La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, 1936-2007, bulk 1936-1942

A Finding Aid to the La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, 1936-2007, bulk 1936-1942, in the Archives of American Art, by Jivan Kaur Soverall

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

La Vern Frank-Rush (b. 1918) worked at the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, from its opening in 1938 until 1941, first as a volunteer and then as an employee. During this time she compiled two scrapbooks about the Art Center. Circa 2007, she wrote a memoir that focused on the Art Center.

After finishing junior high school, La Vern Frank-Rush won a contest that enabled her to attend free summer art classes at the Sioux City Public Library. The instructor, Roy Langley, had a lasting influence on the aspiring artist.

The WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, offered free exhibits, lectures, and art classes to a community which otherwise would not have had such opportunities. The Art Center organized plays, marionette shows, and exhibitions. It also provided classes in ceramics, puppetry, and watercolors; hundreds of children and adults were enrolled, and the weekly schedule include 32 different offerings. Performances were always well received, and record crowds gathered to view exhibits.

Frank-Rush started working as a volunteer at the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, soon after it opened in 1938, and began compiling a scrapbook about the Art Center. She studied painting and printmaking with the various artists who taught there. Eventually, Frank-Rush became an employee and served as an instructor, art teacher, and librarian for the Art Center through 1942.

La Vern Frank and George Rush, who also worked at the Art Center, married in 1943. Three days after their marriage, Rush was assigned to the Engineer Corps at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Frank-Rush served in the Civil Service War Department in Washington, D.C., but soon was able to transfer to Fort Belvoir. In 1953, the couple moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she taught art at the University of Nebraska from 1956 through 1966. Frank-Rush was certified to teach the care and raising of houseplants, helped organize the Nebraska Herbal Society, and presented herbal and plant demonstrations at South East Community College in Lincoln. Since retiring in 1980, she has lived quietly in Oregon.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, measure 0.2 linear feet and date from 1936 to 2007 with the bulk dated 1936 to 1942. Two scrapbooks compiled by Frank-Rush between 1936 and 1942 contain introductory and concluding statements added by her in 2006. A memoir, circa 2007, documents activities, achievements, staff, and participants of the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Also included is a CD-ROM with images of the scrapbooks and memoir.

Two scrapbooks document the Sioux City Art Center's founding by the WPA in 1938, its activities, and programs. The Center, which still exists today, is one of four WPA art centers in Iowa to survive without interruption. Photographs record exhibits, staff members, students, and work produced at the Art Center and also depict Frank-Rush's personal life.

The CD-ROM is a digitized version of the collection. Images on the CD-ROM do not completely reproduce the scrapbooks. For instance, although scrapbook volume 2 contains the complete script for The Shoe Bears, the entire play does not appear on the CD-ROM.

Frank-Rush's memoir and scrapbooks provide insight into how the WPA Art Center impacted her as well as the larger community. In her own words, the collection "reveals the personality of the Sioux City Art Center." A small selection of her artwork, preserved on CD-ROM, lends a view into the late 1930s.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is organized into 3 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • United States.--Works Projects Administration
  • United States.--Works Progress Administration

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art centers--Iowa--Sioux City

Subjects-Geographical:

Types of Materials:

  • CD-ROMs
  • Memoirs
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

Names:

Provenance

The La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, were donated by La Vern Frank-Rush in 2007.

Separated and Related Materials

The Archives of American Art houses microfilm copies of selected official WPA records of interest to art historians. The following microfilm, available at AAA ofices and through interlibrary loan, contain additional documentation of the WPA Art Center in Sioux city, Iowa:

Records of the WPA, General Correspondence files include selected documents pertaining to the Federal Art Project in Iowa. (Reel DC 76, frames 317-2309)

WPA Photograph Collection contains 18 photographs of the Sioux City Art Center, classes, projects, puppet workshops, exhibitions, and marionettes. (Reel 1178, frames 0011-0044)

Iowa Community Art Centers, 1938-1939, features 13 photographs of the Sioux City Art Center. (Reel NDA 16, frames 290-317)

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Jivan Kaur Soverall in June 2009.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original material requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

Location of Originals

How to Cite this Collection

La Vern Frank-Rush papers regarding the WPA Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa, 1936-2007. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1936-2007, undated.
(Box 1; 0.1 linear ft.)

The scrapbooks contain a variety of material: newspaper articles and publicity clippings, black and white photographs, recital and exhibition programs, correspondence, original art work by Art Center students, pamphlets, class and workshop schedules, personal comments, bulletins, flyers, surveys of activities, invitations, lists of artists in Sioux City and vicinity, and Christmas and thank you cards. Also found are the script and program for a three-act play, The Shoe Bears, and the program for a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Frank-Rush collected articles from two newspapers in order to make the scrapbooks. This was her personal copy; duplicates were presented to the Central Library in Sioux City and to the regional WPA office. Items pre-dating the Art Center concern Frank-Rush's participation in an art contest for a scholarship.

Both scrapbooks appear on a CD-ROM (Series 3).

Box Folder
1 1-2 Scrapbook Volume 1, 1936-2007
(2 folders; removed from 3-ring binder)
1 3-4 Scrapbook Volume 2, 1936-circa 2007
(2 folders; removed from 3-ring binder)

Series 2: Memoir, circa 2007
(Box 1; 1 folder)

La Vern Frank-Rush's well narrated 47-page memoir centers on her experiences and activities at the Art Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Her various jobs and salaries, Art Center instructors and friends are mentioned, and she recalls the Great Depression, Dust Bowl phenomenon, World War II, and difficulties in paying for food, shelter, and tuition.

The memoir is available on CD-ROM (Series 3).

Box Folder
1 5 How the WPA Art Center shaped my life between two wars, circa 2007
(1 folder)

Series 3: CD-ROM, circa 2007
(Box 1; 1 folder)

The CD-ROM contains scans of both scrapbooks and the memoir. Also included are images of 5 paintings by La Vern Frank-Rush (Downtown, undated; Grocery Orders, 1942; Downtown Rooftops, undated; Railroad, circa 1938, and Midwest Factory, 1941); a watercolor (Old Houses (from a Sioux City Alley), 1939); and a lithograph (Window Shopping, 1942). The original artwork is not a part of the collection.

The CD-ROM is a digitized version of the collection, produced by Phyllis Wrynn, director of the Park Slope Art Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, which specialises in the art of the WPA Federal Art Project and American mid-century art and design. Images on the CD-ROM do not completely reproduce the scrapbooks. For instance, although the complete script for The Shoe Bears is found in volume 2, the entire play does not appear on the CD-ROM.

Box Folder
1 6 LaVern Frank-Rush: Sioux City WPA Art Center Scrapbook, Memoir, and Images, circa 2007
(1 folder; 1 CD-ROM)