of The Minneapolis School of Art
As a student, I witnessed and participated in the transition
of the Minneapolis School of Art from a pre-war museum art
school to an accredited educational institution. With the
move toward accreditation, a President replaced the Director
as chief administrative officer, and most presidents came
from academic backgrounds rather than art. At the Minneapolis
School of Art, the new president, Wilhelmus B. Bryan, had
formerly been the Dean of Humanities at Macalester College
and Dean of Students at Princeton. The Assistant Director
became Dean of the College, and in rapid succession, new administrative
offices were established such as Director of Admissions, Dean
of Students, Director of Alumni, Director of Business Affairs
and Development Officer. Ever since, the process of adding
new administrative functions and administrators has continued
without abatement. Department Head positions were created,
faculty committees took responsibility for most academic affairs,
academic rank was installed (not tenure), and academic courses
introduced into the curriculum. Many academic teachers were
borrowed from neighboring institutions and taught humanity
classes part-time at the art school. The basic introductory
program was reduced from two to one year, and Foundations
was staffed with full-time teachers assigned only to that
The new academic requirements represented about one third
of the credits for graduation. This meant a reduction in the
number of studio hours.
The movement of art schools toward accreditation began in
1952, and in 1959 under the leadership of Dr. Bryan, the first
art schools became accredited, The Minneapolis School of Art,
Chicago Art Institute and Cranbrook Academy. When the call
came through to President Bryan from the North Central accrediting
offices notifying us that The Minneapolis School of Art had
been accredited, he immediately called the president of trustees.
Mr. Bell contacted a catering firm and within the hour, a
large truck parked in front of the school. An enormous punch
bowl was placed in the front rotunda and there were strawberry
tarts and punch for everyone. All classes were dismissed and
everyone including some trustees joined in the celebration.
Breaks and Distrations
schooling in Minneapolis was interrupted when I was called
back into service for a year during the Korean conflict. Based
on my education in art and experience at Dewey and Wilson
Display, I was put in charge of the silk screen shop for Post
Training Aids at Camp Joseph E. Pendleton in Oceanside, California.
One of my colleagues was a graduate of Chouinard in Los Angeles
and another was a student at the San Francisco Art Institute.
It was a wonderful opportunity to compare notes on teachers
and programs and I enjoyed and learned a great deal from them.
After completing my service, I returned to Minneapolis, taught
a silkscreen course and finished my last year of studies graduating
Lincoln and Minneapolis, each Spring when the school year
ended, I was sick and tired of school and wanted only to get
the heck out of there and do something different. One summer
I went to Cloquet, Minnesota and stayed with a Finnish farm
family. I worked on a railroad section crew bulling rail.
Many of the crew did not speak English but Swedish, Finnish
and Russian. The Johnsons (the original family name
was Jutenen, but there were so many in the area, they had
their name changed to Johnson) being Finns had no bathtub,
just a sauna which we fired up every Saturday. Any baths in
between had to be in Pine River which ran in front of the
house and it was about forty-eight degrees during the summer.
summer, I worked on a survey crew in Locate, Montana on the
Powder River. Locate was north of Miles City and was one building
which housed a gas station, general store, post office and
restaurant. We lived in tents for two weeks at a time and
then had a long weekend at home before returning to camp.
Another summer, I worked on an asphalt gang in Lincoln, Nebraska
paving streets. Without a doubt, this was the most physically-demanding
job I ever worked.
best thing about these jobs was that by late July, I was eager
to return to school. I knew that I did not want to spend my
life doing this kind of work. However, I wanted to do the
job well enough to be respected by the other workmen. I knew
that I was there for the summer, but they were going to spend
their life working at the jobs. I learned to respect these
people for what they do because I know what is required to
do the work. I have always kept this respect, and what I consider
some of my greatest compliments have been being asked to stay
on the job because I was a good worker. I consider the summer
jobs an important aspect of my education.
receiving my BFA at the Minneapolis School of Art, I remember
feeling serious trepidation regarding my readiness to go out
into the world. At the time, I was teaching a Silk Screen
course and had been asked to continue in that role. The art
school was then seeking accreditation, and when I approached
the president, Wilhelmus B. Bryan, about going to graduate
school, he was supportive and encouraging. There were no faculty
with graduate degrees in art, and he knew this was going to
be a factor in receiving accreditation.
problem was that I did not know of any schools with graduate
programs. When Dr. Bryan asked me which graduate school I
wanted to attend, my response was that it would be necessary
to think about it a little longer. Finally, I came up with
Cooper Union. Dr. Bryan did some checking and called me into
his office, and with a rather puzzled look on his face, informed
me that Cooper Union did not have a graduate program.
I could make another mistake, Charles Sawyer, the Dean of
the School of Art at Yale University visited our school to
give a lecture. Evidently Dr. Bryan told him there was a young
teacher who wanted to go to graduate school. I was summoned
from the Silk Screen studio with ink on my hands and reeking
of lacquer thinner to meet Dr. Sawyer. He asked if I would
like to attend Yale University. My reply was if I could get
into the program. Dr. Sawyer quickly responded by saying,
It is not if you can get in, it is do we have what you
want? I then asked what they had? He mentioned Albers,
Lustig, Matter and others. I did not know who any of these
people were and did not even know in what city Yale University
was located, but I had heard that if you went to Harvard,
Princeton or Yale, life would be good to you. In the most
positive tone I could muster, I told Dr. Sawyer that Yale
University sounded just fine.
enrollment in graduate studies at Yale was in 1953. My entrance
into Yale was more or less through the back door because of
Dr. Sawyers intervention. I did not even have an undergraduate
degree, only two years at a state university and a certificate
from an art school. I seriously doubt if I would have been
accepted coming through the normal application process. For
me, the two years at Yale were a period of complete bewilderment.
Having grown up in a number of small towns in Nebraska, I
probably experienced more cultural shock coming to Yale than
most foreign students. I never felt comfortable or part of
Yale, and still do not to this day. While I sensed that everything
being said and done was extremely important, I did not understand
it. It was a number of years after graduation before my Yale
experiences were finally assimilated.