Artists Working for All the People: Art in Action and the Work of Pauline Teller

April 25-November 4, 2008, Rosenberg Library, 2nd Floor Atrium


“Artists are people, working for the pleasure and profit of all the people. This is the new concept of art in a democracy as exhibited in the “Art in action.”

Report of WPA Activities of the Golden Gate International Exposition, Works Projects Administration, 1940.

City College of San Francisco is home to the monumental mural, Pan American Unity painted by Diego Rivera at ‘Art in Action’ during the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1940. This exhibition is to honor all of the other artists who created art in view of the public during this unique event on Treasure Island in the summer of 1940.

Here the visitor is privileged to observe a kind of twenty-ring circus of art…..On the floor, in a series of little ateliers, sculptors, painters, lithographers, etchers, ceramicists, weavers and whatnot are at work under the direct observation of the public.”

Alfred Frankenstein. “Diverse Attractions at the Golden Gate Fair.” New York Times, Jun 9, 1940

Most of the 68 artists demonstrating their craft while the public watched were volunteers. Some were paid by WPA and the San Francisco Board of Education. Research revealed the artists lives, their diversity, a special time in history, and the art they created. Many of their works can still be seen today throughout the Bay Area. City College of San Francisco is home to Organic and Inorganic Science, the mosaics of Herman Volz on Science Hall, the limestone bust, Leonardo da Vinci carved by Frederick Olmsted, and the Bighorn Mountain Ram and Goddess of the Forest carved by Dudley Carter. All of these monumental works were created “in the pit” at Art in Action while tourists stood behind a small railing and watched.

“[Government sponsorship was] the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me more of an incentive to keep on working, where at the time things looked pretty dreary and I thought about getting out of it because, you know, I come from a family of people who thought all artists were drunkards and everything else. I thought I’d give it up at one time but I think the WPA helped me to stay.”

-Sargent Johnson San Francisco, CA, 1964

This project expands the representation of Art in Action in the Diego Rivera Archives at the Rosenberg Library at City College’s Ocean Campus. In a process of research begun with the City College Art Guide, Mary Marsh and Chloe Ramos curators of this exhibition, help us to look beyond the accomplishments of Rivera to those of his colleagues and to better understand the artistic exchange between all Art in Action artists.

Through their research Marsh and Ramos found one of the Art in Action artists, still living and making art in the Bay Area. Pauline Ivoncovich Teller demonstrated wood-carving at Art in Action, she shares with us her scrapbook, memories and artwork from 1940 to today.

City College Library Resources

California’s Living New Deal Project

Artists Working for All the People Bibliography: Books, Articles, Websites

Sites to See Handout: Public Art by Artists in ActionPauline Ivancovich Teller

We are pleased to present the life and work of Pauline Ivancovich Teller as one of the Art in Action artists still making work today. These paintings represent her career from the original works presented at the GGIE to her recent work. We have included selections from her scrapbook to provide other artifacts of an artist’s life.

Pauline Ivancovich was born in Marin County in 1914. She studied under William Rauschnabel at Marin Junior College (now College of Marin), during which time she created the poster advertising the Golden Gate International Exposition as a class assignment. It would mark the beginning of many official associations with the fair. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Dominican College, studying under Leah Rinne Hamilton, before moving on to the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). She later studied at the Carmel Art Institute and with Elizabeth Holland McDaniel and Connie Smith Siegel. Initially interested in becoming a doctor, Pauline found that she preferred art to science, and was encouraged to pursue her interests by Rauschnabel, then head of the art department at Marin Junior College and a member of the Marin Society of Artists.

Through friends John and Mary Bolles, Pauline was introduced to artist Jose Moya Del Pino. John and Moya were both founders of the Marin Society of Artists and invited Pauline to join them. In 1939 John, who had been hired as the architect of the Temple of Religion at the GGIE, commissioned Moya to create accompanying murals. Moya enlisted several Marin Society artists to assist, including Pauline. The mural she worked on depicted a map of Palestine featured in the Biblical Garden. Because the murals were to be quite large they were begun at a warehouse in San Anselmo and were moved to Treasure Island to be completed for the fair. Pauline was invited to work at the GGIE again in 1940, this time participating in Art in Action. She created redwood relief carvings in an area known as “the pit,” working alongside artists such as Dudley Carter and Fred Olmsted, whose work can be seen here at CCSF, and Helen Forbes, whose portrait of Pauline can be seen exhibited below. Pauline also exhibited early paintings in California Art Today (Fine Arts Building) at the GGIE.

Through her exposure at the GGIE, Pauline was invited to have her first solo show at the San Francisco Art Museum in 1941. As a member of the museum, as well as the San Francisco Society of Women Artists, she continued to exhibit in their Annuals from the late 1930’s on. In 1976, Pauline was asked to design a redwood plaque to represent the town of Ross among other Marin County cities and towns as part of the Bicentennial County Fair. Her plaque remains part of a permanent display at the Civic Center Auditorium in San Rafael.

Pauline’s work has evolved through several notable periods, from her early California landscapes and barns ranging from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, to her interest in color theory and abstracts in the early 1980’s. Visits to Taos and Santa Fe later in the 1980’s inspired a new period of Southwestern-themed works. A longtime Larkspur resident, Pauline has also frequently been inspired by the views of Mt. Tamalpais and Corte Madera Creek from her home studio. Her current subjects have come full circle, often returning to the landscapes that characterized her early work.

Over the years, Pauline has exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association, the San Francisco Society of Women Artists, the Marin Society of Artists, the Terra Linda Art Association, the Society of Western Artists, the Marin County and California State Fairs, and various galleries in California and New Mexico. She has had solo shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, Dominican College, the Marin Civic Center and the Museum at Mission San Juan Capistrano. She is also a charter member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. Her works can be found in the permanent collections at Dominican University, the California State Museum, Stanford University Hospital and many private collections.

Curatorial Statement:Artists Working for All the People

Over the years City College has been privileged to play host to a number of fine examples of Bay area art. This lasting relationship with local artists and artisans began with founding architect, Timothy Pflueger, who designed our first building, Science Hall. Several of the pieces City College is home to can be found in and around the hall, itself. From the Herman Volz mosaic on the east and west faces, to the Fred Olmsted murals inside the front entrance, to the huge stone heads of Leonardo and Edison. If you are a student here at City College, these are just a handful of the treasures that you walk by every day. These treasures are but a key to a vast and wonderful endeavor, long forgotten by the world at large. It is this endeavor, and the artists and craftsmen behind it, that we present to you in this exhibition.

In 1939, the Golden Gate International Exposition opened to the public on man-made Treasure Island. It was a world’s fair to lift a country’s spirits. Following so closely the tragedy of the Great Depression, it faced many monetary challenges. Challenge, however, often leads to greater innovation, and when the fair opened it was evident that it was to be something wholly different from the fairs that had come before. Its organizers had dreamt up “Pageant of the Pacific”, stepping away from the time-honored Euro-centric undertones of previous world’s fairs in order to pay tribute to the Ring of Fire’s many continental and island nations, and their multi-varied populations. It was truly California’s fair. When it came time to re-open the GGIE for 1940, however, the budget was stretched too thin to recreate the vast art collections presented to visitors the year prior. Enter Timothy Pflueger and the Art in Action exhibition.

Art in Action was the birthplace for many of the works that grace our campus. The event was much discussed at the time, in the art world and in the press. Google search or ask around about the exhibition today, however, and you will be hard pressed to find anything about it. What made the Art in Action portion of the fair so special was what it showcased. Rather than separating work from creator, it put the viewer in direct contact with the artist during the creative process. Artists volunteered weeks of their time, toiling without pay to bring a new dimension to the relationship between creator and their public. Working together in what was called “The Pit,” painting, sculpting, printing, throwing pottery, weaving, and other artistic methods were all laid open for the viewer, from conception to completion.

The idea of craftsmen working for the public good was common at the time. The government funded many public works in this era, having instituted numerous programs to boost the economy by providing artists, writers, architects, and builders with much needed employment. It was a time of new connections between workers of all kinds, and many of the artists who worked at Art in Action were already employed or had been previously employed in programs such as the WPA. They came together in this revolutionary event not only for the exposure but also to enrich the lives of the general public. It is for this reason, and for the event’s special relationship with our campus, that we bring you a look into these artists’ lives. Although many never achieved the lasting fame of artists like Diego Rivera, their struggles as well as their contributions to the art world and society at large makes them worthy of our remembrance.

Handouts are available to guide you to public art around the Bay Area by some of our featured artists. In addition to the wealth of information to be had in our library’s archive, a bibliography is also available for those interested in learning more about the artists and the fascinating times in which they lived, the stories of which are all the more relevant in our current sociopolitical environment. In closing, we hope that you enjoy the exhibition as much as we have enjoyed presenting it to you.


Pauline Ivancovich Teller
Rick Teller
Michele Salinas


Mary Marsh, CCSF Library- Co-curator, Research, Planning
Chloe Ramos-Peterson, CCSF intern – Co-curator, Research, Text, Planning

Kate Connell, CCSF Librarian, Library Exhibitions Curator
Lisa Conrad, SJSU Library program intern
Lucia Ruiz, CCSF student worker
Mark Albright, CCSF Graphic Production

Julia Bergman, City College of San Francisco, Archives – Photographs, Biographical Information
The National Archives – Photographs
Mariah Nielson, Art Librarian, Oakland Museum of California, Archives- Biographical Information
Jeff Gunderson, Librarian, San Francisco Art Institute, Anne Bremer Memorial Library – Documents
Christina Moretta, Photo Curator, SFPL, San Francisco History Center – Photographs
Smithsonian Archives of American Art, McChesney Oral History – Biographical Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s