Unlike Hoyt Sherman, Dr. Breithaupt had the opportunity to present his research to the general public instead of only to the hard-line educators of his day. Breithaupt and Dieball produced an exhibition for the, “Good Design” exhibition jointly hosted by the Museum of Modern Art and the Chicago Merchandise Mart. This show would highlight only the very best of Design in America, and The University of Georgia was one of only six schools invited to participate. The two instructors designed a kiosk called, “The Tale of a Room,” and it illustrated the automated curriculum being taught in their art department. Aline Loucheim Saarinen of the New York Times claimed that “the most exciting suggestion for the design of the future lies in the exhibition from the University of Georgia.” Breithaupt would also go on to publish a detailed explanation of both the theoretical basis of their work as well as the methodology employed.

Like Sherman’s flash Lab at OSU, the special studio put together by Breithaupt at UGA defined their curriculum. The equipment consisted of screens, drawing tables, and rows of benches. The layout would evolve and reach a climax with the desing of the 1966 art building. Even in its infancy the classroom was celebrated in the exhibition called, A Tale of a Room. Donald Kerr in Nevada devised a similar program based on Sherman’s model as Breithaupt did at Georgia. While However while there have been a few attempts at recreating Sherman's flash laboratory, the two most famous Art in the Dark rooms belong to Ohio State University and The University of Georgia.

Their experimental use of automated teaching was so successful  that UGA was asked to present their new curriculum for The Museum of Modern Art’s: Good Design Exhibition. Dr. Erwin Breithaupt and Vince Dieball designed and constructed a kiosk which illustrated their teaching methods.  A New York Times reporter singled out as the most promising glimpse of the future. We know at least a half million people saw this glimpse and even more read Breithaupt’s report Basic Art Courses.  

In 1966 they improved on their classrooms with retractable screens which were both more numerous and larger. There was a catwalk for the professor to project from up above. This was a Flash Lab to rival Sherman’s Laboratory, for it aimed to automate and augment the perceptual learning methods he pioneered.

Bill Paul describes the architecture of the rooms as a graduate process which matched the maturity of the students. As the lessons begin to be more specific and less general, the teacher descends from the catwalk in to the classroom space for individualized instruction.

Certain cosmetic aspects of the method were eventually made even more accessible and transportable with improvements in projectors and computers taking the place of tachistoscopes.

Below are notes and excerpts from Breithaupt’s essay which details the first classes taught after the Art X show and with then improved curriculum. He claims the quality of work in the students was unusual in its rapid growth. He begins:

“This is the story about a room. It is a story about a series of operations which are organized in this room to form a continual process in which students, draw, paint, and design.”


The design program was “governed by two major principles on which this program is constructed. First teaching students to draw or design with satisfactory pictorial organization is, to a major degree, a process of teaching them to see with a perceptual unity. Second, drawing, painting or designing must be accepted as a man-made form, and students must be taught to convert the quality of things perceived into the terms of the material with which they are working. On the basis of these principles, the students learn to coordinate the optical, the motor and the tactile so that an organized response to any given stimulus is possible.”

As with Hoyt Sherman’s classes 20 sheets of newsprint and a large piece of charcoal are used by the students. The student, “clamps his paper to the table and is ready to draw.” White lights are turned off, red lights are turned on, a record player is started and the room is filled with music. Under the red lights, the student’s eyes are being highly sensitized. At the same time he relaxes, and tends to shed certain experiences which inhibit the drawing act. At this point the instructor explains to them students that they to give their full attention to the screen in front of them. They are also asked to begin running their hands over the paper on which they are to draw.

“There is a scientific rationale for each action, with precision and care towards each request. The “simple” image of a shape that is projected is considered a “perceptual unit” a crucial concept towards establishing a hierarchy or order (solving the issue of what is a perceptual unit and thus leading to the problem of how to integrate them and represent them.  Added to this is the translation of visual stimuli to tactile congress with the paper, the kinesthetic process which is essential to creating art. (You cannot react by negative feedback, you must attune the hands to the eye)”

The students are instructed to focus on a point of light, a place at which they will be seeing an image flashed on the screen for one-tenth of a second. “This operation is based on the psychological fact that when the human organism looks attentively at an object without moving his eyes, will be seen as a perceptual unit.

20 slides per period are flashed. All drawn all then thrown away. The first set of slides deals with the position of simple marks and in the following four days the same basic element is dealt with while the stimulus patterns themselves are made more complex, by the end of a week, a student has produced one hundred drawings.

Next the student is given a four inch cube of ceramic clay and instructed to create a round, hollow form. Given fifteen minutes to solve this problem. At the end it is destroyed and a second problem is given. And this process is repeated three times a day. The work is never seen in the light and this is done three times a week for a period of three weeks. The student creates 27 shapes.

“This allows the individual to become more aware of his own unique capacity to develop and relate his experiences to the solution of any given problem.”

“An integral and vital part of the basic program is a series of lectures which are presented twice a week. The major objective of these lectures is to concern the students with the general fundamentals of design and to acquaint them with those artifacts requisite to a general understanding of the development of the arts through the ages.”

Thus a method two dimensional information is converted to the third dimensional work.The hand skills of manipulating materials is internalized folding: and molding, stress pressure, surface area.

“To present these lectures, a unique system of communication is utilized. Three automatic slide projectors are mounted in tandem so that three images or two or one slide may be shown. This method permits the viewing of one object from a multiple point of view, or it allows for a series of contrasts between objects. Differences or similarities among a great variety of selections may be stressed rapidly and impressively.”

The process of creating a lesson is quite collaborative.

1)  A meeting of those instructors involved in the teaching of the course (with specialized areas of these instructors (painting, ceramics, art history, art education, crafts, interior design, etc.) are so varied, a great many concepts about the general field of art are incorporated into these lectures.

2) One instructor then sets down these ideas in script for.

3) This script is then edited by other staff members.

4) Finally, the script is tape recorded with appropriate background sounds and music, by using one or more voices to interpret the written script. This tape is then synchronized with the slides for showing to various classes.

5) Evaluation sheets by students and critical remarks by teachers OUTSIDE the program are also considered in determining which lectures will be retained for future use and which ones will be discarded.

6) This process is continually revised in this manner “new ideas and materials are constantly introduced in the program, keeping it from becoming stagnant and static repeated end.

Films are used to “enhance and broaden” the curriculum to provide “complex situation” in which he lives. This explains that there is no “fixed pattern for design” everything he realizes that everything he deals with is directly connected to the problems of connecting and organizing.

“And it is made more aware of the principles which play a role in the activity of selection and discrimination.”

The second week reveals stimuli patterns are shifted to a new level by varying the size and shape of marks from slide to slide. There is a range from simple to complex patterns which develop in a clear sequential system. This series of drawing activities permits the student to develop sensitivity to the visual qualities of size and shape as they are interpreted as functions of position.

This second week can be explained as a means of beginning to build upon the awareness of shape, to the concepts of relative size and orientation.

Week three introduces the concept of “brightness” in addition to black and white shapes, a number of varied gray areas.  This progression of values. “thus permitting a fundamental relationship among parts to emerge in this drawing stage.”

At the end of the 12th drawing period, an old master drawing is projected on the screen. Students continue to draw from this slide in the same pattern of reaction used in the flash slides.

During the fourth week, the slide series focuses on small intricate details. The stimulus patterns are line drawings, positioned to be seen in the immediate center of the screen. A transition from the large to small, from the general to specific, is begun.

This stage actively breaks the picture plane, by dropping two narrow screens over the large screen catching part of the projected image on each slide, while the center imagery is still on the original screen. This constitutes the first step from the two-dimensional projections to the three dimensional model from which the students will begin working.

In this way, the student is walked through his earliest visual birth to the complex world he is used to interacting with, but by focusing on individual elements the student is retrained to deconstruct complex visual scenes and reconstruct them as models in a two dimensional environment (the paper).

The student continues to model clay. Five minutes to construct in clay what he has seen. No concern for the final object is mentioned. Only the experience is important, finding solutions that they deem suitable.

After four weeks, a series of three dimensional set ups. The first set ups are arrangements of simple objects, chairs, stools, and tables, suspended in the front of the room in complete darkness. A flood lights is flashed on them for a tenth of a second and the student draws what he has seen. And this is repeated 20 times per period. 

“The student’s attention is centered on seeing common objects in terms of positional, size, and brightness relationships rather than in terms of their common function.”

“Thus, the student continues to respond to unified patterns rather than to parts or separate objects. He finds that the abstracting process of drawing is dependent on his ability to control the visual cues in terms of his motor activity and not on his ability to make representations of objects.”

Drawings are organized as unified patterns, devoid of mannerisms and stylistic conventions. “The student is operating at his own level, doing his own thinking, projecting within his own limits.”

Eventually, large, “carefully arranged set-ups are positioned in front of the room. The student begins to work in full light with pen and ink. He finds his own way of handling the materials with which he is now working rapidly, securely and aggressively. Through such activity, the student sustains a level of interest and personal enjoyment in carrying out what he is doing.

The student handles “materials with which he is now working rapidly, securely and aggressively. Through such activity, the student sustains a level of interest and personal enjoyment in carrying out what he is doing.

During the preceding drawing activities the student has continued to model in clay, now in leather hard clay instead of the soft pliable clay. The student is told to think of a head and two hands. The block can be carved in any conceivable manner. When it is finished it must stand on all six sides. With an x-acto knife the student cuts, slices and chops out whatever comes to mind.

The next step is the introduction of casein paint, first black, white, and water. With brush, and a sheet of chipboard the students to paint.

Carefully arranged set ups of drapes, fabrics, colored boards, tables, chairs, stools and various impediment are so positioned that none of its is seen in its usual context. His attention is centered on the visual cues in their total relationship rather than on objects as separate and distinct units.

“The student forgets the object as an end for itself, centered in this process, allowing the process to emerge as a unitary configuration.”

He each day is given a new color, red, yellow, blue, green, black and white. “The student finds his own methods for developing his own painting.”

By restricting the palette the student must reinvent his concept of color, being inventive, creative, and ultimately if he craves more colors he will be able to use them to precise purpose rather than limping along on the crutch of straight out of the tube colors.

A new and different problem is offered to the student by giving him a cylinder of dry, hard clay to carve. His is told to think of a standing human figure. When the carving is finished it must roll freely across the table and must also stand on both ends. These limitations are imposed so that a specific goal may be achieved. Work with the goal of enjoyment becomes a characteristic aspect of the student’s product.

“Past experiences are slowly broken down, chopped up and reorganized into new momenta which carry the student on new paths to new findings...Motor and tactile are being conjoined with the optical…to work as a unitary mechanism.”

Finally, a “break is made with pre-arranged stimuli. The student takes up his materials and goes outside. But he faces the landscape with the same security as he has faced the world.”

Next come the Second Quarter

There is familiarity to the methods, but greater emphasis is placed on three dimensional modeling.

Twice a week the student continues with a series of lectures twice a week dealing with more specific designers, artists, and aesthetic problems. Students now work with clay, plaster, and wood five days a week.

After a short time, blocks of plaster are substituted for clay, verbal problems take the place of visual stimuli, and they carve in the dark. In this situation the student center himself on the process of forming, he can’t be sure what he is doing without centering his attention on the entire block.

Once again he is taken from dark to light. More and more complex problems. From plaster they move to wood.

The next step is a break in material using clay in place of wood and using a human model as the stated problem.

To change and shift the level of operation, the student begins to work on drawing board with T-squares, triangles and mechanical drawing instruments. Simple line drawings are flashed on the view for two days. Then more complex slides for longer periods of time, while the student continues to use his drawing of a pencil, and after 3 successive periods of work with the instrument the student is ready to develop more complex problems.

Slides are replaced by 3 dimensional models, colored panels, stools, and chairs and various other paraphernalia are suspended before the student. The individual goes on putting down marks, lines and blocks of colors as they relate to the function of position.

For the last major problem of the 2nd quarter a log measuring two feet and eight inches in diameter is handed the student. He is given a hatchet and told to chop. He is permitted to use any item of experience as a stimulus. This problem places an extreme demand on the student’s muscles.With a limited tool, the shapes he can manifest are constrained. The result comes from a unitary plan, rather than a piecemeal affair. “Verbal criticism can be offered the individual without the danger of talking vagaries. A concise and clear path of communication is opened between instructor and student.

Third Quarter

Continuation and expansion of principles once again.

Opening phase of the section the student is given 20 sheets of paper and placed in the dark. Flash slides are used as stimulus patterns and the student picks up one sheet of paper, tears it into the shape which he saw flashed then set it aside. Following two days of this operation, in place of tearing, the student takes a pair of scissors and cuts the shapes he sees flashed. With the experience of tearing and cutting, a transfer of this action

Next, they transfer this skill to cut up pieces and pasting colored sheets of paper onto a large sheet of drawing paper. When the larger areas are constructed, he then develops other configurations on top of these areas are constructed, he develops other configurations on top of these areas by using a brush, pen and ink. The paper collage technique is carried on through other operations by having the student use it as he works from varied set-ups which range from figure studies to still lifes. This helps emphasize the importance of the ground to unify the image. By focusing solely on the figure the student is unable to organize the relatively simple torn or cut patterns. Since tearing and cutting of paper does not lend itself readily to smaller and more detailed items, the student is thus forced to stay with the largest, most simplest generalizations.

The first hour of the laboratory concerns itself with constructing the paper, the second hour is given over to drawing and painting. A rapid review of flash slides for the first few days is utilized to reacquaint the student with the problem of drawing while at the same time he loosens up the psychophysical mechanism in preparation for drawing. Each day after a warm up the student draws from a set up which includes a complex of varied stimuli ranging from flowers to human figures. During the first week, thirty drawings an hour are produced. In the following two weeks, the student begins the period by making a series of rapid drawings and then switches quickly to the production of a painting.

A series of three dimensional problems is begun by giving the student 20 strands of wire, twelve inches long, placing him in the dark and flashing a series of slides. As each slide is flashed the student bends one strand of wire in the shape which he has seen. Each slide each wire. After 40 of these forms have been fashioned and the student gets comfortable with the material two bent wire sculpture problems in full light. 

Next a collection of pre cut shapes cardboard, these problems are all stated so that the structures have a certain number of required they must stand on a certain number of required edges or points and have a specific distance from the which it rests. These predetermined restrictions are specific ends against the student can constantly check his efforts. By finding “that there are limitations imposed in any design problem, and once these are clearly perceived a greater freedom in the process of designing is achieved.

Daily strips of balsa woods were added to the cardboard that they would paint, with each color being added sequentially daily as before.

During the last three weeks, the students spend three hours on each set up. (Ramping up to the more exhaustive amount of work done on a master piece.)  After each three dimensional structure is made, the student must make a two dimensional design based on their work using the t square triangles, and ruling pens. Which gives the student a careful rendering of what he had produced and to analyze, thought this means, the value of his actions.

While designing three dimensional shapes the student has continued to draw.
A shift from large setups to small, detailed forms is made by giving each individual such items as leaves , pine cones, stones, teeth, animal bones, and other organic forms. From such stimuli the student is required to produce a varied number of drawings using pens, brushes, ink, casein, and watercolor paint, pencils and charcoal, as well as pappers of varying size and surface, in this way, students must find multifarious methods by which he might express himself and “No one media is allowed to become precious for itself. Though such a varied attack it has been found that the student is much more able to adjust to other, higher-level problems later in his educational career.

The quarter is brought to a close by having the student paint with watercolors. Exterior subject matter is used as a stimulus. As the students moves in to the complicated realm, he is constantly reminded “he must center his attention within the process of organizing and not the object. The students show a vital interest in these paintings. Their sustained interest leads one to assume that the methodology utilized in bringing the student to this point has been worthwhile.

With this program (within one year) the student has been exposed to multiple problem solving experiences (in multi dimensional problems)  and has been acquainted with drawing, painting, and multi products of other design areas must be accepted as abstractions based upon his experiences and purposes. He has modified his behavioral processes and attitudes in developed more fully his sense of positional relationships and has learned to experience other qualities of space and form.

Professors rate a student’s ability to see familiar objects in terms of their visual qualities is the most significant skill to develop.

“Seeing become an aggressive act” and the year long program revolutionize the way the student sees the world.

“The student has found that the guiding discipline of his course of action must come from the process of seeing and projecting and not from the personal authority of any outsider.”

This last point addresses the key criticism often alluded to but not always expressed, “Automated teaching will only begets automatons.”  However, this system uses a disciplined plan for activating independent problem solving creativity.


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