Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Attending the Sun Prairie Corn Festival this weekend? If so, check out the Sun Prairie Georgia O'Keeffe "Central Connection"

If you're planning to attend the annual Sun Prairie Corn Festival this weekend, take some time to visit the Wisconsin Historical Marker honoring artist Georgia O'Keeffe. It's located next to the Sun Prairie City Hall on 300 E. Main Street, not far from Angell Park, where the corn festival is held.

A Sun Prairie native, O'Keefe is a Madison [Central] High School alumna. She attended Madison High School, as a sophomore, from 1902-1903. During this time, she lived with her aunt, Lenore L. Totto, who graduated from Madison High School in 1885. In June 1903, O'Keeffe left Madison to join her parents in Williamsburg, Virginia. She graduated from Chatham (Virginia) Episcopal Institute in 1905.

Although O'Keeffe was only there for a year, her experiences At Madison High School were important in her development as an artist. Recalling her art teacher at Madison High School, O'Keeffe later wrote, "I didn't like anything about her, not even the interest she aroused in me. But maybe she started me looking at things -- looking very carefully at details."

This afternoon, while looking through the "Custer Files" at the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, I found a 1927 clipping from The Capital Times about Georgia O'Keeffe, which I've reproduced below. It may be difficult to read unless you double click on it in order to enlarge it in your browser window. Material from the archives can only be photocopied on bright yellow paper. What you see below is a scan of the photocopy, which I've done my best to enhance using PhotoShop. The date is not complete, but there's enough information in the article for the really curious to determine (with a bit of research) when it was published.

The "Custer Files" are the research files of Frank Custer, a Central High School alumnus, who spent most of his career at The Capital Times, where he wrote the "Looking Back" column. It's likely his interest in O'Keeffe may have been sparked by the article's mention that she, too, had attended Madison High School. Although I haven't determined what year Custer and his twin brother, Rudy, who were high school cheerleaders, graduated from Central, I believe it was probably 1930 or 1931. When you remember that the O'Keeffe article was published in 1927, when Frank Custer was still in high school, it appears that his interest in Madison history may have started well before he joined The Capital Times staff.

Double click on this image to enlarge it in your browser window

9/17/2006 - I've updated the links in this post. They should all work now. Also, I've determined that both Frank and Rudy Custer were members of the Madison Central High School Class of 1931.