Monday, April 26, 2010

Kokoon Arts Club

The Kokoon Arts Club was founded in 1911 by commercial artists from the Otis Lithograph Company. They were inspired by "the bohemian spirit of the Kit Kat Club in New York" and through the year enthusiastically explored "new art" (Modernism) in all its forms. The club became notorious for its annual (on an irregular basis) benefit parties or "costume bals." Apparently everything they did had artistic spellings - their name, it was eventually decided upon was inspired by the idea of metamorphosis or transformation or what have you.

Kokoon Arts Club: Narrative and roster

In 1934 they held the "Bal Risque" and in 1935 the "Bal Artistique." I wish I could report there were a "bal" in 1936, but there weren't another until 1938. The Bal Artistique was held at the Ballroom Trianon, and the Kokoon headquarters were at "the former Van Camp home" on East 40th Street from 1930.
At the age of 19, Philip Kaplan (born in Russia in 1903, came to the United States in 1911) developed an avid interest in the European and American artistic and literary movements of the day. Attending evening classes at the Cleveland School of Art and at the Kokoon Arts Club prepared him to begin working as a professional artist. In the late 1920s and 1930s Kaplan worked as a decorative painter, painting murals in homes, schools and business in Cleveland. He also worked as an amateur photographer and lithographer. Kaplan received awards in the Cleveland Museum of Art's annual May shows in 1929 and 1930.

Kaplan joined the Kokoon Arts Club in in 1925 and became a very active member, serving in a number of posts including president (1932). According to his own notes, Kaplan left the Kokoon Arts Club in the late 1930s following an incident in which a fellow member, Rudolf Schatz, spread an anti-semitic leaflet around the club. Kaplan wrote a protest letter, but few club members supported his response, most feeling it was better to ignore the original leaflet.
- Kent State Archive
Members of the Kokoon benefited from federal arts projects, painting murals at the Cleveland Public Library, and other public buildings. The Kokoon Club's influence began to wane as what was considered "Modern" began to move into the mainstream.

11/8/2011 UPDATE: Dee Perry interviews CWRU Professor of American Art Henry Adams about his new book, "Out of the Kokoon."

Source: Kent State University Museum

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