Yesterday we featured a contemporary artist who takes inspiration from the collegiate fashions of the past. Today, in contrast, we feature original collegiate fashion art from the 1950s which is scheduled to go the way of Columbus statues.
Joe College, meet the year 2020.
The iconic American figure Joe College is on the chopping block at the University of Rhode Island, just a short bridge crossing from Ivy Style headquarters in Newport. News agencies are reporting that the murals, which depict former World War II soldiers attending college on the GI Bill —instrumental in spreading the Ivy League Look nationwide — have stood for nearly 70 years, but are no longer deemed acceptable by the current student body and administration.
Arthur “Art” Sherman was a decorated returning veteran and member of the class of 1950, a predominately all-white class.
Less than 2,000 students overall attended the university overall.
Originally, he was asked to draw cartoon-like murals in a Quonset Hut that served as an earlier site for the student union but in 1953, as the current Memorial Union was being completed, the building’s manager asked him to paint more murals in the new building’s ground.
“Oh, I loved painting that, yeah,” said Sherman, who’s now 95 years old. “I never had any formal education in painting by the way I just used to cartoon.”
The murals depict servicemen returning to Kingston, a class reunion, URI commencement, a South County beach scene, and students piled into a jalopy wearing letter sweaters.
“Well, it depicted that era,” said Sherman. “A lot of students, friends of mine, would come by and say why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that so that’s what I did so everybody chipped in.”
The mural has been left untouched for nearly 70 years.
On a few occasions, in his younger years, Sherman touched them up a few times but soon it will soon be gone for good.
“It really depicts a snapshot in time of the university’s history, important history, showing a person returning back to campus from World War II and other historical moments,” said Vice President of Student Affairs, Kathy Collins. “We’ve made a really difficult decision as we aim for the university’s future and we think about who are our students today, and who are our students going to be tomorrow.”
Collins said she’s been working for URI for the last four years and has received complaints from students.
“I have received complaints about the murals that portray a very homogeneous population predominately the persons painted and depicted on the wall are predominantly white and that does not represent who our institution is today,” said Collins. “Some of our students have even shared with us they didn’t feel comfortable sitting in that space.”
There’s an old saying that life is short but art is long. These days, under the prevailing spirit of inversion, things seem quite the opposite. Life feels interminable, while the only eternal thing about art is that it teaches us the perennial lesson that those who seek to control the future will first seek to control the past.
Enjoy the period depictions of white bucks, grey flannels, patch-pocket blazers, cricket and varsity sweaters, camel coats, college scarves, and young men smoking pipes. The Providence Journal has a high-resolution slideshow here. — CC