Carlos Villa: Okay, introducing Fred Martin. Fred Martin has been a mentor, a friend and a role model for me since, ever since about 1959, and probably even earlier, because he was, because at that time, he was pretty much a – what can I say? He was legendary. He was legendary because he had shows at the Six Gallery as an artist and their shows, those shows were very, very amazing.
I hadn’t seen the shows, but I’ve seen a lot of the work, because for a while, I was living over at Fred’s house as a caretaker. And so, I saw a lot of that work, but then the opening of that show is legendary, because as I was told, you were feeding grapes to young ladies and Jean was getting very – Jean, your wife was getting very, very livid.
And meanwhile, you were being Bocus at your own feast, and I thought that that was amazing and then the work that you showed which was on brown, beautiful brown paper, those drawings and watercolors. And I remember that you showed those pieces at the foyer of the Jazz Gallery downstairs, and I remember that show because I just, in ’58 when I first got to the San Francisco Art Institute as a new young student, I remember the show.
And so, you were very, very legendary, but then at the same time, as I was growing like you were, you started doing a lot of incredible kinds of activities as a administrator, as an artist. You were probably one of the first real multitasking artists that contributed on many different levels here in the Bay Area, and you’ve contributed in all these areas as an administrator, as an artist, as a teacher. And as a Dean to this college since, I guess the early ’60’s
Fred Martin: ’65.
CV: ’65, but before that you had kept the spirit alive by being an administrator to a situation called the Art Bank and maybe we can talk about that later.
CV: But on the second reel, but the first reel, though, it’s really very, very important, because the, because of the importance of this history of women in the San Francisco Bay Area, there aren’t that many people who remember that far back, or who have that memory or who are willing to even have that memory. A lot of the people are gone that would have –
FM: That’s right. Sally’s gone, now.
CV: A real memory. So, well, we’ll just go down, we’ll just go down the road and then we’ll just talk about the history and we’ll talk about, and maybe we can highlight some names and then maybe you can just remember names and make connections and talk about contributions and how they helped certain situations here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Maybe we should proceed with what was happening before World War II with the artist Ruth Cravath Wakefield. Was – I remember Ruth Cravath as being an artist. Didn’t she do, didn’t she do pieces in granite and marble?
FM: Yeah, sculpture. Blockish sculptures are the things I remember.
CV: And those works, if you can remember, what, how did she title those works? What did, I mean, “Bird in Flight,” and that kind of thing and was she showing, was she showing ________?
FM: See, it – it went – first I have to say that I was inside of a situation, I met people, thought about people a great deal, but what I thought about them is not necessarily what they thought about themselves or what is officially thought about them. So, for instance, I think her art name was Ruth Cravath.
FM: A smallish, moderately crabby lady, but with reasons to be crabby, because there was a Ralph Stackpole Stoneyard where everything was wonderful, and then it was all over.
CV: Ralph Stackpole, now, who is he?
FM: Well, he was the sculpturer of the age back in the ’20s and ’30 –
FM: And he did the Pacifica Statue for the World’s Fair. And he did –
FM: The sculptures in front of the Stock Exchange. All this stuff.
CV: I, exactly, exactly, okay.
FM: And so, then he had the Stoneyard, which is the place where they were over there in what is now the Financial District. And it was, from what I understand the artist hangout. And Ruth was very – to her that was the art world.
CV: Well, that –
FM: Just like wherever the art world is now, then, especially if you were a sculpturer, that’s where it was. So, when it’s all gone, and then when they open up a restaurant in it –
FM: Well, anyway. [Laughs]
CV: Yeah, that –
FM: And here we have this Art Bank thing, and she had a couple of sculptures that are kind of in the way.
CV: [Laughs] But she was the spirit of the time. She was –
CV: One of the first spirits at the time, and that time would be around the time everybody was instead of being beat, like –
FM: No, they were –
FM: They were socially conscious bohemians. They were bohemians.
CV: Yes, they were bohemians.
FM: And Adeline Kent comes out of the same group, except she went surreal. And she had lots and lots of money.
CV: And she backed a lot of artists along with her husband, Bob Howard.
CV: I remember when I, back about a couple weeks ago, now, We had been talking about, we were talking about meeting at this session and I said, “Yes, we’re going to be, our first interview is going to be about the women of the time,” and you said, “Women were the whole thing.”
CV: Maybe you could –
FM: Okay. So, doing away with the ’30s for now. If we come to the ’40s and ’50s, there weren’t any galleries to speak of. Gunks had a gallery, and there was a place that sold prints. Raymond and Raymond was sort of the gallery, and as I understand it, this would have been when I was a student, ’48, ’49, that was it.
And the artists, it was the museums where they showed, and they showed at the San Francisco Museum, now SF BOMA. Grace Morley was the director, and she showed local artists. John Humphrey was the curator. He went to studios. Curators don’t do that anymore for Heaven’s sake.
CV: No, they don’t.
FM: And Nimpha Valvo was the curator at the Dian.
CV: She’s legendary.
FM: And she supported local artists by showing stuff. She put on shows, and at the Legion – I think his name was White.
CV: Oh, yeah, Charles white?
FM: I can’t remember his first name.
CV: Either Gene or Charles White.
FM: I don’t, I’m not sure. But anyway, he did it, and so, but the women, Grace Morley and Nimpha, they basically made the artwork, the institutional artwork. And there wasn’t any other. So, then that leads to the Art Association. The Art Association was an organization that had artist members and they were called general members.
The general members have the money. The artist members are the artists. The function of the Art Association was to maintain the school; that is, raise money for the school. And the function of the artists, essentially, was to do, it came down to the jurying for the annual exhibitions, of what they are now no more annual exhibitions either, worth a damn.
CV: That was a real big –
FM: That was the thing.
CV: That was the thing.
FM: That was the ________.
CV: Now, when did they start? Did they start a little after World War II?
FM: The started in 1872.
CV: Oh, God, that was [Laughs] –
FM: Or shortly thereafter. [Laughs]
CV: Okay, and so, that was like the ________ –
FM: That was the purpose of the Art Association.
CV: That, okay.
FM: Was to exhibit the members’ work.
CV: And it was an indoor show. It wasn’t an outdoor show.
FM: Oh, it was at the museum.
CV: Oh, well, now, that’s a big deal.
CV: That’s a big deal and I remember even being a student at that time, and I would see people around the block over there and on McAllister Street –
FM: Yeah, sure.
CV: Around, what was it, was it Franklin Street and everybody holding onto paintings that were still wet.
CV: And –
FM: And the ________, God, I don’t remember his name at the moment, either. God damn it ________ their fingernails. [Laughter] Just – well, so, it was a problem. It went like this. So, anyway, the role of the Art Association was to maintain the school and then the annual. Okay, and there was the paint and sculpture annual and I think there was a watercolor annual or it may have been fused with drawing and prints; I don’t remember anymore.
And her juries were essentially local artists who were – the Art Association had an Artists Council, which were elected to sort of manage its affairs. The Artists Council would select the jurors and I don’t remember how anymore. But, so, if you go back to Paris in 1870’s we had the same thing here. And it was started in the 1870’s, because –
FM: That was the model by which artists reached an audience.
CV: Yeah, yeah.
FM: The collectors would go there, see the stuff and then contact the artists. Well, that isn’t that way anymore, and even then, that was fading, but it was the only place you can get a show. So, that went on, and then and that’s in those notes I gave you.
FM: The issue came to be there in the mid-50s, that museum people would come or critics from the east to see work, because we were – this was the hotbed of the revolution, left over from Douglas McCabe in the ’40s.
FM: And well, who do you go see? Nobody knew. So, this Art Bank thing was started so that the artist members would have – there would be a collection of their work, a catalog of them and touring shows of them. And so, that’s when the exhibition program, which now has a ________ running it –
FM: [Laughs] I started it.
CV: I know you did; I know you started that.
FM: And it was specifically as a presentation of the artist members of the Art Association.
FM: You even created some stuff once, and you got in the creating some ________, but –
CV: Yeah, right. We don’t talk about that. [Laughs]
FM: Never mind that one, too.
CV: Well, those, and that whole thing of – well, maybe we can go a little before the Art Bank, and maybe we can talk about Grace McCann Morley. What’s – how many years was she there at the San Francisco Museum of Art?
FM: I think she was the founding – see, it was the Art Association, which then – and there were always tensions, I’ve noticed, if you have a school and museum hooked onto each other. Like Chicago had a terrible blow up, finally.
FM: And when they separated, the museum found out that most of the endowment belonged to the school. Well, shit. [Laughs]
CV: [Laughs] Yeah.
FM: Wait a minute. This is not supposed to turn out that way. [Laughter] Well, with us, it, the split took place. I think she was the founding director, and she was there until George Culler came. And that would have been probably ’59, ’60, ’61, some place right –
FM: Around in there.
CV: Right, right, right. I remember his name. I remember his name then, but Grace McCann Morley, I do remember, I do remember her name as proceeding. And –
FM: And she also pushed South American Art. That’s why they have Ani. That’s why anybody has Ani, is because she kept pushing that whole thing.
CV: Art of the Americas?
FM: Yeah. And because nobody had any money, including the museum, the whole exhibition schedule as they exist today, you had to show local artists, it was all you could afford.
FM: It was either the ________ collection or temporary shows essentially had to be local artists. And so, Nimpha would put together shows through the Dian, and basically, Humphrey would point them together for the San Francisco Museum.
FM: With Grace as kind of the overarching for the Museum. Florins San Francis, when we had that show in I guess it was ’59, he went to see her, saying that he wanted to have a show. She said, “Well, we’re only showing groups.” Because they had a show that I remember that Hasselsmith and David Park and Helmut Bishop. They were doing shows like that. So, Sam, asking who to show. So, I said, “Well, Wally and Banoneri.”
CV: I see.
FM: So, we had a San Francisco ________, Wally, ________, [Laughs] Fred Martin show.
CV: That was an amazing show. That was right around 1959.
CV: That was, yeah, that was 1959. During that – now, there were things happening at, during that time. Now, Sonia Geckoff’s mother, I forgot her first name, Madam. She was Madam Geckoff, of the East West Gallery.
CV: Now, that was located over on Fillmore Street, between Green and I forgot –
FM: I don’t know.
FM: It was on Fillmore, yeah.
CV: Yeah, it was on Fillmore, but Union, and –
FM: It was across the street from the Six Gallery.
CV: It was across the street from the Six Gallery, and it was more or less a – well, to me it was like a real modern Shishi gallery.
FM: I was never in it.
CV: Who did they show?
FM: I don’t know.
CV: Did they show expatriate –
FM: I have no idea.
CV: You have no idea, but she was, you know, I mean, you know, she as listed as something. What about Sonia Geckoff? What, did you have any dealings with her at all?
FM: Just very remotely. I knew people who did, like Jay and Wally –
FM: But as far as really knowing, no. The thing I ________, it’s, so, Sonia’s gonna be in the Whitney Annual. So, the decisions float around as to whether or not to go. Well, of course Sonia’s going and basically never came back.
FM: When Jay and Wally ended up in that show that Dorothy Miller put together, they didn’t go. And Wally’s career never took off.
FM: So, you always wonder about things like that.
CV: Well, and that was about the time that Jay DeFeo split from him.
FM: That’s true.
CV: And that was – I remember that. I remember those beach parties and all of these things. And I had remembered she had started on Death Rows, and she never really left the studio. I mean, as Death Rows was being constructed and painted, she stayed in her studio for long periods of time.
You know, 12, 13, hours at a time. All of her money went into, all of her money went into the making of that painting, and, of course, that’s its own legend. And she did that for seven years. But at that time, Wally broke up. But then, you know, going, kind of going back a little bit like Deborah Remington.
FM: Did you interview Deborah?
CV: Yes, we did.
CV: We interviewed –
FM: She was involved.
CV: She was involved ________.
FM: I was always on the other side of the Bay.
CV: Yeah, well, she was very, very involved.
CV: She was amazing. I thought that she as amazing because as I started school year, here was this story about this woman painter, Deborah Remington, who hitchhikes her way all across Asia, and –
FM: I’ve got to say that David Simpson told me, “She did it all on her back.”
CV: Well, David Simpson is another –
FM: [Laughs] Is another case.
CV: That’s another, that’s another story. But the thing was though, that one of the last things that she did was that she was in a Japanese movie.
FM: Oh, yeah?
CV: She was in a Japanese movie where she was this dancer, and she was tap dancing Morse Code messages to a detective or – I mean, it was one of those Japanese movies, and that gave her the money to come back to San Francisco.
FM: Oh, really? Okay.
CV: That’s the story from Deborah Remington. But Deborah started – helped start the Six Gallery.
FM: Sure. Certainly.
CV: And she started that Gallery with Hayward King, Wally Hedrick, of course, Deborah, John, who was her friend? John –
FM: The ________ guy.
CV: Huh? I forgot.
FM: It will come up in a minute.
CV: Yeah, it will probably come up in a minute, but at any rate –
FM: And David, yeah.
CV: Yeah, pardon?
FM: And David Simpson.
CV: And David Simpson.
FM: Anyway, do you – you do remember Hayward’s memorial?
CV: I do.
FM: The guy that put that together was – what was his name this poet guy?
CV: Yeah, I forgot his name. His name was John something.
FM: Yeah. I’ll remember it in a few minutes at the wrong time.
CV: Yes, absolutely. But that was a very, very amazing time. Besides Adeline Kent being the grand person that she was, and we’ll probably get back to her, their – the woman that showed at the Six Gallery – now, there was Deborah, of course.
FM: It may have. See, I never kept up with the shows, one right after another; so, I’m not sure. I expect that Sonia showed, but I don’t know for sure.
CV: Okay. But was, it was basically, it, like, it was basically a – Six Gallery is basically a gallery that was, in these days, it would have been a nonprofit gallery, a “nonprofit gallery.”
FM: Well, it was then, too. [Laughs]
CV: It was then, too. I mean, like, there were –
FM: Wasn’t there a membership that, except I never paid any membership dues either?
CV: Leo –
FM: How did they get the money together, do you know?
CV: I think that there were dues. There were supposed, there were supposedly dues. I remember it was a big deal with my cousin Leo, because he never had any money anyway. And so, to come up with $5.00 or $6.00 a month, or something for the, to pay the rent of that place was really a very, very big deal. But I was just wondering if you would remember any of the women that actually showed –
FM: Actually, no.
CV: That showed there?
FM: You know, the only person might be Deborah, and she might not ________ now.
FM: But she’s the only – well, David, I think is still alive.
FM: But Deborah’s the only –
CV: And, of course, Joan Brown showed there.
CV: And Joan Brown showed there, and then on the other, on the other side of the, not map, but on the other side of the situation of Bay Area artists that were showing in the ’50s, or late ’50s, going into the early, early ’60s, there were people like, for instance, Ruth Armer, Nell Sinton, and Adeline Kent.
FM: Yeah, let’s talk about those. Ruth and Nell. Looking at it now, Ruth had started off as an artist. She had studied in New York, I understand, knew George Bellows. She used to have a portrait of herself that George Bellows painted.
FM: And then the way I got it accidentally listening to her and piecing things together, her family, one side of it owned the Libest Department Store, which, in those days was really an important department store then.
CV: That was very big, along with I. Magnate, and –
FM: Yeah, right.
CV: And Joseph Magnate.
FM: And, but Ruth’s side of the family wasn’t that side. She then, in the ’20s, worked for a newspaper – perhaps the Chronicle. I’m not sure which one. She did quick sketches of important people, and she ________ Mark-, you know, going down Market Street in a convertible to try and get sketches of the mayor in a parade.
FM: Then next, she knew all of the wealthy women in San Francisco in their underwear, because she worked in the underwear department at Magnate or some place. [Laughs]
CV: Oh, that’s great. Oh, that’s funny.
FM: And then she married this attorney guy. I think his name was O’Connor, and when I knew her – this is in the, from the mid-50s, he was always invisible. He has some kind of illness. Maybe it was Parkinson’s – I don’t know what it was, but you never saw him.
You’d go to her place, he’s in the back somewhere being taken care of. Anyhow, so, she had all these family connections, and those connections, and then there was the Sinton’s.
FM: Which is the Edgar Walter connection.
FM: Walter was, Nell was one of the Walters.
CV: Well, the Walters family had a large department store also.
FM: And they – yeah.
CV: IM Walter? IM Walter? I don’t know. It was a large department store that after a while kind of dissolved, I think, because I remember the matriarch, who they called, “Gaggy” – grandmother.
FM: Oh, yeah?
CV: Because I worked for them.
CV: I worked for them, and there was Nell, there’s Nell’s daughter, and Nell’s son, John. And I remember that, I remember that connection. But the thing was is that Nell, herself, was very, was really quite independently minded.
CV: And she was very, very strong. She had, she was an artist. She had very, very strong convictions about stuff, and she really was fiercely passionate about the Art Association and the Art Bank, and all of these things.
FM: Well, it came about because of Nell. She knew some – back when this issue ________ critics ________ had come to San Francisco and there was no place to go –
FM: So, Gordon and Nell invented the Art Bank. Nell knew somebody at the Rockefeller Foundation to put up the money and that’s how it got started.
CV: Wow. So, Ruth and, basically, then Ruth and her were really very, very good friends.
CV: And Nell was an artist who – I remember she showed quite frequently.
FM: So, did Ruth.
CV: And Ruth. And the work was always like it had a point of view. The work had a point of view. I remember Nell’s always did. I mean, there was always something there. How did, let me see. How did, oh, God, I can’t – oh, how did Adeline Kent fit in? I remember Adeline, now, Adeline Kent was an amazing, was an amazing spirit of that time, and she was, and of course she was a contemporary of ________, and this is ________ –
FM: Yeah, they –
FM: We can wander into the unmentionable areas, I think.
CV: Sure. Absolutely.
FM: And that unmentionable area comes up this way. There were, that I, I had never thought about it at all during these times. There was the Otis Oaffield. O was an artist from the ’20s and the ’30s.
CV: He was a –
FM: It was, you know.
CV: He was an amazing, wasn’t he a founder of – not a founder of this school, but he was –
FM: He’d been involved forever.
FM: So, and he was on the Artist Council, and I was sitting next to him, and I don’t remember what was happening at that moment, but he said, referring to San Francisco, that the art world is the great Jew dynasty that supported it, that made it happen. In other words, the Jews, in other words the Sinton’s, the Armer’s. What’s this library we’re sitting in right now?
FM: Those people, the Braunstein’s, those people were what made it happen. There was a woman named Albert who was the one that was making the symphony happen. These were the people who were supporting culture in San Francisco.
CV: Now, Adeline Kent comes from the, the Anglo crowd over in Morin.
CV: Right, right. There was a whole, now, that was a whole family of artists –
FM: ________ and Bob comes from John Galen Howard that built the University.
CV: Of California.
FM: Yeah. So, they all knew each other, but to my knowledge, I never saw them mingle in any way. And –
CV: Oh, really? Oh, yeah, well, of course.
FM: It was Ruth and Nell and then a little bit later, Sally at that time.
CV: Sally Lilienthal.
FM: Before that, what was her name?
CV: Sally Hellier Lilienthal.
FM: Yeah, Sally Hellier. They were the ones who were holding this place together, those three, there in the ’60s.
CV: Well, Sally, okay, that was Sally Hellier Lilienthal, that was Adeline Kent –
FM: Well, see, but Adeline, she wasn’t on the board or any of that stuff. They were.
CV: I see.
FM: And one great moment at the San Francisco Museum when it was in the Veterans Building up there in that top – see, that’s another side of it. Here, we are at the Art Association. So, it breaks in two, and uses the money to build that museum on top of the – because otherwise, it was supposed to be down here.
CV: Right, right. So, they chose the downtown site –
FM: So, anyway, so, there’s the elevator, and there was this old guy, old veteran guy who’s always running the elevator.
CV: Love that guy.
FM: So, Nell is telling me one day, “Well, I got on the elevator and I finally told I’m, do you know who I am?” [Laughs]
CV: Oh, my God, oh, my God.
FM: Yeah. She – other great moments. So, Ruth and Nell are on Gurn Wood’s back about the faculty here.
CV: Okay, and ________ –
FM: This is when I’m doing the Art Bank.
CV: Oh, boy and ________ –
FM: And I’m sitting there in the meeting.
FM: And –
CV: And Gurdon at the time was a director of the –
FM: Yeah, of everything –
CV: San Francisco Art Institute.
FM: In fact, yeah.
CV: Right, right.
FM: So, they’re on his back about the faculty, that you’ve got to enlarge the faculty. You’ve got to have more variety in the faculty and Gurdon had Elmer and Dick and Frank and that was it, and they’re friends, period.
FM: So, they’re on his back about you’ve got to add more people. And finally he says, “Who?” And I don’t know if it was Ruth or Nell who said, “Well, what about Roy Deforest?” And Gurn said, “That would be like putting a dog in with lions.” [Laughs]
CV: Whoa. That’s pretty ________. That’s pretty far out there.
FM: Anyway, those were they days.
CV: Those were really the days, but those were the days also when artists, teachers, were paid $20.00 per session for –
FM: Yeah, I know.
CV: And when they taught, and they didn’t get – there was no such thing as tenure. There was no such thing as limited appointments or anything like that. It was just like –
FM: It was by the year.
CV: Yeah, it was by the year. Goes by the session, actually.
FM: Well, it could be, yeah.
CV: You know, but anyway, in your files, I’m sure that you’re gonna talk about the change from –
FM: But anyway, as far as Adeline Kent is concerned, because I knew Nell and Ruth and that circle –
FM: I knew Adeline, but she was, to me, she was a semi-surrealist sculpturer, who came from over there and who incidentally also the family in some way or other Steve Previne? Do you know who Steve Previne is? You go down highway 1, wandering and wandering and wandering –
CV: Oh, yeah.
FM: And trying to get to? Well at the foot of that had been some kind of an Army base, and the Kent’s had control of that somehow, and if you were a nice person, you got to ________ this [Laughs] little house.
FM: That’s now all gone, too. But so, then there was the studio. You know about the studio?
CV: Oh, yeah, the studio down on Francisco?
CV: The his and her studio. Bob Howard had one half and the other part was, and then the other half was Adeline Kent’s.
FM: Yeah. And we were supposed to get that.
CV: I remember that –
FM: Heard that story.
CV: In the ’60s. Well, that’s really another story. Talk about Ellen Braunstein.
FM: So, when we started the Art Bank, again, whatever I say is what I saw, is what – and whatever I saw was conditioned by my own –
FM: Everything. Ellen, I’m sure had a different idea. Anyway, so, it was said to me, I think by Nell that I would need a volunteer assistant. So, here’s Ellen. Ellen was an art world person who maybe had painted a little bit once or photographed a little bit once, and was extremely nervous.
Anyway, we worked together on various stuff, and then she said we should have events, because I was supposed to be the executive secretary of the Art Association, which meant that I had to keep track of the members and make events with them and all that kind of thing, as well as doing the Art Bank. And so, we do events.
I think we actually only did one, which was to be a symposium ________, a panel discussion. I don’t remember who the discussants were, except for one, which was Bruce Connor, and Bruce had written a speech, which was totally full of the most obscene words you can think of. [Laughter] Ellen was scandalized and ________________. [Laughs] So, this went on along, I guess about a year.
CV: What year was that?
FM: That would have been probably in ’59. We, the Art Bank started in, I was hired in September of ’58, and we had that thing pretty well together and in operation by ’59. Anyway, one day – and she only came in a couple days a week, and it was getting more random, but anyhow, I get a call that she is dead.
You’ve heard this one? Well, it turned out she was on, I guess it was Valiums in those days, but she also drank a lot.
CV: Oh, God, that’s –
FM: And Joe came home and he had talked to her an hour before. So, that made things start to go like this a bit.
FM: Then, some years passed. We would get up – this, I mean, this had been – I’m not sure; the late ’60s. And we were having a board meeting of some kind, but it’s very casual. And Byron Meyer is a member of the board and Ruth Armer is a member of the board. And Byron and Ruth are talking and, “What have you been doing?”
Ruth, “Well, I was in Paris just last week,” or something like that. “I was in Paris with Joe Braunstein.” And she had this elaborate turquoise bracelet on. And Byron says – either he says, “Did Joe give you the bracelet,” or Ruth says, “And Joe gave me this bracelet.” And Byron said, “Were you a good girl?” And Ruth says, “Good girls don’t get bracelets.” Shortly thereafter –
CV: Oh, boy.
FM: They’re married. Then Ruth made – by that time, Ruth’s husband had been long dead. So, then, the Braunstein’s had a house on a sea cliff with this beautiful view out over the Golden Gate Bridge, always foggy, but anyway. [Laughs]
FM: So, they moved to Russian Hill, and Ruth makes Joe get rid of every single trace of Ellen.
CV: Oh, wow.
FM: As far as I could tell, because she had been over there for lunch a couple times. Anyhow, then, how did this one go? I guess Ruth died first of emphysema, because she smoked, and I don’t remember when Joe died, but by that time, then there’s Rena.
FM: Who was married to John. John was – have you ever met him?
CV: Yes, I did. He was a very, very funny, very, very funny guy. I mean, it was like they were – I remember them as a couple, okay, we’re talking about, we’re talking about what Braunstein now?
CV: Yeah, John Braunstein and Rena Braunstein. I remember them as a couple.
CV: And then about the early ’70s, I think they split.
CV: I think they split and it was like, maybe night and day where I saw him become this kind of bachelor kind of guy.
CV: Hip bachelor, and Rena was, and Rena had the gallery and the thing was is that she was showing some pretty interesting work in that gallery.
CV: I mean, she was very, very serious minded and she was very, and she, you know, she contributed a lot to the community, I thought.
FM: She does, did, does.
CV: And she still does, and her daughter’s, I guess –
FM: I think she ________ now?
CV: ________ tradition.
CV: Follows in the tradition. I don’t know where John went, but he kind of left town, I guess.
FM: I don’t know, I – I haven’t seen him in a couple years. I have no idea.
CV: Yeah, well.
FM: Anyway, the issue came down, Ruth had left – they way I understand it, Ruth had left money to the Art Institute and so had Ellen. And Rena thought – this was in the Steven days, now, that it was being badly mismanaged and should have – and, yes, Joe was still alive that you’re just not, this endowment isn’t growing; you’re not investing it properly, and all that.
There was a lot of bad feeling, which I just felt like it’s over there, and Rena wouldn’t have anything more to do with the Art Institute from then on. But we’re not discussing most of the women on your list.
CV: No, we’re not –
FM: Why don’t we whiz they’re there and I’ll give you dirty anecdotes about each one?
CV: We want – Sally Lilienthal. Sally Lilienthal was a very, very amazing person. And you were saying earlier that she had held the San Francisco Art – she was one of the three people who helped keep San Francisco Art Institute going all the way through the ’60s.
FM: Sally is directly responsible, first of all, for the tuition waiver program. That was her money.
CV: That was my job.
CV: And also not only the tuition waiver program, but the money for the telegraph ________.
FM: The whole thing. The whole package.
CV: The whole thing, that was the whole package.
FM: That was her money. Then she was responsible for putting faculty on the board, faculty and students on the board. She forced that one.
CV: She also –
FM: She, the, you know, in a way, everything comes to a bad end. This one came out like – do you know how this one came out in the end? So, it came out like this. And this, in a sense goes back to the great Jew Dynasty. So, we have Ted Elliott is the executive director. Ted’s family goes back to Boston.
Ted’s great grandfather was the Elliott that ran Harvard forever. Ted’s father was the head of the Unitarian Church of America. Ted played with the Rockefeller kids when he was a child.
FM: Ted’s roommate at wherever it was, Yale, was Paul Melon.
FM: [Laughs] So –
FM: This is Ted’s background. So, then after World War II, Ted, somehow or other ends up in this steamship business, and is in charge of passengers for Madsen and passengers was Madsen’s big thing. Ships to Hawaii, cruise ships to Hawaii.
FM: So, Ted is doing the passengers, the whole thing of that. For one reason or another, Ted leaves Madsen, and I don’t know why, and at the same time, Gurdon doesn’t want to be executive director of the Art Institute any, any more. He wants to be the college and not the Art Institute. So, he has announced that he’s not gonna do it.
John sees McKiever walking down the street, Ted’s a big wheel at the University Club, Chauncey a wheel at the University Club. Chauncey asked Ted, “You know, what are you doing walking” – So, all right, Ted becomes executive director of the Art Institute. Fine. Gurdon discovers right away that he doesn’t like being told by Ted what to do. [Laughs] Not that Ted would, but anyway.
FM: It was funny watching the weekly staff meeting. The – who’s gonna sit in which chair all was, Gurdon’s not in the central chair anymore. He’s over on the couch with me.
CV: Oh, wow.
FM: Anyway, so, Gurdon is gonna leave. So, Gurdon is gonna go to Santa Cruz –
FM: Well, Gurdon can’t get a job, because he doesn’t have a college degree.
CV: Oh, wow, and that was the time that they instituted MFA’s and here he was, he was a director of California School of Fine Arts but was he –
FM: ________, but anyway, we invented a degree for Gurdon, a special degree. [Laughs]
CV: Oh, wow.
FM: Gave him his degree and off you go.
CV: ________, oh, God.
FM: So, anyway, then life moves along, and the time comes that the Federal Education Act, which was providing money for science all the university were saying, “Now, wait a minute; there are the humanities.” So, they’re forced to provide money for the humanities. It was designed to build science buildings, but all right.
So, if you could raise a third, borrow a third, the government would give you the ________ third. So, I went home that night, I said to Jane, you know, this ________. “Well, why don’t you do it?” So, okay, come back, and working with Ted, we proceed to raise the third and borrow the third and get the third. Good. So, we built that. However, naturally, there are the cost overruns, like –
FM: And then we had John Yates as the financial manager, vice president for finance. We got the building up, and there’s all sorts of things you hadn’t thought of that you had to spend money on after it’s up. And John could not control the budget at all.
CV: Well, he looked good doing, I mean, trying to do it. I mean, you know, like, I remember when I first got back in 1969, he was the new building here at San Francisco Art Institute is by then up. And in the early ’70s, he kind of was enticed by these hippy girls.
FM: Oh, is that what ________ [Laughs] –
CV: Yeah, hippy girls and I don’t know if he took acid or not, but the thing was is that he had these white flowing shirts and he announces his resignation, and –
FM: You were at that meeting?
CV: Yes, and he had flowers and –
FM: ________ nuts.
CV: And it was just very, very amazing, because when I first met him, he was like always in blazers with gold buttons, and he always looked like a member of the University Club, and he always had stripped ties and button down shirts and he had his hair combed in the right way. And he, you know, he looked like he had a tight reign on the finances. Took acid.
FM: Well, so, back to the University Club. So, we are losing all this money, we manage to ________ and Max Lindsey comes and we get the budget back under control. And we’re getting the budget back together fine, but we do need to raise more money. Well, we had the problem of Ted and his circle.
And his circle was the University Club. Now, that did include Peter Fulter, and it turned out that this property had been Peter Fulter’s mother’s way back in 1920. [Laughs]
FM: Which was just purely accidental connection. But anyhow, so, Ted, they were Ted’s source. The WASP old money of San Francisco. Well, in the meantime, we hit, with the John Yates adventure, we finally can’t pay the salaries one day. John was – was in July – John ________ called me up, and I was on vacation to say, “Listen, Fred, I just had a call from the IRS. We haven’t paid the IRS for I guess it was six months, and they want their money.”
There wasn’t any money I the bank. Yates had been, and he had gone away to the mountains. John Yates had. Had been having all the checks written and in those days, either Ted could sign a check or I could sign a check. I always just signed them. Then Jay, John never sent them, because there was no money to cover them. [Laughs]
CV: Oh, wow. God.
FM: So, there was a hysterical board of trustees meeting while everybody lent the money to get us through the goddamn summer.
CV: Wow. So ________ –
FM: Then this moves on a little bit further, and Sissy, becomes –
CV: Sissy Swig.
FM: Sissy Swig becomes chair of the board and they set out to get rid of Ted, as Sally, by then Lilienthal put it to me, “We need a good, tough Jew lawyer in there.”
FM: They got Arnold. [Laughs]
CV: Oh, that was, that was a ________ –
FM: That was the start of the downhill trail.
CV: That was another, that was another thing. I mean, you say downhill, downhill trend. I mean, that was amazing. He was ________ –
FM: So, then we were going to go back to Sally again. I said, things come to a bad end. Now, we’re at the bad end. So, we get on. And to my amazgement, Ruth Armer was on the search committee, and so was John Merrill. But nonetheless, they come up with Arnold. We had, in those days, the tuition waiver program. That whole program is sitting there. Sally’s putting up the money. Arnold cancelled the program.
CV: I remember that.
FM: Then he went to Sally for more money. When she found out, I, she may have given him money; I don’t know. But when she found out, she never spoke to us again.
Keywords: Foreground & Infrastructure