Honeywell who have exhibited our Association's work; the Jewish Community has been very good at providing space for us. I'm trying to think of a few of the others. For awhile we were exhibiting in the First Bank atrium, but that has since - they haven't had exhibits there, but they provided space for us for several years. And then, as I say, in St. Paul we have had the availability of the Landmark Center and Towne Square, and this year we're having an exhibit in Bandanna Square. They have graciously allowed us to have one of the spaces that's not being used, one of the rooms that's not being used, to put our exhibit in, so it's going to be very nice to have that. That'll be in conjunction with the Winter Carnival, as have many of our winter exhibits. And now with the connection with the Historical Society, we're going to have our fiftieth anniversary show, which I'm sure will be a very delightful thing. Was that involved with the Capitol, too? Is that a viable issue? TO: I don't know. I don't know. I don't believe the Association is going to pursue that with the person at the Capitol. But, as you know, we're moving on ahead with something that would also give kind of an historical look during the fiftieth year. I think that in itself, you know, fifty years old and still thriving [laughter], for any voluntary organization, an artists' organization as well, is pretty remarkable. Do you have any thoughts on the reasons for that longevity? EN: Well, the devotion of the members I think is the greatest thing. There was a period of time when it was, almost went out of existence. But through the efforts of a few of the members it's been kept going. TO: Was that during the seventies, that slack time? 9

10 EN: I believe so. I believe it was. I wasn't a member at that time but this is from the information that was given to me, that it was touch and go for awhile. But the membership rallied and expanded it, and so we're a very active organization right now. I also belong to the Sculpture Society, the Society of Minnesota Sculptors, and they also have had their ups and downs. But they seem to be doing quite well at the present time. They have had the opportunity to exhibit at the International Market Square in Minneapolis, which is an interesting place to exhibit. TO: A wonderful space. EN: Yes, a beautiful area to exhibit in and they have great lunches there, too [laughter]. TO: Good comment. Right. One other thing I wanted to ask you about. The galleries that the MAA or its members have been involved in forming and operating - the Minnesota Artists' Gallery, the West Lake Gallery - were you a visitor to those in their heyday? EN: Yes. Yes, I was. They had their own gallery over on University Avenue. I think it was in the area of the campus, the University campus. I wasn't active at all in that, but did a few exhibits there. Also the West Lake Gallery, which was comprised of a number of members. One of our older members that is still active today is Jo Lutz Rollins, and she was kind of the motivating force at the West Lake Gallery, I understand. And later there were several women that were involved in keeping the gallery going. I don't know the names of the ladies that were involved, but they kept it going for awhile. Jo was getting older and I suppose it was difficult for her to keep it operating by herself, so they took it over. But that's about as much as I know of the West Lake Gallery. TO: That seems too often be kind of identified as a project of the women artists in the group. Was that by particular design, or just the people who happened to gather together first? EN: Well, I really can't answer that. My impression would be that it was by design that the women took that over. It was kind of a, it seems to me, a kind of a precursor of WARM, you know. Not that it was an offshoot of it, but that the women did make an effort to keep it, you know, keep something going in the gallery through their efforts. It wasn't exclusive. I don't believe it was exclusively devoted to women. It seems to me I made some inquiries about exhibiting there and they didn't turn me down because I was a man. So that wasn't a criterion at that time, although the WARM Gallery is particularly for women - to give women an opportunity that they previously hadn't had. That coincided with the equal rights movement by women. But in the field of art, in the later years, I don't think there was- the artists have never been a class. Oh, they were, perhaps in the 1800's, I can't vouch for that. But, I'm sure they were then because women artists did have a very difficult time. But later, in the twenties, thirties and forties, I think that women held their own. They didn't have to worry about it as long as they produced good art - if 10

11 they had the time. Unfortunately, child rearing was one of the big problems. But, so I really think that in the field of women's art, that it wasn't necessary to push them along. Although, the WARM gallery has provided a great opportunity and has really shown that women are on a par with men, as they always have been. TO: Let me just kind of wrap up - if I could just ask you a bit about your own work. We've had a brief look in your studio, some work in progress, and interested also in kind of the interaction between your occupational work in pattern making and so forth, as well as your sculpture making. EN: Well, the pattern making... I, of course, learned many techniques of working with metals. But as far as directly affecting my art work, I think my ideas were developed before my pattern making days, and developed along a different line. I never used pattern making as a method, which some people have. For example, Sandy Calder has used the metal, his knowledge of metal, to produce his work. They went hand in hand. And with his studies as an architect perhaps developed that way of thinking. But I don't think pattern making has ever influenced me in any way, just the ability to do more things, reach out a little further in the field. But my work has always been semi-abstract in my sculpture. My paintings have been rather conventional, realistic paintings, although I do do abstract at times. But my push is not towards the abstract field. I would say towards a personal look is all I could say about that. I don't have many developed theories on art. I think, to me, the theory comes after the fact rather than before it. And I'm a little uncomfortable with a well-developed theory because I think words are one field and work is another. So I don't take much stock in theories. I've spent too much time studying them and realized that they're mostly empty. I mean, I really do. I don't feel that they do much for the artist, except it's great for a publicity gimmick. But I think outside of that, it really doesn't say much. Development of your own work ethic is the thing. Theories are left to the writers. They're much better left to the art historians and the art critics. TO: One of your sculptures in the next room? EN: Oh, yes. That's "Family Group". It's done in epoxy, aluminum-filled epoxy. And the base is from, the center post from a table, an old-time round table, which my wife and I found in the woods. It was in pieces. I glued it together and it's almost like a Brancusi sculpture in itself [laughter]. TO: That's what I thought of when we came in [more laughter]. EN: It's amazing, because [can't make out due to laughter] submitted sculpture. TO: I think the two work real well together. EN: They do, they do go well together. 11

12 TO: But something that we might take as an example, as you say, of, you know, of a sculpture that's not quite abstract, but... EN: It's a piece of found sculpture, the base. Well, it's a handcrafted piece when you consider that someone had to work on that. It's sculptural in itself. I'm sure the person that designed it didn't quite look at it in that respect, but it has a value of its own. A real nice oak piece and time has added to it, the color and the irregularities in it. Time did that. Time is a sculptor, too. TO: Sure. Well, you've got fifty years to look back over your own sculpture. [laughter] EN: That's true. TO: What do you think of, say, the pieces like the State Fair winner? EN: I started perhaps about the same time that the Minnesota Artists Association did. That's something to think about. I haven't given that any thought, but it's true. I've spanned the same time frame that they have. Another person [Mrs. Newstrom?]: Do you take cream or sugar? Is that on now? TO: Right. You're immortalized [laughter]. Another person: A dead giveaway - you're drinking on the job. [laughter] TO: Do you have any questions? SM: Well, going back a little farther in our conversation, but, from the research I've been doing, I have a little interest in something that he said. Quite a bit, actually. You were saying that in the fifties, and maybe continuing on now, that the MAA is not, that the art is not quite as innovative as the gallery here wants, but it's kind of been like an outlet for them, the artists that are in it, to show their work elsewhere, or have other ways. Back in the thirties, was that the case also or was the MAA more innovative than at the time? EN: I really can't speak from an unprejudiced viewpoint because at that time I was so involved in the Artists' Union. And all the information that I received was negative and, so to really make an intelligent statement, I just wouldn't be able to do it. So I really don't know of the workings of the Association at that time. I know they used to disparagingly talk about them as Sunday painters. And, you know, let's face it, Sunday painters have done a lot for the world of art. They've created a tremendous amount of interest. I don't think they should be overlooked, you know, in the field of art, because's part of the public that has supported art. I thinks that's an unfair criticism of an organization, although I can understand these people struggling to make a living. At the time that 12

13 I was in the union I was a student, so I was living at home. I didn't have the financial worries. The only thing was to get enough money to pay for tuition and supplies, which were minimal, so I could manage that, with the help of my parents and odd jobs. I could find enough ways to make money and make it go. And usually I managed to scrounge up a job at the art school [laughter] to get a little extra money. But as far as the organization itself, I really can't intelligently comment on that. It would have to be someone with...i think perhaps Jo, Jo Lutz Rollins. I think she's been with the organization almost from its inception and she'd be a good source of information about it. Probably one of the few left who could really give us some information. Anything else? SM: Oh, well, just recently I've been doing some research on the exhibitions that the MAA artists were involved in, such as the local artist s exhibitions, the early ones at the Minneapolis Art Institute that you were in also, and State Fair and like the Harriet Hadley Gallery. What I'm just kind of curious, just because I've been reading about these, is sort of what kind of - specifically when you were there, because then you would know when your piece was at the Minneapolis Art Institute - what was the public's opinion of, or... You talked some about what the artists thought at that time of other artists' work, but more the judging and the public that came in, about what the works that were being bought. EN: Well, I think the - in the first place, there weren't too many works being purchased, you know. Although, the Art Institute had a purchase prize. Usually that went along with the exhibit that they'd purchase one of the pieces that they judge, that they thought would fit in with their collection. SM: Oh, okay. EN: But there weren't too many works sold through those exhibitions. But, it was more a matter of getting exposure for your work SM: Okay. EN: If you were lucky enough to have something purchased, it was probably something more conventional, unless there happened to be some collectors in the crowd. But they quite often would work... you know, I'm really not aware too much of the gallery scene at that time because I had gotten back from the service and I really was just kind of on my own and at loggerheads to figure out what I was going to do with my life. So my direction wasn't in a specifically artistic vein. I really didn't investigate the galleries at all at that time. I was more concerned with what I was going to do with my future, so it was kind of a period of disruption for me until I got back to reality again. I was in the army for almost four years, so that was a great chunk out of my life. So, I was kind of at a loss there. So many of my thoughts were so personal, you know, I mean, my direction was so personal, that I really didn't get - I was kind of isolated in a sense. So I didn't really get out in the art field too much, except for occasional exhibits like that, which I knew distinctly about - that they were coming up regularly. SM: Uh-huh 13

14 EN: Later, the offshoot of the annual exhibit by the Minneapolis Art Institute was a biennial, which it shared with the Walker Art Center. It split in every other year. One year the Walker would have an exhibit, and then the other year the Institute would have it. And I think that was partly because of the change in the direction of the Walker. Because at one time that was more or less a museum rather than an art gallery. I mean I think, maybe I'm being unkind, but I think that was really the truth until there was a change in direction because of movement of part of the WPA. I think it was still operating over in the Walker Art Center, in the back part, because I remember a few that - Art Kerrick, and there was a few artists, Evelyn Raymond that taught there. So that was the nucleus of what became, I don't know what the name of it was, the Walker Art Center School? Perhaps that's what it was called. I'm not sure. But, again, I talked with a few of the artists and took some evening classes over there after getting out of the service. I worked with Evelyn Raymond there for a short while, just to have a place to work, you know. More often than not artists who go to school, after they've developed their own work, will do that just to have a place to work and an atmosphere to work in, because, you know, a studio, unless you have a little extra money to build your own studio, it's a little out of the question. SM: So they get the opportunity to be around what's going on also. EN: Absolutely. It's very important, I think, to have that feeling of belonging to a part of the world, like you're not completely isolated. There's a great deal to be said - and also, artists associating with other artists, it's [unclear, maybe camaraderie?] that seems to bring out the better part of you, in your thinking. Maybe it doesn't help too much, but many schools, or many movements of art, have been engendered by artists being friends and working together. TO: Uh-hum. Perhaps another hint there to the MAA's longevity - as a meeting place. EN: Absolutely. I think that's very true. I'm sure it has a lot to do with its ability to continue throughout the years. TO: We really appreciate your time and your sharing your own expertise and opinions with us. EN: I didn't realize when you came that I was just going to give you [general laughter]... that piece of art. I didn't realize that I was going to be involved in a talk or a... [laughter] TO: We go right to the source, right? - [laughter] rather than just always looking in newspapers and forming our own opinions fifty years too late. Thank you very much. EN: I appreciate it. 14