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Chicago Art and Artists in the Archives of American Art

Hyde Park Art Center and Imagism

Founded in 1939 as the Fifth Ward Art Center, the Hyde Park Art Center is still in operation today. The center balances its mission as a community art center, offering a wide range of classes from “Teenage Painting and Drawing” to “creative instruction in leather design” as seen in this brochure, with a commitment to fostering local artists.

Hyde Park Art Center brochure for Winter classes, 196-?
Hyde Park Art Center brochure for Winter classes, 196-?
Hyde Park Art Center records, 1940-1979.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Artist and curator Don Baum presided over the Hyde Park Art Center from 1956 to 1972. During his tenure he mentored a vibrant group of young artists who would eventually be grouped under the umbrella of Chicago Imagism. Baum organized exhibits featuring artists such as Karl Wirsum and Barbara Rossi, matching them up under cheeky monikers the Hairy Who and Marriage: Chicago Style. With the help of Baum’s advocacy, the Imagists made the biggest splash of any Chicago-born art movement to date.

Promotional photo for Marriage: Chicago style?exhibit, 1970 / Donald Bulucos, photographer.
Promotional photo for Marriage: Chicago style exhibit, 1970 / Donald Bulucos, photographer.
Hyde Park Art Center records, 1940-1979.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Harry Bouras sketchbook, 1986-1987. Harry Bouras papers, 1949-1990.
Harry Bouras sketchbook, 1986-1987.
Harry Bouras papers, 1949-1990.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Karl Wirsum letter to Don Baum, circa 1970. Don Baum papers, circa 1940-2004.
Karl Wirsum letter to Don Baum, circa 1970. Don Baum papers, circa 1940-2004.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The Hairy Who consisted of Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Jim Falconer, Suellen Rocca, and Karl Wirsum. Their name was a play on artist and Chicago radio personality Harry Bouras. In a letter to Don Baum with the heading HAIRY WHO ANSWERS, Karl Wirsum sums up the spirit of Hairy Who-ness citing “hairy” influences such as the Italian film The Ape Woman and “Little Richard, under the colored lights, his hair dyed all colors of the rainbow.”