As soon as Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Alexander Girard left Athens, Georgia, the University of Georgia staff resumed their jobs, too. Although the Art X demonstration excited people around the country their example seemed almost impossible to duplicate. The difficulty was the amount of production required. The cost of making a black and white film on the scale of the hypothetical lesson would cost over a million dollars for just one class. The practical solution came from the creative minds of the UGA art school, out of necessity. By making lessons themselves from scratch, hand making slides, and recording their own audio tape, Breithaupt designed a million dollar production essentially for free. While the Art X Demonstration would inaugurate an 8 year experiment, the school continued its trajectory from the 1930’s. In their academic annual reports the art school would measure its progress and goals in terms of the 30’s for decades after the original staff had retired. While Lamar Dodd would proudly claim a steady arch since his arrival until 1953, the staff of 1968 would later claim that continuing on the path of the 30’s would be a “prescription for failure.” Though styles and tastes changed, UGA would remain the premiere art school of the south.

To understand the experiment that was Art X and its subsequent its useful to understand the environment and political landscape in which they took place. Over the years the physical location has changed as well as its connection to other departments. There are so many parts to the art school’s story so a brief overview is helpful to put the details in perspective.

In 1927, the school felt pressure from federal overseers and its own student and established a chair of fine art within its agricultural college. A year later, Hugh Hodgson would give the University of Georgia some notoriety by starting a music program. In 1932, courses were starting to take shape in the basement of the Chancellor’s House.

In 1937, instructors no longer taught art from other disciplines and school began to accept art as a major. This same year Lamar Dodd arrives and a year later he would become the school’s new director.

In 1940, Dodd inaugurates an art auction. In 1941, the fine arts building was finished. In 1945, Holbrook arrived and began the Georgia Museum of Art. In 1947, Breithaupt arrived. In 1948, The Fine Arts Barracks was overflowing.

In 1949, Lamar Dodd was highlighted in Sept. 26 issue of, Life Magazine, while Breithhaupt was elected President of the Athens Art Association.

In 1950, Expansion of Art Education takes place through a grant from the General Education Board.

The Chancellor’s house was reduced to rubble in 1951

In 1952, Art X debuted.

In 1953, UGA developed a new plan for its Basic Art Courses.

1958: GMOA takes over the entire space of the building from where it started as a gallery.

1963: Breithaupt leaves and Kaufman enters the department.

1967: The department applies for school status.

1970: The School “in crisis” according to Dodd, effectively marking a departure from Art X.

1996: The School is named after Dodd.

2009: The Digital Media discipline is renamed “Art X.”

Dyers’s book, “The University of Georgia: A Bicentennial History, 1785-1985,” is a good starting point to understanding the big picture. He claimed that scant art classes were taught at first because they were considered an “unmanly,” subject.  He also reveals that despite its delayed birth, the program was one of the few at the University of Georgia with a national reputation. This as a result of its prestigious staff including Lamar Dodd. Despite its preeminence the art school struggled to raise its salaries to a competitive level with the national standards, indeed, it sometimes struggled to compete with small schools of much lesser renown. Teachers were constantly underpaid, in 1948 a teacher paid $3000 for nine months at UGA, was paid $4,400 by a women’s college in Florida.

The compromise at the time was an appeal towards funding a “single quality University” in the state. A turning point came when Govenor Lestor Maddox appropriated $100 million dollars toward Georgia schools “nearly fifteen times the amount appropriated over the fifteen years previous, with $34 million going to UGA which was then half its budget.

Back in 1952, the time of the Art X show, a new library and the Myers dormitories were being built for forty million dollars. However, it took additional outside funding from General Education Board to fund the art school’s growth.

Financial compromise and controversy were par for the art courses from the very earliest records. In the Georgia Alumni Record, Volume VIII, on November 27, 1927 the establishing of a chair in fine and applied arts was overshadowed by a complaint that it should be established in the College of Agriculture.

For years the University of Georgia has felt a need for a fine arts school, with past work done by individual initiative of various instructors in various fields.

The Red and Black, the student newspaper printed this question: “One wonders why the fine arts was established in the college of agriculture and mechanical arts with nothing said about the promised one-hour lecture-ship in art appreciation to the liberal arts department…”

Their case was restated in the response, “the agricultural college claim that instruction in art is one of the functions of liberal university; that it should be included in the liberal arts department; that it should be given on the academic side of the campus; and quoting them, “the agriculture college is no place for a chair of fine arts… [However] in days of pragmatism and financial difficulty one cannot be fastidious about the location of certain chairs.”

The University did not have the resources to fund courses in a new school; the Agricultural College did, because it was receiving federal aid. “Under the circumstances the decision was a wise one, the University is already suffering from enough “splits.”

Thus the Fine Arts Division in the umbrella of the agricultural school was born in 1933 and it included: music, art, and landscape architecture. At this stage these disciplines all shared facilities and a common fate. Luckily, for the future art school the music school had a successful debut. Mr. Hodgson came to UGA in 1928, from his post as director of music at Luey Cobb Institute. The music department had six Professors in the beginning. Later when Lamar Dodd became head of the art department in 1938. The staff of seven included: James Couper Wright, Reuben Gambrell, Annie Mae Holliday, Mildred Ledford, and Alan Kuzmicki. Around the same time the Drama Department was created under Mr. Crouse in 1939.

Landscape Architecture was located at Lumpkin House, under the direction of Hubert B. Owens, but all fine arts students attended important lectures and performances communally. In an internal Memo to the University of Georgia in 1941, the Fine Arts Building that would be home of music, drama and art was completed at a cost of $300,000. 1500 persons can be seated in the auditorium, while classrooms, studios, and offices make up the rest of the building. Later reports to the Alumni listed the price tag at $450,000 dollars.

Ten years later, Traffic, parking, and housing facilities were a problem for all of Athens, so much that it was suggested that UGA submit a proposal for a city and regional plan for Athens. Increased enrollment meant an overflowing art school.

Both the Fine Arts Building and the Annex were inadequate to maintain the high quality of work. A makeshift arrangement was made for the overcrowded conditions in the Fine Arts Building; (in the fall of 48) five wooden barracks style buildings were erected at an inconveniently large distance from the Fine Art Building. Ill suited to their tasks, their low windows made it impossible to oil paint without glare from the sun. The atmosphere was choked with linseed oil, and was either too hot or too cold according to the inconvenient season.

The poor facilities negated the exchange of ideas between student and faculty. The descriptions in the annual report include, “depressing and hopeless,” “horrible,” “pitifully inadequate”, “fire trap”, and worse. Quality of work and teaching declined.

This year also represented the “equalizing” of wartime students with peacetime students, which injected a new flavor to the school. The incoming high school student body was positively influenced with these mature veterans. The veterans in turn, were more interested in how to get a job and keep a job. Their entry into higher education was different and their goals were different than previous classes.

In 1937, the dept. served very few students compared to 1948 with its 278 full time majors and 28 graduate students. A general mission statement included a reference to the state of the art teaching field at the time; there were private academies whose seeming goal was to exploit a student financially. On the other hand, other university art programs had been around for a hundred years. The University of Georgia prided itself that a five-hour drawing class is required of all its freshmen.

We can chart the growth of the University of Georgia’s Art Department in tandem with the growth of the Georgia Museum of Art. In 1945 the Georgia Museum of Art was formed within the basement of the UGA Library (what is today the President’s office). When the library became the Georgia Museum of Art some art classes were being taught there as well. The art school would leave the building completely by 1958.

Here is a useful excerpt from PREFACE: to significant events at the University of Georgia  January 24, 1958.

“On January 28 the Museum takes over all the old library building, whose ground floor it has occupied since 1948. In the move upstairs it not only will TRIPLE ITS SPACE but will become one of the most handsomely housed art museums in all this area.”

Alfred Holbrook, then 70 years old, moved to Athens in January of 1945, a retired lawyer, he brought around 100 paintings with the hopes of starting a museum. “Mr. Holbrook and to his teacher, mentor, and fast friend, Mr. Dodd who together have done so much to make the name of the UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA synonymous with art leadership.”

“The official opening of the new galleries, simple, for the museum is not the sort of place where formality is a cult. It’s a place not for formal ceremonies but a PLACE FOR BROWSING, a place where people and the best art can get together.”

The first new art building.

The art classes were here then they were over there, before temporarily moving here before their current location there. Between the art school and the Georgia Museum of art, so much of the history can seem like trivia. However, each step was pregnant with implications and critical to the tasks at hand. No where in this convoluted history is that more true than in the art building built on Thomas Street.

January 21, 1963 marked the official dedication of the Visual Arts Building. Ceremonies were delayed until loose equipment was secured. John. W. Gardner President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and one of America’s foremost educators delivered an address for “Georgia’s finest hour” The closing paragraph set a meaningful precedent:

“In closing, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to pay my respect to this university and its president, to the Division of Fine Arts and its great chairman, and to all the men and women who will teach-and the students who will study – in the handsome new Visual Arts Building. If I were to express, a wish for all of you – both teachers and students, I know that the conventional thing would be to wish you success. But success is too easy. I’m going to wish you some things that are harder to come by – versatility, courage, conviction, self-knowledge and the capacity for love.”

It is unclear whether Gardner suspected the controversy of the building and wished its inhabitants courage and conviction to preserve through the critique of the locals. With 47,000 square feet of all white reinforced concrete that “makes a striking contrast with the traditional columned buildings of the Athens campus.” So beloved was the prevailing style of neoclassical buildings with their brick facades, that a donor had demanded that the campus’s largest library be designed in precisely this way.

In an January 28, 1962 edition of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “New Home for Art Shocks Old Athens”, explains:

Most everything was “red brick and columned.” “Some of it had to be, like $2 million library, opened in 1953. It was named in honor of a Georgia woman who left half a million dollars for its construction with the stipulation that it be colonial in architecture, and “of red brick with white columns all around it.”

"There isn’t another structure like it in heaven, earth or hell," said Alfred H. Holbrook, director of the Georgia Museum, as he looked across the street in Athens at the university’s new art building.” 

It was the first architectural controversy on Old Campus, where “new” buildings “have been restricted pretty much to laying red brick in a different bond or using Corinthian instead of Doric columns, which technically are more modern. But only technically.”

A lot of people take exception to its “modern” look, yet at the same time the same critics raved about the “beauty of the rooms and the utility of space.”

Old College the first permanent buildings on campus were built in the 19th century from 18th century plans. Josiah Meigs who was president of the school when it opened, brought the designs with him from Yale. Ironically, at the time of the article, Yale was building a 4 million dollar fine arts center that; “boldly modern and much closer kin to Georgia’s art building that to Connecticut Hall, after which Old College was modeled.”

Dodd said, “Generally, those who call it “the ice plant” do so tongue in cheek. People interested in design like it. People who have studied architecture like it. I like it.”

It covered a plot 300 feet long, and 160 feet wide. (The exact space of a football field.) And, 800 students had classes on the first day, with no congestion. Inside “the white room is filled with color-bright abstract canvases, beards, blue jeans, gay smocks, ragged old football jerseys, worn emphatically as if asserting a man’s right to study art.”

Near the center of the old campus, on the North-south access there was a gallery, administrative offices, with large art history lecture rooms on the left side and with classrooms for basic course, art education, drawing, painting, graphics, commercial design, interior design on the right.

Photography, crafts, sculpture, and ceramics laboratories occupied the lower floor at the back and faced out onto an open terrace where they are readily accessible for heavy service equipment.

A central barrel-vaulted gallery doubles as an entrance to  the large lecture rooms, student study room, slide-library, and processing rooms.

The lecture rooms are fitted with light dimmers, ten foot by 20 screens and projection equipment, which were operated from the lecterns. The slide library included storage, viewing, and processing facilities.

“The rooms for basic freshman and sophomore courses are reached from the central hallway extending to the right from entrance of the building. These rooms are equipped with light control, projection and observation installations. The adjacent art education rooms open onto a patio surrounded by a rock wall on the front, while the commercial design and interior design rooms across the central hall have direct access to an outdoor, second floor balcony along the back of the building. The entire south end of the main floor is lighted by four huge skylights and is taken over by painting studios, graphic lab and an enclosed interior recreation court with fountain and plants. The sky lighted area is divided with changeable partitions to allow maximum flexibility in use established spaces for kilns, clay processing foundry, ceramics classes, and photography darkrooms, has a large craft area that may be arranged to meet changing requirements. These terrace floor rooms may be opened to ground level terrace by pushing back sliding glass panels.

The architect added abstract sculptural elements, which added to the unusual appearance of the building. A cooling tower and balcony stairs, lead to the roof deck for sketching and painting classes.”

The Georgia Department of Art building as it was known was constructed from funds authorized by the University System Board of Regents through the State Building Authority of Georgia. It had been planned for six years before being constructed in two years. (A crucial detail is that his construction was essentially required by the General Education Board Grant terms.)

The architects – Toombs, Amisano, and Wells of Atlanta had already received an award for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects by the time they produced this building. Originally, Dodd hoped Nelson and Eames would get to design their building, but as a consolation careful consideration was placed on the freshman classrooms. These considerations included special catwalks and projection booths as well as motorized projection screens, all of which helped facilitate the Art X ideas as well as incorporate the flash laboratory of Hoyt Sherman.

In 1967, the academic reports record growing awareness that needs of the art schools were evolving, soon the projection arrays which were so avant-garde would become standard operating procedure. “[There is] a great deal of ferment in the arts today, and that ferment cannot be ignored by a modern university. All phases of communication—including drama, television, cinema, radio, newspaper and TV journalism – are coming closer to the arts and the arts are coming closer to communication. New universities are being founded in which colleges of fine and communications arts – in other words new disciplinary alignments are being established. These moves reflect an endeavor by forward-looking administrators to make higher education relevant to the character of the contemporary world and the needs of the young people who will live in it.

The Continuing Education Building was devised to address some of these the long-range problems in education. The University appreciated that in an ever-changing society, changes brought on by technological advances needed to anticipated into the flow of the school.



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