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2007 Interview with Millie Goldsholl

On April 20, 2007, Chicago Film Archives Executive Director Nancy Watrous interviewed Millie Goldsholl, filmmaker and designer, at her home in Highland Park, Illinois. The following edited excerpts feature Millie describing her earliest work at the School of Design (now the IIT Institute of Design) in Chicago, where she studied under Hungarian-born artist László Moholy-Nagy. Millie passed away in 2012 at the age of 92.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CFA presents CHICAGO PUBLIC

Not all students are alike, right? Some might need…well…an alternate approach to learning. Come join us as we premier three newly conserved films about Chicago’s approach to students who just didn’t fit into the cookie-cutter category during the 1960s.

These three films offer a glimpse of a major urban public school system during a time when institutions and other social structures were being challenged on a national and wholesale basis. These films reflect the Chicago Board of Education’s response to those times.

Presented in the program will be three brand new 16mm prints made for this conservation project, including a special color restoration of METRO!!!.

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, 1964, B&W, 27 min.

This 1964 film portrays one of Chicago Public School’s innovative summer programs for pre-K through sixth grade students. Rather than relying on textbooks, teachers follow loose subject guidelines that fit the needs and skills of his/her particular classroom. This film offers an insightful peek into alternative teaching methods and philosophies within the framework of a major public school system.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, circa 1966, B&W, 20 min.

In the mid sixties, select students were chosen for Chicago’s city-wide gifted programs to provide “particular needs for a particular child.” The hallmark feature of these programs was the focus on critical thinking, achieved through the careful selection of materials and facilities, including science labs and libraries. The film also discusses the integration of handicapped children into the accelerated program.

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS, Rod Nordberg, 1970, Color, 18 min.

The political and cultural upheavals of the ’60s gave added impetus to the desire for a more open and challenging secondary education. As part of his contract, CPS Superintendent James Redmond had promised to develop an alternative experimental high school that would challenge “conformity” found in the traditional high school.

This film is about the genesis, philosophies and early years of Metro. With the mantra of “freedom, choice and responsibility,” students were encouraged to explore the city, think critically, and develop a strong sense of responsibility.

Previously existing prints of METRO!!! had all faded in color to red, but as part of the conservation project, the color has been restored and preserved in a new 16mm print. Come see this film for the first time exactly how it was initially presented in 1970!

Location:

1550 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
go to map

Hours:

7PM - 9PM

Admissions:

FREE! (Donations welcome)
RSVP here

CFA receives 2015 NFPF Grant

We’re super excited to announce that we’ve received a 2015 National Film Preservation Foundation grant to photo-chemically preserve three titles from our collections! The three films slated for preservation highlight innovative programs introduced within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in the 1960’s and 70’s:

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education [CPS General Superintendent of Schools, Benjamin C. Willis], 1964, B&W, Optical Sound, 27 min.

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM, Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for Chicago Board of Education, circa 1966, B&W, Optical Sound, 20 min.

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS, Rod Nordberg, 1970, Color, Optical Sound, 18 min.

Each of these 16mm films introduces a distinct and newly implemented CPS program: summer school programs (From A to Z), gifted student programs (A Soil For Growth) and the radical Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (Metro!!!). Combined, these three films offer a valuable glimpse into the country’s third largest public education system during a time of great educational reform. They incorporate and reflect the Chicago Board of Education’s response to an era when major institutions and social structures were being regularly challenged on a national basis. While the CPS has since cut or altered many of these programs, the content and stories within these films still offer some food for thought for the reshaping and reevaluation of Chicago’s public school system today. The films also provide an inspiring slice of history of the often volatile and turbulent relationship among the City of Chicago, CPS teachers and Chicago parents & students.

Goldsholl_FromAtoZ

FROM A TO Z: THE STORY OF SPECIAL SUMMER SCHOOLS (1964, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

A SOIL FOR GROWTH: A STORY OF THE GIFTED CHILD PROGRAM (c. 1966, Goldsholl Associates)

Chicago-based Goldsholl Design & Film Associates produced two of the films for the Chicago Board of Education, while local filmmaker & editor, Vince Waldron, produced the third. The Goldsholl Associate’s sponsored films thoughtfully present the views of their client and subjects, while Rod Nordberg offers a unique on-the-ground perspective of the newly formed Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies or “School Without Walls” – a bold experiment by the CPS that operated from 1970-1991.

The Goldsholls considered filmmaking a cerebral process that if allowed could thrive on serendipity. The firm’s two films made for the Chicago Board of Education are no exception, with the subjects at hand often mirroring the playfulness and experimentation of the firm’s own bustling design studio. The films introduce viewers to newly instated programs within the CPS from the early to mid 1960’s by simply presenting facts and quietly observing each program. Often the films present vérité-style footage of active classrooms as well as non-scripted voices of students, teachers and parents. The non-obtrusive camerawork and candid voices in these films give them a distinct humanist tone, a tone that is often absent from the sponsored film genre.

CPL_Metro

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

METRO!!!: A SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS (1970, Rod Nordberg)

Similarly, Rod Nordberg’s Metro!!!: School Without Walls gives voice to the students and staff of the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies (aka Metro) and more broadly introduces viewers to this progressive “school without walls.” Metro was a four-year high school that was part of the CPS system from February 1970 to September 1991. For Metro students, the city was their classroom. Students took classes at Metro’s Loop headquarters but also at such varied locations as the Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Second City. Unique in the CPS System, Metro sprung from the radical concept that students should take responsibility for their own education and that urban institutions and businesses represented countless and varied opportunities for educational enrichment. As former Metro history teacher, Paula Baron, states,“Metro was in the city, of the city and about the city.” Nordberg’s short film on the school gives us a rare glimpse into the early years of this ambitious program.

All three of these films are sorely at-risk due to uniqueness, and in the case of Metro!!!, severe color fading. To the best of our knowledge, CFA holds the only copies (16mm composite prints) of all three titles. The Goldsholl Associates films reside in CFA’s Mort & Millie Goldsholl Colleciton, while Metro!!! resides in CFA’s Chicago Public Library Collection. We were also very fortunate to receive several additional composite prints and printing elements of Metro!!! from filmmaker Rod Nordberg (thank you Rod!). Unfortunately, all existing composite prints of Metro!!! have color faded over time. This NFPF grant will provide the funds to create elements and strike new 16mm composite prints of all three titles.  It will also allow us to print Metro!!! on more color friendly 16mm film stock, giving us access to an accurate color version of the title for the first time in decades.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the restoration process, and last but not least: Thank you NFPF!

Faces and Fortunes Restoration

This afternoon we received our first DVD reference copy of the newly restored film, FACES AND FORTUNES. This 16mm sponsored film was made in the 1960′s by Chicago-based design firm, Goldsholl Associates, as a filmic treatise on “corporate identity” for Kimberly-Clark Corporation. It was directed by Morton Goldsholl, conceived by Millie Goldsholl, executed by Morton & Millie, Wayne Boyer and Larry Janiak and narrated by Hans Conreid (!).

Through live action sequences, delightful animation and simple design aesthetics, the film explores the legacy and importance of “personality” or branding of industries, organizations and companies throughout the ages. Unfortunately the only 16mm prints we previously had of this title were extremely color faded. Thanks to a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation and to the talented folks over at Colorlab (we call them magicians over here), the film has been color corrected back to its original glory and put back onto 16mm film. Take a look below for some stunning before and after shots…and stay tuned for more info on the premiere of this new print (the wheels are turning)!

Faces and Fortunes 11

Faces and Fortunes 10

Faces and Fortunes 9

Faces and Fortunes 8

Faces and Fortunes 5

Faces and Fortunes 4

Faces and Fortunes 3

Faces and Fortunes 2

Faces and Fortunes 1

Goldsholl and Janiak Design Films Slated for Preservation

CFA is happy to announce that the National Film Preservation Foundation has awarded CFA another grant to photo-chemically preserve four more films from the archives.  FACES AND FORTUNES, DISINTEGRATIONS LINE #1, DISINTEGRATION LINE #2, and ADAM’S FILM all reflect the influence of the “American Bauhaus” movement introduced by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy during the late 30s/early 40s in Chicago.  Designer and filmmaker team Morton and Millie Goldsholl were students at the School of Design in the 40s.  The impact Moholy-Nagy had on them was immediate and concrete.  The couple moved their already successful design studio to a larger space in Northfield, IL and added a film department that was headed up by Millie.  Larry Janiak was one of their first employees at their film studio.

These four films are early and stellar expressions of the midcentury Bauhaus influence in Chicago.

FACES AND FORTUNES was created as a filmic treatise on “corporate identity” for Kimberly-Clark Corporation. This film explores the legacy and importance of “personality” or branding of industries, organizations and companies. As you can see in these stills, the remaining prints of FACES AND FORTUNES are extremely color-faded. This NFPF grant gives us the opportunity to color correct this 16mm film back to its original glory. By Morton and Millie Goldsholl

ADAM’S FILM isa visual film collage experiment.  Live action images are combined with abstract images and textures that were chemically generated directly onto the 16mm film.  By Lawrence Janiak

DISINTEGRATION LINE #1 (DL1) is chemically generated visual variations produced directly onto 16mm film.  By Lawrence Janiak

DISINTEGRATION LINE #2 (DL2) is an optically printed full color randomly animated texture field image film.  By Lawrence Janiak

We are so pleased to have this opportunity to preserve modernist titles in our collections.  To date CFA has sheperded the photo-chemical and digital preservation of 91 Chicago and Midwest films with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  We plan to keep this number growing in order to create a complex and nuanced portrait of our region for generations to come.

More on Janiak’s films here

Meet Our Panelists!

For this year’s Out of the Vault program, MEET MORT & MILLIE, we’ve gathered an exciting batch of people to help shed light on the industrial films of Goldsoll Design & Film Associates.

But before we get to our panelists, let’s first meet our moderator- Amy Beste! Amy recently authored a chapter on the Goldsholls in Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Changed Society, and deserves a ton of credit for spearheading our effort in what we like to call “Goldsholl outreach,” or re-introducing audiences to the work and films of Goldsoll Design & Film Associates. Amy is a recent PhD graduate of Northwestern University and the current director of public programming for the department of Film, Video & New Media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she organizes the visiting artist series ‘Conversations at the Edge’ at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

And now for our panelists (in no particular order). First up, Susan Keig.

Susan Keig (from Communication Arts, 1971)

Susan Jackson Keig is an internationally recognized art designer in private practice, who at the current age of 94 (!), still manages her Chicago-based design practice. Susan once headed the Design Department at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates. Here, Susan worked for such clients as Lyons & Canahan, Scotts Foresman and Company, Evanston Hospital, Chicago Children’s Memorial Hospital and Simpson Lee Paper Company, among others. Some of her design projects include an LP record and album for Buckminster Fuller, a medallion from the Free Congress Foundation for Margaret Thatcher, and the Clare Booth Luce medallion from the Heritage Foundation for Ronald Reagan. Along with her more commercially-oriented clients, she also worked with Audiobon wildlife sanctuary and with the restoration at Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky in exploring the environment by design that was a lifestyle for Shakers (she’s also a leading authority on Shakers!).

Susan Keig designed Album cover for a recording of Buckminster Fuller’s address to the Society of Typographic Arts

Susan is a Fellow and past-president of the Society of Typographic Arts/American Center for Design, and has lectured at Yale University, Heritage of the Arts SUNY and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She taught at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, has had one-woman exhibits in Louisville and New York, and is a Distinguished Alumna of the UK College of Fine Arts.

Next up is panelist Wayne Boyer. Wayne attended the Illinois Institute of Design both as a bachelor and graduate student and is now a Professor Emeritus at University of Illinois at Chicago. Boyer states that when he arrived at the ID in 1955, “all of the film equipment was in storage and there was no one to teach it. But that was OK because of the experimental nature of the curriculum, where you were encouraged to combine media. This is what stimulated us.”

For many years, Boyer worked at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates where he worked closely with former ID classmate Larry Janiak (not sure why he’s not pictured above?!). The two were encouraged to apply their ID experimentation of Bahaus ethos to the firm’s advertising and industrial films. At Goldsholl & Associates, Wayne worked with clients such as Kimberly Clark, Chicago & North Western Railway, Champion Papers, Karolton Envelope Company and Inland Steel Company, among others. Boyer is also known for his 1975 film The Building: Chicago Stock Exchange (1975), which we screened during our 2007 BIG PICTURE series.

LEFT: Karolton Envelope Company “Envelope Jive” RIGHT: Kimberly-Clark Corporation “Kleenex X-Periments: Sneeze”

Our third and final panelist is Victor Margolin. Victor is Professor Emeritus of Design History at University of Illinois at Chicago and the first person in the United States to receive a PhD in design history. He began teaching Art & Design History at UIC in 1982 and soon after joined with small group of colleagues to found the academic design journal, Design Issues. Victor has written numerous articles on local design history, including an insightful look at African-American designer Tom Miller, who worked at Goldsholl Design & Film Associates for over thirty years (“African-American Designers in Chicago: Some Preliminary Findings,” AIGA Journal of Graphic Design 10 no. 1 (2000)). A wealth of his academic writings and personal musings can be found over on Victor’s website.

Celebrating International Women’s Day (all year round) at CFA

At CFA we celebrate ladies all year long, but days like International Women’s Day give us a great excuse to further celebrate the abundance of inspiring women associated with our collections -  Katharine Bowden (an early graduate of Valporaiso University), Margaret Conneely (amateur movie-maker extraordinaire), Sylvia Davis (producer of an early 1950s Chicago WBKB-TV wrestling show), Terry Davis (international travelogue filmmaker), JoAnn Elam (activist and feminist filmmaker),  Millie Goldsholl (head of the film department at Goldsholl Design and Film Associates), Evelyn Kibar (our favorite amateur film protagonist), Helen Morrison (photographer and filmmaker), Ruth Page (choreographer named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as one of America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures), Sybil Shearer (modern dancer and choreographer) and the countless uncredited women affiliated with our collections. Days like IWD also encourage us to celebrate…us – a women run organization (it’s nice to set aside some time to celebrate ourselves, right?!).

We invite you to explore the collections these women were a part of. Follow the bold links to see each collection’s finding aid (some with streaming video!):

Charles and Katharine Bowden Collection

Katharine Ertz-Bowden was an early graduate of Valparaiso University in Indiana. In 1897 she earned a Diploma in Public Speaking with a BA in Science from Valparaiso. A few years later she married fellow graduate Charles L. Bowden who had been an “expert photographer with Eastman Kodak,” and together they organized the two-hour film and lantern slide lecture A Pictorial Story of Hiawatha. The Bowden’s lecture included the screening of a Longfellow inspired pageant performed in Desbarats, Ontario by the Garden River Ojibway community in 1902 – 1903. From the spring of 1904 until 1910, the Bowdens presented the lecture in over twenty states to tens of thousands of spectators at small town opera halls, churches, school auditoriums, and under the expansive tents raised for summer Chautauquas. Our Charles and Katherine Bowden Collection contains the preserved and restored archival materials from 7 original 35mm nitrate reels discovered in the Valparaiso University Special Collections Library by Judith Miller.

Margaret Conneely Collection

Chicago movie-maker Margaret Conneely (1915-2007) was active in amateur filmmaking both locally and internationally for nearly half a century. In the 1950s, Margaret’s films won awards from major amateur contests in both America and Europe, and by the 60s she had become a highly regarded competition judge, attending amateur film festivals around the world. She wrote articles on amateur film that appeared in local club newsletters, the Journal of the Photographic Society of America (PSA) and even the New York Times. Margaret was also the staff cinemetographer at Loyola University Medical School, and assisted on numerous film productions for the school (our favorite being, Student Life at Loyola University Medical School). Margaret’s films are fanciful looks at family life as women’s rights and the first stirrings of the sexual revolution complicated by traditional expectations of wifely duties. Highlights from her collection include The 45, Chicago: The City to See in ’63, The Fairy Princess, and Mister E (all streamable on our site!).

Robert & Theresa Davis Collection

Terry and her husband Robert filmed international and domestic travelogues from the late 1940s until the 1990s. Their films featured distant sites set in Iceland, Thailand, Belgium, Ireland, Tunisia, Australia, New Zealand, Yugoslavia and Sicily. Sadly, Terry passed away in October 2012 before we could conduct an in-depth interview about her life and times as a travelogue filmmaker. In the brief time that we knew Terry, she inspired us with her stories – a notable one being Terry’s solo bike ride (with camera in hand!) across Europe after her WWII tour of duty in the Women’s Army Corps. With the assistance of her nephew, we are gathering more information about Terry, her husband and the films they made.

Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection

“Yulie Brynner vs Rose Roman” from the Russ & Sylvia Davis Collection

Sylvia H. Carlson, was born in Goteberg, Sweden around the mid teens of the Twentieth century. She moved with her family to San Francisco in 1930. By 1937 she was in charge of the beauty shop in the Russ Building. She met her future husband, Russ Davis, there in 1946. They were quickly married and she moved to Chicago where Russ had lived since the late 1930s.

Sylvia began to work behind the scenes on Russ’ television shows. In 1948 she was co-producer of his amateur talent show on WBKB, The Knickerbocker Hour. In 1949 Russ and Sylvia started IWF, Inc, a television film production company, with Sylvia acting as president and producer. The company, called both International Wrestling Films and Imperial World Films, mainly created a syndicated wrestling show, but also made sponsored films and a short run TV series with Raymond Massey. The Davis’ 1950s syndicated wrestling television show featured wrestlers such as Verne Gagne, Gorgeous George, and Lou Thesz.

Ron Doerring Collection (Evelyn Kibar)

Evelyn Kibar in “This Is a Hobby?”

John and Evelyn Kibar were a husband and wife amateur filmmaking team that shot and starred in their own productions (Evelyn’s screen presence as the annoyed wife has delighted us for years now). The Kibars lived in Racine, Wisconsin and were members of amateur cinema groups including the Kenosha Movie Makers (also known as the Kenosha Movie and Slide Club and the Kenosha Camera Club), Society of Amateur Cinematographers, PSA, and Ra-Ciné Movie and Slide Club. They began making films together in the 1930s, and were frequent visitors, presenters, judges and winners in both photographic slide and film competitions in Chicago and Milwaukee. The Kibars’ films were award-winning creative collaborations and often included audio accompaniment on tape. Their 1946 film “Autumn Glory,” won an honorable mention in the Amateur Cinema League’s annual “Ten Best Contest” that year.

JoAnn Elam Collection

Rape, JoAnn Elam, 1975

JoAnn Elam (1949-2009) is a central figure in the in the history of Chicago’s experimental film community and one of the founders of Chicago Filmmakers. Her short experimental and documentary films capture the spirit and ethos of a politically active, feminist, and socially conscious artist.

Elam primarily shot on 8mm film, although she did work extensively with 16mm, Super-8mm film and early video. Elam’s 8mm films often documented aspects of her everyday life and local events ranging from the Palmer Square Art Fair in the 1970s to the Blizzard of ’79. She shot a number of reels of 8mm film while she was living in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, and during her time at Antioch College and in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Elam’s most well known 16mm films, Rape (1975) and Lie Back and Enjoy It (1982) are probing feminist examinations of sexual assault and the representation of women. Both films (streamable on our site!) utilize experimental techniques in order to call into question the way in which women are depicted on screen. These two films are referenced in numerous texts on documentary and feminist cinema, and are fascinating examples of Elam’s interest in merging radical form and technique with radical political content.

Elam’s unfinished project, Everyday People (1979-1990), is based on her experiences as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service in Chicago, the various people she met while on the job, the political struggles they faced with the administration and the union, and larger issues related to the history of labor struggle and activism in the United States. Elam’s notes and journals for the film, as well as the approximately 250 film, video and audio elements associated with it, reside at CFA and provide an unparalleled level of access to her creative process, political and artistic ideas, and the practical, economic, and ethical issues that impacted her work as an independent artist and filmmaker.

Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection

Millie Goldsholl (1920-2012) was the head of the Film Department at Goldsholl Design and Film Associates (another notable female, Susan Keig, headed the Design Department), one of Chicago’s leading graphic design studios in the 1950s. The studio became recognized for their animations, progressive hiring practices and developing corporate branding packages for various companies. Our Mort & Millie Goldsholl collection contains commercials and industrial films that Goldsholl Design and Film Associates made for their clients, experimental films and animations made by both Morton and Millie, unedited travel films shot by Morton and Millie and films (primarily animated) that the two collected over the years. Millie’s films are among our favorites here at CFA. An early student of the Chicago School of Design (now IIT), Millie created films that are expressions of Maholy Nagy’s vision of industry, art and design. They are playful, human and profound all at once. The same thing, of course, can be said of Millie.

Here is Millie talking about the School of Design (taken from a 2007 interview between Millie and CFA’s Executive Director, Nancy Watrous).

Morrison-Shearer Collection (Helen Morrison & Sybil Shearer)

CFA has been honored to house and mange the Morrison-Shearer Collection for the Morrison-Shearer Foundation since 2008. This extensive collection of dance films, most of which were shot by Helen Balfour Morrison, features solo performances by Sybil Shearer, Shearer with her dance company, interviews with Sybil Shearer and some rehearsal footage.

Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984) was born in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Fannie Lindley and Alexander Balfour, an engineer and a proud, aristocratic Scotsman. When Helen was 17, her mother died, and Helen took a job in a photography studio to help support the family. At this studio she learned to use the portrait camera and helped expand the studio’s business with creative ideas of her own. In the 1930s, Helen Balfour Morrison embarked upon a personal photography project – the Great Americans series. She photographed some 200 notable personalities including Robert Frost, Helen Hayes, Nelson Algren, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, Mies van der Rohe, Amelia Earhart, Jane Addams, and Saul Bellow. Most of these portrait sessions took place in Chicago or in New York and were exhibited widely in museums throughout the country. In 1942, Morrison met Sybil Shearer, and although her portrait work and exhibitions of the Great Americans continued, her attention gradually shifted to Sybil as her primary subject. She finally abandoned the Great Americans series in 1945. Her collaboration with Sybil Shearer produced a large collection of extraordinary dance photographs and films, as well as an intense and sensitive documentation of the life of this artist. Today her extensive portfolio remains largely unpublished and unknown. In a real sense she sacrificed her own career to promote that of Sybil. Besides designing the lighting, Helen took over the complete management of Sybil’s publicity, performances, travel arrangements, and hospitality. She experimented with the role of impresario, presenting dancer Ruth St. Denis in 1946 and both dancer Eleanor King and sculptor Richard Lippold in 1948. In 1949 she conceived a short-lived series of programs which she called “Rondo,” presenting other artists, including Uta Hagan, Merce Cunningham, pianist William Masselos, and Frank Lloyd Wright. In later years she made films to record Sybil’s dances, and made one artistic film of her own.

Sybil Shearer

Sybil Shearer burst upon the modern dance scene in October 1941 in a solo debut at Carnegie Hall that received rave reviews and an award from critic John Martin as the year’s most promising solo choreographer. Already setting a radical new direction in modern dance, she came to believe that New York was no place to develop dance as an art. In 1942 she left for the new Roosevelt College in Chicago, where she was given the freedom to work independently, close to nature, and in her own unorthodox way. Within a month of her arrival, she met Helen Balfour Morrison. Thus began a career of one of the finest dancers of the 20th century, though deemed “elusive,” and “rarely seen.” Shearer formed the Morrison-Shearer Foundation in 1991 to perpetuate their artistic legacy. Under the auspices of the Foundation, she brought Susanne Linke, the German expressionist dancer, to Chicago in 1991 to perform at the Harold Washington Library. In 1993 she arranged a tour to Germany for the 20th anniversary of the Hamburg Ballet, whose director, John Neumeier, had been a member of the Sybil Shearer Company in the 1960s. In February 2005 she danced publicly for the last time at the Art Institute of Chicago, interpreting Matisse in the “Artists and Dance” program, just nine months before her death at the age of 93.

Ruth Page Collection

Ruth Page (photo courtesy of the Dance Heritage Coalition)

Dancer, choreographer, company director, and pioneering Chicago dance figure for over half a century, Ruth Page (1899-1991), was born in Indianapolis. She studied fancy dancing with Anna Stanton and ballet with Elizabetta Menzeli, made her professional debut on Broadway, then toured South America with Anna Pavlova. During the 1920s Page worked closely with Adolph Bolm, starring in his productions for Chicago Allied Arts and choreographing her first successful dances for its repertory.

Settling in Chicago, she became premiere danseuse of the Ravinia Opera. In the 1930s, in partnership with Bentley Stone, she created Frankie and Johnny (1938) and several other Americana ballets, most to commissioned scores by American composers; she also worked with Katherine Dunham and Harald Kreutzberg, exploring a broad range of expression. In the following decades she created a number of works inspired by operas, founded the Chicago Opera Ballet, and formed the Ruth Page Foundation for Dance, a school she co-directed with Larry Long. Sophisticated, open-minded, and energetic, she gave opportunities and exposure to countless American and international dance artists. (From the Dance Heritage Coalition)

 

A Spotlight on Mort & Millie Goldsholl

Full cover and spine of CHICAGO MAKES MODERN

At the turn of the new year, University of Chicago Press and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago published the anthology Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Changed Society. This much-needed scholarship, co-edited by Mary Jane Jacob (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) & Jacquelyn Baas (University of California Berkley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive), looks at Chicago’s connection to the twentieth-century modernist movement and discusses how and why the Windy City continues to drive the modern world. More specifically, it looks at the key Chicago figures or innovators entrenched in modernism, from “the radical social and artistic perspectives implemented by Jane Addams, John Dewey, and Buckminster Fuller to the avant-garde designs of László Moholy-Nagy and Mies van der Rohe.”

The chapter titled “Designers in Film: Goldsholl Associates, the Avant-Garde, and MidcenturyAdvertising Films” shines light on the Chicagoans, Morton (Mort) and Millie Goldsholl. Here, Amy Beste (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) looks at the Goldsholls’ relation to the Bauhaus-inspired School of Design and the industrial films that came out of their design firm, Goldsholl Design Associates. Chicago Film Archives acquired the fascinating film collection of Mort and Millie Goldsholl back in 2012. The Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection consists of commercials and industrial films that Goldsholl Design Associates made for their clients, experimental films and animations made by both Mort and Millie, unedited travel films shot by Mort and Millie and films (primarily animated) that the two collected over the years.

The industrial films within this collection played a significant role in Beste’s Goldsholl scholarship, some of the first on the two. Beste describes these particular films as “playful, constructivist collages, stylized graphic animation, and dazzling light displays.” From the time the Goldsholls began making films in the late 1950s through the 1980s, their work reached millions of viewers in conference rooms, living rooms, and film festivals across the country. But, as Beste proclaims, “In spite of their importance to design, film advertising and regional history the Goldsholls are virtually unknown today.”

With the help of Beste’s scholarship, we here at CFA hope to correct this omission in design history by reintroducing audiences to the innovative films that Mort & Millie made and collected over the years. In fact, a Goldsholl screening is currently in the works (more details TBA). In the mean time, you can view an interview with Millie Goldsholl and a selection of her films, here.

Millie Goldsholl (1920-2012)

Chicago artist and experimental filmmaker Millie Goldsholl passed away yesterday at 92 years old. Her films are among our favorites here at CFA. An early student of the Chicago School of Design (now IIT), Millie created films that are expressions of Maholy Nagy’s vision of industry, art and design. They are playful, human and profound all at once. The same thing, of course, can be said of Millie. We are so honored and feel richer that her films are among our collections.

Here is Millie talking about the School of Design (taken from a 2007 interview between Millie and CFA’s Executive Director, Nancy Watrous).

And here are a few of our favorite films of Millie’s (all found in CFA’s Mort & Millie Goldsholl Collection):

UP IS DOWN (1969)
A short animated film that presents a study of an unconventional young boy who is temporarily persuaded to accept others’ viewpoints as his own.

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INTERGALACTIC ZOO (1960s)
Dedicated to the men, women and children of Mars, this fantastical animation uses the simplest of elements: solid backgrounds, block letters, and a length of metal chain. The creatures created are the kind of strange and other-worldly beings that thrive only in children’s dreams and play.

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Karolton Envelope “ENVELOPE JIVE” (1963)
A sponsored film made by Mort & Millie Goldsholl (of Chicago’s Morton Goldsholl Associates) for Karolton Envelope Company, a division of Kimberly-Clark. Morton & Millie Goldsholl ran Morton Goldsholl Associates, one of Chicago’s leading graphic design studios in the 1950s. The studio became recognized for their animations, progressive hiring practices and developing corporate branding packages for various companies.

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