Oral History Interview with Anne Ogden Part I

Kentucky Historical Society


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0:26 - Career in the arts / early exposure to the arts / working for House Beautiful magazine

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Keywords: Alma Lesch; American Craft Council; Collegiate school; House Beautiful (Magazine); In Praise of Hands; Julia Duncan; Kentucky Arts Commission; New York; Objects USA; Speed Museum; Toronto (Canada); Vassar College; Wendell Castle

8:48 - Japanese folk craft movement / moving from New York to Kentucky / KY Guild Art Train

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Keywords: Art Train; Bert Combs; Garry Barker; Hounddog Hookers; Japan; Jerry Workman; Kentucky Arts Commission; Louisville Magazine; Nash Cox; Soetsu Yanagi; The Unknown Craftsmen: A Japanese Insight to Beauty; Virginia Minish

16:31 - Crafts Coordinator at Kentucky Arts Commission / forming of the Kentucky Arts Council

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Keywords: Al Smith; Barry Bingham Sr.; education; Garry Barker; grant; Jerry Workman; John Y. Brown; Kentucky Arts Commission; Kentucky Arts Council; Nash Cox; National Endowment for the Arts; professional development

25:58 - Including Kentucky crafts in State Park giftshops

28:13 - Craft Marketing Program / State art's agencies

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Keywords: Craft Marketing Program; Film Commission; Kentucky Arts Council; National Craft Administrator's Conference; National Craft Planning Project


WILLIHNGANZ: This is Greg Willihnganz interviewing Anne Ogden at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, for the Kentucky Craft History and Education Association. It is Friday, September 19, 2008. Good morning, Anne.

OGDEN: Good morning.

WILLIHNGANZ: Laughter. Thank you for doing this interview. We appreciate your time. Can you possibly, in one sentence, sort of summarize what your career has been like ?

OGDEN: Laughter. Well, it’s been thirty-five years in the arts really, but in kind of different capacities. It’s kind of fascinating. I had an art history degree, and it’s manifested itself in a lot of ways that I don’t really think I would have expected . First, oh, you said in a sentence .

WILLIHNGANZ: Well, that’s alright, nobody yet has done a sentence .

OGDEN: Oh, okay.

WILLIHNGANZ: I ask, but they never do it.

OGDEN: Right after college I went to New York, and was offered a job at House Beautiful Magazine as the Editorial Trainee, I guess it was, and it usually…people didn’t move up in that business and women’s shelter magazines. And, I had a lot of luck, and a lot of things kind of broke my way, and I ended up being the Art Editor and Craft Editor. And, I have to say I didn’t know anything about crafts at the time and it was a very wonderful way of kind of opening up the whole field to me. And, it was actually people in Kentucky who really helped me. When I was first trying to do articles for the magazine, Alma Lesch, whose necklace I’m wearing, was one of the really great helpful people, and Julia Duncan, and they gave me the contacts I needed to be able to really do some stories that were I think quite wonderful. And, that’s how I got really excited about the field to start with.

WILLIHNGANZ: Let’s talk a little bit about your growing up and your history, how you sort of got into this. Are you a native of Kentucky?

OGDEN: I am.

WILLIHNGANZ: Did you grow up here?

WILLIHNGANZ: So you were born in Louisville?

OGDEN: I was born in Louisville. I’ve lived in this house, well, when I was six, we moved in. And then after my parents died, I moved back here, so I am turning up in the same place that I was when I was six years old.


OGDEN: A long of history, but I was away from Kentucky also for oh, maybe ten years, and then back in Kentucky to work for the Kentucky Arts Commission, and then back to Louisville to work for the Speed Art Museum. So those are the three, that the House Beautiful Magazine in New York, and the Arts Commission, and the Speed would constitute my thirty-five years of arts activity.

WILLIHNGANZ: So, when you were growing up in Louisville, were you taking art classes? Were you interested in craft work?

OGDEN: You know, I don’t really know. I don’t really know why I got interested in art history. It seems, I mean, I think, I always took…yeah…art classes. I painted a frog once that Franklin Page, who was then director of the Speed Art Museum, said it was the “Essence of Frog.” And I think I did that when I was twelve.


OGDEN: I think that was probably the height of my artistic career in the actual doing of art. But no, I didn’t really particularly…mother took me to museums, and I loved the Speed, and we traveled some, and I looked at art. I’ve always looked at art.

WILLIHNGANZ: Where did you go to school?

OGDEN: Here, I went to college for twelve years. And then I went to Vassar College. And for some reason, which is I just really don’t know how, I ended up with the art department, but I ended up with an art history degree, and I really loved it. And you don’t really know how that translates into…usually it translates into an academic career or a museum curator, or something like that. But, its kind of evolved in a…I don’t know…I think for the magazine, when I was doing articles, writing articles, I think that the training of learning how to look at objects, and then write about them, was an art historical kind of training.

WILLIHNGANZ: This is for House Beautiful?

OGDEN: This is for House Beautiful. But, I think that kind of training at looking at things, looking at rooms, looking at objects, and then trying to describe them or talk about them in someway, was the kind of training that helped me do well on that job, and that’s art history.

WILLIHNGANZ: So, you were writing articles about it, and then you got basically promoted at House Beautiful into what area?

OGDEN: Well, when I was the editorial trainee, I was getting coffee for the secretaries and flowers for the editor. I mean I was making $85.00 a week, and the Executive Editor’s Assistant went to work for John Lindsey’s campaign. And I got her job, and he taught me. His name was Guy Henley, and he taught me everything I knew about copywriting and proofreading, and that whole part of the business. And then, I was doing fractional page editing for the magazine, this was, of course, way before computers, and it just evolved. And, they wanted somebody to cover art and craft, and since I had this art history interest, they gave me this job. And, I honestly did not know very much about the field, and so it was exciting . I was young enough then. I was in my twenties so, you know, you’re fearless, and at that stage you don’t say, well, I don’t know enough to do this . So I did it! And I did some wonderful things. They were stories about Wendell Castle, for instance. It was a fabulous time in the crafts field in this country. I was there in the late sixties and the seventies, early seventies to mid-seventies. It was a real resurgence of really extraordinary crafts people, work at studio crafts people mainly, and there were two shows that I remember. One was a wonderful show, Objects U.S.A. that was the Johnson Collection of Contemporary Craft. And, it was a traveling exhibition, as I recall, and a wonderful book. And actually, there was some people from Kentucky in it, Alma Lesch being one of them. This was probably 1970, and so it was in New York at least. It was around the country. It was a real resurgence of interest in crafts and in crafts as art as fine art in many ways. And, there was a lot of discussion about the difference between art and craft. And, Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb, who was an extraordinary woman…Eileen Osborne Webb started the American Craft Council and the World Craft Council, and she was a great presence in New York at the time. And, I interviewed her for a story for the magazine, but there were really, really interesting people…kind of beginning a very kind of intimate group of people…I mean, who knew each other and knew about each other, and the Johnson collection book was a very important book, I think, in 1970. There was another exhibition called “In Praise of Hands”, that was the World Craft Council, and the show was in Toronto. I think, I think it was in Toronto, in the mid-seventies. So there were just sort of beginnings of a real resurgence. And so, I did some stories on contemporary craftsmen like Wendell Castle. We were all pretty young then , and it was a kind of a remarkable time. I loved it!

WILLIHNGANZ: What do you think caused this resurgent interest in craft work?

OGDEN: I don’t know. I know certainly in Kentucky in the thirties, it had been really active, and then the same kind of thing was happening in Kentucky. I think that there was some kind of growing interest in the field in the sixties, and seventies. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe it was some sort of sense of going back to the kind of hands or going back to the core. I don’t know. I do know from my perspective at the magazine, I mean House Beautiful. There was so much stuff, and it was so kind of materialistic that being involved in this field was really very refreshing. I mean, to see the objects that were being made by hand and not manufactured. There was a lot of heart in them, and you had the real person that you were living with, in a sense, instead of a manufactured design.

WILLIHNGANZ: Now writing about them and becoming knowledgeable and all of that stuff would seem to me to logically lead to a career in, perhaps, academics, or in writing or editing, or something along those lines. But, it doesn’t seem to have taken you to that place.

OGDEN: Well, I had a very interesting experience actually. You know, there are these times in your life where things change you. And, I was doing an interview, as I said, with Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb, and she was quite formidable. She was a large woman. I’m not. And, I was interviewing her, and she was talking about crafts, and I said, “Mrs. Webb, what do you think the difference is between art and craft?” Well, she brought herself up to her full formidableness and she said, “I suggest that you read a book by Soetsu Yangi called The Unknown Craftsman.” The title is a Japanese insight into beauty, and she said the library at the American Craft Council has a copy if you want it. Well, she didn’t answer the question but she sent me to that book. And, I have to say the book really changed my thinking about a lot of things. It was about the Japanese Folk Craft Movement. It was about people who work with their hands anonymously a lot. People who were not working for fame or fortune, nor had their name remembered, but they were working out of heart and with their hands. And, I don’t know, but the book itself was handmade. It had a handmade cover. I always had two copies of it, one to loan and one to keep and read myself. I thought, what am I doing here in New York, working for a magazine and promoting all this stuff, you know. I think I might go back to Kentucky and I really had, this was in the mid-seventies, and I really had this sense I really wanted to go home again. And so I did. And I came back, and I was doing some writing here for Louisville Magazine and…

WILLIHNGANZ: How old were you when you came back?

OGDEN: I was just thirty. I came back in the end of seventy-five. Well, so I was twenty-nine. I was not thirty. And so, I did some writing and I thought maybe I would do some…I had a got a, what do you call those writers? An agent…I had an agent in New York, and thought I would continue doing some writing, and Nash Cox called me from the Kentucky Arts Commission in the spring, I guess, or the summer of seventy-six. And she said, they were interested in the position of a Crafts Coordinator, and she wanted to talk to me about it. And so I did, and I talked to her about the job.

WILLIHNGANZ: What was her name again?

OGDEN: Nash Cox. She was the Director of the Kentucky Arts Commission at that time.

WILLIHNGANZ: Okay. Now, was the Arts Commission a precursor to the?

OGDEN: Yeah. Most of the state arts agencies were started in the mid-sixties, sixty-five I think it was. And Kentucky was part of that national state arts agency trend. And so it was the state arts agency. Almost all of them had boards that were appointed by the governor, but they were citizen boards, and their purpose was to try to develop arts programming in each state.

WILLIHNGANZ: This would have been under John Y. Brown?

OGDEN: No, no. This was way before that.

WILLIHNGANZ: Way before that.

OGDEN: I guess it was Burt Combs maybe.

WILLIHNGANZ: Right. Now that’s when the art train started, too.

OGDEN: That’s right! The art train, I believe, was under Burt Combs. And Virginia Minnish, who was from Louisville, was involved with that. And, so was a woman named Susan Black Brown.

WILLIHNGANZ: Uh, hum, I’ve heard these names.

OGDEN: Yeah. And, there was, I think, Jerry Workman in Berea…was involved in it, and probably Garry Barker was. I don’t know whether he was or not.

WILLIHNGANZ: I’ve interviewed both of those guys.

OGDEN: And, that was really what the state was doing. And, it was kind of a great new thing, and to try to promote what was going on, I think, a lot of the crafts of Eastern Kentucky. There was a group called Hound Dog Hookers, and they were a number of Eastern Kentucky groups that were a part of it.

WILLIHNGANZ: What exactly were Hound Dog Hookers ?

OGDEN: Isn’t that a great name? You haven’t heard that one yet, have you?

WILLIHNGANZ: No. I haven’t .

OGDEN: They hooked rugs.


OGDEN: The women were rug hookers.

WILLIHNGANZ: Huh, interesting.

OGDEN: Is that a great name ?

WILLIHNGANZ: That’s a hysterical name .

OGDEN: But, I bet you the Hound Dog Hookers were part of the art train or the craft train.

WILLIHNGANZ: Huh, interesting.

OGDEN: That had gone, and it disappeared by the time I came along.

WILLIHNGANZ: Right. Yeah. I think it was only going for about seven years.

OGDEN: Uh, hum.

WILLIHNGANZ: And, I haven’t isolated exactly the seven years, although I think it was sixties.

OGDEN: It would have been late sixties.

WILLIHNGANZ: I think it was sixty to about sixty-seven.

OGDEN: Oh, really.

WILLIHNGANZ: I think that’s when it was. But, it may have been a little later than that, because they started the Guild right about that time. And, it took them, I think, a year or so to get up to speed to get the art train actually physically manifesting. I think that’s when Jerry told me they started. But, I need to check on some of that just to try to get my history down.

OGDEN: Yeah, I don’t really remember the years of that. And, Mrs. Minnish is gone now, and I don’t know where Susan is, if she’s around or not.

WILLIHNGANZ: Couldn’t tell you, don’t know. So seventy-five you’re writing for Louisville Magazine and other things .

OGDEN: Yeah, just zinging my way into whatever was next.

WILLIHNGANZ: And then you got…

OGDEN: And Nash approached me.


OGDEN: And, said they wanted a Crafts Coordinator. What had happened was that there were a number of people…Jerry Workman, I think, was one of them, and maybe Garry. I think Garry was who went to Nash and said that the Kentucky Arts Commission isn’t really doing anything in the crafts field, and we want representation on a state arts agency level. The Arts Commission was divided by medium at the time, so there was a Performing Arts Director and there was a film and video person, and there was a Visual Art Director. And, the real emphasis, I think, in the early times of the state arts agencies, was really performing arts more than visual arts, although Kentucky had a visual arts person in it, and that was Irwin Pickett. And the person who had, I can’t remember his name, who was the performing arts person who had worked for Elvis, had been a musician in Elvis’ touring group. I think I’m right about that, but anyway, the crafts groups came together with Nash, and said we really want somebody who can represent the crafts field on a state level. And, who can really bring the crafts into the programming that the arts commission was doing, and so the job was really to try to find out what the needs of the field were. And, I spent a lot of time in the beginning doing that, traveling around the state. But, finding out what both studio crafts people and production centers, what they needed from a state agency, and what the Kentucky Arts Commission could do to really strengthen what was going on in the state. The Commission’s philosophy really wasn’t so much doing programming, although they did do some touring exhibitions that we’ll have to talk about too, cause we got involved with crafts with that. But, the purpose was really trying to get visibility and money out to crafts people and crafts groups, to try to strengthen their ability to do their work, and to develop really. Education was a big part of that too, professional development, how to not only get their work better known, but to do things that would help improve the quality of it, too. So, there was definitely that side of it, the quality both of the work itself and the quality of the administration of the organizations. We had, for instance, a Salary Assistance Program to help. You know, I can’t really remember exactly who had it and who didn’t, but we did get salary positions to some craft groups, that to try to get things going on a more stronger administrative basis, to keep the groups going.

WILLIHNGANZ: Now, did the Kentucky Arts Commission become the Arts Council or?

OGDEN: It did.

WILLIHNGANZ: Okay, when did that transition take place?

OGDEN: That was during the Brown administration.


OGDEN: It was an interesting time. Actually I guess I would say that the, the administration was interested in raising the visibility of the crafts field, and so actually the Arts Commission was abolished. And the Department of the Arts was formed in which the Arts Commission was kind of absorbed in that. We lost a lot of staff at the time, and a program that I want to go back and talk about, which was the traveling exhibition service. But, there was a lot of turmoil at the time, and the National Endowment for the Arts threatened to withdraw federal funds, because the citizen board had been abolished. The citizen board that had authority over how the money was spent, and the National Endowment for the Arts was worried that one governor, or one political person, could make decisions based on personal politics instead of trying to broaden the way the moneys were distributed by a broader citizen board. And so, I don’t know whether that would have been the case or not, but there was a lot of turmoil.

WILLIGHNGANZ: Was that at the point at which the Commission became the Arts Council?

OGDEN: Well, what happened was because of this, the Brown Administration then reinstated the Council. In order to make it clear that it was a different agency, they called it the Council instead of the Commission. It was essentially the same idea though. It was a governing board that had authority over how the money was distributed and used, and it was people from all over the state. When it was reinstated, Al Smith, who has been well known for his comment on Kentucky program, agreed to be the chairman. And Barry Bingham, Sr., Al said he would do it if Barry would do it, and Barry said he would do it if Al would do it. So they did, and it was really wonderful, because it kind of revitalized the whole energy of the importance of a state arts agency with a citizen board. And, it was for a long time part of the Department of the Arts, and then all things got moved to Commerce, and then they got moved back later to Education. I think it showed the importance of the crafts, and the kind of tension, in some ways, of the field, because there is the kind of education side of it. We used to be the Education and Arts Cabinet, and then were moved to Commerce, and there was real emphasis on the commercial of the sales of crafts. But, the Arts Council, I would say, and Commission before it, was interested in the commercial side of it, but it was a broader approach to the arts, and a broader approach to the craft field. So, that’s what happened!

WILLIHNGANZ: Okay. So you were there for a couple of years in that position, I believe?

OGDEN: Yeah, seventy-six, probably seventy-eight.

WILLIHNGANZ: Yeah, right, as Crafts Coordinator, then you became the Director of the Arts Program.

OGDEN: What that really meant was I was overseeing all the grants programs, and we had kind of moved from a disciplined based agency to one of function, and so I was overseeing all the grants. I think the most important thing, the greatest accomplishment in a sense about the position, was not so much what I did, but the fact there was a position that was a Crafts Coordinator, and it really brought the crafts into the main stream of the State Arts Agency Programming. And so, crafts became important in the traveling exhibition service. I mean there were a number of well…a furniture show, for example, of Kentucky Furniture, that we ended up actually buying pieces from the show; the show toured around the state, and then we bought pieces for state agencies, including the Arts Commission. So, our desks were all hand made, which was wonderful.


OGDEN: I might add, probably, not as expensive as something that would have been, you know, manufactured. But, it was…so we were trying to do things that incorporated the crafts in the programs that the Arts Commission was already doing. And, one of the important things was making sure that the funding, both state and federal funding, went to support crafts initiatives as well as performing arts and other visual arts. And so, I think that was one of the, really, beginnings of really trying to have the state’s support, and the visibility, and what was going on in the field.

WILLIHNGANZ: Now, there were a major outlet for craft people has been down the years, the gift shops at the state parks went on.

OGDEN: Absolutely.

WILLIHNGANZ: Did you have an influence on it?

OGDEN: Oh, my gosh! That was always one of the biggest issues. I worked a lot in that, and I must say it was discouraging a lot of the time. It was very hard to get. Most of the state parks had gift shops, and we were trying to really upgrade what was in them, and to try to really include more of Kentucky crafts and less kind of tourist stuff. And, a lot of those positions were local. And, a lot of them were political. And, they were a number of people and were not particularly well versed in the arts or in the field or in design or anything. And so, we were trying to upgrade the kind of doing education programs trying to help the state park people do a better job of finding crafts people and including them. I’m sure what Fran has done…I’m sure what the Crafts Marketing Program has done has really helped that more than anything. But, it was our emphasis…was always trying to get people out and around the state to take responsibility, to actually, to find the crafts people, and to sell them, and to upgrade their quality. It was, I don’t know how successful we were at the time. I have seen some beautiful things in the gift shops in recent years, so I think like Churchill Weavers, sadly is not going any more. But, they still have a lot of tourist things. But, I think they seem to have some nice handmade things too.

WILLIHNGANZ: Oh, that’s great! Now tell me a little bit about how the craft marketing program…how did that intersect with your organization, with the Arts Council?

OGDEN: Well, when the Department of the Arts was formed the Craft Marketing Program was started as a kind of separate division. There was the Craft Marketing Program, and there was the film commission…was brought into all of that. It was a separate program. And the Kentucky Arts Council continued to do in a sense what it had been doing before. So we really…I was still doing what I was doing before, in one way. I mean, I was working with organizations to try to help them get grants, and get programs started, and strengthen their operations. So I was doing that, but I was not involved in the marketing programs that the Department of the Arts had, the Craft Marketing Program. I really was not.

WILLIHNGANZ: Okay. I’m trying to look at how all these different organizations sort of intersected and interlaced as they moved along. And, you know, you have the Southern Highlands Group, which is only part of the state. But was very large, because of all the other states that it included, and very powerful in terms of being a marketing tool.

OGDEN: Right, and the Guild.

WILLIHNGANZ: Then you have the Guild forming and organizing its various activities.

OGDEN: It was interesting, sort of regional, when I kind of came on the scene. We did in that two year period, I believe, there was a National Craft Administrators conference that three of us really put together. There was a person from the TVA, and a person who worked in Tennessee, and there might have been a person, I think, in South Carolina, too. And, we put together a National Craft Conference, so that there was beginning to be, at least from a State Arts Agency point of view, this was for State Arts Agency people, much more dialogue about what programs were going on in different states. And later, there was something called the National Craft Planning Project that I was also involved in, that was on the test force of and trying to really develop relationships between crafts groups nationally. And, having a real sense of what the needs are in the field, and whether they were regional needs, or whether they were national needs, or was it all local. And so, I would say they were kind of (you were to get back to your question) they were kind of overlapping areas of interest. And certainly the Southern Highland Guild had a lot of Kentucky members. And so, I would say they were not duplicating each other so much as they were various options for crafts people to have more visibility both in Kentucky and regionally. And then, the American Craft Council was a very important organization, which we talked about a little bit with Mrs. Webb. But it was doing regional workshops, regional shows as well as, some national things, and so there was kind of layers that were developing. And this was really beginning in the seventies…sixties and seventies more the seventies, I would say, layers of support that would be both national and regional. And then, state agencies, and then independent private agencies, and I don’t know what the Kentucky Arts Council…what its sort of philosophy is right now, but while the Crafts Marketing Program was going on with the state, I would say the Arts Council’s interest was still more in how to strengthen the Guild, and to make sure that they were independent organizations apart from the vagaries of state government. I mean, you know, it’s important, I think, as it is in funding to have to not be counting on just one source. And certainly, you know, if you rely all on state money, it’s a big problem. And, I would say that was probably true from the point of view of the independence of crafts people. I think it’s really important to have agencies other than the state agency to fall back on.

[End of Interview Part I]