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A History of
Tyler School of Art

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  • 1930 - 1950
    History Highlight

    In 1934, Stella Elkins Tyler and her husband donated their Elkins Park estate to Temple University.

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    Stella Elkins Students relaxing on campus

    One of the most significant gifts in Temple’s history, the Tyler’s nine-acre estate was given to the school “for the advancement of the arts” and in gratitude for the mentorship provided to Stella by sculptor Boris Blai. Blai moved his small body of art students from the Oak Lane Country Day School to the new campus.

    1930_stella-and-george_SQUARE

    Stella and her husband outside of their home, now the campus of Bucks County Community College. Image courtesy the Bucks County Community College Archives.

    1934
    Moment in Time

    The first class of Tyler carved the doorway to Tyler Hall.

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    12 new Temple art students from the Oak Lane Country Day School carved the entry door to Tyler Hall with the school’s name: Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts.

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    1935

    Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts is formally established by Temple’s Board of Trustees, with sculptor Boris Blai as Director and Dean for 25 years. Renowned male studio faculty in Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture, with primarily Art Academy training, often European trained like Blai himself, offer an art curriculum with a strong emphasis on the craft of materials.

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    Stella Elkins Tyler working in her studio. Many of Ms. Tyler's sculptures can be viewed around the campus of Bucks County Community College.

    1941

    Ceramics and crafts courses are expanded with distinguished ceramist Rudy Staffel. Art History courses added with Dr. Herman Gundesheimer in collaboration with art collections of Lessing J. Rosenwald; Morris Blackburn offers Printmaking courses.

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    A Sculpture Foundry is opened in 1935 for casting sculptures. Art students carve stone portraits for the façade of Sullivan Hall at Temple University’s Main Campus.

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    Dr. Johnson, President of Temple University, and Dean Boris Blai visit Blai’s sculpture “Rhythm of the Sea” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    With these hands you can learn to conquer fear.

    Boris Blai
    1945

    Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts awards its own degrees after ten years in collaboration with Temple University’s Teachers College.

    1945
    Moment in Time

    Tyler offers art courses for veterans at Fort Dix.

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    In weekly classes during WWI, the Tyler School of Fine Arts served both service men and women. According to a 1930’s school catalog, veterans were given art classes at Fort Dix, New Jersey to "regain confidence and self-reliance by recognizing and using their creative ability."

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    You’ve reached the end of the 1940’s.

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  • 1950 - 1970
    History Highlight

    Tyler Rome Program begins in 1966 under the leadership of Dean Charles LeClair.

    1950_River_Tiber

    Temple student at the River Tiber in Rome.

    The Rome program at the Villa Caproni allows students to widen their range of experiences and explore other artistic environments. Today, Temple and Tyler students continue to still take advantage of the opportunity to live, work, and study art and art history in one of the most important cities in the history of Western civilization.

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    Temple University Rome campus at the Villa Caproni

    1955

    Presidents Hall built on Elkins Park campus in 1955. Model for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Temple Beth Sholom in Elkins Park is with assistance of Tyler faculty at Tyler’s Elkins Park campus.

    1950_DavisLibrary

    Students and faculty using the Bernard Davis Library c. 1955

    1960
    Moment in Time

    Boris Blai retires as Dean Emeritus.

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    After Boris Blai’s retirement, painter Charles LeClair is hired from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, as Dean, primarily to extend art curriculum. Painter David Pease is hired to build Design program and Romas Viesulas to expand Printmaking. Both faculty members will become future deans of Tyler School of Art.

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    1962

    Faculty increased to twenty, including some female faculty in Art Education and Crafts, with new programs in photography, metals, and fibers. Art course offerings expanded on Temple’s Main Campus. Addition to Elkins Park Sculpture Studio completed.

    1963

    Stella Elkins Tyler School of Fine Arts first accredited by National Association of Schools of Art. Stella Elkins Tyler passes away.

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    Students flying kites at Elkins Park campus c. 1965

    1965
    Moment in Time

    School Changes name to Tyler School of Art.

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    Tyler expands to offer majors in Crafts, Graphic Design and Illustration, Sculpture, Printmaking, Painting. Departments were: Design (including crafts, photo, & illustration); Painting, Printmaking and Drawing;
    Sculpture; Art History; and Art Education. There was a mural program and some interdepartmental classes.

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    1950_studentsmural

    Mural painting students working in class c. 1965

    1967

    Tyler Faculty Exhibition with 32 faculty, several female faculty in Printmaking, Art Education and Crafts.

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  • 1970-1990
    History Highlight

    In 1983, Tyler Graphic Arts & Design students design a new logo for Temple University: the Temple “T”.

    1970_TempleLogoDesignTeam

    Tyler’s Scorsone (third from right) and the Logo Team (from left): Frank Baseman, Paula Goldstein, Mitchell Bills, Rosa Broid, Michael McGarvey, Kris Herrick, Maria Holinaty and Debbie McGann

    Under the leadership of Professor Joseph Scorsone, graduate students in Tyler’s Graphic Arts & Design program created multiple concepts for the Temple University Logo. The winning concept, designed by Kris Herrick, was implemented across all Temple campuses.

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    Temple T logo still used today

    1970_TylerYears

    Catalog for 1973 exhibit of art work by faculty Lechtzin, Staffel and Viesulas “The Tyler Years” In this same year, Elkins Hall and Penrose Hall are dedicated at Elkins Park and Dean Charles LeClair departs.

    1975
    Moment in Time

    Faculty expands to 67 full time and part time professors.

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    The departments are Painting, Drawing and Sculpture; Graphic Arts & Design, including Photo and Printmaking; Crafts including Ceramics, Glass, Metals, and Weaving; Art History; Art Education; and General Studies. This Tyler student drawing outside at the Elkins Park campus is featured in the 1975 Tyler Bulletin.

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    1978

    David Pease, Chair of the Painting faculty, selected as Dean.

    “The Tyler School of Art has always been a setting devoted to the work of the studio. As such, it has encouraged a rich diversity of studio approaches and practices from both its faculty and students. That tradition is stronger than ever today and has placed Tyler among the top-ranked art schools in the country.”

    David Pease
    1970_GoldenYears

    Catalog Cover for Golden Years: Tyler’s 50th Anniversary; Graphic Arts and Design Alumni Invitational Exhibit; Crafts Alumni Invitational Exhibit; Painting, Drawing and Sculpture Alumni Invitational Exhibit.

    1988

    Large Faculty Exhibition showcasing the expanded Faculty, distinguished by numerous fellowships and one-person shows by 55 Studio faculty in Crafts; Graphic Arts and Design; Painting, Drawing and Sculpture; University Art & Art Education.

    1988
    Moment in Time

    Tyler courses offered at Temple’s Japan Campus.

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    Originally opened in 1982, Temple University Japan was the first campus of an American university in Japan. In 1988, Tyler first takes advantage of this opportunity to offer study abroad to its students and art courses for local students in Japan.

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    1989

    Rochelle Toner is hired as Dean; Tyler has expanded to over 600 students.

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  • 1990-2010
    History Highlight

    In 2009, Tyler School of Art moves to it’s new location on Temple University’s main campus.

    1990_GreenHallway

    Students utilize Tyler’s Green Hallway as an interdepartmental gallery space.

    The new Tyler School of Art building on Temple’s main campus was designed by Carlos Jimenez. Students are now able to enjoy more advanced studio spaces and facilities, and the Tyler community can now more actively collaborate with the Temple’s other schools and departments.

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    Main entrance to new building on Norris Street.

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    Aerial view of Elkins Park campus prior to move to main campus in 2009.

    “The embodiment of serious art study, Tyler is a place where young artists are pushed to develop their individual talents and supported along this journey of discovery, all while being exposed to other artists. Throughout Tyler’s existence, it has always had an impulse to be creatively inclusive.”

    Rockie Toner
    1990_museum

    1991 PhD. Program in Art History started. The PhD program prepares students for college teaching or for other research-oriented positions requiring advanced specialized study. Graduates have gone on to teach in colleges and universities nationally and have been awarded some of the most competitive dissertation fellowships, including the Rome Prize, Metropolitan Museum of Art Fellowships and Kress Institutional Fellowships.

    1990_60thCatalog

    1995-1997 Course catalog celebrating the 60th anniversary of Tyler School of Art

    1995
    Moment in Time

    Arranged Introductions: Artworks in Different Places expands Tyler’s collaboration with Philadelphia.

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    Artworks in Different Places encourages pieces like Strand by Jamie Alvins, performed at ART BANKS. The program commissions artists to create new works in cooperation with Philadelphia educational, recreational, cultural, and social service organizations. This is the precursor to the Community Arts Program.

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    1999

    Tyler begins offering degrees in Architecture

    2005

    Dean Keith Morrison appointed.

    2009
    Moment in Time

    Tyler Trojan horses sent to other Philadelphia art schools.

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    In an effort to increase collaboration with other art schools in Philadelphia, Tyler sculpture students “attacked” PAFA, UArts, Moore, and the Art Institute of Philadelphia with Trojan horse sculptures. With a request for positive retaliations, this “Art War” was initiated by Karyn Olivier’s advanced sculpture class.

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    1990_greenwallpainting

    Figure drawing class held in the Green Hallway c. 2009

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  • 2010+
    History Highlight

    In 2016, New Division of Architecture and Environmental Design is formed.

    2010_NewDivision

    Students in the Division of Architecture and Environmental Design work on project out in the community around Temple University.

    Programs in Planning & Community Development, Landscape Architecture & Horticulture, and the Center for Sustainable Communities joins Architecture to form the new Division of Architecture and Environmental Design.

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    Students working on group assignment.

    2010_ArtMarket

    The Tyler Art Market features student and local artists who come to Tyler’s Green Hallway to sell their work to patrons from all over the city.

    2011
    Moment in Time

    Robert Blackson forms Temple Contemporary Advisory Council.

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    An Advisory Council consisting of 40 diverse members of the Philadelphia community gather with Temple students, faculty, and alumni to ask pressing and relevant questions. From these discussions, they develop a plans for engaging exhibitions that address a specific question asked.

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    2010_Architecture

    New building for Architecture opens on main campus, 2012.

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    Pepón Osorio reform installation commissioned by Temple Contemporary addressing the loss of the Fairhill Elementary School in North Philadelphia, not far from Temple University.

    2015

    Tyler School of Art celebrates 80 years.

    “In Elkins Park the environment created a small, special community of the Artist as removed from the world, the Artist alone. Now, it is more about the Artist engaging in a larger world, interacting and collaborating in a city campus. Tyler develops highly individual artists in a close knit community within the context of a large, public research university, a combination that is truly distinctive.”

    Hester Stinnett, interim dean

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Exploring moments of collaboration throughout the history of Tyler School of Art, this installation is a student project by Laura Sutphen, Ryan Hewlett, and Krissy Beck, MFA 2017 candidates in Tyler's Graphic and Interactive Design program.


Special thanks to Hester Stinnett and Dr. Jo-Anna Moore for their insight into Tyler’s rich history as well as their support for this installation. We would also like to thank Margery Sly at the Special Collections Research office of Temple University Libraries and Dr. Roberta Mayer of the Bucks County Community College Archives. This pieces was art directed by Kelly Holohan, professor in Tyler’s Graphic and Interactive Design program.

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