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Title: Interview with Kenneth Callahan - #1
Original format: VHS
Item Id.: spl_ds_kcallahan_01_01
Description: This is part 1 of 4 of an interview with Kenneth Callahan. This interview was conducted by Dolores Tarzan in 1984.
Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986) was a noted Washington artist, known for his work in painting and sculpture. Together with Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson and Morris Graves, Callahan was part of the “Northwest Mystics” or “Northwest School” a group of artists formed during the 1930s who embraced Asian aesthetics and the natural environment of the Puget Sound. Callahan was born in Spokane, Washington and raised in Glasgow, Montana. His family moved to Raymond, Washington in 1918 and then Seattle in 1920. Callahan attended Broadway High School and, briefly, the University of Washington. He moved to San Francisco where he had his first one-man show and worked as a ship’s steward before returning to Seattle in 1930. In the same year, he married Margaret Bundy. The couple’s home quickly became a meeting point for many figures in Seattle’s art scene. During the Great Depression, Callahan worked as an artist for the Federal Arts Project. In 1933, Callahan’s work was included in the First Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Art at the Whitney Museum and Callahan began working as a curator at the Seattle Art Museum, a role he continued until 1953. In 1954 he won a fellowship from the Guggenheim. He traveled extensively through Europe and South America and focused on his painting. In 1961 Margaret passed away after a battle with cancer. Callahan remarried Beth Inge Gotfredsen in 1964 and the couple moved to Long Beach, Washington. Callahan returned to Seattle in 1984, shortly before his 1986 passing. Callahan’s work is included in the collections of several prominent museums including the Seattle Art Museum, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Chicago Art Institute.
In the interview, Kenneth Callahan discusses his life, the influences upon his work, his travels and experiences and his technique and intention in many of his works. Parts 1 and 2 include interviews with Callahan and close-up views of his artwork. Part 3 includes tours of Callahan’s studio and his Long Beach property. Part 4 includes footage of Callahan walking his dog in dunes and along the beach at the ocean near his Long Beach home.
This interview is part of the Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection. Don Schmechel, who was a member of the Seattle Public Library Foundation board, began this project with Seattle Public Library in 1984, with the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) brought on board as a partner in early 1985. Schmechel himself worked to raise the funding for the project, and volunteered his time to manage the project, and to conduct interviews along with a crew of volunteers. Originally titled the Videotaping Historic Figures (VHF) Program, the project interviewed 91 people, with a portion of the interviews entering the collections of the Seattle Public Library and a portion of them going to MOHAI.The interviews conducted with these Seattle civic, business and cultural leaders in 1985 are valuable first-hand accounts that provide insight into developments taking place in the mid-twentieth century.
Digitization of this videotape material has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.