“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

New old roses for the Centennial Garden

In 2016 a Thurston County Heritage Grant in the amount of $2,000 was awarded to the Centennial Garden Foundation. The grant provides support for a Centennial Garden Improvement Project that has three parts. Part 1 calls for the research, identification and purchase of several varieties of “roses of historic significance” to be added to the current collection at the Centennial Rose Garden on the Schmidt House grounds. Parts 2 and 3 involve refurbishing the garden pathways with crushed rock and replenishing the bark mulch in the rose beds. The project will be completed by the end of 2017. Here we report progress on Part 1. Continue reading

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.

Foundation receives grant to preserve and showcase brewery artwork

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Olympia Tumwater Foundation archivist Erin Whitesel-Jones, left, and curator Karen Johnson unwrap a piece of Olympia Brewing Company advertising artwork. The Thurston County Board of County Commissioners awarded seven 2017 heritage grants totaling $29,600. Among the recipients is the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, which plans to use its $5,000 to catalog and re-house 292 pieces of Olympia Brewing Company advertising artwork dating from the 1930s to 1980s. Lui Kit Wong Staff photographer

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Grant will help preserve historic Olympia Beer advertising artwork

BY LISA PEMBERTON – January 21, 2017      lpemberton@theolympian.com

Nearly 300 pieces of artwork used to design billboards and advertising campaigns for the Olympia Brewing Co., will be preserved, thanks to a $5,000 Thurston County Historic Commission grant.

The paintings, photographs and advertising concepts were created to promote Olympia Beer from the 1930s to the 1980s, according to Karen Johnson, a curator with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, which manages the collection.

“These are just typical ads for all kinds of advertising campaigns that the brewery had,” she said.

Most of the pieces have been covered in brown paper for decades and have been stored in the temperature-controlled archives room in the basement of the Schmidt House, the historic Tumwater home built for brewery owner Leopold Schmidt and his wife, Johanna. The house now is managed by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

“We haven’t opened up all of the packages,” Johnson said. “But it’s like Christmas every time we open something up.”

The foundation was one of seven organizations that received 2017 Preservation Grants from Thurston County. The funds come from setting aside $1 from each $5 historic document recording fee that is collected by the Thurston County Auditor’s Office.

The grant program is managed by the Thurston County Historic Commission. It received 10 applications and ranked the requests. The Board of County Commissioners authorized funding for seven of the applications last month.

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation received a Historic Commission grant last year to process and preserve about 6,000 of its collection of 10,000 photographs from the Schmidt family and the brewery.

“It went really well,” Johnson said. “… The logical progression was to preserve the next most fragile thing, which was the artwork.”

The advertising artwork will be placed in acid-free boxes and cataloged. In October or November, the foundation plans to host an art show and feature 20 or 30 of the pieces, Johnson said.

“The whole focus is to share what we have, not keep it locked up,” she said. “… This is our county’s history in here.”

Olympia Tumwater Foundation director John Freedman said he believes the artwork will be a popular draw because the brewery was the county’s largest employer for many years.

“The brewery put Tumwater on the map,” he said.

Freedman said brewery workers saw their job as more of a way of life than an occupation. Olympia Beer items are highly collectable, and the artwork from the historic advertisements will probably tap into nostalgia, he said.

“The Schmidt family was very good to their employees; they had great benefits, great pay for the area,” Freedman said. “There’s a tremendous longing for that life again. It’s a bygone era.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton