Nevada cartoonist’s art needs help

April 24, 2009

Drawing by Lute Pease

Drawing by Lute Pease

From the Reno News Review, by Dennis Myers – April 23 2009

Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore., was built in 1909, and recently a clean up of its storage room turned up several dozen pieces of art, many of them by New Deal-era artists like Otis Oldfield and Elinor Stone.

Also found were the originals of 19 cartoons by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Lucius “Lute” Pease, who was born in Winnemucca, Nevada 140 years ago, on March 27, 1869.

Pease was a cartoonist for the Oregonian in Portland, editor of the Pacific Monthly (a literary publication), and cartoonist for the Newark (N.J.) News.

His 1948 Pulitzer reportedly made him the oldest person to that time—80 years old—to win the coveted journalism award, though that has not been confirmed.

Jefferson High is trying to raise $27,000 for restoration and protection of the artworks.

In Pease’s case, that may involve treating the paper on which the cartoons were drawn if it turns out to be acid based paper. About $5,000 has been raised so far.

One of the Pease cartoons in the Jefferson High cache touches on Britain and Germany fighting to control Iraq’s oil supply, with Hitler shown as the German figure.

The adjoining cartoon, not among the Jefferson group, shows the style of Pease’s work.

Contributions can be sent to Jefferson Artworks at Jefferson High School 5210 No. Kerby Ave, Portland, OR 97217. Information on the project, including scans of two of the cartoons, is posted at https://jeffersonart.wordpress.com/lute-pease-drawings/


Autzen Foundation supports the Jefferson Artworks

January 17, 2009

Jefferson High School has received a grant of $5000 from the Autzen Foundation for the conservation and restoration of the Jefferson Artworks.

Funds for the Autzen Foundation came from the estate of Thomas Autzen.  The philanthrophy is managed by his son.

Many thanks to the Autzen Foundation!

The funds have been banked in a special account to be managed jointly by the school’s business manager and Nina Olsson, an arts conservator working in Portland and a member of Friends of the Arts in Schools.  Nina was key in inviting local arts historians and conservators to tour Jefferson High School and see the Jefferson Artworks.  Nina has volunteered to manage the restoration of the Jefferson Artworks.

Five thousands dollars is a big push in the right direction for this project.  We hope other foundations and individuals interested in maintaining this fine collection of artworks match the contribution of the Autzen Foundation – and more.

Our goal is to raise $27,000.  This full amount will secure these artworks from damage caused by time and standard wear and tear for another generation.  Only by accomplishing this conservation plan can we show much of the Jefferson Artworks to students, to the community, and to the public.


Historical art trove is Jefferson High legacy

November 7, 2008

From the Oregonian, October 30 2008

Every old school probably has a storage room like Jefferson High’s, a dusty old space where vintage film projectors, dog-eared class photos and obsolete textbooks linger indefinitely in the darkness.

But at this proud but crumbling inner-city school, there is something more surprising once you get past the cluster of yellow plastic garbage cans and swarms of fruit flies: scores of artworks with tremendous historic value.

In anticipation of Jefferson’s centennial anniversary next year, alumnus Jason Renaud (class of 1979) and other volunteers have been working to archive and restore the collection. But proper protective glass, framing and other costs are estimated at about $27,000. More than that, Renaud also hopes to draw parallels between saving the art and saving his alma mater. 

“When they built Jefferson in 1909, it was the largest school in the nation,” Renaud says. “People from all over came to school here because it had the best art programs in the state. But when that stopped, it seems like they just dumped everything in this storage room.”

With capacity for about 4,000 students, Jefferson now houses fewer than 600. An open-enrollment policy in Portland Public Schools means that even neighborhood kids are shunning Jefferson, which lacks adequate college-prep courses. Not a cent of school money is available for restoring the artworks.

The collection’s most valuable pieces are 39 lithographs made during the Depression as commissions for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. Names largely lost to history — including Otis Oldfield, Ralph Austin and Elinor Stone — rendered images of the massive dam and bridge projects that would lift the U.S. out of its economic black hole.

Also included are 19 political cartoons by Lute Pease, The Oregonian’s first cartoonist, who created most of these works for the Newark Evening News during the 1930s. In one especially telling cartoon, Adolf Hitler is portrayed trying to get his hands on Iraq’s British-controlled oil supply.

“These would be great to put into the curriculum,” Renaud says. “What better lesson on politics could you have?”

Modern artworks in Jefferson’s collection include a painting by Louis Bunce, who helped establish Oregon’s modern art scene in the mid-20th century and exhibited at some of New York’s top galleries in addition to being an influential professor at Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art). Jefferson also has several early-1970s pieces originally exhibited at Portland’s Fountain Gallery, owned by longtime local arts patron and philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer.

Most of the two-dimensional artworks are still in good shape from sitting in protective darkness. But public art at Jefferson — such as a haunting bas-relief World War I memorial on the school’s front facade, or an exquisitely rendered wood mural with the opening words to the Declaration of Independence above the main entrance — is as decayed as the architecture.

As Jefferson’s centennial approaches, Renaud hopes the luster can return.

“This school loves its sports,” he says, standing beside plaques honoring NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro and Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker, both Jefferson alums. “But it’s also a school of poets and playwrights and painters.”


Jefferson High’s Hidden Arts Treasures

October 1, 2008

From the Portland Mercury, September 30 2008

This is Jefferson High School principal Dr. Cynthia Harris with one of the 115 pieces of art that have been hiding in the school’s basement since the 1940s. The school is celebrating its centennial next May, and Portland Public Schools is now trying to raise $27,000 to restore all the work for the occasion.

Cynthia Harris, principal of Jefferson High School

Cynthia Harris, principal of Jefferson High School

Most of the work was produced during the Great Depression as part of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project, the goal of which was to employ out of work artists, including Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock. You know: Lowbrow types.

“It’s a find,” says Harris. “It brings out the richness of the school, and the historical greatness that exists at Jefferson. My role as principal over the last two years has been to renew and to restore the greatness at Jefferson. So I’m excited about it.”

Sadly now, much of Jefferson’s hidden art is mouldering in the basement, behind an unassuming door, which I was lucky enough to step through this afternoon:

Some of the work is not only historically very important, but I would venture to suggest, highly collectible. For example, this original 1939 editorial cartoon by Lute Pease, a Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist, depicts Adolf Hitler scheming to get hold of nothing other than Iraq’s oil. History’s a funny thing, eh?

Editoral cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Lute Pease

Editoral cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Lute Pease

And it’s all in the basement. At Jefferson High School. It’s fascinating…I’ve photographed much, much more after the jump.

First things first. It really is a basement closet. I don’t think half the audiovisual equipment in there can have been used since I was in high school myself…

A lot of the work is lithography celebrating American industry. This is by a guy named Otis Glofield.

And this one is by Viktor Von Prebosic:

There are also a few later works, like this print by Portlander Jack McLarty, called Evening Dream.

Jack MacLarty

Jack MacLarty

Not to mention a series of botanical drawings:

Incongruously, there’s also this oil painting of Gregory Hines:

Gregory Hines, artist unknown

Gregory Hines, artist unknown

That’s the same Gregory Hines tap dancing here with Steve Martin in 1981:

I know. It’s an odd find, and not part of the collection. But still, it fits in, somehow, with the incongruity of the collection itself in its current setting. There are also four other works of interesting art around the building, which are included in the restoration effort. This wood marketry of the constitution by Amy Gorman from the 1940s is just hanging on the wall:

Patriotic wood marquerty by Aimee Gorman

Patriotic wood marquerty by Aimee Gorman

Just hanging there…

Not to mention this bronze bas relief World War I memorial by Avard Fairbanks, from 1925:

Fairbanks was a hugely successful sculptor and commercial artist who went on to design the Ram on the front of Ram trucks. Talk about glory…This piece shows the angel of death plucking, perhaps even seducing a helpless soldier, former Jefferson student, presumably, from out of the trenches. It’s probably the strangest work. I was struck hard by these images of the soldiers in gas masks. Very haunting imagery for the wall of a high school. Especially when you bear in mind that many of Jefferson’s kids will be targeted for recruitment by the armed forces to serve in current conflicts elsewhere.

There’s also this bronze commemorating the Lewis and Clark exhibition, by the unfortunately moustached Parisian sculptor Adrian Voisin, from 1934:

Not to mention this sculpture of Jefferson by Venetian sculptor Karl Bitter, from 1915:

Thomas Jefferson by Karl Bitter

Thomas Jefferson by Karl Bitter

It’s a fascinating collection, much of it equal in depression-era interest to the Timberline Lodge, as far as capturing my imagination goes. And I’m excited to see all the work restored. You can find out more about the efforts to do that here.


Meet Cynthia Harris

April 26, 2008

Meet Cynthia Harris, PhD, principal of Jefferson High School.

Dr. Harris is shown with a painting by Louis Bunce; one of the Jefferson Artworks.  The painting shows Portland’s busy docks on the west side of the Willamette River, circa 1940.  The Steel Bridge is shown, and in the background the Public Market, now replaced by Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Read about Dr. Harris – Change from within, Jefferson High’s new principal offers hope with a hands-on work ethic and a belief in transformation – the Oregonian, January 10, 2008.


Inventory of Jefferson Artworks

April 18, 2008

Printmaker and master framer Grey Byrd came to help inventory the Jefferson artworks today. He’s holding a print by Bruce Arriss called The Abalone Workers, one of the twenty-six prints from the Works Project Administration at Jefferson.

Arriss was a close friend of John Steinbeck and it’s possible this is an illustration from an edition of Cannery Row.

Here’s our current inventory of Jefferson Artworks – updated April 25, 2008

Works Project Administration lithographs, various artists – 26 29 35 in storage

Botanical prints, artist unknown – 38 39 in storage, three in classroom B 27

Editorial drawings by Lute Pease – 19 20 in storage, one on loan to Oregon Historical Society

Color prints of Oregon scenes, artist unknown – 6 in storage

“Along The Waterfront” by Louis Bunce – not found at Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson Monument by Karl Bitter – at North Entrance

Lewis & Clark Monument by Adrian Voisin – at North Entrance

World War I Monument by Avard Fairbanks – at North Entrance

Three panel marquetry by Aimee Gorham – in main hall

“Ski Scene” by Daryl Austin – not found not part of the collection

A glass mosaic by WPA artist Alan Flavel – classroom D 21

Mural by Isaka Shamsud-Din – classroom D 21

“River Logs” by Byron Gardner – in storage

“Worksheet #1” by Harry Widman – in storage

“Computerized Visage of the Vepaman” by Orleonok Pitkin – in storage



April 13, 2008

Thanks for visiting to learn about the Jefferson Artworks. This site is part of the Centennial Celebration of Jefferson for 2009.

The artworks are located at Jefferson High School is in Portland, Oregon, which is part of the Portland Public School district.

The purpose of this site is to show the Jefferson Artworks, tell their history and solicit donations for restoring, preserving and maintaining the artworks. Donations are tax deductible.

Send donations to Jefferson Centennial, P.O. Box 2379 Clackamas, OR 97015.

Please write “art restoration” in the memo section of your check.