ADG Perspective

January-February 2017

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Page 11 of 139

10 P E R S P E C T I V E | J A N UA RY / F E B R UA RY 2 0 1 7 editorial A CELEBRATION OF COMMUNITY by Michael Baugh, Editor It's finally here. The long-awaited book by Richard Isackes and Karen Maness celebrating the art of the painted backdrop is finished and available for purchase throughout the country...throughout the world in fact, since Simon & Schuster also distribute it from their offices in Europe, Asia and Australia. See the article on page 21. The extraordinary coffee-table book is a celebration of one of the most important crafts that Art Directors Guild members practice—and have practiced since the beginnings of film. It is the first of many such books we should sponsor, and it was possible in no small part because of the dedication and efforts of ADG Archivist Rosemarie Knopka. Many of the illustrations in the book, and much of the research surrounding those images, came from her department on the first floor of the Guild's building in Studio City. The Guild has taken the lead in the effort to preserve the work of our artists and the collective memories of its talented members, and Ms. Knopka is the point person for that campaign. Some thoughtful people have asked if it is the proper role of a guild to preserve the history and art of its craftsmen. Shouldn't the purpose of the organization be to secure employment and better working conditions for current members, and allow someone else—anyone else—to protect the legacy of retired and deceased artists and designers? The answer to this question is both simple and complex. Yes, of course, the most immediate focus of the Guild has to be seeing that working members are treated well and paid fairly. The ADG is, after all, a labor union. That, however, is only part of the answer. Who we are, the respect we receive from the rest of the industry, the importance that critics and filmmakers (and the entire culture, really) place on our work, depends on telling the story of what we do. A different organization, other than the Guild, could do that, but I don't know who that might be. The Writers Guild and the Directors Guild faced the same dilemma, and they both decided that they needed to be the storytellers of their own crafts' achievements. They each established archives and libraries of their members' work, much like we have begun, and supported them with nonprofit charitable corporations which could accept tax- deductible donations, undertake book publishing and carry on other activities to celebrate their crafts. I am so glad that the Guild has accepted this vital mission to preserve our work and keep alive the memory of artists who are now gone. Projects like The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop tell our collective story, and they are an important part of who we are as a community. They serve to increase the visibility of screen design among other industry groups, and they indirectly assist the more traditional efforts to better the salaries and working conditions of our members. Just as the Writers Guild and the Directors Guild chose to be the chief storytellers of their members' achievements, the Art Directors Guild must continue to archive the work we all produce and record the oral histories of our craftsmen. Like the other guilds, members and friends of our crafts must be able to join in these worthy initiatives with tax- deductible contributions of funds and artwork, giving back to the occupations which have supported us and our families, and have enriched our culture. The cloister backdrop below was painted by John Harold Coakley sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s at MGM Studios. Image courtesy of the ADG Archives/JC Backings/ Photograph by Dennis Welch.

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