war years of World War II and Korea, when business and construction were blooming in the 1950’s, a fragmented group of workers began to exist in Des Moines in a relatively new field – Commercial Art.
Two large publishing firms – Meredith Corporation and LOOK magazine – had art staffs and other commercial artists began to find jobs in advertising agencies, insurance companies and a few were trying to make a living freelancing.
It wasn’t uncommon in Des Moines for commercial artists to pass on the street without speaking. There was nothing so stimulating as keen professional competition involved in such an incident. It only meant, simply, that the artists didn’t know one another – that they had never met.
At that time, there was no communication throughout the field of commercial art. It was an isolated endeavor. There was no opportunity for one artist to know the work of another, to exchange ideas or to compare and judge the quality of work being produced.
The commercial artists in Des Moines were generally missing the stimulation, challenge and exchange of information that a professional group can give its members.
Charles E. Chuck Townsend was the driving force behind the formation of ADAI. Chuck was the art director at Wesley Day Advertising. He called on Jim Stevenson from Cary-Hill Advertising, George Bacon of Meredith Corporation and
Pen Sommer from Fairall Advertising to help him. Several meetings were held at Townsend’s home. Postcards sent out to all commercial artists in Des Moines to see if there was enough interest in the club to continue. The response was great and after a lot of phone calls and more work, a letter was sent inviting commercial artists t attend an organizational meeting. Then this group wrote the constitution and by-laws for the new club.
The organizational meeting was held on May 15, 1957. Local artists, numbering 42, attended. The new by-laws were approved and officers elected for the group, which was named
The Art Directors and Artists Association of Des Moines. Townsend was elected President. Formal applications were passed out and circulated to others who didn’t attend. Within 6 months, the new group had 54 charter members.
This number needs to be put in context with the qualification that there were fewer than 70 artists working in the Des Moines area at the time.
The purposes of ADAI were simple and have not changed over the past 48 years. They were to offer its members the opportunity to establish themselves as qualified professional and talented artists and to bring together the members for the exchange of ideas and the opportunity to learn together and from each other so that the work of the individual might improve as a result of this association.
The club was not then, nor has it ever been a trade union or craft guild. It is best described as a non-profit professional organization for commercial artists and college-level students of commercial art and graphic design.
The first exhibition was held in the winter of 1958. Over 300 entries were received and 117 were exhibited. Six Special Merit Awards were presented at the Exhibition Banquet held at Johnny and Kay’s Restaurant on March 1. A program was handed out that listed the 54 charter members of the club. 16 of these members were from Meredith Corporation, five from LOOK, three from Fairall Advertising, seven freelancers and the rest were one from each of 23 different companies.
The six Special Merit Award winners were pictured with an article about the Des Moines exhibition in the June 1958 issue of
Art Direction magazine which included these comments from Chuck Townsend, the first president of ADAI:
We are a new club. Up until this show, Des Moines was never really aware of the material coming out of its own agencies and publishing houses. There was no unified effort to promote talents in the Des Moines area, not recognition of artists and little concern on the part of the general public for the problems to be met.
Our club’s show has been a shot in the arm. Results have been instantaneous. Artists speak to one another when they meet, trades people are more anxious to do
quality work and a feeling of excitement prevails.
The show itself reflects a broad level of better than average work, hardly influenced by the one-a-day trends coming out of the East. Design in this area will always build itself slowly and conservatively, but the fact that it is building is indicative of a larger trend reaching throughout the country.
The officers of the club began to receive inquiries from artists in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Newton and a few other towns in Iowa about membership in then new club. In February 1958, the decision was made to change the name of the group to Art Directors Association of Iowa to encourage interested artists throughout the state to belong to our club. A year later, in the spring of 1959, ADAI became affiliated as a member chapter in the National Society of Art Directors (NSAD). At that time the dues for the club, which had been ten dollars per year, were raised to $12. Of this amount $2 was for subscription to
Art Direction magazine and $1.50 went to the National Society.
The budget for out-of-town speakers was practically non-existent and at our early meetings local people like Maynard Reece and Bill Riley were asked to speak. Many meetings featured a film provided by paper companies and type foundries.
Most of our meetings were held at the old Press and Radio Club at 811 1/2 Walnut where good dinners were available for $1.50 and drink set-ups were ten cents. Yes, those were the days of
key clubs and veteran’s organizations.
OUR MEETINGS WERE HELD AT THE OLD PRESS AND RADIO CLUB AT 811 1/2 WALNUT, WHERE GOOD DINNERS WERE AVAILABLE FOR $1.50 AND DRINK SET-UPS WERE TEN CENTS.
In 1960, our first two newsletters were published. Edited by Denny Clark and Pat Taylor, these featured pictures and bio’s of the members and were titled
Following are excerpts form an article in
CA magazine for January 1961 about Midwest Art Directors Clubs:
The drive behind the Art Directors Association of Iowa has been furnished by a small core of energetic and active members. The results during the first three years have amazed people in the area. Three exhibitions have toured the state, showing Iowans that quality art can be produced within the state. During the fall of 1959, a ten-week educational program,
The Art Director at Work, was produced by the ADAI and presented at the Des Moines Art Center.
Within the Midwest area, Des Moines has developed into a training ground for beginning artists and art directors. Graduating art students have found their way into the publication art departments. An opportunity exists whereby the beginner is able to work on national accounts, develop speed and skill and obtain valuable experience. Some decide to settle but a few, discontented with Iowa’s weather, company policy or the desire to do a different type of artwork, will leave after a few years on the job. The turnover of art personnel is active and there is no indication of its lessening. The future of commercial art in Iowa is promising.
In 1961 and 1962 NSAD asked our club to do survey projects for them. The second of these projects was a huge task to determine to what extent trade unions were trying to organize artists throughout the nation. Letters and questionnaires were sent out and lots of phone calls were made. Hundreds of man-hours were spent gathering and categorizing this information. After it was completed, we were disappointed that NSAD had not published this report in
Art Direction magazine as had been promised.
In 1962, ADAI got out of the NSAD and during the next year or so most of the rest of the member clubs also left and the National Society of Art Directors folded in 1964.
1965 saw the end of the Press and Radio Club, so meetings were held at various locations and for the next few years, the old Commodore Hotel at 35th and Grand, the Clayton House and Babe’s restaurant downtown were the most frequent meeting sites.
Membership had fallen off to 37 members by 1965 and the board felt the reason was that we had too many committees and projects going on. A lot of members just wanted to go to the meetings occasionally and nothing more. In an effort to downsize the activities of the club, only two officers were elected – President and Treasurer. Denny Clark was both President and Exhibition Chair that year. During this year, ADAI named its first two Honorary Members – Charles Smith of Pershing, Iowa who was paralyzed and did beautiful illustrations holding a pen in his mouth, and Maynard Reece, a wildlife artist who had been a frequent speaker.
1965 also saw our newsletter come to life in a big way. Jerry Alingh edited i
mage for the next three years and produced 10 or 11
monthly issues every year. This stimulated membership and by 1968 ADAI grew to 118 members. Succeeding editors also published at least 10 issues a year until 1977, which was the most important factor in our continuing growth.
In 1966 a Christmas card project was launched to raise funds for the club. Entries were submitted and two designs were selected to be printed and sold at Younkers department store. The winners were Denny Clark and Joel Nichols and each received 100 cards and envelopes. About $850 was added to the ADAI treasury which received half of the sale price of the cards.
A change was made in the officer list for ADAI in 1967, adding a Vice President of Membership. There was no Vice President of Programs as there had been the first nine years. The ADAI President arranged the programs as the primary function for that office which was continued for the next 15 years.
One of the judges for the 1971 exhibition, Richard Coyne, editor and publisher of
CA magazine said he believed the Iowa show
stacked up very well when compared with the rest of the nation, and was
much better than the Kansas City, Houston and Atlanta shows which he had also judged recently.
Up through 1971, the speakers at ADAI meetings were almost all local or regional with several from Omaha and also a few from Minneapolis, Kansas City and once in a while from Chicago. These together with sales reps and films (most very good), plant tours and an occasional panel discussion rounded out the program schedule. Even these regional speakers mostly paid their own expenses.
However, Herb Lubalin came to Des Moines on November 10, 1972 to speak and give a slide presentation on corporate identity at Meredith Hall in an event co-sponsored by Drake University and ADAI.
Shirley Katzenberger was the first female president of ADAI in 1972-73.
In March of 1975, ADAI had grown to 183 members, of which 153 were professional members. Dues were still only $12 per year.
The election meeting in August 1976 was a huge pig roast and picnic with free food and the 135 folks who attended went through three kegs of beer and a mountain of sweet corn and potato salad. President Ray Neubauer spent all day at Walnut Woods Park tending to the hog which was beautifully done.
The ADAI Scholarship Fund originated in 1977. Charles E.
Chuck Townsend, the first president of the club, worked on this project for over six months contacting colleges, writing the rules and other necessary guidelines and forms. His proposal was enthusiastically approved by the members at the election meeting on June 3, 1977. Four colleges were selected to recommend students to receive the scholarships – Drake University, Iowa State University, Hawkeye Tech and Des Moines Area Community College. The first $250 scholarship was awarded to a DMACC student in April of 1978.
In October of 1977, Mark English was the speaker at the ADAI meeting held at the DMACC auditorium. 331 people attended with groups coming from the Quad Cities, Omaha and Kansas City and students from colleges all over the state. 1978 saw Bart Forbes form Dallas and Bernie Fuchs from Westport Connecticut featured at ADAI meetings. In March of 1980, Fred Otnes spoke and showed slides of his collage illustrations to another crowed of over 300 at the DMACC auditorium.
ADAI received designation as a non-profit organization in May of 1980. It took over a year to gather ten years of financial records and fill out a 16-page questionnaire and a stack of letters and endorsements. After four more requests for additional information form the IRS, we finally got the designation. This allowed contributors to the Scholarship Fund to designate donations as tax-exempt. Also we were able to use the lower bulk mail rate postage on our mailings and were exempt from filing annual tax returns. This is mentioned to encourage future officers to maintain the non-profit status.
In November of 1980, the ADAI board voted to allow the money from the sale of ads in our newsletter to go into the Scholarship Fund. This was very important and was the primary source of revenue for the fund for over 20 years. In the early 2000s, the ads were discontinued and the fund was restructured to receive maximum interest on the principal. The principal is the total of all the donations and the scholarships are paid from the interest earned.
The office of Vice President of Programs was added in the summer of 1982 to relieve the president of those duties.
During the 1980s ADAI had some outstanding speakers – Michael Manwaring, San Francisco; Jack Summerford, Dallas; Colin Forbes, New York; Katherine McCoy, Cranbrook Academy; Paula Scher and McKay Magelby, Brigham Young University; David Bartels, St. Louis; Sharon Werner, Minneapolis; Brad Holland, Milton Glaser and Woody Pirtle all from New York to name only a few. In 1985, Kit Henrichs form San Francisco was the first speaker at the
new Meredith Conference Core. We enjoyed speakers from around Iowa such as Gary Kelley, Cedar Falls; Neal Deaton, Newton; Father E.M. Catich, Davenport; and Maynard Reece and Jim Buckles from Des Moines.
In 1987, the student membership category was originated and college students from around the state were invited to join ADAI.
In 1988, the first membership directory was published.
By August of 1991, the membership of ADAI reached a high of 376, 251 of which were professional members.
Student portfolio reviews and a Technology Fair were held in 1999.
In February of 2000, the Scholarship Committee presented awards in the amount of $600 each to students from seven colleges in Iowa with Graphic Design programs.
In 2004, the first all-student design competition was held.
ADAI celebrated 50 years of existence!
Student's and professional's annual exhibition events are combined to best facilitate social growth and career development opportunities.
Art Directors Association of Iowa celebrates 60 years.
The annual exhibition and gatherings continue to this day as ADAI continues to be a source of excellence through fellowship for Iowan design professionals and students.