Coe forum looks at WWI art

On April 6, 1917, the United States officially declared war on Germany, shifting from a merely belligerent nation to a full-fledged participant in World War I. Decades before that date, the American government sponsored artists to create art that helped establish the nation, but with the onset of the Great War, artists took on a greater role.

For the February Thursday Forum at Coe College, Ranelle Knight-Lueth, assistant professor of art history, will discuss the important role art played in the propaganda during this time. Sessions will be held Feb. 1, 8, 15 and 22 in Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall on the campus of Coe College.

Each session begins with registration and refreshments from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m., followed by the class until 11:30 a.m. An optional luncheon is offered after the Feb. 22 lecture.

Some artists rallied against the war, producing anti-war art and exhibitions. With awareness of the tremendous influence art wielded at this time, President Woodrow Wilson implemented a new government organization, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), within days of the war declaration. The CPI’s mission was to persuade the public to support the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and the war effort overall. The CPI generated posters, exhibitions, films and other forms of propaganda.

The War Department also commissioned America’s first official combat artists, recognizing that art had the ability to document and persuade — two key components to military success. Eight artists, whom Knight-Lueth calls the “AEF 8,” were sent to France by the Army to create art “over there” for propagandistic purposes “over here.”

Coe’s Thursday Forum courses are open to all adults. Admission to the entire four-week course can be purchased for $35 on the first day or in advance. Admission to individual lectures is $12 per week. The series closing luncheon is an additional $8. For more information, call (319) 399-8623.

For the remainder of the 2017-18 academic year, the Thursday Forum schedule includes:

l “Two Scenically Beautiful Hikes in the English Countryside,” March 1

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l “Songs of Protest and Resistance,” March 8, 15, 22, 29

l “Saints, Sinners and Secularists: Religion and Politics on the World Stage,” April 5, 12, 19, 26

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