Art Has the Power to Unite  

Art Has the Power to Unite

Art Has the Power to Unite  
Art Has the Power to Unite

On July 31, 1968, a young African-American boy was looking at the newspaper when he saw something that he had never seen before. With tears in his eyes, he started running through the house, calling for his mom. He would show his mom, and she would gasp, seeing something she thought she would never see in her lifetime. Throughout the nation, there were similar reactions.

What they saw was Franklin Armstrong’s first appearance in the iconic comic strip Peanuts. Franklin was ‘born’ after a school teacher named Harriet Glickman, had written a letter to creator Charles M. Schulz after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death outside his Memphis hotel room in April of 1968.  Glickman, who had kids of her own, and having worked with kids, was especially aware of the power of comics among the young. ‘And my feeling at the time was that I realized that black kids and white kids never saw themselves depicted together in the classroom,’ she would say.

She would write, ‘Since the death of Martin Luther King, I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.’

Glickman asked Schulz if he would consider adding a black character to his popular comic strip, which she hoped would bring the country together and show people of color that they are not excluded from American society. She had written to others as well, but the others feared it was too soon, that it may be costly to their careers, that the syndicate would drop them if they dared do something like that.

Charles Schulz did not have to respond to her letter. He could have just completely ignored it, and everyone would have forgotten about it. But, Schulz did take the time to respond, saying he was intrigued with the idea, but wasn’t sure whether it would be right, coming from him. He didn’t want to make matters worse. He felt that it might seem condescending to people of color.

Glickman did not give up, and continued communicating with Schulz, with Schulz responding each time. This conversation would continue for three months until one day, Schulz would tell Glickman to check her newspaper on July 31, 1968.  On that date, the cartoon, as created by Schulz, shows Charlie Brown meeting a new character, named Franklin. Other than his color, Franklin was just an ordinary kid who befriends and helps Charlie Brown. Franklin also mentions that his father was ‘over at Vietnam.’

Although Schulz never made a big deal over the inclusion of Franklin, there were many fans, especially in the South, who were very upset by it, and that made national news. One Southern editor even said, ‘I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together.’  It would eventually lead to a conversation between Schulz and the president of the comic’s distribution company, who was concerned about the introduction of Franklin and how it might affect Schulz’ popularity. Many newspapers during that time had threatened to cut the strip. Schulz’ response: ‘I remember telling Larry about Franklin. He wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long time on the phone, and I finally said:  Well, Larry, let’s put it this way. Either you print it just the way I draw it, or I quit. How’s that?’

Eventually, Franklin became a regular character in the comic strip, and, despite complaints, Franklin would be shown sitting in front of Peppermint Patty at school and playing center field on her baseball team.

Because of one brave school teacher who decided to ask a simple question, and because of one artist named Charles Schulz, people around the world were introduced to a little boy named Franklin.

From the Jon S. Randal Peace Page






Pentimentoa visible trace of an earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on a canvas, (from Italian, literally ‘repentance’)…the artist ‘repented’ and created something new.

Recently, Jan, my friend and Partner in the gallery Art on 12, texted me that while she had been working at the gallery, a dazzling white moth had been hanging around all day… trying to get in whenever she opened the door. When she left the gallery that evening she sent me this picture … the moth looking in the glass door of the gallery. The next day he/she was gone. Now, weeks later, there are a handful of white moths persistently lingering by the back door. There’s something in there they like.

Years ago, I collected vintage cameras. I ended up with more than 100. Back then they were relatively cheap and easy to find in small town antique stores, junk shops and flea markets. A special bonus was when I found one that still had film in it. I had a homemade darkroom in a spare bathroom at my house, and I was able to develop the old black and white film. Most of the time the film was ruined – aged beyond saving. Occasionally though, I would find composed shots of what looked like family vacations and other gatherings. Other times there were just ghostly images. Who were these people? Where were they, and what were they doing?

After my Dad died and I was going through his belongings, I found a box of old photographs, obviously taken when he was a youngster. I never knew that he had taken photographs or even that he had owned a camera. But these were not run-of-the-mill landscapes or pictures of the family. They were obviously posed (by him) – set-up scenes that portrayed some drama: elaborate fight scenes starring his friends; costumed theatrical stagings that he invented; furtive ‘spy’ pics, (probably of the neighbors), with the vantage point of the camera from behind a bush or a tree. He had an artistic flair and a far more interesting childhood than he ever told me about.

These days, one of my major interests in art extends to collage and assemblage work… something new fashioned from old, discarded or unrelated objects and pieces of things: Joe Hammer’s amazing collages made from cut-up book covers and papers; Ronnie Weeks’ elaborate and stunning assemblages from architectural salvage and vintage metal pieces; Jerry Seagle’s mixed media work incorporating paint, drawing, old postcards, photographs and writing.

‘Barely visible traces’… just below the surface… are everywhere in the art world… if you take the time to look.



art museum

Seven ‘Firsts’ with Art

art museum

Seven ‘Firsts’ with Art

Once you get serious, you don’t just appreciate art, you have a ‘relationship’ with art. And just like in your most meaningful human relationship, there comes a time when you step back and think about all of your ‘firsts’.

Here are my personal top seven ‘art-relationship’ firsts:

  1. The first time you put off buying something essential (like groceries) or paying a bill because you spent the money on a work of art.
  2. The first time you removed a piece of furniture from your home so you would have room to hang a painting.
  3. The time you traveled all the way back to a distant city just to purchase a piece of art because you had seen it passing through on vacation three weeks earlier and couldn’t get it off your mind.
  4. The first time you were brought to tears by the beauty of art.

OK…well I wasn’t ‘actually’ brought to tears – I’m a guy. But I was close. More about that in a minute. First a little background. James Elkins, professor of Art History at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has written a wonderful book:Pictures & Tears. In it, he details the way art can move us strongly, unexpectedly, even to tears. He writes:

‘Most us have never cried in front of a painting, or even felt anything very strongly. Pictures make us happy. Some are lovely and relaxing to look at. The best are gorgeous, mesmerizingly beautiful – but really only for a moment or two and then we’re off to something else’.

In contrast, the chapters in Elkins book each offer an exploration of a single work of art and some real (and sometimes well-known) person who was moved to tears by their encounter with it. Each of the following alternating chapters in Elkins book are meditations on those encounters. It’s fascinating.

Here’s my story. It was the first time I had set foot inside the Rothko Chapel in Houston. The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel, founded by John and Dominique de Menil. The interior serves not only as a chapel, but also as a major work of modern art. On its walls are fourteen black but color-hued paintings by Mark Rothko, an American abstract expressionist. The shape of the building is an octagon inscribed in a Greek cross, and the design of the chapel was largely influenced by the artist. If you haven’t visited, you must. You owe yourself a treat. On my first visit I was a graduate student living in Houston. I walked in on a hot Houston afternoon, not really knowing what to expect. I was stunned and immediately overwhelmed by the cool quiet, the solitude and the strange feeling of comfort. One of the tag lines associated with the Rothko Chapel is this: ‘A stillness that moves’. It’s apt.

Gallery ExteriorPeaceful Location

Back to the list…

  1. REALLY believing you have discovered the next Picasso, Rauschenberg, or Calder (…and maybe you have !!)

I’ve felt that way several times in recent years. Here are just a few ‘emerging’ artists whom I have encountered whose work has excited me in that ‘discovery’ kind of way.

  1. That time you had to rent a climate-controlled storage unit because your little house – with almost no wall space – couldn’t hold all your art acquisitions, and your plan was to rotate your art through the house.
  2. The first time you pause at home at the end of a long day, with a glass of wine in hand, and are staggered by the creativity and the beauty of the art that you have surrounded yourself with.



Olympic Rings

Making Art:  An Olympic Effort

Olympic Rings

Making Art:  An Olympic Effort

Did you know….?  Art competitions were a feature of the modern Olympic Games during its early years, from 1912 to 1948. The competitions were part of the original intention of the founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Fredy, Baron de Coubertin. His idea was to honor men – educated in both mind and body –  and competing in sport rather than war.

Medals were awarded for works of art ‘inspired by sport’, divided into five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. At various times there were suggestions to expand the competitions to include dancing, film, photography or theatre, but none of these art forms ever became part of the Olympic Games as a medal event.

The 1912 Summer Olympics, held in Stockholm, Sweden attracted a disappointing number of entrants: only 35 artists are known to have sent works of art. Things were different for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. The contests were taken seriously and 193 artists submitted works. This figure included three Soviet artists, even though the Soviet Union officially did not take part in the Olympic Games, which they considered to be a ‘bourgeois’ festival. The growth continued at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, where over 1,100 works of art were exhibited in the Municipal Museum, not including the submissions in literature, music and architecture. Artists were allowed to sell their works at the close of the exhibition, which was rather controversial given the IOC’s policy, which required all competitors to be amateurs. In 1949, a report was presented at the IOC meeting in Rome which concluded that practically all contestants in the art competitions were professionals. The IOC argued that the art competitions should therefore be abolished and replaced with an exhibition without awards or medals. Since that time several attempts have been made to re-include them, but all without success. The Olympics continue to be connected with art exhibitions, however. The Olympic Charter requires organizers of the Olympic Games to include a program of cultural events, to:   ‘serve to promote harmonious relations, mutual understanding and friendship among the participants and others attending the Olympic Games’.

Architecture : The 1928 Olympic Stadium, designed by Jan Wils, won the gold medal in architecture at the 1928 Olympics.

Olympic Stadium

Literature: The literature competitions were divided into a varied number of categories. Separate categories were introduced for dramatic, epic and lyric literature. Entered works were limited in length (20,000 words) and could be submitted in any language, provided they were accompanied by English and/or French translations or summaries. 

Music: A single event for music was held until 1936, when three categories were introduced: one for orchestral music, one for instrumental music, and one for both solo and choral music.

The juries often had trouble judging the pieces, which were entered on paper. 1936 marked the only occasion when the winning musical works were actually played before an audience.

Painting: As with the other art forms, a single painting category was on the program until 1928, when it was split out into three sub-categories: drawing, graphic arts and painting. The categories changed at each of the following Olympic Games. In 1932, the three categories were: paintings, prints and watercolor/drawings.

Sculpture: The sculpture class had only a single category until 1928, when two separate competitions were designated; one for statues and one for reliefs and medals.

Who were these artistic Olympians?

While several of the Olympic art medallists have achieved at least national fame, few of them can be considered well-known artists globally. In fact, the 1924 Games featured better known jury members than artists, with artists like Selma Lagerlof and Igor Stravinsky evaluating the entered works.

Judging by the medals won, Luxembourg painter Jean Jacoby is the most successful Olympic artist ever, winning the gold medal for his 1924 painting Étude de Sport, and for his drawing Rugbyin 1928.

Olympic Sports

Only two persons have won Olympic medals in both sport and art competitions. Walter W. Winans, an American, won a gold medal as a marksman at the 1912 Summer Olympics in the running deer (double shot) competition. He followed up with a gold medal for his sculpture An American trotter. The other Olympian with successes in both fields is Alfred Hajos of Hungary. As a swimmer, he won two gold medals at the 1896 Athens Olympics. Twenty-eight years later, he was awarded a silver medal in architecture for his stadium design.

Olympic Silver Medal Winner

Two presidents of the International Olympic Committee have also been among the entrants in the Olympic art competitions. In 1912 founder Pierre de Coubertin, under the pseudonym ‘Georges Hohrod and Martin Eschbach’, entered Ode to sport, which won the gold medal. Avery Brundage, who competed as an athlete at the 1912 Games, entered literary works at the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, earning an honorary mention in 1932. He would serve as the IOC’s president from 1952 to 1971.

Britain’s John Copley, winner of a silver medal in the 1948 engravings and etchings competition, was 73 years of age, making him the oldest Olympic medallist in history.

Who are the all-time Olympic medal winners in the Arts competitions?

Germany comes out on top with a total of 23 medals across all the arts categories. Italy and France are next with 14 medals each. The United States comes in at a distant 4thwith only nine total medals – tied with Great Britain, Denmark and Austria. Coming in at last place in the arts competition with only one medal each (never quite able to get that artistic thing down) was Norway, Monaco and (surprisingly) Greece.


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