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Even at the young ages of 8 and 10, Pam Goldblum and her brother Jeff were taken by the scenery on their way to art class. The weekly inspiration they found as they wound their way through Carnegie Museum of Art was invaluable, much like the Dutch portraits, the Henry Moore sculpture, and the dinosaur exhibition they sometimes took a detour to visit.
On Saturdays in 1963, the siblings from West Homestead participated in the museum’s Tam O’ Shanter art class, first stopping at a table to pick up a drawing board, paper, and pencils before lining up—girls on one side, boys on the other—and filing into Carnegie Music Hall. From the stage, Joseph Fitzpatrick, a silver-haired man always impeccably dressed in a suit, commanded the room full of kids selected from all over the area. He gave a lecture before presenting the students with their drawing assignment for the day, often sending them out to sit on the museum floors to look—really look—at what was in front of them.
This spring, the Saturday art classes turn 90. While the name has changed through the decades—Tam O’Shanter, Palette, and, currently, The Art Connection—the sense of artistic discovery they’ve awakened in generations of students, often within the same family, has remained the same.
Pam Goldblum, who attended the classes for three years, went on to become an acclaimed artist and teacher, and still views the Tam O’Shanter classes with Fitzpatrick as a pivotal moment in her life. “He gave us a space where it was safe to be our most creative,” says Goldblum, a lecturer of studio arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, whose work is included in the collections of the Walker Art Center, Laguna Art Museum, and Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.
Fitzpatrick taught his students to approach their craft with a sense of discipline. In Goldblum’s day, a formal dress code made it clear that his young students should take their lessons seriously. “God forbid you should wear jeans,” says Goldblum, who favored a mustard-yellow jumper, knee socks, and loafers. No chitchat, either. “It was all between you and your artwork.”
For a small number of students—Annie Dillard, Andy Warhol, Jeff Goldblum, and Mel Bochner, to name a few—the program was an early step on the way to international renown. For many others, the classes have been a magical family tradition.
Diane Juravich, design and graphics editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, attended Palette classes in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with her sister, Eileen Dilanni, who is also a graphic artist. “I learned to draw and I learned to think,” Diane wrote about the classes in 2009. “As I sketched, my visual vocabulary grew, as did my imagination. Each drawing was a study in form and composition, but also a new story to tell, a new history to explore.”
When Diane’s son Jon showed interest in art, she took him to The Art Connection classes, still expressive but more intimate and less formal than in the Fitzpatrick era. Today, Jon is an art teacher in Columbus, Ohio, where he was named 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year.
During Jon’s classes, Diane would walk the familiar Oakland building to visit old friends that had awakened the artist in her junior-high self—among them, the charging Barbary lion and the magnificent Hall of Architecture.
“As I sketched, my visual vocabulary grew, as did my imagination.”
– Diane Juravich, Palette Alumna
Fitzpatrick’s words became part of her philosophy of life—“Look … to see, to remember, to enjoy.”
The biggest honor for any student was to have your art selected as one of the outstanding works and be invited to recreate it the following week on stage. Diane remembers the thrill of remaking one of her trees with an intricate pattern of branches and roots.
Pam Goldblum recalls receiving a letter in the mail after her very first class, citing a green monster in a dress that she had created. The next week, she walked on stage and made a bigger version of her drawing, occasionally walking to the back of the class to check the perspective.
Before and after each class, Goldblum says she would look up in awe at the white lace collars on the museum’s 13th-century Dutch portraits, amazed at how white brush strokes created realism on a flat surface. “It totally blew my mind,” she recalls.
“Henry Moore and Alexander Calder were my mentors, as I passed by their work on my way to Saturday morning art class.”
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