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Newspaper Archive of
The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
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July 8, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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July 8, 2011
 

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Otis From page 1, Feeling that there was no better to help execute the dbtails of his vision, EK. brought husband and wife artist team Otis and Dorothy Shepard to the Island from Chi- cago. From 1932 to 1962 Otis Shepa- rd was art director for the William Wrigley Jr. Company, and contin- ued as a consultant until his death in 1969. Born in Kansas in 1894, Otis made his way to San Francis- co working days as an art appren- tice at the San Francisco Chronicle and taking night courses at Mark Hopkins Institute in San Francis- co. In 19!7, he joined the Foster & Kleiser Outdoor Advertising Com- pany, and after service in WWI, Shepard (or "Shep") returned to F&K, becoming art director from 1923 to 1930. His wife Dorothy was born in Berkeley, California in 1906. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts de- gree from the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1927, she went to work at Foster & Kleiser as a poster artist, where she met and married Shep in 1929. In 1930, Otis and Dorothy re- signed from F&K, and went to New York City. By then Shep was established as one of the predomi- nant airbrush illustrators in the country. In New York, Shep and Dorothy worked freelance on Mad- ison Avenue---advertising capital of the world--where Shep made posters for Chesterfield cigarettes," Richfield Gasoline, and Chevrolet and Pontiac automobiles. Shepard, considered a pioneer in modern airbrush poster art in the 1930s, received many nation- ally acclaimed awards for his art. In fact, Shepard's distinctive air- brush technique and his simple, clear designs have become icons, in the modern commercial art field of today. An interesting foomote in Shep's career was his visit in the late 1920s to Austrian artist Joseph Binder's studio in Vienna. Binder was a pio- neer of graphic design and gained intemational recognition for his compositions of travel posters. In 1933, there was a great de- mand for illustrators in the United States. Binder left his homeland and moved to New York City, where his admirer and visitor Otis Shepard, was now established as one of the prominent illustrators in the U.S. It was obvious in Shep's work that he was inspired by his visit to Binder's studio and influenced by Binder's philosophy. Shep ap- proached his art based on the fol- lowing theory: "You had to eat, sleep, and drink the product to be" able to represent it to the public." Shep believed that an illustration should have a simple language that could be understood by individuals at all levels of society. As art di- rector of Wrigley-Spearmint Gum, Shepard produced many years of work based on this philosophy. At that time Shep's playful and bold imagery, which conveyed a simple message, was just what P.K. wanted for the Island. At the request of Wrigley, "the Shepards landed on sunny Cata- lina sometime around 1934. Trav- eling down Crescent Avenue, they were greeted by a broad roadway without trees or shrubbery, fronted on one side by rocky beaches and lined on the other primarily with uneventful buildings of various shapes and sizes that sported bias6 signage: Mr. Wrigley's early California dream, however, was already un- derway when the Shepards arrived on the Island. The world-famous Casino had been an Art Deco landmark since 1929. The newly constructed Paseo de El Encanto, located at the junction of Marilla and Casino Way, had its official grand openirfg ceremonies the first weekend in August 1933. The fes- tivities included strolling trouba- dours, dances of old Spain, pinatas for the kids, and exhibits of arts and crafts, many of which were ar- tisans from Los Angeles' historic Alvero Street. While Otis is credited with most of the advertising design of Catalina and the design of Cres- cent, Dorothy played a major role as well. Content working in the background, she designed signage, company uniforms, created paint- ings, cooked, and raised their two children. Soon after the Shepard's arrival and the success of the E1 Encanto, Mr. Wrigley announced plans for remodeling the company owned buildings in an early California style and for the complete transfor- mation of Avenida de la Crescent. The first phase of the project included taking down power and telephone poles and placing the wire underground. The dirt and sand promenade soon gave way to curving brick and stone walk- ways edged Iy a sea of grass and planters adorned with Catalina tile. White sand, imported from Newport Beach, was added to the beaches and full-grown palm and olive trees, barged from the main- land, graced the newly constructed planters. Mushroom-shaped lights, now known as "Shepard Lights," were installed along the promenade helping to complete the atmo- sphere of the landscape, along with Shepard designed kiosks placed in several locations. It is said that Shep supervised much of the makeover includ- ing the placement of each tree and worked side-by-side with the stonemasons and laborers in the placement of the stones and bricks in the walkways. Adding to the atmosphere, two fountains were constructed on Avenida de la Crescent. Wrigley Fountain was placed in the heart of Crescent at the foot of Sumner, and Sombrero Fountain was construct- ed at the base of Whittley near the El Encanto. The early California theme is seen in the Mission-style structures built at the entrance to Via Casino Way and to the en- trance to the former Steamer Pier. In the first year, Avalon's front street, Crescent Avenue became a shady, comfortable boardwalk where visitors could stroll and sit along the beach and spread a blan- ket and relax on the sand. Soon thereafter, local mer- chants warmed to the new early California look and the new Cres- cent Avenue. With the free advise of Dorothy and Shep, storefronts sported new facades and signage engaging the playful Catalina Cal- ifornia theme. The Serpentine Wall, also de- signed by the Shepard's, was add- ed, extending from South beach to the Green Pleasure Pier. It divided the beach from the stone and brick walkway. Dorothy applied her artistic tal- ent in many other areas as well such as redecorating the whole of the St. Catherine Hotel, (located at Des- canso Beach and razed in 1966), the lobby of the Hotel Atwater, and the lounge areas of the steamer ship the S.S. Avalon. She designed the 100 foot long fish mural in the Marine Bar in the Casino Ballroom. Story also has it that she designed the fish murals in the Marlin Club and that legendary Island artist, Bud Upton, painted the murals based on Doro- thy's design. The wonderful thing about Avalon's front street is that most of its original features created by Otis and Dorothy Shepard still exist to- day. The Serpentine wall still am- hies down the promenade (you'll find the seents head at the base of the green Pleasure Pier). Wrig- ley Fountain still anchors the heart of Crescent Avenue, and Sombrero Fountain--now a planter--is still a popular photo spot Many of the olive and palm trees still thrive, and you can still find out what movie is playing at the Avalon Theater by going to one of the kiosks located near Step Beach or at the foot of the Green Pleasure Pier. You can take a tour of the Casino building or stop in the Marlin Club and see Dorothy's murals. And, if you are observant enough, you can still spot one of their many unique signs still hang 7 ing around town. Next time you walk down Front Street, take the time to appreciate the subtle artistic endeavors cre- ated more than 60 years ago by two exceptionally versatile and talented artists. CATALINA iSLANDER .................................. Friday, July 8, 2011! 5