In the mid 1980s, the Texas Media Arts Center (TMAC), represented by board members Bob Trammell, Patsy Swank, and Carolyn Clark, chose to honor the life and work of Dallas architect Howard Meyer through sponsorship of a short documentary. A focus of TMAC was to gain recognition for local artists. Dallas filmmaker Jim Murray of West End Productions was selected, and the project proceeded through pro bono efforts and a budget of $10,000. Funds were raised by friends and colleagues of Meyer, spearheaded by Carolyn Clark.
By 1987, additional funding was sought for final editing and distribution. Frank Welch, Chair of the Dallas American Institute of Architects Foundation, and fellow architect Bill Booziotis encouraged Meyer's former colleague Nick Glassbrook to contact Hal Box, Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin (UTSOA). An early version of the film helped secure the necessary additional funding and assistance in distribution from the UTSOA's Center for American Architecture. During this time, negotiations were also ongoing for the donation of Meyer's professional work to Architectural Drawings Collection (ADCO) at the University of Texas. Carolyn Clark was a key contact in this effort and discussions began to also include the products of the TMAC endeavor.
Although the film was in its final editing, additional documentation continued with Meyer, opening a treasure chest of more resources to feature in the film. Lila Stillson, curator at ADCO, conducted a recorded interview, and Murray filmed as Meyer's archive was packed up for Austin in 1987. Upon Meyer's death in 1988, additional material was acquired in his collection. This, and an unfortunate health setback of the filmmaker, nearly stalled the project. In a letter dated April 24, 1993 from Murray to Stillson provides some explanation:
Here is a print of the Howard Meyer video. I'm pleased (and relieved) to be able to send it to you. The obligation to the Center and others who supported the project has been very much on my mind. You may be interested in why it has taken so long. After the stroke, I wasn't able to work at all for a couple of years. The Meyer video was a pro-bono, and very personal project, it was therefore stalled until I was able to resume work on it myself. I was the only one who knew how all the diverse materials fitted together. Luckily, the stroke didn't wipe that out, but it has kept me from working at a normal pace. ...We all believed Meyer's career was a most worthwhile project, and the passage of time shouldn't have changed that.
...That was the way with Howard, bless him. We worked with him over a two-year period and were continually uncovering material he hadn't thought sufficiently important to show us. The photos & renderings stored in his garage were a complete surprise until the final day of taping, and as you'll see in the video, that material fleshed out a lot of details I needed.
James Murray passed away in 2006. Carolyn Clark understood Murray's constant challenge in tying up the project and in 2009 decided to personally fund a final round to publicly share the legacy of Howard Meyer. A new filmmaker, J. Mitchell Johnson was hired to minimally edit Murray's work, re-work new material, and create a website to provide open access for scholarship.
At this time, architect Mark Gunderson contacted Beth Dodd, curator of what is now known as the Alexander Architectural Archives, to assist with additional fundraising efforts for the film and website. In October 2010, the newly completed film, which included extra interviews, premiered at Temple Emanu-El as a benefit for Preservation Dallas. UTSOA screened the film in February 2011 before the website was finally released. Promotion included a presentation by Architecture Librarian Martha González Palacios at the 2012 Art Libraries Society of North America conference in Toronto, Ontario.
The gifting of a website to an archival repository requires many considerations. The site would not be able to grow with new scholarship or features. Maintaining the original website quickly became unsustainable as new technologies and platforms developed. The Alexander submitted the site to the Internet Archive, accessible via the Wayback Machine, and focused on preserving the content used to build the site. Carolyn Clark's ambition to enlighten the public on Howard Meyer aligns with the commitment of the University of Texas Libraries, to support sustainable open scholarship. In December of 2020, the Alexander conducted a project led by graduate research assistant Alison Brislin to shift content to the Spotlight exhibition platform so it can be better maintained as an open educational resource.
This online exhibition was generously funded in part by Carolyn Clark, The Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment, and The Young Boozer Family Foundation.
-complied by Beth Dodd
This site has been set up as an educational resource for those interested in Modern Architecture during the 1950's in the Dallas, TX area.
A Well-Made Object has been made available to professors, students, and other educational professionals for download and free use in educational settings.