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Civils Right in Comics and Cartoons
September 23 - November 20, 2016

This exhibition, presented by the ToonSeum, highlights the little-known comic books and editorial cartoons of the civil rights era, including work by Herblock of the Washington Post, Sam Milai of the Pittsburgh Courier and the MLK comic book. It also examines the legacy of these early cartoons and comics on contemporary political cartooning and graphic novels. The exhibit will include work from March, a graphic novel trilogy that recounts the live and social activism of Rep. John Lewis and is inspiring a new generation to practice non-violence in the pursuit of racial justice.

The ToonSeum is honored to welcome the creators of the award-winning graphic novel March to Pittsburgh! This event takes place at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell will be discussing Congress- man Lewis’ role as a leader of the civil rights movement and how they transformed his story into this powerful graphic novel series. A book signing will follow the presentation. Copies of the MARCH trilogy will be available for purchase in the lobby of the August Wilson Center before the event and during the signing.

This event is a collaboration with Sweetwater Arts Center and is sponsored by Carlow University and The Pittsburgh Foundation. Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, August Wilson Center, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

The ToonSeum event at the August Wilson Center is SOLD OUT!
The August Wilson Center event with Rep. John Lewis and the March Team is completely sold out. There are no seats available. But Lewis and the March team will be doing a second event that night in Sewickley.

Sweetwater Arts Center has room at their evening event. The regular ticket is $50 but they are willing to work with those not able to get a seat at the afternoon event. They have many discounts available that bring tickets into the $20 (each, for groups of 5+) or $25 (educators, students, GPAC members) range. They are also willing to work with groups on lower-free pricing! For more information call (‪412-741-4405‬).




New ToonSeum Exhibit Examines 100 Years of the Art of the Cartooning Schools, How-To-Draw Books, and Forgotten Art Supplies

Pittsburgh, Pa - The ads called out to aspiring youngsters from the back of comic books, copies of Popular Mechanics, newspaper classifieds and, even, matchbook covers. The tags shouted, DRAW SPARKY!, DRAW SPUNKY!, DRAW WINKY!, DRAW THE PIRATE!, but more often then not, just DRAW ME! The gimmick was that on the basis of a simple drawing aptitude test (that no one ever failed), one could be chosen – or win a scholarship – for an elite, hands-on cartooning instruction program that would be conducted, via the US mail, by a roster of esteemed working professionals.

Hundreds of examples of the art from these programs will be on display in a new ToonSeum exhibit, DRAW ME! The Art of the Cartooning Schools and How-To-Draw Culture in America, opening August 20th. Also on display will be dozens of rare How-To-Draw cartoons books and forgotten mechanical devices created to assist young artists in their career aspirations.

“Before commercial art was called visual communications, the correspondence school was the principal American academy of art and an early training ground for American graphic designers,” said Steven Heller, Senior Art Director at The New York Times. “Scores of advertisements, like the famous ‘Draw Me!’ matchbook cover, offered willing aspirants the big chance to earn ‘$65, $80 and more a week’ in ‘a pleasant, profitable Art career.’ Although the ads often shared space at the back of cheesy pulp magazines with offers to learn, well, brain surgery at home, they offered a legitimate way for anyone with a modicum of talent, limited means and an existing job to train in their spare time for a new profession. Let's call it the precursor of ‘distance learning.’”

The Draw Me! industry flourished during the golden age of magazines and newspapers, when the use of photographs was extremely rare and complicated, and when illustrations and cartoons were the primary images used in editorial pages and ads. It was also a time when a career as a cartoonist could be seen as incredibly lucrative. An 1926 ad for the Washington School of Cartooning in Popular Mechanics shouted that: “Cartooning does pay enormous money! Clare Briggs, Fontaine Fox, George McManus, Sid Smith and all other headliners earn more than the President!”

It is unknown just how many took the bait and got their parents to part with their hard-earned dollars for these cartooning correspondence schools, which thrived for decades and, indeed, still exist in some manner today. But a look at the roster of graduates from these mail order schools is astonishing. Charles Schultz and Mort Walker both not only took lessons from the Minneapolis-based Art Instruction, Inc. school (better known to many simply as the Draw Me! School), but they also served as faculty members there. Founded more than 100 years ago and still in operation today, the Draw Me! School claimed to have on staff early cartooning and illustration legends like Gaar Williams, John T. McCutcheon, Clare Briggs, and Fontaine Fox. Schulz has said that several members of his Peanuts cast were based on his co-workers and friends at Art Instruction.

There were many, many other similar schools in locations around the US from the turn of the last century and through the 1970s. And several of those schools boast similarly jaw-dropping alumni and “faculty” lists. One of its best-known competitors is the Connecticut-based Famous Artists School, which has offered lessons by mail since 1947 (at a price of $200 for the three year course). At its peak, the school had 40,000 students and ran ads in the back of Popular Mechanics featuring faculty members like Al Capp, Rube Goldberg, Stuart Davis and even Norman Rockwell; some of its students were even more famous than its instructors—Dinah Shore, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, and Pat Boone all studied there.

Rare instructional materials from these and dozens of other schools will be on display at the ToonSeum exhibit, which runs through October 23rd. An opening event is scheduled for Friday, August 26th at 7 pm at The ToonSeum and several workshops and lectures are planned for the run of the show.


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