The art classes at UGA prior to Lamar Dodd’s arrival were tentative in their goals. There was little money, no equipment, few students and fewer faculty members. Perhaps Dodd’s first contribution to the program was an expectation of greatness. He requested of his instructors that they help raise money through annual art auctions. He demanded they teach more classes in ever more crowded classrooms. He demanded that their students be held to the highest of standards, even though no one expected as much from the school. The entire staff worked hard, but two men responded to the Dodd’s demands with special resolve. Vince Dieball and Erwin M. Breithaupt Jr. were art scholars who had already learned how to persevere in war. They picked up the gauntlet thrown down by Nelson and Eames and constructed a brand new freshman art curriculum. This new plan dissolved the boundaries between art history and art practice without diminishing the importance of either. Breithaupt worked diligently to fabricate the glass slides and audio recordings that would help illustrate the concepts chosen by the entire school. The Nelson-Eames demonstration presented a hypothetical lesson and Breithaupt would be responsible for furnishing an actual course. This course took nothing for granted, training the students to see as well as how to see and what to see. This comprehensive undertaking required the use of Hoyt Sherman’s flash laboratory, something Breithaupt studied first hand while obtaining his PhD. at Ohio State University the year before Art X.
If UGA had an answer to Hoyt Sherman it was Erwin Breithaupt, who similarly combined the jobs of artist, designer, laboratory technician, writer, and theorist, and similarly under-appreciated. The heir to Sherman’s method, Erwin expanded the art history component to the Sherman’s Flash Lab. Dr. Erwin M. Breithaupt Jr. took his M.F.A. at Ohio State University in 1947, and began teaching at Georgia. In 1952, he received a Rockefeller Grant for a year, and in 1953 was awarded the Ph.D. degree at Ohio State University. Breithaupt’s role would lead the school in way as pivotal as when Dodd arrived in Athens in 1937.
The first step was physically transforming the classrooms into an workable approximation of the Art X model. Next, was spending the summer of 1952, combining the lessons of Art History, Art Techniques, and Art Theory/Communications Theory into a new Freshman course load. The faculty would review the proposed script and make adjustments then Breithaupt would fabricate the automated lesson using Reel-to-Reel tape, slides from their library, and hand made examples of Gestalt theories. The curriculum seamlessly combined Sherman’s optical experiments to improve perception with the Nelson-Eames experiment in Art History, and using both as fodder for the hands on classroom work guided by the course instructor.
The results were intended to be updated and tailored every year. The initial year seemed so successful that students were asked to continue the process in their sophomore year with more difficult and self-regulated aspects to the their lessons. These lesson were a type of ongoing series of experiments seeing what students would respond to best and adjusting focus.-There was sculpting with an axe and drawing in the dark, and a rapid acquaintance to just about every available medium.
Breithaupt was involved with all aspects of the local art community, he was elected President of the Athens Art Association in 1949. He also organized a string of panel discussion made up of visiting peoples from other departments at the University.
Breithaupt worked with Vince Dieball to design and produce, “The Good Design” exhibit for the Museum of Modern Art and the Chicago Merchandise Mart. It displayed processes, experiences, and results of the revised basic art course offered to all beginning students.
Meanwhile efforts had already begun to consolidate the curriculum. Although course numbers were retained for administrative purposes, it was decided that there would be a dissolution of separate and distinct courses in the students freshman year in favor of a total year of study that would be devoted to a “series of interrelated problems” this was engineered with the idea that a systematic development would more readily tap the full potential of the students . Furthermore, this immersion would make the student more “consciously aware” of the continuum of the visual field.
The integration of this program is resolved as a series of lectures “dealing with the evaluation of art forms and the offering a basis of criteria for making visual judgments has been evolved by incorporating those lectures within the immediate framework of the basic course.” (i.e. encouraging the kids utilize the lessons witnessed in the slide shows)
The annual academic report noted,“Those lectures are being worked on by the entire staff so as to encompass as much material as possible in as a short a time as possible. A combination of audio ad visual equipment is being brought together so as to bring relevant and specific material to the student in the most instructional manner possible.”
The students were asked to become more participatory so they could immediately tackle related problems in a constructive manner. A year later, the implementation of the plan was in effect. The greatest improvement was the integration of Freshman course requirements, Art 20 (Drawing), Art 30 (Design), and Art 40 (Nature and Materials) into an interrelated continuum.
A portion of the GEB money was used to remodel Fine Arts Room 110 into the studio needed for the operation of our Basic Course Sequence, the room was equipped with three synchronized slide projectors and a tape recorder which, together with our movie projector, can be operated by remote-control switches. Room 111 was also partially renovated in order to house a darkroom laboratory for the photographic work carried on by the department.” The room lacked a water supply or a method of maintaining temperature controls or ventilation system, but “commendable work” was carried out. No plan to introduce those needs was planned in lieu of a new building being secured.
The details of Breithaupt’s course description is broken down in greater detail elsewhere, but here is a excerpt from a student’s perspective in a letter by Henry Fran:
As it will become apparent in this document, the teaching methods of the art department evolved and changed over time. We can compare the snapshot given with an instructor named Richard J. Olsen who taught the basic courses years after the original curriculum was developed. Here is an excerpt from what Olsen describes as a typical day in his class:
“They don't know when it is going to happen- here it comes...and then it doesn't come. AND THEN it does come, and, "I wasn't looking! I was asking a neighbor!" But, whatever happened, happened. And you're responsible for leaving some reaction to the image on your paper. So the marks on the 4” x 4” Flash Slides were made by the people that put the course together, huge, lozenges, cylinder shapes. Marks...vertical, maybe a slight tilt-A one o'clock tilt.-But all about the same size and length-On a piece of paper, that is photographed, and put onto a slide which you will put on the screen. So there was this whole bunch of work that set up the making of these marks, These marks, are from one to two to three, Just a huge series of marks that you and then you get into position, and then you get into the size of the marks. Hundreds and hundreds of slides, then, later as a teacher, you could pick slides that had to do with building complexity, then turn around and use marks of less complexity. You know you could keep the suspense going, the anticipation going, and you never gave them what they expected. So you got all that going for you, but you have the equipment, the slides to shoot, so when I would pick slides I would always set up the class to have the rug pulled out from under them. So that no one ever could trust me at all, (laughs ironically) they had to learn to trust themselves.”