Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 7

          When I first came to Dallas it seems that virtually everyone involved with the fine arts were sincere and dedicated to both bringing the best to Dallas and nurturing the indigenous talent.  During my visit to Rome in 1957 Emma Exline told me of a young man named Lawrence V. Kelly.  She said he had studied Dallas’ art scene and thought it to be the most likely city for a brand new opera company.  Kelly, Italian-American conductor Nicola Rescigno and Carol Fox had founded the Lyric Opera of Chicago just three years earlier. Fox eventually had a falling out with Larry and Rescigno, leaving the latter two to put on the first Dallas show which featured mega-star Maria Callas. The opera world’s eyes or rather ears were definitely on Dallas.  Larry Kelly didn’t stop there, he produced “Alcina.” That performance was the American premier of Joan Sutherland, who none other than American mezzo-soprano opera singer Marilyn Horne had proclaimed her to be the greatest singer who could be judged by recording. Horne specialized in roles requiring a large sound, beauty of tone, excellent breath support, and the ability to execute difficult passages.  I remember the American debut (again in Dallas) of Dame Montserrat Caballé, a Spanish operatic soprano who in spite of her size was terribly appealing in “Traviata.” What a voice!  Canadian Jon Vickers—world famous for a wide range of German, French and Italian roles—in “Tristan und Isolde” and Placido Domingo made their U.S. debuts in Dallas.  Whether a professional in one field or an arts aficionado, each of us attended and supported all of the arts.  For example, Larry Kelly was our business liaison for the Free University of Lee Park.  And Paul Baker of the Dallas theatre sent actors to teach in FULP classes—Larry was also on our Northwood Arts Committee and would send me to report to him on a dress rehearsal of an opera.  Dallas was indeed on the move in the arts.  Dallas Theatre Center built the Kalita Humphreys Theatre. That theatre was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is one of the last completed buildings he designed. It was the official home of the Dallas Theater Center from 1959 to 2009. When the Kalita was the site of the world premier of Paddy Chayevsky’s comedy “Latent Heterosexual,” in 1968, Chayevsky and Burgess Meredith directed the cast which included Samuel Joel “Zero” Mostel, Jules Munshin, Randy Moore and Chris Richard.   Chayevsky, Meredith and Mostel were in Dallas for a number of weeks.  They stayed at the neighborhood Stoneleigh Hotel where we furnished their rooms with a few goodies such as original sculptures by Georges Braque and Henry Moore.  Mostel would hang out at my gallery, Atelier Chapman Kelley, to talk painting as he claimed that he only did the comedy “shtick” to support his real love of—painting.  Zero confirmed the published stories of his run-in with Dr. Albert Barnes over Zero’s great friend Jacques Lipchitz.

         The Stoneleigh Hotel shared its swimming pool with neighboring Maple Terrace Apartments which were jointly owned.  I regularly had access to the pool and wouldn't miss it for the world when Rudolph Bing (knigted by Queen Elizabeth in 1971) and the Traveling Metropolitan Opera of New York were all in there carousing.  It is no wonder that Robert M. "Mac" Doty, curator at the Whitney, proclaimed that Dallas had a minor arts renaissance going for it. 
My venture into academia

          A Franciscan father belonging to the newly established University of Dallas and Frederick Getchel of the library and college in Gainesville, Texas, wanted to start out with the best teachers for their new U. of D. venture into art education.   They approached me separately and asked how they could hire the best people in the field.  I told them they should offer prospective instructors a teaching schedule of very limited classroom time coupled with compensation worth twice what an art professor at Southern Methodist University would earn.  To my surprise, that’s what they each separately offered me!

          My venture into academia as an instructor at the University of Dallas was a resounding failure.  I flunked.  The school was brand new so they had no students who were even slightly interested in art.  I knew not what to do with students only wanting to earn academic credits via an easy elective course.  However, I did recommend sculptor Heri Bert Bartscht.  As a result the school soon had a very interesting and professionally ambitious student body. 

          Comparatively, teaching evening art classes at the combination college and library in Gainesville, Texas, located 70-odd miles north of Dallas, was definitely a different story.  We had Tina Hickman who had studied with Georgia O’Keeffe when O’Keeffe taught in West Texas.  Tina subsequently became an art collector.  I have previously mentioned Alton Bowman as being a serious artist—he’s another person who got started in Gainesville. The school hired artist Octavio Medellin to teach a sculpture class. 

          So my name came to be closely associated with the field of serious art training.  Shortly after my experience being a panelist at the University of Illinois’ “Matrix of the Arts Symposium,” I realized that few people had any confidence in the universities’ art ventures.  There were some exceptions.  In 1970 I was a speaker at the National Sculpture Conference held at the University of Kansas.  After my talk there on professionalism one man stood up to tell me that “Chapman, we all know that you are telling the truth, but don’t you realize that if we tell our students that truth, 99% of us will be out of a job tomorrow!”  My reply, of course, was to ask how he slept at night. 

          Thanks to what I had learned from Buckminster Fuller regarding intuition, one evening as I drove my car from a Gainesville art class to Dallas, suddenly everything came together (including a plan to erect an innovatively designed building for the Northwood Institute).  The next day I felt that the commute took no longer than two minutes!

Northwood Institute

          As they had promised, Dr. Arthur E. Turner and Dr. R. Gary Stauffer gathered a group of interested people for my presentation for the Northwood Institute Arts Program.  My proposal was accepted wholeheartedly. But my friends and students who were present did not feel confident that my plans would actually be carried out. They sensed that our hosts were not unlike “small town preachers.”  However, for me, it was the only game in town, for they were the ones willing to try.

Dallas artist and gallery owner Chapman Kelley, left, and Northwood Institute president Arthur E. Turner, announced the new program to Texas art patrons and teachers in March 1968.

          We got off to a great start including publishing the plan for the building.  We had dinner with most of the art teachers in the area so that they could see how the school would augment their departments.  To further advertise the idea, we rented a hotel suite and had an open bar at a state conference on the arts in Austin.  Texas Governor John Connally took the lead in promoting it.  I carried the word to the annual Buffalo, New York arts conference where my friends, sculptors John Chamberlain (1927- 2011) and Mark di Suvero, were attending.  The school was actually to be run by a committee of mostly nationally recognized artists who would meet the students and choose which artists would best serve them.  If they couldn’t produce the desired artists the committee artists would have to serve as teachers. 

          In the spring of 1968 I made some trips to gain endorsements and participants. The following is a list of individuals who were consulted during that time. All were very interested and several were of great help including these art world figures:

Adolph Gottlieb
Andy Warhol
Barnett Newman
Dwayn Hatchett
Ed Ruda
Elaine and Willem de Kooning
Isamu Noguchi
James Rosati
James Rosenquist
John Chamberlain
Mark di Suvero
Mark Rothko
Oli Sihvonen
Peter Forakis
Philip Guston
Richard Anuszkiewicz
Richard Lindner
Robert Motherwell
Ronald Stein
Roy Lichtenstein
Thomas Gibson – Marlboro Gallery
Alden Dow - architect
Bartlett Hayes – Addison Gallery
Betty Parsons
Charles Hinman
David Scott – National Collection
Dick Bellemy
Françoise Gilot
Gibson Danes
Harold Rosenberg 
Henry Hopkins
Ivan Karp
Jack Boynton
James Elliott – Wadsworth Athenum
James Byrnes – Delgado Museum, New Orleans
Jim Love
Joe Ferrell Hobbs – University of Oklahoma
Kenniston McShan – Jewish Museum
Leo Castelli – art dealer
Martha Jackson
Merce Cunningham
Mitch Wilder – Amon Carter Museum
Paula Cooper
Robert “Mac” Doty – Whitney Museum
Roy Fridge
S. Leonard Pas Jr. – Illinois Arts Council

         I have in my possession a copy of a letter dated August 15, 1970 which I wrote to Douglas MacAgy--he was chairman of the Northwood Art Program Advisory Committee---and mailed to his Washington, D.C. office to keep him abreast of the progress being made.  I also visited with him at that office.  Details in that letter include contact information and comments made directly to me by artists who had been notified about the school idea.  I have talked--one on one--about art education with many of this country's major artists of the 1950s and 1960s.  Adolph Gottlieb told me that he was pressed for time and could not immediately make a committement, but that he would like to talkd and asked to be kept informed of the school's progress.  Andy Warhol told me the idea sounded good, he too wanted to be kept in the loop.  Barnett Newman said the school could set a pattern for all art schools, that it could only happen in Texas and that he would be coming to Dallas next May.  Newman spent an afternoon with me including having dinner of shad roe at his favorite restaurant and the site of some filming of him by the Museum of Modern Art.  Dwayn Hatchett and Isamu Noguchi were quite interested.  Ed Ruda was very enthusiastic; he made a committment to teach.  James Rosati thought it was a splendid idea.  James Rosenquist (was referred to me by Ivan Karp) would consider a short stint during a social visit to his parents' home in Dallas.  John Chamberlain waid he would come and work with students on film as soon as we made a request.  Mark Rothko (referred to me by Adolph Gottlieb) thought it was a good idea--wished us well, would follow but said he had little faith in art schools.  Oli Sihvonen was enthusiastic, he would visit next autumn.  Peter Forakis said it was a fine idea, would visit in the summer.  Philip Guston committed to a summer or autumn visit.  Richard Anuszkiewicz was enthusiastic and asked for details in writing.  Richard Lindner (referred to me by Paula Cooper) wondered why the school couldn't be built in Long Island.  Robert Motherwell offered to continue visiting and would consider a board position.  He was very enthusiastic.  He told me that he wished he had had such a place to study even though the school as described might be too Utopian.  Ronald Stein (nephew of Jackson Pollock's wife and referred to me by Thomas Gibson of Marlboro Gallery) expressed his interest in teaching film making and suggested coming for three months with a three-month option, teaching twice a week.  Roy Lichtenstein was very enthusiastic.  I spoke with Elaine and Willem de Kooning as well.

         In hope of gaining support for the Northwood arts program I arranged dinner for MacAgy, Margaret McDermott and me at her “farm.”  After dinner Margaret brought out photos of the artworks then under consideration for purchase and MacAgy recommended some lesser examples.  And I knew why—a larger commission can be had by pushing the mediocre work than can be earned by only recommending the best work.  (This was Wildenstein Gallery’s Louis Goldenberg’s only complaint about me, that I only sold the best work!)  That’s when MacAgy made it clear to Margaret that he wanted to replace me as her art advisor. 

          I taught and ran the very first summer classes at the Northwood Institute arts program with abstract expressionist turned figure painter Alfred Leslie and sculptor Peter Forakis.  We had sculptor Alberto Collie flown in from Venezuela to teach as well as Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade.  Our students had the opportunity to discuss their work with such luminaries as Robert Rauschenberg, Kenneth Snelson, Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty), Vassilakis Takis, Lynn Lie and Stanley William Hayter.  Hayter is widely credited with influencing the work of Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Tinca Stegovec.

          Among those helping me to assemble the key players for the school’s management were Elaine de Kooning and Ivan Karp.  They were informed of the plan to have in place a committee of major artists which could attract and serve the most likely best artists of the future.  Unfortunately, Douglas MacAgy, acting as chairman, put together and recommended the usual group of museum directors and curators to serve on the school committee.  The artists on who we had spent so much time and effort were not included. 

          Fortunately we found Robert “Bob” Kaupelis, the rotating chairman of New York University, who was interested and we brought him to Dallas to meet with the Northwood School Committee.  He was introduced to MacAgy’s group already knowing who they were and said, “(Chapman) Kelley and I are the only ones here who even own a paintbrush—what do you guys know about art education?” He turned around and walked out.  That was the end of our hopes and dreams; it made for a fast downhill slide to nowhere. 

          Douglas MacAgy went on to become the director of the Dallas Contemporary art museum.  He failed in that capacity.  Subsequently he became Deputy Director of the National Endowment for the Arts, a job and office of small prestige.  Once on a trip to Washington D.C. he and I went to have lunch.  However, in order to be seated at a “hot” restaurant, MacAgy had to make a reservation falsely posing as the NEA’s director!  It was at that lunch where I spotted a solitary Eugene McCarthy.  He had recently abandoned his bid for the U.S. presidency.  I introduced myself and we sat down to have a fine visit.

          Along the way I turned down an offer to direct the Northwood Institute School.  It was a big mistake.  I should have accepted and hired someone with an art doctorate degree and given that person instructions in how to run the school.  I could have conveyed the information in less than half and hour each day.  If I would have had the foresight to do that, Dallas could be a major art hub today. Mea culpa.

Goals for Dallas

          Industrialist, co-founder and former president of Texas Instruments and mayor of Dallas (1964 – 1971), John Erik Jonsson was a skilled businessman and served on many boards. In his first term as mayor he initiated a blue ribbon panel called Goals for Dallas. Its purpose was to capture ideas for shaping his city-wide policy. He was a tireless advocate for education and one of his ambitions was to improve the curriculum serving Dallas high school students.

          Jonsson was well aware of my background; that I had studied art very seriously since the age of eight and since 1959 I had taught art for the high school scholarship class at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Actually, he borrowed my “Sand Dune” (1960) painting from the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts permanent collection and hung it--for a significant stretch of time--in his office conference room! During Jonsson’s press conferences, television news crews positioned themselves in such a way so as to include the painting prominently in the background. I was thrilled when he appointed me to the original Goals for Dallas Educational Task Force Committee.

          I had one particular idea to contribute: It was to have professional art training at the high school level. I knew of similar programs in New York City and North Carolina. I envisioned professional artists coaxing the best talent from Dallas youth. I succeeded in having my idea published in the first public proposal of the Goals for Dallas future plan.

          Naturally I began a campaign to have an art magnet school established similar to what had been done in New York and North Carolina.  Those schools allowed high school students to study with art professionals. It took some effort but I succeeded in gaining the support of all committee members except one.  That person felt that members weren’t allowed to adopt new goals.  That person was unanimously outvoted, ultimately resulting in the creation of magnet schools and in particular the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. 

          The head of the first visual arts magnet school assembled a good selection of professional artists to serve on the new committee.  She subsequently asked me to chair the “Goals for Dallas” magnet school committee.  As an alternative I recommended that Jeanne Koch be named as co-chair because I expected to be in New York and would miss the committee’s scheduled election. I returned to Dallas expecting to shoulder a new responsibility.  I was shocked to learn that Betty Marcus had marched into the meeting with some school official and announced that she would be heading the committee.  As far as anyone knows there was never another official meeting.           

          In recent years Booker T. Washington High School has been threatened with the loss of substantial financial support. Given the background that Ann Cushing Gantz and I have, we recently volunteered our services free of charge hoping to help Booker T. Washington School raise its profile.  Gantz--who is a seasoned painter, arts teacher, art dealer and graduate of Sophia Newcomb Memorial College--during the 1950s and 1960s she taught the art class for regular high school students at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.  Sophia Newcomb Memorial College at one time had Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Hans Hofmann come in as visiting instructors.  I taught the art class for the high school scholarship students at the DMFA. 

          A veteran teacher at Booker T. took us up on our offer to volunteer.  As a first step we visited with students at the school, viewed their work and met the faculty and administration.  However, there has since been no follow up communication from the school.  I guess we weren’t good enough or perhaps it was the arts blacklist running interference, again.

           In 2010 Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts was named by Newsweek as the number one public high school in the U.S.  My granddaughter Lauren Ashley Kelley graduated from there and went on to graduate from Texas Christian University summa cum laude and earned second highest ranking in her class.

          After Jonsson’s death a New York Times article written on September 4, 1995 quotes his colleague, “in almost everything he was involved in, he had a talent for picking the right person in the particular spot." Needless to say I am extremely pleased to know that I was handpicked by Jonsson and that Dallas did in fact go on to adopt my proposal to have schools offer professional art training available to students.

Free University

          In the aftermath of the disastrous Kent State University student shootings of 1970—when U.S. guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others—fearing mayhem, college campuses across the U.S. closed their doors.  An incident took place in Dallas called the “Lee Park Massacres,” nicknamed for the way local police overreacted to the gathering of long-haired hippies in Lee Park.  The overreaction is similar to the police actions against current non-violent Occupy Walls Street and Occupy Museums activists; city bureaucrats don't know what to do with such idealistic individuals who resemble in action the youth of the 1960s.  

          We really did have some perfectly respectable liberals in Dallas such as Moe Levy.  He called my attention to what was occurring during the weekend at Lee Park.  He told me the park was surrounded by armed and armored police with attack dogs at the ready including a highly visible presence on rooftops.  It was a catastrophe waiting to happen.  Bucky Fuller’s advice came to me again as I came up with a solution.  The park district approved my idea of having a learning experience at the park which the youngsters dubbed “The Free University in Lee Park.” We created a board of directors that included Larry Kelly (Dallas Opera), A.C. Green (KERA and author), Dr. Henry Lanz (Southern Methodist University), Howard Jarrett (Dallas Symphony Orchestra) and Dr. Paul Surrey (Southwestern Medical School).  FULP continued for two years. 

hand made flyer "Free University of Lee Park"

          Classes were held every evening with more on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  The “heavy” classes drew the most attendance—three psychology sessions per week.  It was so successful in the first year that Stanley Marcus, at a party the next spring at the McDermott’s place, marveled about how the most reactionary city (Dallas) in the U.S. had achieved peace, while elsewhere public disturbances had broken out.  He wanted to know what the infamous Dallas City Council could do to help.  I personally told him and wrote the Council a letter recommending a Sunday afternoon “Rap with the Establishment.”  It would be an open discussion with the top city leaders on the youth’s turf.  By then we had purchased portable loudspeakers because of the large crowds in attendance.  We began the meetings with Stanley Marcus, federal judge Sara Hughes (she swore in Lyndon B. Johnson as President), Raymond “Ray” Nasher, Robert “Bob” Cullum, Harry “Buzz” Crutcher ( who was Lloyd Benson’s first campaign manager), the first African-American city councilman George Allen and Dallas mayor Wes Wise.

          Below is the letter I received from Mayor Wes Wise.

September 1971 letter to Kelley from Dallas Mayor Wes Wise

The above (transcribed) letter reads:

"Dear Chapman:
There is no doubt about it---the “Rap With the (Non) Establishment” class was among my most interesting and invigorating experiences in the Mayor’s office to date!

In addition, the tear sheet you sent me from Iconoclast was certainly a fair and thorough one.  I suppose you are aware that the event received considerable national publicity as well—the clippings are still coming in.

Thanks again for the invitation; I’m glad it turned out as well as it did.
Wes Wise"

Chapter 8 of the memoirs is well under way.  It will include:
National success for some Dallas artists, but not for others without local art museum and local news media support
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden opening on the National Mall, Washington, D.C.
Opening of National Gallery new east wing
Betrayal by Margaret McDermott predicted by Larry Kelly
Virginia Lazenby-O’Hara bequest
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts hijacked by private entity Foundation for the Arts

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