Page 10 - Shared Vision

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for the Cambridge Arts Council, where I commissioned
and supervised artists who were painting murals and
designing graphics for city vehicles.
I landed my last teaching job in 1976 at Massachusetts
College of Art and Design, where I taught for 22 years.
At the beginning and the end of my run, I served as
chair of its design department, which included two- and
three-dimensional design. I can well imagine the issues,
the pressures, and the decisions that confronted my
counterparts at SIU. It’s a tough job.
At a packed reception for “Buckminster Fuller: Starting with
the Universe” at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art
in 2009, five and a half decades after my first class at SIU,
I overheard someone say that Harold Cohen had brought
Fuller to Carbondale, and that he and his wife Mary were
living in Buffalo. I knew at that moment I would write this
Most stories of the American Bauhaus begin and end
in Chicago. The arrival of Walter Gropius at Harvard
represents one presence on the East Coast. Carbondale
is never mentioned. Yet that unglamorous place is where
America’s energy and optimism infused Bauhaus ideas.
By engaging students, most of whom had never heard
of design, with innovative educational methods, Harold
Cohen and his faculty and their successors taught us how
to think. We found our way to meaningful work along a
path paved with soda straws, broken eggs, and smashed
How we began this journey is the story of the second
American Bauhaus.
Al Gowan
Cambridge, Masschusetts
new library and met Elsa Kula and Davis Pratt. What sold
me was Herb Roan’s elegant brochure for the SIU 1958
French Fine Arts Festival. It was better than anything I had
seen the previous year in New York at the Art Directors
Club awards. I was hooked.
I took my humanities requirements that summer, and
in the fall I had classes with Davis Pratt, Elsa Kula,
and Herb Roan. I enjoyed the distinguished visiting
lecturers—typographer Aaron Burns and photographer Len
Gittleman, whose film
The Press
made me want to have a
printing press of my own. And I was there for another first:
Buckminster Fuller’s first lecture as research professor.
But I could not support my young family in Carbondale
doing freelance work by mail. I left SIU again at the end of
the semester for a design job in Columbia, Missouri, with
American Press. My new employer had a printing plant
a block from the University of Missouri, where I figured I
would somehow transfer my credits and finish my degree.
I had bought a platen press and was playing with type
arrangements as Elsa had taught me. I continued as a
freelance designer in the same office and by taking classes
part-time, earned my BA from the art department, where
little design was being taught. I talked my young instructor
into letting me design a musical toy, a project I knew had
been influenced by the thinking at SIU.
In January 1964, the seed that Harold Cohen had planted
nine years earlier bloomed when I was appointed as a
design instructor at Indiana University in Bloomington.
I started teaching the same week that Bucky Fuller
appeared on the cover of
. I considered that a good
omen. Scrambling to stay a day ahead of my students, I
plunged into Josef Albers’s
Interaction of Color
and taught
many other classic Bauhaus projects. IU had a fleet of new
Vandercook proof presses and many fonts of new foundry
type, which I incorporated into my teaching.
In 1970, I came to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where
Walter Gropius taught and Bucky Fuller is buried,
to practice design and to teach. In the mid ’70s, I
scratched an itch to go beyond the printed page and into
environmental design and served as the first administrator