C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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The Prairie Printmakers, December 1930

Seward is perhaps best known for being the catalyst for the founding of The Prairie Printmakers.  In 1925 he had been invited to join The California Printmakers Society and invitations from other national print organizations soon followed.  To promote the work of artists in the Midwest and Southwest, Seward organized annual traveling exhibitions in the later 1920’s.  By 1929 Seward began discussions with his fellow artists in Wichita about forming a printmakers group in the Midwest that would focus on a national membership and exhibition program. Then “Sandzen extended, at the suggestion of C. A. Seward of Wichita, an invitation to several printmakers to meet in the Sandzen studio on December 28, 1930, in order to organize the Prairie Print Makers. The purpose of the organization was to stimulate printmaking and the collection of prints. The charter members were Charles M. Capps, Leo Courtney, Lloyd C. Foltz, C. A. Hotvedt, and Seward, Wichita; Arthur W. Hall and Norma Bassett Hall, Howard; Herschel C. Logan, Salina; Birger Sandzen, Lindsborg; and Edmund Kopietz, a former resident of Wichita then living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Carl J. Smalley, McPherson, who was closely identified with Sandzen and Seward, was also present at the meeting." (“Birger Sandzen An lllustrated Biography” by Emory Lindquist, 1993,University of Kansas Press)

Wichita Art Association, Founding member, 1920

The Art Association held its celebratory founding dinner on January 1, 1921, at the Lassen Hotel.  The list of attendees made the news and announced the prestige and importance that community leaders were now placing on the role of the arts in Wichita.  This core group of enthusiasts felt that “Every man, woman and child in Wichita has an inherent right to be able to see works of art.”  They held their first meeting on November 20th in 1920 and elected the following officers: Walter A. Vincent, President, Mrs. Will K. Jones, Vice President, C.A. Seward, Secretary-Treasurer and Miss Elizabeth Sprague, Historian.  The impetus for the founding of Wichita Art Association was primarily to support the planning for a city museum of art. This museum was necessary to  provide a home for what was to become the art work purchased for the Roland P. Murdock Collection through funding established by a bequest of Louise Caldwell Murdock in 1915.  In an effort to stimulate support and interest in the arts and thus financial support for the construction of an art museum the Art Association developed an ongoing program of art exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and a series of classes.  Until the Wichita Art Museum opened in 1935, the Wichita Art Association did not have its own facility and all of its programs were held in various venues throughout the city.  The Seward Family guest book even documents that a board meeting was held at the family home in May of 1933.

The initial board and officers of the Wichita Art Association exercised widespread influence in business and the arts both locally and regionally.  Walter Vincent, President of the Association, was the owner of Western Lithograph, one of the largest printing companies in Kansas.  Both Vincent and Seward conducted business with many of the early regional entrepreneurs, including an impressive lists of banks, oil and gas companies, milling companies, associations with railroad and aviation industries, and many businesses located in Wichita like Mentholatum and Coleman Lighting.  Mrs. Will K. Jones, the Vice President of the Association through her successful dry goods business, represented the essential ingredient of support and recognition from prominent social and business leaders. A 1917 newspaper article also notes that she gave “an interesting talk on the newly installed mural paintings to a group of visiting librarian’s as an early member of the Board of the Library.”  Elizabeth Sprague as the  founder and Director of the Art Department at Fairmount College (which eventually became Wichita State University) lent her academic prestige and influence to the organization as Historian.  C.A. Seward, Secretary-Treasurer, in addition to his business skills, had the obvious position of representing the artists of Kansas. He also brought with him his extended friendships with artists throughout the United States exemplified by his ease in organizing the first national exhibition, American Block Prints - 1928, held by the Art Association. Previously, in 1922 he had assembled the third exhibition of color block prints held in the United States.

Previous to the inception of the Art Association, Seward already had an exhibition program as well as art classes that he had developed as part of his commercial art studio, the Seward Studio.  Like the other members of the board his experience represented an essential ingredient for the early success of the Association. The exhibition, art classes and school arts programs that Seward had held at the Seward Studio became the core programs offered by the Art Association.  Seward also lent his graphic design and writing skills by designing, writing and publishing the organization’s newsletter, The Museum News. As a board member for both the Art Association and the City Library, Seward found locations for the Association’s wide ranging and aggressive schedule of exhibitions. The city’s Carnegie Library often hosted traveling exhibitions on behalf of the  organization. An early exhibition of the block prints of Santa Fe artist, Gustave Baumann was followed in November of 1922 with 30 paintings by "Los Cinco Pintores," all of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The same year a news clipping mentions that Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Seward were on the committee that organized an exhibition of the work of Birger Sandzen.

Other known Art Association exhibitions include  paintings of  New Mexico artists - Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, and Ernest Blumenschein as well as California artists - Maynard Dixon, Benjamin Brown and William Silva.  A national juried annual traveling exhibition developed by Seward entitled “American Block Prints;” a 1923 Print Makers Society of California exhibition was noted in the Wichita Eagle which also included the work of its only (at that time) Kansas member, C.A. Seward. The Wichita Art Association also sponsored an ongoing series of art classes as well as a lecture program, which ranged from a demonstration of printing techniques by Seward to a lecture by architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.  Other speakers from across the nation which included Walter Pach organizer of the infamous Armory show of 1913 as well as Bertha Jaques of the Chicago Society of Etchers, sculptor Carl Milles of Cranbrook Art Academy, and Kansas City based Anthony Angarola demonstrate the wide breadth of exposure provided by this lecture series. These programs became one of the hallmarks of the Art Association’s “show and teach” philosophy.

After the Wichita Art Museum opened in 1935 under the sponsorship or management  of the Art Association a permanent space for classes and exhibitions was finally to be found in Wichita.  This relationship lasted until the Museum collection had grown to a size that required the entire building.  At this point, in 1942, the Wichita Art Association purchased the home of H.L. Hurd at 401 North Belmont and this is where the classes were held.  Within years they also purchased an adjacent home for the ceramics and sculpture studio.  In the 1960’s the Association held discussions with the Wichita Art Museum about once again merging the two institutions but this relationship was never consummated and the Art Association constructed a new 45,000 square foot facility at 9112 East Central which includes classroom and performance spaces as well as a large gallery.

Wichita Art Museum, Founding member

The Museum officially opened in 1935. It was, as described above, an outgrowth of the Wichita Art Association.  Seward was one of two members of the building and planning committee who traveled to such cities as Chicago and Philadelphia to survey other museums and select an architect. The nationally recognized Roland P. Murdock collection of American Art which was acquired during the years of 1935-62 forms the cornerstone of the museum’s collections.The catalyst for the Wichita Art Museum’s construction was a gift from the 1915 estate of Louise Caldwell Murdock for the purchase of American art to be housed, and cared for by the city of Wichita. From this bequest, the Wichita Art Association (forerunner of the modern Wichita Center for the Arts) was established and its members worked to foster appreciation of art through classes and exhibitions and then financial support for the construction of the city's first art museum. Completed in 1935, the Wichita Art Museum became one of the guiding forces in Wichita's aesthetic development and through the purchases of the Murdock bequest, became possessor of one of the region's most recognized collections of American art. The Roland P. Murdock Collection contains works of art that encompass a broad range of styles and artists including works by Edward Hopper, Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Henry Moore, Mary Cassatt and John Steuart Curry. “Wichita has long felt the need for an art museum, and Seward as usual took the lead in an attempt to realize this need. Part of the money was raised by private subscription, but that was proving to be a long drawn-out proposition with the depression.  However, it was found that a Public Works Administration grant could be obtained and with it the central part of the museum building was erected." [Sandzen, “C.A. Seward, Promoter of the Arts,” 1937, Kansas Magazine]

The Wichita Artists Guild, 1924

In 1924 Seward helped gather the artists working in Wichita in order to establish an ongoing annual exhibition to promote their work. The Wichita Artists Guild’s Annual Exhibitions started in 1925 and were at the Public Library and  held under the auspices of the Wichita Art Association.  By 1928 this became an annual juried exhibition.  Artist members of this group also included Ed Davison, Herschel Logan, Walter Vincent, Robert Aitchison, Lloyd Foltz and Charles Hotvedt.

American Block Prints Exhibitions 1928 - 1938

Seward initiated this annual (by invitation) exhibition in 1927.  The first exhibition was held at the Wichita City Library under the auspices of the Wichita Art Association. It was not just the first  exhibition developed by the Association but more importantly it was also the first exhibition in the Midwest to have a national scope.  The exhibition expanded to include jurors and awards in 1935, then expanded to include lithographs in 1938. For this first exhibition, which was held in 1928, the catalog introduction was written and signed by C.A. Seward.  The catalogs for the following years appear to have also been written by Seward.  These exhibitions continued after Seward’s death. (This exhibition continued as a Graphic Art & Drawing Biennial Exhibition through 1990.) Artists from throughout the United States and Canada sent their prints for these exhibitions; from California - Frances Gearhart and William Rice, from New York - Ernest Watson, Jane Berry Judson and Leo Meissner, from Philadelphia - Edward Warwick and Herbert Pullinger, from Massachusetts - Blanche Lazzell and Todd Lindenmuth, New Mexico - Gustave Baumann and B.J.O.Nordfeldt, Canada -  Walter J. Phillips and H. Eric Bergman.

Kansas Federation of the Arts,  Director, 1932-35, President, 1936-1937

The Kansas Federation was established seven years after the American Federation of the Arts. It shared the vision of the national federation which had stated in its first constitution that the organization's goals are "to unite in fellowship all institutions and organizations interested in architecture, sculpture, painting, landscape, craftsmanship, collections of art, and village and city development; to harmonize and nationalize the art interests of the country; to stimulate the love of beauty and to cultivate public taste.” Seward’s early mentor, George M. Stone served as the first president of the organization when it was founded in 1916.  In 1916 there were 100 members. Not long after its founding, however, the Kansas Federation began to falter.  In 1932, with the goal of revitalizing the organization Seward, Paul Weigel and John Helm, Jr. (the latter two were faculty at Kansas State University) accepted the leadership of the organization. The stated goal of the Kansas Federation was "...a cooperative organization of clubs, art associations and libraries, as well as the art departments of schools and colleges. The Federation makes exhibitions, lectures, and other services available to its members at a minimum of cost. Its purpose is to stimulate and promote ever greater interest in art, and in the work of this region." Seward’s work during his tenure was focused on making high  quality, low cost traveling exhibitions of art available to Kansas's groups, institutions, and   organizations.  These exhibitions were also  funded by membership dues for the organization. Under Seward’s leadership, the KFA circulated art  exhibits to schools and organizations for reasonable fees ranging from 2.50 to 25.00.

Wichita Public Schools Art Program 1920s

Documentation for this program is difficult to find.  Letters from artists whose works were purchased, news clippings and memories of students who attended public schools in Wichita form the basis for this history of the program. Seward had developed a program of traveling art exhibitions as part of his exhibition program at his commercial art studio, the Seward Studio as early as 1920. This traveling exhibition program is noted in a news article in the Wichita Eagle as being operated by Rose King.  Family records and letters also tell of Seward working with Wichita School Art Superintendent, Gladys Bate to develop student programs to commission and purchase works of art for the public schools in Wichita, Kansas. Commissions included works by painters John Noble, Birger Sandzen.  In the 1923 Wichita Art Association newsletter written and published by C.A. Seward it is noted that Gladys Bate had purchased art for the public schools at the exhibitions sponsored by the art association.  A concerted effort has been made by some members of the community to maintain and protect these works of art and thus much of this impressive collection remains at the schools in Wichita.

Sunflower Stamp Club, Charter member, 1932

Seward was also a philatelist. He was a charter member of the Sunflower Stamp Club in 1931, and designed the logo for the club (now the Wichita Stamp Club) which is still used today. The logo was designed as an actual stamp, and printed from engraved plates by Seward. The sheet is marked CAS and  2101932, the date of the first exhibition of the new seals on Feb. 10, 1932. He also used the stamp to educate people on methods of printing, and produced a card for the club with examples of  each stamp using typography, engraving, and lithography. The club held annual exhibitions at the Lassen Hotel. C.A. also designed the cachet for all first-day mail leaving the new U.S. Post Office in Wichita on April 1, 1932, and a stamp album for collectors of pre-cancelled stamps.

WPA, Works Progress Administration - Committee Chairman, 1935 and

Treasury Department Art Projects - Committee Chairman, 1936

Seward was the chairman of a three-person committee appointed to recommend and select commissions for Kansas WPA projects.  A notation in the Seward Family guest book on May 12, 1935, provides a record of a meeting of this committee. One member was Mrs. Elsie J. Nuzman Allen (a member of the Wichita Art Association)*, Alton Smith (real estate developer representing the Wichita Chamber of Commerce) and CA Seward (Wichita artist and Director of the Kansas Federation of the Arts). The documented WPA commissions during this time were two murals for the Wichita Post Office. Eighty-one sketches were reviewed and the committee selections were submitted to Edward Rowan at the Department of Painting and Sculpture.  Seward carefully noted that “he (Rowan) had direct charge of the project and supervised the awarding of the contracts. The decisions were made in Washington.” Painter, Ward Lockwood (1894-1963), created  “Pioneers in Kansas”  and Charles Richard Haines (1906-1984) created “Kansas Farming.” The murals measured 10’-6" x 4’-7” and each artist received $940.  The murals were installed at the post office  in 1935 and 1936. (for more information on the murals see below.) An additional mural project titled Competition No. II in  Bulletin No. 10, 1936 of the Treasury Department Art Projects was for a mural in the Court room of the Fort Scott, Kansas, Post Office and Court House.  Seward also served as the chairman of the committee along with Walter Earl Glover, architect of the building, and Frank Milligan, Editor of the Fort Scott Monitor.  This competition was open to artists in Kansas as well as Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas.  All announcements and applications were sent to Seward who at this time was the President of the Kansas State Federation of the Arts.  Existing letters also suggest that Seward was involved in the controversial murals that Kansas artist, John Steuart Curry created for the Capitol building in Topeka, Kansas.

Wichita City Library - Board Member, 1920

In January of 1920 Seward received a letter from Mayor Powell of Wichita appointing him to the Board of the City Library. After this appointment he was then elected Treasurer.  This position undoubtedly made the coordination much easier for  the art exhibitions and lecture programs  held at the Library under the auspices of the Wichita Art Association. Built  with a $75,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie, the library opened in April of 1915 with 45,000 books. The facility included an auditorium and large exhibition space, the Great Hall. A John Noble painting “Point Croix” was hung in the auditorium. Ten years later, in 1925, the library collection included 116,00 volumes. The murals commissioned for the new library were  painted by Arthur Sinclair Covey and titled “Kansas, Her Past and Future” This building served the city until 1967 when a new facility was erected across the street.

Fairmount Improvement Association - Committee Member, 1929

No papers have been found for this committee although it is documented that, “Constructed in 1887, Fairmount Hall housed classrooms, offices and chapel for Fairmount College and the University of Wichita until it burned down in 1929. It was located just northeast of intersection of North Hillside and East 17th streets. It faced Hillside Street. The gateway to the university was given by the class of 1929.” The decorative stone pillars at the corner of 16th and Holyoke (near Seward’s home) may perhaps have been a part of the work of the improvement committee working in concert with the rebuilding that became necessary at nearby Fairmount College.

WWI Victory Arch - Committee Member, 1918

The Memorial Arch was created to welcome home the victors of World War I.  It was designed by local architect, Don Schuler.  The arch was constructed to span Douglas & Lawrence (now Broadway.)  Over 105,000 people attended the victory parade on May 8,1919.  C.A. Seward served on the civic committee formed to select the design of the arch.  About one year later local businessmen successfully petitioned the city to have it removed citing it as a traffic obstruction.

Seward’s daughters told stories of their mother making wreaths from the yellow roses growing in their yard which they then presented to the returning soldiers.  Seward’s close friend, Ben DePew, who had served in France, was among these soldiers.

Gathering goat feathers” was Seward’s own description for all of his many efforts that would certainly never produce monetary rewards but get him closer to his dream of creating an art filled community in Wichita and throughout the Midwest.  His fellow printmaker, Arthur Hall criticized him for not spending all of his time creating art while his friend, Birger Sandzen explained in an interview that “if you want something done you take it to a busy man.”  Seward was indeed a busy man and a seemingly tireless promoter of the arts.  His selfless style of accomplishing his goals was quite successful.   Seward never seemed to care who got the credit as long as his ideas reached fruition.     Thus in almost all of the organizations listed below, Seward chose the effective role, that of secretary-treasurer. His promotional efforts included every possible avenue from being a founder of both the Wichita Art Association and then the Wichita Art Museum as well as the nationally recognized Prairie Print Makers. His efforts also extended to reorganizing the Kansas Federation of the Arts. He also assisted in the development of an art exhibition and acquisition program for the Wichita Public School and helped organize exhibition venues for these schools as well as many others throughout the midwest.

Seward used his writing skills for museum guidebooks on printmaking as well as for articles about collecting and caring for prints in numerous publications.  He was always making contacts and finding exhibitions and potential sales for all of his artist friends.  In 1909 he arranged the first exhibition outside of Lindsborg for his early mentor, Birger Sandzen.  In 1923 he helped persuade H.L. Hurd to commission a mural at  his 501 North Belmont home in Wichita by Taos based artist, Walter Ufer. In 1928 he organized  a national, juried annual print exhibition which continued for over 60 years; the list of artists who have been selected for this exhibition is a virtual “who’s who” of American printmakers. Five years later, in 1933 Seward served as a member of the WPA Committee to select the muralists for the new Wichita Post Office. Then in 1937 he was advising another Kansas born artist, John Steuart Curry on the mural commission at the Kansas State Capitol.

Seward - Arts Advocate & Promoter

Information & Images on this page: All from C.A. Seward Family papers except  as noted: photograph - Wichita City Library (  Wichita Public Library Photograph Program), Wichita Stamp Club,  photographs - Wichita Art Museum (Wichita Art Museum), Devin Brogan -  consultant for Wichita Art Association  and Wichita Art Museum history, painting by John Noble, “Toilers of the Sea” collection of Wichita Center for the Arts, Wichita Stamp Club Logo, murals - Wichita Post Office (Haines & Lockwood), photograph - Wichita Public Library (photo courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society) murals  (Wichita Public Library Photograph Program), Fairmount Improvement Society (private collection), and Victory Arch ( Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum - http://www.wichitaphotos.org)

Initial Exhibitions, 1922-33, held under the auspices of the Wichita Art Association

partial list:

1922  March “Wood Block Prints in Color by Leading American Artists”

1922November  An exhibit of 30 paintings by "Los Cinco Pintores" of Santa Fe The artists were: Joseph Bakos, Will Schuster, Fremont Ellis, Walter Mruk, and Willard Nash.

1922  NovemberExhibition of work of Birger Sandzen  (Bethany College, Lindsborg, KS)

1923   NovemberWalter Ufer, painter, Santa Fe

unknown dates

William Auerbach Levy, printmaker

Paul Bartlett, sculpture

Albert Bloch

Benjamin Brown, painter

John F. Carlson, painter

John Steuart Curry

Ernest L. Blumenschein

Maynard Dixon, painter

Charles Grafly, sculpture

Victor Higgins, painter

Bruce Moore, sculpture

John Noble, painter

William Silva, painter

Chicago Society of Etchers

London Society of Colored Printmakers

Cleveland Society of Artists

London Society of Painters-Gravers

Brooklyn Society of Etchers

C.A. Seward Print Collection

1923  March - Print Makers Society of California

1923 April - Paintings by Jesse & Cornelius Botke

1924Wichita Artists Guild 1st Annual Exhibition

(this annual exhibition continued until the Wichita Art Museum was built.  The first exhibition held at the museum was that of the Wichita Artists Guild. The Annual Wichita Artists Guild Exhibition is now held at the Wichita Art Association (now Wichita Center For the Arts)

1928 - 1938American Block Prints, annual,by invitation exhibition

abt 1930 Howell C. Brown

To view letters about the School Arts Acquisition Program, click here.Arts_Advocate_2.html
to view artist’s letters about exhibitions at the Seward Studio or the Art Associationhttp://casewardprintmaker.com/artists_letters/Arts_Artist_lttrs.html
to visit the Wichita Art Museum click herehttp://wichitaartmuseum.org/
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