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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. Continue reading


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Filed under Art and Activism, City College Community, Cultural Studies