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The Evolution of an Idea

July 27, 2015

In two earlier posts I’ve provided a sneak peek at materials found in the newest addition to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers. In that same vein, I’d like to share two sets of records which demonstrate the wide range of work Quirarte was involved in, particularly in his role as Director of the Research Center of the Arts.

Quirarte was engaged in many activities as he laid the foundation for the RCA, a multidisciplinary outreach initiative dedicated to the study of Latin American art and culture. After writing a proposal for the establishment of the Center, he solicited advice and feedback from colleagues at NYU, Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago, The University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian. Evidence of this activity remains in the form of correspondence dating from 1976-1977 between Quirarte and his fellow academics. It is especially helpful that he kept copies of his outgoing letters, in addition to the original incoming letters. This way, researchers get a full view of the conversation and not just one-way messages. This correspondence shows just a hint of the writing and strategic planning that was critical to Quirarte’s work as a dean and RCA Director.

An adjacent folder includes a stack of sketches for a logo for the RCA, which may illustrate his involvement in a more creative endeavor. While I can only assume that these are Quirarte’s own drawings, there are also no clues that would attribute the sketches to someone else. In general, Quirarte comes across as a very hands-on person, not a distant, remote administrator. Further, although we remember him primarily as an art historian, he was a visual artist before concentrating his education on art history.

Either way, this collection of sketches is fascinating as visual evidence of the evolution of idea. The artist is playing with an assortment of different aesthetic directions, and later, different iterations of the same seed of an idea. Over the course of the drawings, only some of which are included here, you can see how one concept starts to prevail.

It was satisfying to discover in a subsequent folder which logo was ultimately selected. Quirarte’s papers include issues of the Review, the RCA’s newsletter, spanning 1978-1983. In addition to scholarly articles and mentions of upcoming events, each issue includes the RCA logo.

In my view, this set of logo sketches demonstrates one of the most compelling aspects of working with archival materials. Because we collect the unpublished, the background papers, the intermediate drafts, a researcher can study the choices being made in the process of the creation of something, whether that is designing a course curriculum, establishing an academic research center, or crafting a logo.

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