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Educational Years

 


My own educational experiences reflect most of the conditions and practices of the period between the end of WWII and the early sixties. Design education was quite different from what it is today. I think it is important that students and young teachers know the evolution of design education as a means for better understanding present conditions in Graphic Design.

I consider myself extremely fortunate in my own educational background. My schooling began at the University of Nebraska under the GI Bill in 1946. At that time, the GI Bill paid for your tuition, books and supplies, and provided $65 a month for living expenses. The benefits applied to the school of your choice, and if you transferred to another institution, the benefits went with you. I chose that institution because both of my parents had attended. My father had earned a degree in Geology from the university.

At the University of Nebraska, I began with a double major, one in Geology and the other in Advertising Design. My father was a geologist and I had grown up reading his books. The text on geology was not particularly interesting, but the sections on paleontology were fascinating. I learned all the major geological periods and read everything available on prehistoric life, especially on dinosaurs. I was particularly impressed by the illustrations, exhibit backdrops and dioramas of Charles R. Knight at the American Museum of Natural History. I wanted to do that type of art, but it would be necessary to have a degree in geology before studying paleontology.

Only Fine Art and Advertising Design were available to me, and even though I had no interest in advertising, it seemed more related to my goals than Fine Art. However, my teachers in Advertising Design were painters. At that time, I was allowed to take only three credits of studio art each semester; all the rest of my classes were academic. After two years at the University of Nebraska, I felt frustrated because my interests were in art. My problems were compounded because I was not doing well in Geology classes, and I also held two outside jobs. I worked at Dewey & Wilson Displays,a silk screen shop. My job was artwork and cutting lacquer stencils. My second job began as an elevator operator but soon broadened to collecting rents and cleaning offices evenings and weekends.

My grades dropped. The Veterans Administration called me in for an interview. I was told that decision time had arrived; either it was school or job, not both. The best solution for me was to transfer to a school where more art classes were available, and to not take an outside job. I knew only two art schools, one in Minneapolis and the other in Kansas City. Two letters of application were addressed, one to “Art School, Minneapolis, Minnesota” and the other to “Art School, Kansas City, Kansas.”At the time, I did not realize there were two Kansas Cities and one was in Missouri.) By chance, both letters arrived at the proper destination. Both schools sent letters of acceptance. I could not make up my mind as to which letter should be accepted. A coin was tossed, heads for Minneapolis and tails for Kansas City. Kansas City won, but on reflection, it was decided that fishing was better in Minnesota, so I went to The Minneapolis School of Art in 1948. So much for big decisions! Later, when I moved to the Kansas City Art Institute as a teacher, I always believed it was fate catching up with me for reneging on the coin toss.

 

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