Dr. Gayle Seymour received her Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1986. She teaches upper-division courses in American art and Women in Art. Her specific research interests encompass a wide range of topics, including Pre-Raphaelite art, American Depression-era post office murals, Japanese American Internment art, and women artists. In 2005, for instance, she contributed the lead essay to the exhibition catalogue Love Revealed: Simeon Solomon and the Pre-Raphaelites for a centenary exhibition that toured Birmingham (England), Munich, and London. Her essay on Arkansas post office murals appeared in the book Sentinels of History, edited by Mark K. Christ and Cathryn H. Slater in 2000. Her referred journal articles include “Simeon Solomon and the Biblical Construction of Marginal Identity in Victorian England,” published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 1997. A recipient of a national Carnegie Professor of the Year award in 1998, Dr. Seymour also received the UCA Teaching Excellence Award in 1993 and the UCA Diversity Award in 2016. Dr. Seymour has been a member of CAA and SECAC since 1986 and has served on the board of the Historians of British Art.
Since 2006, Dr. Seymour has also served as the associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication where, among other duties, she coordinates the Artists in Residence program, which typically brings more than one hundred free arts events—concerts, exhibits, master classes, screenings, readings, etc.—to UCA students and the Conway community each year. Past residencies have included the creation of a monumental stickwork sculpture by Patrick Dougherty and balloon lanterns by installation artist David Graeve, author readings by Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Egan, and Miranda July, and concerts by the Cassatt String Quartet (with special performance of commissioned music by composer Bruce Adolphe, performed at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art), the Theatre of Voices, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Dr. Seymour has authored and received numerous grants totaling more than two million dollars, including a 2014 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (Art Works Opera) to commission an opera about the Little Rock Nine; a 2015 grant from the National Park Service (Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program) to commission a dance performance in response to the Internment of Japanese Americans during WWII; and a 2017 NEA/NPS “Imagine Your Parks” grant to create a 3D projection mapping video festival, titled “Imagine If Buildings Could Talk,” commemorating the 1957 integration of Little Rock’s Central High School sixty years ago. Her 2015 grant from the MAP Fund (supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) for the LR9 opera commission was one of only 37 grants awarded that year out of a pool of more than 800 applicants (4% acceptance rate).
Dr. Seymour is also active in bringing the arts to the Conway community. She is a founding member and current board chair of the non-profit Conway Alliance for the Arts (CAFTA), and the progenitor of the annual ArtsFest celebration, which takes place the first weekend of October. Dr. Seymour is also the driving force behind Conway’s community murals located in Simon Park and one at the corner of Oak and Chestnut streets. Her background in the history of art and architecture, together with her love and respect for UCA and the Conway community, has also led Dr. Seymour into historic preservation initiatives. She successfully led the efforts to list UCA’s Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places and raised more than 2.3 million dollars for the renovation of UCA’s cherished historic buildings.
An avid collector of art and objects associated with the social history of childhood (especially dolls and action figures), Dr. Seymour began her hobby at age 13 while living abroad with her family in England. While still a graduate student at UCSB, she curated the Schott doll collection at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and wrote the script and provided narration for a documentary film on the collection. Today, her personal collection numbers in the hundreds and provides her with an outlet for working with her hands (through sewing and restoration activities), travel, and study.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com.
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:17.5] KM: Thank you, Tim. Like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. Today’s show is going to be super interesting, because we have a super interesting guest. You’re an expert on post-office murals painted under the depression. We’ll find out where they are still and if there are some still in existence, and their locations in Arkansas.
She’s also an expert on World War II Japanese internment art, which I didn’t know there was such a thing. We had two internment camps in Arkansas. Did I get that right? Good. This should be an interesting father that we’re going to have some good conversations today. She’s made a recent pre-raphaelite art discovery, is that right? Did I get that right? We’re going to learn more about that.
If that’s not enough, Gayle is a skilled and knowledgeable doll collector. Through Gayle a nice conversation and storytelling today, we hope you will learn something, want to get involved, or be inspired to take action in your own life.
At the bottom of the hour, we will be taking calls and answering e-mails. For me, the taking action began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, Flag and Banner has grown from door-to-door sales, to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now relies heavily on the internet.
Each change in sales strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly 4 million in annual sales.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that I think you’ll find interesting. Starting and running a business or organization is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience.
No one, and I mean no one has a straight path to success. I worked part-time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. Today, we have 10 departments and 25 co-workers, that’s reminding us all small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and empower people’s lives.
Before we start, I want to introduce you with people at the table. We have my co-host and co-worker at Flag and Banner, Tim. Say hello, Tim.
[0:02:38.0] TB: Hello, Tim.
[0:02:39.2] KM: Running the boards and taking your calls is our technician Jessie. Thank you, Jessie.
[0:02:42.7] Jessie: Hey, no problem.
[0:02:44.6] KM: My guest today is Gayle Seymour, like I said Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Dr. Gayle Seymour received her PhD in art history from the University of California in Sta. Barbara.
Today, she teaches upper division courses in American art and women and art. But her interest are much broader. She loves researching pre-raphaelite art, post office murals painted during the depression, American World War II Japanese internment art and all women artist, of course.
If that’s not interesting enough, Dr. Seymour as early an age of 13 while living in England began the hobby of collecting antique dolls. What I find most impressive is Gayle has written and received over 50 grants, totally millions of dollars, all of which have in some way contributed to everlasting social and/or educational benefits for all.
It is a pleasure to welcome to the table the curious, the interesting, the never resting, brilliant Dr. Gayle Seymour.
[0:03:46.4] GS: Thank you.
[0:03:48.5] KM: Let’s start at the beginning. I like to spend the first 10 minutes of the show finding out about you and how you got here. I read – I really, really loved preparing for your interview, because I’ve never heard of the pre-raphaelite art. The only time I’ve head of Raphael was like I said, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I didn’t know Japanese interment art even existed. I knew about murals on post-office, but I had no idea there were 1,400 post-office murals painted across America, which I think is just amazing.
Again, let’s start at the beginning. You lived in England when you were 13, but you went to college in California. Where were you born?
[0:04:28.9] GS: I was born in Lexington, Kentucky. On a technicality you might say, my dad got his first teaching job at the university there. But I grew up in Sta. Barbara, California. I lived there, I don’t know, 25 years I guess.
[0:04:43.5] KM: How were you in England when you were 13?
[0:04:44.9] GS: My dad was on sabbatical. That’s the great thing about being a college professional. There’s nine months of a year job, plus these every six or seven years you get to go off and do fun things. My dad was on sabbatical that year. He was at the University of Redding. Took the family with him, so I got to live in England. I had to go to a girl’s school and wear a uniform.
[0:05:07.6] KM: Were you upset?
[0:05:08.6] GS: It was hard. Yes, I was upset.
[0:05:10.8] KM: Over when he moved you over there.
[0:05:12.1] GS: Like I said, that was when I was 13.
[0:05:14.0] KM: Just that year?
[0:05:14.8] GS: Just that year. Just that year. Then when I did my doctoral dissertation, I got to live in England for a year doing that too. London is my other home, I guess you could say.
[0:05:29.3] KM: Then you went to California – You were born in Kentucky, you –
[0:05:32.4] GS: Went to Sta. Barbara.
[0:05:34.6] KM: Went to Sta. Barbara.
[0:05:35.1] GS: Lived there for a long time and then came to Arkansas.
[0:05:39.2] KM: How did you get to Arkansas from Sta. Barbara, California?
[0:05:41.6] GS: You know in the world of art history, there is literally a handful of 10-year tech jobs each year, literally a handful. The year that I finished my PhD and I’m a modernist. I work in 19th and 20th century art, there were three jobs that I was eligible to apply for. There was a job in Duluth, Minnesota, one in Anchorage, Alaska and one in Conway, Arkansas. This California girl wasn’t going to go to –
[0:06:11.7] KM: Alaska.
[0:06:13.7] GS: That’s what happened. I think as an art historian, you know that you’ll probably not going to get to live where you want to live. You’re going to have to go where the job is and that’s probably okay. That’s what brought me to Conway.
[0:06:27.4] KM: How long ago was that?
[0:06:28.8] GS: That was 31 years ago.
[0:06:30.8] KM: Wow. I didn’t mention this in your intro when I was introducing you, but you’re the brain child behind the central high school 60-year reunion that happened for the Little Rock Nine. I think it was in October.
[0:06:40.6] GS: September.
[0:06:41.5] KM: September. How did that idea come about?
[0:06:44.9] GS: Let’s see, when was it? Back in 2012, we were sitting around the office like this one afternoon talking about just stuff. Someone in my office said, “You know, we should do an opera about the Little Rock Nine.” We all looked at each other and said, “How? Okay, but how do we do it?”
We got to work. I started writing grants and managed to raise a whole lot of money to do that. Then we thought that opera was going to be ready for the 60th anniversary, but things take longer than you think they should. Two years before the 60th commemoration I said, “Well, we got to do something and we got to do something that’s maybe different from what they’ve done at the 40th or 50th.”
My idea, it’s always my idea is to use the arts to do anything. I propose, “Why don’t we create some weekend of events that really try to show how the arts can be entry points into history and can be tools for social change?” That’s what we did. It was amazing. I mean, absolutely amazing. We had this 3D map video that we projected on the façade of central high.
[0:08:02.4] KM: It sounds like you completed the outcome.
[0:08:05.5] GS: It far out exceeded anything I could’ve imagined.
[0:08:08.9] KM: Wonderful.
[0:08:09.2] GS: It was really great. We have perfect weather.
[0:08:10.9] KM: Bill Clinton’s book. Did he went to this Gatsby?
[0:08:14.2] GS: Yes. Twice – three times actually. He spoke at our Sunday evening event. We did a dance and spoken word event in the Central High Garden. Gates, as well as Tania Leon, the composer for The Little Rock Nine opera and Michael Warrick, who is the designer of that garden, they all spoke as part of that event. It was amazing.
On Monday mornings, Gate spoke at the official city’s commemoration. Then that night, the actual anniversary date, he did an event for us in Conway at Reynolds Performance Hall. We actually performed one scene from the opera and it was incredible.
[0:08:53.7] KM: When is the opera going to be ready?
[0:08:56.4] GS: It’s a good question. The music is still being written. The libretto, the words are completed. Thulani Davis is our librettist and the words are amazing. Tania Leon our composer, we have to have this written for the NEA, one of our grantors by July of 2018. That’s the first piece birthing this thing. Then the next thing is bringing it to the stage. That’s big money.
[0:09:24.7] KM: Another grant.
[0:09:25.6] GS: Many grants. Whether it’s us who does that, or whether it’s the artist, because the opera is the property of the artist. It doesn’t belong to me, don’t belong to UCA.
[0:09:35.8] KM: Who is the artist?
[0:09:37.1] GS: Tania Leon.
[0:09:38.1] KM: Is she local?
[0:09:39.4] GS: New York. Any rate, so we don’t know. It’s a little bit up in the air in terms of where that will premier, what company will take it on.
[0:09:52.3] KM: She’s going to shop it actually, I guess, probably.
[0:09:54.3] GS: I’m sure. I’m sure. Any rate, so we’re excited and we’ve got lots of interest in it. I think it’s going to be a work for the ages.
[0:10:00.7] KM: Of all the grant you written, and then we’re going to go to write, but of all the grants you’ve written, what’s been your favorite one that you felt like accomplished, exactly what you wanted the most?
[0:10:07.7] GS: I think the Central High project that we just did is the work of my career. I really do. I think we did really amazing things that were almost not doable. I mean, they were so risky. That’s really the thing. It was sort of a contest to see if we could actually pull this off, if we could raise the money. Because it was big money to do the kind of art programming that we envisioned. We did it. I think that’s one of the things. I’ve also done a lot of grants for historic preservation and those are all –
[0:10:43.2] KM: Of what?
[0:10:44.0] GS: All of our historic buildings at UCA. We put seven of our buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. I wrote grants to renovate them, so that they can continue to tell their story.
[0:10:58.0] KM: You’re going to stay in Arkansas forever.
[0:10:59.8] GS: Probably.
[0:11:01.8] KM: She’s an Arkansan. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to delve into Dr. Gayle Seymour’s knowledge of post-office murals as part of Roosevelt’s new deal, Japanese internment art after World War II, the lost but newly found pre-raphaelite art and the business of being a collector, more specifically a doll collector. You didn’t call it collecting. You called it?
[0:11:24.2] GS: Social historian.
[0:11:25.6] KM: Doll social historian. I like that.
[0:11:28.3] TB: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of the show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you prefer to listen on iTunes, YouTube or Sound Cloud, you’ll find those links there as well. Lots of listening options, we’ll be right back.
[0:11:58.3] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Dr. Gayle Seymour, Professor and Associate Dean for the College of Fine Arts and Communications at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
Before we went on the show I was like, “Why is it arts and communications when it used to arts and humanities?” You said it’s been lots of things, but it’s all the same isn’t it? No? I mean, art is communicating.
[0:12:21.9] GS: That’s right.
[0:12:22.5] KM: Art is humanities. It is human nature.
[0:12:25.2] GS: That’s right.
[0:12:25.9] KM: Is there another way to that?
[0:12:27.2] GS: It just depends. Different universities do it different ways.
[0:12:30.0] KM: I get you. All right, this is the one I really went to first when I started researching all the stuff that you’re an expert at. You studied America’s post-office murals that were painted during the depression era as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s new deal. How did they come up with that idea? What was its goal and did it work?
[0:12:51.7] GS: This is a really fascinating chapter of American art history that nobody knows much about. Beginning in 1934, just a couple of guys in Washington DC had this idea that American’s cultural level needed to be elevated somehow. They had this brilliant idea to make the post office America’s art gallery.
Then they really thought, “How are we going to fund this? How are we going to pay for all of these?” It was the depression after all. They invented what’s known today as percent for art.
[0:13:29.8] KM: What did you call it?
[0:13:30.4] GS: Percent for art. What that means is that they were building a new post office in Piggott, Arkansas and they were going to reserve 1% of the construction budget for art in that post office. Brilliant. Typically, those post offices cost about $70,000.
[0:13:51.7] KM: In the 1930s.
[0:13:52.1] GS: Yeah. That meant that the artist got about $700. It was not a whole lot of money. But it was a brilliant idea. Again, and I think about places like Arkansas, where there really weren’t art museums at that time and people might have never seen an original work of art before ever. To have an artist come, and they weren’t local artist. They weren’t just the little old lady down the street who painted the sides. They did national design competitions and they had artists coming from all over the place to paint these murals.
Then the other thing that was really innovative is that they realized that they needed buy-in on the local level. It wasn’t just enough to bring in some artist from New York and impose their idea on a little community. The artist had to actually work with the local people and figure out what they wanted in their mural. You can say they are community-specific.
This is really the recipe for contemporary public art today. This is really how public art happens today when it works, that there is buy-in on the local level, that it’s funded in a creative way and that people feel a part of it. All of these was pioneered during the great depression.
Nine years only this program existed and shut down when World War II started. Just a handful of guys in Washington DC managed to commission 1,400 murals. It’s an extraordinary achievement.
[0:15:23.6] KM: How many artists?
[0:15:26.0] GS: That’s a good question. I don’t know that I know the number. I would say it’s probably somewhere around 7 or 800 artists.
[0:15:31.9] KM: Did 1,400 –
[0:15:33.4] GS: 1,400 murals. The other things that’s interesting since they were anonymous design competitions, women managed to break into the art field in a new way. In Arkansas, there are 21 murals and five of the murals were done by women. That’s a lot.
They’re really interesting works of art, where the poor artist, they had to make the guys in Washington happy. This is basically new deal propaganda. They don’t show people starting. In Missouri, they show people working cooperatively and everyone is well-fed and well-dressed and all these kind of stuff.
They also realized that the government was only going to fund what I would call safe art, representational art that people could understand. If you were an artist, these might not be things you wanted to really miss with. It was interesting for an artist to decide to take this kind of a project on.
What you find out in a lot of these murals is that the artist were willing to play the game, to paint section. This was funded by the section of fine arts. But often, they slipped in little, subtle things that the sensors in Washington missed.
[0:16:50.5] KM: Like what?
[0:16:51.7] GS: There is a famous mural in Wynne, Arkansas that shows African-American cotton pickers. There is one woman in the center, this large woman standing in pure profile and she has her mouth open as if singing. The mural is probably a reference to Marian Anderson, who had just sung on the steps of Lincoln Memorial when the daughters of the American Revolution forbid her to sing elsewhere. Really a kind of mural where the artist is saying, “Here it is.” But the average person might not have realized what this artist was referring to. That mural was done by a woman too, by the way.
[0:17:33.7] KM: A little controversy.
[0:17:34.6] GS: Yeah, it’s good stuff.
[0:17:35.4] KM: Are there any left besides that one?
[0:17:37.1] GS: Yeah. I think Arkansas still has 19 of their murals. One never actually got delivered.
[0:17:44.8] KM: What do you mean? They’re painted right there on the wall. How did they –
[0:17:47.0] GS: They’re not. They’re not. That’s the other thing that was really –
[0:17:49.9] KM: They were painted in place?
[0:17:50.9] GS: No. Again, this whole process was a kind of trying to figure out how to get around the logistics of it. What they realized is that they couldn’t have their post office built up with scaffolding for months while an artist painted a picture. They’re all painted on canvass in the artist studio, and then the artist had to bring it to the side and basically glue it on to the wall, using a mixture of white lead and varnish. That was also a master stroke of how to make this work, how to actually do this.
[0:18:24.8] KM: Are they indoors or outdoors?
[0:18:26.0] GS: They’re indoors.
[0:18:26.5] KM: I thought they were outdoors for some reason.
[0:18:28.7] GS: They’re indoors, they’re inside the lobby.
[0:18:30.7] KM: All of them.
[0:18:31.5] GS: Of the post office, they’re all in the same place, they’re over the post-master’s door. That’s where they are.
[0:18:38.3] KM: What size?
[0:18:39.6] GS: They’re generally about 12 feet wide by about 6 feet high. They’re not giant, but they’re still within the mural scale.
[0:18:49.3] KM: It’s probably within the fabric. If you’re painting it on canvass, it probably came 6 foot wide and they’re like, “All right, all of them are going to be 6 feet wide.” I read when I was reading about this to get ready for the show that Arkansans weren’t really happy of how the Arkansans were portrayed, because they were portrayed as country bumpkins.
The people wanted them to be portrayed more with hope of the future, so that future generations would see and think about where they were going to – not where they were, but where they were going to go to.
[0:19:24.9] GS: That’s a true story, and that’s the story of the Paris post office mural. One of the things that you had to do to get in this program was to submit sketches as you work through the process. You would send in the sketches and people would have a chance to say yes or no, or edit or whatever.
What happened in Paris post office is that the artist created the sketch of a hillbilly farmer, who was ploughing a field and didn’t even have enough sense to hitch the plow up to a mule. People got mad. They wrote to their senators and said, “No, we don’t want this.” The artist said, “Okay,” and he completely redid it. Completely repainted the mural, so that it showed everybody with it and with the latest technology in farming and mining and all kinds of stuff.
[0:20:16.1] KM: Have they all been preserved or are they falling into this repair?
[0:20:19.6] GS: They are in remarkably good condition for primarily because they’re up high on the wall and they’re just out of people’s reach. They’re also painted with oil on canvass. Oil is a very sturdy medium. They’re in pretty good shape, except for a few where stupid people do stupid things to them, like try to pull the thing off the wall and just basically tear it up.
[0:20:46.4] KM: Why would they try to do that? Want to move it?
[0:20:48.7] GS: They wanted to move it. It’s like living in a historic building. Something you know all too well. They’re not handicap accessible, these old post offices. People want new buildings. They don’t want those old buildings.
[0:21:03.0] KM: I don’t get it.
[0:21:04.1] GS: They’re not big enough. They don’t whatever. Typically, these towns get a new post office, and then they have to figure out what to do with the old building. They claim, “Well, we’ll just tear this mural off the wall.”
[0:21:15.9] KM: If I wanted to go and do a mural drive and do a tour of the murals in Arkansas, is there a map or a place that I could –
[0:21:24.8] GS: There is. We have all of these on our website at UCA.
[0:21:29.1] KM: Where? Give us the URL.
[0:21:30.6] GS: I don’t know exactly off the top of my head, but if you go to the art department page of the uca.edu, there is a tab where you’ll see the post office mural information.
[0:21:44.1] KM: Did you do all that research?
[0:21:45.2] GS: I did and my students, we worked on all of that. We went to Washington DC and dug out all the archive materials from the national archives.
[0:21:52.3] KM: How long did that take?
[0:21:53.5] GS: It took a long time.
[0:21:55.2] KM: How many different students did you have to get?
[0:21:57.3] GS: Years.
[0:21:57.9] KM: Years.
[0:21:58.5] GS: Generations of students have work done on that.
[0:22:01.6] KM: That’s pretty neat.
[0:22:01.9] GS: It’s pretty cool.
[0:22:04.3] KM: Preservation. Is there anything going on to preserve them? We got any grants to preserve them? Does anybody care? I mean, do people care about those?
[0:22:11.1] GS: People care, but they don’t really care.
[0:22:13.8] KM: I don’t think people know enough to care.
[0:22:15.4] GS: They don’t. After all, it’s just some old mural and some building, you know. Why would anybody want that, right?
[0:22:22.2] KM: No, no. Wrong.
[0:22:23.9] GS: I know. Over the last few years, I’m the lone voice in the desert talking about this. For instance, Darnell which has a very important mural. They’ve recently cleaned the mural, and they actually are doing an event on December the 8th where they’re doing a 5K run and they’re creating a mural of their own and they’ve invited me to come and do a little thing about the post office mural and whatnot.
They’re really a community that I think understands the importance of historic buildings, history in general, and have found ways to connect that old stuff to today. That’s the secret. That’s the hard part.
[0:23:04.3] KM: Well, Europe has been doing it. I think we can figure it out.
[0:23:06.9] GS: What I would love to do with some grants is create some kind of a virtual reality thing to go along with the mural.
[0:23:14.2] KM: Tour. A virtual reality tour of the murals?
[0:23:16.4] GS: Yeah. You could really step back to 1938, or whenever and really see what that post office look like back then and what the cars look like that we’re driving in front of it, kind of really go back.
Then the other thing we can easily do is create little kiosks in these post offices with a touchscreen and you could learn about the mural and about the artist, and then you could find where the next town is.
[0:23:39.9] KM: That should be fun.
[0:23:42.6] GS: It’s easy. I mean, we could do it.
[0:23:43.7] KM: What’s that virtual tour that I have out front of Arkansas Flag and Banner?
[0:23:48.5] TB: The Arkansas Civil Rights History Tour.
[0:23:50.9] KM: Isn’t like a QR code machine.
[0:23:53.1] TB: It’s a cellphone app.
[0:23:54.0] GS: It’s an app.
[0:23:55.9] KM: You could do that.
[0:23:56.4] GS: But we’re talking about, you know these things you put – these glasses things and you put your cellphone in and you can actually – you can actually look –
[0:24:04.9] TB: Virtual reality.
[0:24:05.8] GS: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what we’re –
[0:24:06.7] Jessie: Also, there is a interesting thing called 3D video now. There are videos where you can turn the screen and look around the room, or you can go in, there is like a guy who did a 3D video on top of some pyramids in Egype. You can look around.
[0:24:26.6] KM: There you go. Let’s go to the pre-raphaelite art. How do you say that?
[0:24:31.1] GS: Pre-raphaelite.
[0:24:32.3] KM: Pre-raphaelite. All right. Explain to everybody what pre-raphaelite art is, because I’ve tried to before the show and you just kept shaking your head, no.
[0:24:41.0] GS: All right. Well, it’s really pretty easy. The pre-raphaeliites were a group of artists in England who were born around 1849 and they were sick of the art of Raphael and what came after. Of course, Raphael lived in the early 16th century during the Renaissance.
[0:24:57.5] KM: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
[0:24:58.5] GS: He’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. They felt that art in their day was just too overproduced basically and they wanted something that was more honest, more sincere, and they thought that the art before Raphael, the art of the 15th century, the art of Frangelico and artists who were monks and others who really were making the sincere art, they thought that’s what art should be like.
They called themselves the pre-raphaelites and they signed their paintings PRB, which was sort of a secret society. These artists were only 17, 19 and 21 at the time. They were young kids basically. Their goal was to revive English art, that they really thought was in the doldrums. Their art is often highly narrative, lots of detail, lots of symbolism, often inspired by literature, that kind of thing.
[0:25:57.0] KM: What do you mean highly narrative?
[0:25:59.5] GS: Where you really are literally meant to read the painting as you would a book. Some art is really more evocative. It might make you feel something, or have just an experience of color, shapes and lines. But narrative art really has this kind of linear story that you’re supposed to be able to read through the painting itself, and that’s often their art was put together.
[0:26:27.1] KM: They probably didn’t want to be underground, because they were going up against the Royal Academy of Art.
[0:26:32.3] GS: They were definitely. The Royal Academy was telling them how to make this art that they didn’t want to make, that was too over –
[0:26:38.2] KM: That’s what was being taught in school.
[0:26:39.8] GS: Yes, exactly.
[0:26:40.2] KM: They were trying to buck the system.
[0:26:41.9] GS: Exactly.
[0:26:42.7] KM: That what art has always been trying to do though.
[0:26:44.4] GS: That’s it. It’s the great pendulum of art.
[0:26:46.7] KM: It is.
[0:26:47.1] GS: Swings back and forth.
[0:26:47.9] KM: I think that’s why I love art. What about, you said that you have discovered something. What is that? You didn’t tell me.
[0:26:56.1] GS: Well, this has been actually a few years ago. One of the pre-raphaelite artist is an artist by the name of Edward Burne-Jones and gosh, I was giving a lecture on pre-raphaelite art of Hendricks and a woman presented herself after the lecture and she said, “Well, I have a painting by Burne-Jones.” I said, “Sure you do.”
What our historians know about Burne-Jones is that he kept a notebook. It’s in the Oxford Ashmolean Museum, a list of every painting he had ever created. We all know that every one of those paintings is accounted for, except for one.
[0:27:34.0] KM: No.
[0:27:34.7] GS: Yes. I had enough sense to at least talk to this woman and follow-up. Sure enough, it was the missing Burne-Jones painting. What’s remarkable about the story is that this woman had inherited the painting from her mother, who in the 1950s bought this painting in New York City at Mortimer Brandt, which was a really established gallery that sold major paintings to major museums.
She spent $600 on it, which was in those days three times too much. She bought this painting. Her family apparently ridiculed her and apparently she bought the painting, because it matched a red and green chair that she had.
[0:28:19.0] KM: Well, of course.
[0:28:22.5] GS: Any rate, so –
[0:28:25.2] KM: How much is it worth?
[0:28:26.5] GS: It actually sold at auction.
[0:28:28.6] KM: She sold it.
[0:28:31.0] GS: She was deceased by the time, but I saw the painting. The family sold it. It sold for over a million dollars.
[0:28:37.6] KM: But who was it that came to see you after the – Did she buy it for the million dollars? The woman that came up to you after –
[0:28:44.7] GS: Was the daughter.
[0:28:45.6] KM: Was the daughter. The daughter sold it after you told her what she had. She’s the one that said, “I think I will go get this appraised and sell it.”
[0:28:54.3] GS: Any rate, it was remarkable. I think this was 1998 when this happened. In 1998, they had the Burne-Jones Centenary Exhibition, the exhibition a 100 years after the death of the artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Here was this lost Burne-Jones that –
[0:29:16.1] KM: That you told her what she had. You’re the person that said, “You have no idea what you have.” That’s a great story. That’s a really, really great story. Art really matters.
[0:29:27.8] GS: Yes.
[0:29:29.6] KM: When we come back, I want to have you tell us why, because I bet you got a good thing to say about that. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, Dr. Gayle Seymour’s knowledge of American Japanese internment art after World War II, which I think is going to be really, really interesting. We’ll get her to talk about collecting – being a collector, more specifically doll collecting.
[0:29:51.4] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of the show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you prefer to listen on iTunes, YouTube or Sound Cloud, you’ll find those links there as well. Lots of listening options.
[0:30:20.6] TB: Nat King Cole’s saying at the dreamland ballroom. That was a good song. You’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Dr. Gayle Seymour, Professor and Associate Dean for the College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
All right, Japanese internment art. Never heard of that term till I met you when you came to see me about the Central High Museum and you asked Arkansas Flag and Banner to help do banners for that. I met you and fan as you collect dolls and all these interesting things. When I was went in there and was researching you this week, went into the internet, was researching you and all these interesting stuff you do, explain to our listeners what Japanese internment art is.
[0:31:05.5] GS: All right. When Pearl Harbor happens, Japanese, Americans are instantly dangerous to America according to the federal government. President Roosevelt signs executive order 9066, which says all persons of Japanese descent shall be removed from the West Coast. Almost overnight, it’s a remarkable logistical feat, if nothing else. About a 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were removed to 10 internment camps in America.
The most far east ones are two in Arkansas, in South Arkansas and two little towns called Rohwer and Jerome. Internment camp art is the art that’s produced by inmates, if you will, of these internment camps. It is fascinating really that one of the first things they did when they got to these camps was to think about the arts and to think about the power of the arts, whether it was in garden design, or they had to build furniture, they had to just do all kinds of stuff to just make life somewhat bearable. They spent a lot of time making art. It’s pretty fascinating.
In Arkansas, especially at the Rohwer camp, there were two things that were happening simultaneously; one is there was a Caucasian teacher who was the art teacher there, Miss Jamison. She really worked with her students and really used the arts to somehow help these poor individuals under these terrible circumstances.
She saved this art and she gave it to her friend, Rosalie Gould who was in the 1980s the mayor of McGehee, Arkansas. Mrs. Gould saved this art all of these years.
[0:33:03.9] KM: Are they paintings?
[0:33:04.9] GS: Paintings, all kinds of things.
[0:33:07.6] KM: Just art and crafts of all kinds.
[0:33:08.7] GS: Mostly painting though. Mostly fine art.
[0:33:11.5] KM: With like oils or acrylics?
[0:33:14.3] GS: That’s the other issue. There is a lot of scrounging that went on. There weren’t a lot of materials to make this art, so there is some paintings that were done on the end bolts of denim, fabric and things like that that somebody must have donated.
Any rate, this art has been given to The Butler Center in Little Rock and people can see a lot of it today. It’s often on display down there. It really constitutes one of the largest collections of internment art anywhere.
[0:33:46.3] KM: In America.
[0:33:47.0] GS: Anywhere, yeah. The other thing that was going on in Rohwer is that there was a famous California artist by the name of Henry Sugimoto, who was in Rohwer. He started making art that I would called evidentiary art. I borrowed that term from the study of Holocaust art, which has some interesting parallels, again this idea of making art under terrible circumstances, and somehow trying to create art that documents things that happened. I saw this. I was present. This really happened.
[0:34:20.6] KM: Probably a way for them to process too.
[0:34:22.1] GS: Exactly. Also though, I think to save this history so that people would know that these things really did take place. Henry Sugimoto’s art is really powerful stuff. Most of it is in California in the National Japanese-American Museum there. But one big painting is at Hendrix College that Sugimoto did. This is also an interesting story.
One of the post office mural artists Louis Freund, who actually started the art department at Hendrix, I think in 1938 found out that Henry Sugimoto was down in Rohwer, Arkansas and somehow made it possible for him to get out of the camps, to come up to Conway and to have an exhibition of his art at Hendrix College.
[0:35:06.6] KM: What year was this?
[0:35:07.7] GS: This would’ve been ’44 I think, 1943, ’44, somewhere in that time pan period.
[0:35:16.1] TB: That’s just an amazing part of history that you can round all those people up.
[0:35:19.1] GS: It is amazing. This was really a secret. I don’t think people really knew this was going on. Why did they pick the most places in America to put them if they really weren’t trying to keep it as a secret? I can’t really prove it, but I have the feeling that that exhibition in Conway of this evidentiary art that Sugimoto was creating was really one of the first times that Americans actually got a glimpse of what was going on behind barbed wire. It’s an extraordinary thing.
[0:35:49.7] KM: How long did they have to stay in those internment camps?
[0:35:52.9] GS: Three years.
[0:35:54.6] KM: Then they lost their homes by the time they got out.
[0:35:56.5] GS: They lost everything. They lost their dignity. They lost everything. They were still the enemy. Where were they going to go after it was over? It was difficult to go back to California, because there were still a lot of bad feelings.
One of the things that I think historians have shown is that it was an opportunity to do a land grab. There were lots of places in California that the Japanese-Americans had farmed successfully and really tamed the land.
[0:36:29.3] KM: Established themselves.
[0:36:30.3] GS: Established themselves. This was a great opportunity to snatch it back. It’s really one of the great tragedies, I think in American history. The wall of shame as I call it. I mean, it’s a really remarkable thing.
[0:36:50.2] KM: We’ve got two internment camps were here and they were so large that they were ranked the 5th and 6th largest town in Arkansas.
[0:36:58.4] GS: Isn’t that crazy?
[0:36:59.4] KM: That’s how big they were.
[0:37:00.9] GS: Overnight.
[0:37:01.4] KM: Overnight.
[0:37:02.0] GS: Overnight.
[0:37:04.9] KM: Are those internment camps still left and where if you were to go say, “I want to go see what one look like.”
[0:37:09.8] GS: They’re still there, but there’s not much to see. If somebody wants to go see them and I think they should, I think you really have to stand on that ground in order to –
[0:37:18.0] KM: It’s in Rohwer and Jerome.
[0:37:19.8] GS: Right. I would go to the Rohwer camp. There’s a little bit more there. At Rohwer there is –
[0:37:24.1] KM: Spell Rohwer.
[0:37:25.1] GS: R-O-H-W-E-R. At Rohwer, there is a cemetery. I mean, how poignant is that? Can you imagine dying in the Rohwer internment camp? Don’t forget, a lot of these people that were older had children who were fighting on behalf of America in the US military. The whole thing is just so –
[0:37:51.6] KM: Humans are mind-boggling, aren’t we?
[0:37:55.6] GS: Then the other thing that’s at Rohwer, George Takei who was an internee at Rohwer, I think he was five years old when he first was taken to Rohwer. He’s done some oral interpretation. There is some little kiosks and you push the button and it –
[0:38:10.8] KM: Who is this?
[0:38:11.3] GS: George Takei. He is the –
[0:38:13.1] KM: Star Trek.
[0:38:13.4] GS: Star Trek guy.
[0:38:14.4] KM: Tell everybody, because I didn’t know who it was, until – I’m not a Trekky. I’m sorry. He is the –
[0:38:19.8] GS: He is the helmsman Sulu.
[0:38:22.1] KM: That’s his name. What’s he made?
[0:38:26.0] GS: They’ve created this little sort of signage kiosk things. You push the button and you get to hear George Takei narrating various aspects of the camp. But when you go there today, it’s just a giant cotton field. Cotton as far as you can see. You can also see it’s really great to go there in the middle of summer and try to imagine the incredible heat that these individuals.
[0:38:52.9] KM: From California to Arkansas. That didn’t seem, right does it? Such beautiful weather out there. I read in 2006 present George W. Bush signed a law authorizing 38 million dollars in federal money to preserve the relocation center? Did I read that wrong?
[0:39:09.2] GS: I don’t think that’s right.
[0:39:09.2] KM: I copied and pasted it from Wikipedia. I can’t believe everything I read down there. I thought that’s a lot of money for them to – nobody knows about that.
[0:39:18.6] GS: There is a pot of money that you may be referring to.
[0:39:23.7] KM: You said it went to nine other Japanese internment camps.
[0:39:26.3] GS: Well, there’s a pot of money that is still out there that gives grants to individuals to do projects for the internment camps, to preserve the history, and I actually got one of those grants. In 2015, we did a big dance project inspired by the internment camp experience.
[0:39:46.5] KM: Then two PBSs made a documentary, A Time of Fear, explores the history of these two American concentration camps in Arkansas. I have not seen that.
[0:39:57.1] GS: There is also another new documentary called Relocation Arkansas and it’s really about what happened to the internees after they left them out. It’s really extraordinary.
[0:40:10.2] KM: They probably succeeded again.
[0:40:12.2] GS: They did.
[0:40:13.3] KM: Yeah. Some people are just like that. I’m not going to take a break, but I’m going to take a break and just tell everybody you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Dr. Gayle Seymour, Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
We’ve only got 10 minutes left, so we’re going to talk about how you started collecting dollars at the age of 13, and how did that come about. You don’t call it collecting dolls. I forgot what you called it again. I’m right in the –
[0:40:41.4] GS: I’m a social historian of dolls.
[0:40:42.9] KM: Social historian of dolls. Okay. I bet you didn’t call it that when you’re a kid.
[0:40:49.5] GS: No, I didn’t. Well, if I can rewind my tape, it seems to me that what happened when I was 13 was that my mother decided I needed a hobby. Now I don’t think I was a bad kid. In fact, I know I wasn’t. My mother just had this idea that hobbies were really important, especially to develop early on so that you could do it over a life time and it would give you something in your retirement and whatnot
For whatever reason, my mother took me down to an antique store in Sta. Barbara and said, “Pick something out.” I was like, “Okay.” Who knows what she was thinking. I picked up this doll and my fate was sealed at that moment.
[0:41:32.7] KM: That was in California.
[0:41:33.8] GS: That was in California. That was right before we went to England that year and –
[0:41:39.6] KM: Maybe she knew that was coming and knew it was going to be hard on you. You wouldn’t have your little friend over there with you.
[0:41:43.2] GS: Well, no, no. I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. But I do think that being over there gave me the opportunity to really see a lot of –
[0:41:50.8] KM: Old dolls.
[0:41:51.3] GS: Old dolls. It really opened up avenues to collect things.
[0:41:57.0] KM: How many dolls do you have?
[0:41:58.1] GS: I don’t know.
[0:41:59.1] KM: 125?
[0:41:59.8] GS: More. I don’t know how many, but it’s many hundreds.
[0:42:03.3] KM: Many hundreds. Do you trade them?
[0:42:04.8] GS: No.
[0:42:06.0] KM: You keep them?
[0:42:06.4] GS: (Affirmative) Mm-hmm.
[0:42:07.3] KM: Do you go and you look at them?
[0:42:08.5] GS: Uh-huh.
[0:42:09.9] KM: Does your husband hate it?
[0:42:11.5] GS: No.
[0:42:12.2] KM: He don’t?
[0:42:12.6] GS: No.
[0:42:13.4] KM: He’s a good man.
[0:42:14.1] GS: He’s a good guy.
[0:42:15.6] KM: Do you have a whole room full of them?
[0:42:17.2] GS: No, no. They’re in cabinets in various locations.
[0:42:23.4] KM: I guess you have to keep them room temperature.
[0:42:25.9] GS: That’s very important, especially certain kinds of dolls.
[0:42:29.0] KM: Right after I met you in September, you sent me a picture of a doll you just got. I should’ve looked it up before I came here. You were excited about it. Why was that doll such a good doll, I can’t remember?
[0:42:39.8] GS: I found a doll at a flea market in Little Rock that was probably from around the 1870s made by a French company called Jewel Steiner. It’s an incredibly rare doll. It has a bisque head.
[0:42:54.1] KM: What’s that mean?
[0:42:54.8] GS: Bisque is an unglazed ceramic. It looks like skin, or like marble really is what is looks like. Any rate, I found this doll and it’s very, very valuable.
[0:43:08.4] KM: She didn’t have a dress on if I remember though.
[0:43:10.0] GS: Well, she had on a new dress, but the picture I took was to show you this very unique body construction that this doll had. Normally, a bisque doll has a cloth body with bisque arms and legs and then this bisque head. But this one is unusual, because it’s got this hip section that’s also made out of bisque. It’s called a [inaudible 0:43:31.6] type body. It’s incredibly rare. I’ve never seen one before, except in books and I never thought I would have one certainly. It was exciting. Yes, I was thrilled to send you that picture.
[0:43:45.6] KM: You just go out in the flea market and just go jump taking and you look for dolls on your weekends, or just whenever.
[0:43:52.9] GS: Yeah.
[0:43:54.4] KM: You saw this doll. Was it expensive?
[0:43:58.8] GS: No. It was really cheap.
[0:44:01.7] KM: How much would it be if you were to sell it?
[0:44:03.8] GS: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But I think it’s probably in the $5 to $6,000.
[0:44:09.1] TB: You bought it for $20.
[0:44:10.7] GS: No. I’m not going to tell you how much it is.
[0:44:15.1] KM: You don’t sell any of these.
[0:44:17.5] GS: Not very often.
[0:44:18.1] KM: Have you ever taken any of them to the antique roadshow?
[0:44:20.2] GS: No.
[0:44:21.0] KM: How do you find out the price of something if you’re a collector? I went and Googled up collecting dolls, and I am amazed how many people collect dolls. There is a whole group of people that love to collect dolls. How do you know what a price of a doll is?
[0:44:36.4] GS: Any kind of antique or collectible is only worth what somebody is wanting to pay for it. I think the best parameter of what somebody is willing to pay for it is e-Bay. It’s a process of being knowledgeable about dolls, because you have to know what it’s called in order to look it up, right? You have to know the names and whatnot. Then just looking up on e-Bay and seeing what the market says these things are worth.
[0:44:59.8] KM: If I wanted to get into doll collecting, how would I start?
[0:45:03.1] GS: I don’t know. Be hard.
[0:45:04.4] KM: Really?
[0:45:06.9] GS: Well, it’s like any kind of collecting.
[0:45:08.5] KM: You have to read a lot, I guess.
[0:45:09.8] GS: You got to read a lot and you’ve got to love it.
[0:45:12.9] KM: You got to have passion with it.
[0:45:13.6] GS: Yeah, you got to love it.
[0:45:15.8] KM: Isn’t that funny that your – is mother not still alive that you asked her, why she knew you’d be passionate about dolls?
[0:45:22.3] GS: I don’t think she ever thought I would pick out a doll. It wasn’t that she took me down there to buy a doll. She just took me down there to buy something.
[0:45:28.9] KM: I see.
[0:45:29.7] GS: Yeah. Who knows?
[0:45:32.3] KM: What are your plans for all your – you collect other things, don’t you?
[0:45:35.3] GS: That’s the problem with being a collector.
[0:45:37.9] KM: There is a word for that. It’s called hoarding.
[0:45:39.7] GS: No it’s not. But really for me as an art historian, dolls are part of this visual culture that we talk a lot about with art history. Dolls reveal a lot about what people thought was important. Dolls are a way to control society.
[0:46:01.6] KM: They’re crafts. I mean, they were handmade forever.
[0:46:04.5] GS: Yes and no. A lot of these were highly manufactured dolls, even in the 19th century.
[0:46:09.4] KM: Really. I would’ve thought that they would be hand –
[0:46:11.7] GS: No.
[0:46:12.4] KM: Have to be handmade.
[0:46:13.6] GS: No. Some of the most valuable dolls were made in France in the late 19th century and they were entire stores just devoted to these dolls with every kind of clothing accessory you can imagine, like Barbie dolls but a 100 years earlier.
[0:46:31.7] KM: Do you think Barbie dolls are worth collecting?
[0:46:33.3] GS: Yes.
[0:46:34.8] KM: I have a girl at my office who collected them for a while.
[0:46:37.9] GS: Got to collect the right kind though. If you buy one of the things for your collectors out there is don’t collect collector’s items.
[0:46:45.9] KM: If they say collector’s, that’s not a collector. That’s a good tip.
[0:46:50.1] GS: Yeah. The things that are valuable are the things that actually were toys for children.
[0:46:56.6] KM: That were used.
[0:46:57.3] GS: That were used and they shouldn’t have survived. I mean, if you think about a collection it’s a toy that was a failure, because some kid didn’t really play with it and tear it up. That’s my tip for collecting if you’re starting out, don’t buy collector’s item.
[0:47:12.9] KM: Why does art matter? That’s a big question.
[0:47:16.3] GS: That’s a huge question. That’s an excellent question. Art matters because it’s really evidence of humanity. Artists are very special people that need to cherished and artists have the ability to show us ourselves and what’s important if you look at the great themes in art, it’s love, death, hate. These really deep and meaningful things, and artists are the ones that allow us to meditate on these big things. I think art truly matters for the human condition.
[0:47:56.2] KM: I heard someone the other say, “It amplifies your ability to be human by understanding how others have been human.” It seems like artists are really tapped in being human and those deep emotions that some of us maybe won’t let ourselves get to, or touch on, but then we can see it in their art somehow. I’m so subjective. The art I love is not necessarily the art that somebody else will love.
[0:48:27.8] GS: But isn’t that great?
[0:48:29.3] KM: It is. I used to think when I was young that you had to be a suer of art, but you really don’t everybody as in what speaks to you can speak to somebody else too. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
[0:48:43.7] GS: That’s right.
[0:48:44.2] KM: Anything can be.
[0:48:45.1] GS: Besides, you might find a masterpiece.
[0:48:47.5] KM: You sure might, because I watch the antique roadshow and there are lots of people that find masterpieces. I love you being on today. Thank you so much.
[0:48:54.7] GS: Thank you.
[0:48:56.4] KM: I knew gentlemen this was going to be interesting, am I right? Okay, you radio people out there. They’re all nodding. You all can’t hear that.
[0:49:04.6] TB: Yes, yes.
[0:49:05.1] KM: There, I got a word. This is your gift today. It’s a desk set for you, and I didn’t realize you were only in the UK when you’re in California a long time. For our listeners, I gave her a US flag desk set with an Arkansas flag, because you are – I should’ve given you California, but I gave you UK.
[0:49:24.1] GS: It’s beautiful. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.
[0:49:26.3] KM: We may have to mail you United Kingdom, one you can stick in there with this. I mean, I have a California one that you can put in there, but this.
If anybody out there has a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to questions at upyourbusiness.org and someone will be in touch.
Finally, to our listeners thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right. But it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life.
I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:50:06.5] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Next week, a podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled ‘Radio Show.’ There you’ll find today’s segment with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal, to help you live the American dream.