Art by random people approached on the street

1937: As an experiment, art teacher Helen Beach approached random people on the streets of Chicago and offered them a free 12-week art course. Among the 75 volunteers who accepted her offer were train guards, an iceman, a school teacher, postmen, a scrubwoman, and policemen. Later that year she exhibited some of the works her students created, offering them as proof that anyone, with a little training, can release their inner artist. Examples below.

Of course, there has to be some selection bias here — weeding out those whose lack of talent was beyond help.

Helen Beach

"Flannel Night Gown" by Edna Hirt, housewife

"Sunday Night Supper" by Edith Willett, Sunday-school teacher

"Indian Summer" by John Golden, dogcatcher

"Abstract of Sewing Machine" by Maude Hopkins, (no career specified)

"Typewriter" by George Prochmow, letter carrier

Image source: Newsweek - Dec 13, 1937
     Posted By: Alex - Fri May 13, 2016
     Category: Art | 1930s

If you can get someone to pay major bucks for it then, by modern standards, it's art.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 05/13/16 at 11:40 AM
She didn't train any dogs?
Posted by Virtual on 05/13/16 at 01:18 PM
Or elephants?

The techniques used remind me of French Impressionists and Picasso. In these cases probably better expressed. Some of Picasso's work can be hard to look at.
Posted by KDP on 05/13/16 at 03:41 PM
The difference between "accepted art" and "some crap someone tossed out" is a patron already in the art community laying the magic word "art" on it. I mean, Jackson Pollock...
Posted by puptentacle on 05/13/16 at 04:48 PM
I do not buy the premise that anyone can be taught to produce artwork. I know people who can't draw stick figures acceptably much less something more complicated. Either she withheld the terrible ones or the very untalented refused to try.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 05/13/16 at 08:00 PM
Yes there were probably terrible works (see the Museum of Bad Art) and the untalented refused to try, but the point should perhaps be that there are many who hold talent that will never be recognized. I'm a musician who has heard amazing sounds from some who, for various reasons, will never be heard by the public at large. A friend of mine who plays my chosen instrument much better than me won't see this comment since in 2016 he doesn't own a computer....
Posted by Richard Boban on 05/15/16 at 02:23 AM
You can teach anyone to create art. But, as evident in the samples shown here, you can't necessarily teach them to create art I'd hang on my wall. A hobby is one thing, a work of creative genius quite another.
Posted by Richard Bos on 05/19/16 at 06:33 AM
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