This fall, the Michael and Noemi Neidorff Gallery at Trinity will feature a series of drawings titled “Education by Design: Drawings from the Collection of Ford, Powell & Carson, 1939-1970.”
The exhibition is organized into four sections: drawings of buildings on Trinity’s campus, drawings of Skidmore College in New York, concept sketches of San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas and drawings from the La Villita art school.
“Ford himself did not go to college, and he’s very sensitive about education and the role of it in society,” said Kathryn O’Rourke, assistant professor of art and art history. “He was very concerned about social problems throughout his career.”
The drawings featured in the exhibit were found by Trinity junior Jason Azar during his summer internship at Ford, Powell & Carson. While archiving drawings and documents that had yet to be catalogued in the firm’s basement, Azar came across the drawings of university buildings.
“The first drawing that really caught my eye was a drawing of Skidmore College. The detail was absolutely incredible,” Azar said. “It was almost like an engraving.”
After his initial discovery, it took several weeks to find all of the drawings spread throughout the archive.
“The La Villita drawings stood out because of their age and content. Many of the students who made them were just teenagers without any previous design experience,” Azar said. “You can actually see how the student’s designs and drawings improved during their time at the school.”
The art school at La Villita was opened in 1939 and closed with the start of the war in 1942.
“What we have always known is that there was an art school in La Villita where Ford and other artists and craftspeople of San Antonio taught drawing, weaving and metal work, but we didn’t have much evidence of what the school was like,” O’Rourke said.
Other faculty members and Trinity students, like senior Kelly Johnston, have been involved in preparing the gallery””which includes about 70 pieces””by framing, hanging, lighting and painting walls.
“I have an incredible appreciation for people who are passionate about their work and make it a point to share it with others,” Johnston said. “O’Neil Ford was one of those individuals. To be in such close proximity to the materials created by such a prolific architect was an honor.”
These drawings highlight many of Ford’s concerns throughout his practice. During his life, Ford used architecture to educate, to strengthen a city’s sense of history and to improve society in some way.
“This is an exciting and important show because it illuminates the work of this really major Texas architect and also helps us fill in the gaps of an important story of what La Villita was to the art community,” O’Rourke said.
The exhibit will be held in the art gallery from Sept. 18 through Nov. 1.