The Cason McDermott Art Gallery in Goodwyn Hall at Auburn University at Montgomery is pleased to present the exhibition, A Chicken in Every Pot and Affordable Art in Every Home. Group curated by Dr. Slipp’s Museum Studies class in Spring 2021, the exhibition features 33 original prints from the Department of Fine Arts collection that were editioned and sold to middle-class American buyers between the 1930s and 1970s by the Associated American Artists (AAA) group. Cases also display AAA advertising, marketing, and sales materials, and printmaking tools. A Chicken in Every Pot and Affordable Art in Every Home is open to the public March 15 through April 16, 2021.
As the students explain in their introductory text, “one of Herbert Hoover’s 1928 presidential campaign slogans was ‘a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.’ By 1934, with the US and much of the world in the Great Depression, the Associated American Artists (AAA) offered another sign of wealth and prosperity—original art at affordable prices. Founded by Chicago businessman Reeves Lewenthal—who believed in affordable, accessible art for the people—the AAA sold inexpensive, limited edition prints to middle-class Americans in over fifty US department stores, established galleries in major cities like NYC, Chicago, and LA, and did direct-mail catalogue sales.”
“By utilizing printmaking—a cost effective way to produce copies of a single artwork—the AAA’s Edition Program and galleries undercut the high art market and revolutionized who bought art and how. Prints ranged from $5 to $50, were largely representational, and related to the human experience as felt by Americans in the Great Depression and post-WWII boom. Prints were limited to editions of 250 and most artists were paid a flat rate of $200. Over 66 years, AAA contracted 100s of contemporary artists from around the world to produce glass, textiles, ceramics, and almost 2,800 editioned prints—including etchings, lithographs, and woodblocks.”
“This extraordinary initiative allowed everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, to purchase, display, and enjoy original artwork in their home. The AAA continued its mission for decades, closing in 2000, and developed a business model used today by commercial designers. We invite you to view a selection of AAA prints highlighting the changing tastes of mainstream, middle-class Americans from the 1930s through the 1970s.”
A Chicken in Every Pot and Affordable Art in Every Home was group curated by Dr. Slipp’s VISU 3600/6600: Museum Studies class in Spring 2021. Students voted on the overall theme and title, co-wrote the introductory gallery text, researched two artworks each, and wrote labels for adults and children, and catalog entries. Students zoomed in for the gallery installation, agreed upon the arrangement and layout of the gallery, and hung the works together. A living room environ at the gallery entrance encourages visitors to imagine the artworks in middle-class domestic spaces, as intended, rather than the museum. Finally, the students also designed interactive activities, which encourage visitors to engage with the artworks on view and relate the exhibition theme to their own lives. QR codes in the gallery link to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s web resources and videos on printmaking techniques, such as etching, lithography, engraving, woodcut, and screen-printing. A public Spotify playlist – “A Chicken in Every Pot and Affordable Art in Every Home” – and social media hashtag #AssociatedAmericanArtists@AUM allow the exhibition to reach a wider audience. We invite you to visit the gallery and follow us on social media. We will be sharing exhibition texts, artwork spotlights, and more on Facebook, instagram, and our website during the duration of the exhibition!