Rural Rembrandt Art Club Celebrates 70 Years.

Part 1: How a small set of oil paints created a club

It was 1945. The war had ended, and people were listening to Frank Sinatra on the radio and buying movie tickets to see National Velvet, as only about 5000 homes in America had television sets. The price of gas was fifteen cents a gallon. The first computer (ENIAC) ran it’s first set of calculations through the 1800 feet of floor space it covered. And Perry Spencer accidentally discovered that microwaves could heat food.

On Christmas Day in Wautoma, Wisconsin, Dorothy Spaulding gave her new husband, Ray, a set of oil paints. He painted a beautiful tree and encouraged his wife to try. They bravely hung their paintings in their ice cream store, the Place. Not only did they learn to take criticism, but they discovered other artists and would-be artists in the area.

In 1946 Bea and Al Kietzer, Nellie Daniels, Bill Boose, Alvin Ziegenhagen, Strong Smith ( a retired illustrator from New York), and the Spauldings met at the Kietzer home to form an art club. They were soon joined by Mrs. S. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. George Muzzy and Gertrude Perzentka, all of Wautoma.

In 1947 Strong Smith and Nellie Daniels suggested the name Rural Rembrandts and William Boose, a trapper from PoySippi; was named president of the club. As the membership grew, the club held meetings in local communities, including Redgranite and Poy Sippi until it became based in Wautoma. They followed Hoyles Rules of Order, and met every month but January, due to inclement weather.

The founders established a schedule that endures; a winter challenge “show and tell,” meetings to prepare for the Wrap and Annual Shows, the plein air picnic (originally Bill Boose’s corn roast), an annual field trip, a critique, and a Christmas party with a handmade ornament exchange. Each meeting includes a demonstration or a presentation on art.

In 1948, the club held their first art show in the gym of the County Normal School, now the Courthouse Annex Building. They donated their profits to the Polio Fund. The second show was held in the old Post Office Building, which became the Holt Jewelry Store. The show was inside and out on the sidewalk and was the first of what would become the longest running outdoor show in Wisconsin.

Please watch this space for more of the story of the founding of the Wisconsin
Rural Art Association in Wautoma.

Pat Spear, Rural Rembrandt Historian