“It’s the Art!”—Free Art Show at the Schmidt House in Tumwater

Celebrate the art of beer! From November 4 through December 9, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation presents an art show featuring over 50 original advertising artworks produced for the Olympia Brewing Company during the 1930s through 1950s.

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This ad was painted in 1939 by Rudy Bundas, a commercial artist and a nationally-known fine artist as well. His work for the Olympia brewery included billboard art, greeting cards, packaging art, and cover art for the “It’s the Water News” employee newsletter.

The paintings, averaging about 18” x 34”, were intended to be translated into billboards and had to be bold, simple, and eye-catching. The original paintings offer a unique glimpse into the art and advertising processes of the day. Completed long before computer technology, the works in the show were largely painted by hand. Most of the pieces were produced by artists hired by the Seattle advertising agency of Botsford, Constantine & Gardner, which handled the Olympia Brewery account for decades.

In the 1930s and early 1940s, a billboard painter used each small painting as a guide, and hand-painted a large-scale version onto a billboard—some as big as 10’ by 42’. Later, when printing processes improved, the original paintings were enlarged and printed onto heavy paper—installing billboards then became a much simpler matter of pasting sections of paper, much like wallpaper, onto the wooden billboard backing. Up to 24 or 30 sheets of paper constituted a billboard.

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This ad was painted by Richard Wiley in 1956. Wiley was a successful commercial artist, but was also well-known as the illustrator of the Sally, Dick and Jane books so familiar to schoolchildren.

After installation of the billboards, the original paintings were meant to be discarded. Luckily, Olympia brewery personnel saved the originals, wrapping them in brown kraft paper and tucking them away. These paintings were hidden away for decades. They were only recently rediscovered, and are in the archives of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. This year, the Foundation received a Thurston County heritage grant to remove the artworks from the paper wrappings, and store them in acid-free archival boxes. During this process, the paintings were photographed and cataloged. Over 300 advertising artworks were preserved in this way.

For the “It’s the Art!” show, over 50 paintings were selected by Art Chantry, nationally recognized poster artist, art historian and graphic designer from Tacoma. The art illustrates the social norms during the Depression and World War II years: housewives bring husbands a beer at the end of the workday; soldiers await letters from home; golfers, sailors, hunters, and skiers enjoy a cold Oly.

Interpretive text is displayed alongside each painting, and biographies of the artists are included when individual artists could be identified. Some artists were adept at painting bubbles in a glass of beer, while others excelled at painting faces or landscapes. During the war years, when most of the experienced artists served in the military, less skilled artists painted graphically unsophisticated ads focusing on victory gardens, war bonds, and other contributions to the war effort.

The show is being held at the historic Schmidt House in Tumwater (330 Schmidt Place SW), and is co-sponsored by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation and O Bee Credit Union. O Bee has produced their 2018 calendar featuring twelve high-resolution reproductions selected from the exhibit. Everyone who attends the art show will receive a free calendar, while supplies last.

Show hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM, Thursday-Friday-Saturday only, November 4 through December 9 (closed Thanksgiving Day). Special appointments for groups of at least ten people can be arranged by contacting curator Karen Johnson at 360-890-2299 or karen@olytumfoundation.org.

Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Governor Inslee re-dedicates the Tivoli Fountain

vintage tivoliIt was a joy and an honor for us at the Olympia Tumwater Foundation to be a part of a special re-dedication ceremony on Friday, September 8, of the restored Tivoli Fountain at the State Capitol Campus. plaqueThis centerpiece of the campus was originally donated, built and installed through the work of the Schmidt family and the Olympia Tumwater Foundation in 1953. At the first dedication, Peter G. Schmidt presented this first project of the foundation to Governor Arthur Langlie at the very same site where Governor Jay Inslee and Foundation President Lee Wojnar re-enacted the scene.

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L to R: Peter G. Schmidt and Governor Langlie in 1953, Lee Wojnar and Governor Inslee in 2017

It was a special treat to see in attendance some of the descendants of the Schmidt family: Katie Hurley, Arel Solie, Peter G. Schmidt Jr.’s granddaughter Jeanne Phinney (with her husband) and their two young children, youngest Schmidt descendants in attendance, Dylan and Lauren. Governor Inslee paid special honor to the youngsters during the celebration.

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L to R: Jeanne Phinney (with her husband) and Dylan and Lauren, Susan Wilson, Arel Solie and Katie Schmidt Hurley

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The celebration ceremony included talks by the Public History Manager of the foundation, Don Trosper, Mayor Cheryl Selby of the City of Olympia, Mayor Pro Tem Neil McClanahan of the City of Tumwater and a keynote re-dedication speech by Governor Inslee. don video tivoliAfter the photos were taken at the fountain with the governor, the gathered crowd enjoyed the fountain history display put together by the Schmidt House curator Karen Johnson and assistant Megan Ockerman. Foundation Executive Director John Freedman met with Governor Inslee and commented that community service has been an integral part of the Schmidt family culture of philanthropy begun in 1896 by Leopold Schmidt and passed down from generation to generation and continues through the work of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation today.

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Foundation Executive Director John Freedman (left) greets Governor Jay Inslee

photos courtesy of Washington State Archives

Olympia Tumwater Foundation archive items featured in Washington State History Museum exhibit

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Steins, Vines & Grinds: Washington’s Story of Beer, Wine & Coffee

The latest exhibit at the Washington State History Museum, Steins, Vines & Grinds, explores the history of three libations that continue to be wildly popular in the Evergreen State. Discover how the passion of beverage industry leaders connected with the unique climate and geography of our state to place Washington at the forefront of the industry.

From these humble beginnings, an intriguing arc of production began. As a territory and a young state, Washington survived (and thrived in many cases) on beer, wine, and coffee grown, produced, and/or processed in the region. Local brewers generally made their beer in town, then delivered it by horse cart. Coffee roasteries either roasted green coffee beans at home or in the local marketplace. Immigrants from many points of origin grew wine grapes on small family farms. Each industry eventually achieved large-scale production: beer with Olympia Brewing Company, wine with Chateau Ste. Michelle, and coffee with Starbucks, among others. These large companies announced to the rest of the country Washington’s affinity with the beverage industry.

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A variety of artifacts, including the first stainless steel keg, from the Olympia Tumwater Foundation’s archives are on display at the exhibit

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A selection of vintage Olympia Beer bottles from the Foundation’s collection

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Many photos and a bottling machine from 1896 highlight the exhibit

Washington loves to drink! Our three favorite adult beverages—beer, wine, and coffee—are practically synonymous with Washington and have become part of our cultural fabric.

Exhibit details:

  • Saturday, Jan. 21 – Sunday, Apr. 23, 2017
  • Location: 1911 Pacific Avenue, Washington State History Museum, WA
  • Phone: 12537273500
  • Time: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

More information available at www.WashingtonHistory.org.

Spring pruning the Centennial Rose Garden at the Schmidt House

Last October 26, I posted a blog here on fall pruning of roses at the Centennial Rose Garden. I noted that the purpose of fall pruning roses is simply to get the bushes cut down, stripped of their leaves and mounded up with beauty bark to protect them from winter damage. I also indicated that the most important time for pruning roses is in early spring – around here that would be when the daffodils and forsythia are in bloom – early to mid-March. That time is rapidly approaching so our plans call for spring pruning the Centennial Garden on Saturday, March 11, beginning at about 9:00am. Continue reading