From the Archives with Byron Hanson: July/August 2016

This article was first published in September 2012.

The Summers of 1938-1940: While every summer brings new developments in the Camp, these three clearly herald the Interlochen we know today. It was in these years that Radio Workshop, Drama Workshop, Visual Arts, and Dance all became distinct major programs under the National Music Camp umbrella.

There may have been informal Visual Arts instruction still earlier, but the first art teacher to appear in a faculty roster was George Rich, from the Meinzinger Foundation School of Art in Detroit, in 1938, though it‘s unclear what his role may have been that summer. The Prelude for 1939 refers to the establishment of the art school led “again this season” by F. Carlos Lopez, so it may be that Lopez replaced Rich before Camp opened that summer*. The first classes were held in Harmony Hall, a small structure about the size of Apollo Hall, but things really got moving when Maud Miller Hoffmaster, described in the Prelude only as a “Michigan landscape artist,” joined the faculty in 1942. Considering that by her fifth summer she had not only designed the Fine Arts Building but raised the funds for its construction, she must have been a lot more than only a landscape painter!

The Michigan Federation of Women’s Clubs presented the building to the Camp on Aug. 22, 1946. There’s little or no documentation of student work in that first decade, but it appears to have been primarily painting and drawing. Ceramics may have appeared next, with the addition of Walter Speck to the faculty in 1946.

I’ll close this first chapter of Interlochen’s visual art history with a reminder that the oldest sculpture on our campus stands directly in front of the Stone Hotel, not far from the Fine Arts Building. I’m sure most of you have walked right past Agnes Russell McLean’s “PAN,” which she completed in 1949.

*The July 3, 1938 Scherzo (p. 4) alludes to “beautiful oil paintings by George Rich” in the hotel lobby, so there may be more to the story.