Ken Dewey Collection

Collection Data

Description
Ken Dewey (1934-1972) was a performance artist, playwright, director, and arts administrator who was active in the Happenings movement of the 1960s. The Ken Dewey Collection contains project files, photographs and slides, and writings that represent Dewey's creative work; files that represent Dewey's work as an arts administrator at the American Cooperative Theatre, Action Theatre, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York State Commission on Cultural Resources, and the Planning Corporation of the Arts; material pertaining the exhibition Action Theatre: The Happenings of Ken Dewey, a posthumous retrospective curated by Barbara Moore at Franklin Furnace in 1987; and a small amount of personal files and art by other artists.
Names
Dewey, Ken (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1943 - 1987
Library locations
Billy Rose Theatre Division
Shelf locator: *T-Mss 1991-010
Topics
Donner, Henrik Otto, 1939-2013
Kaprow, Allan
Moore, Barbara, 1936-
Rabe, Folke, 1935-
Riley, Terry, 1935-
Actor's Workshop (San Francisco, Calif.)
Avant Garde Festival of New York
New York (State). Commission on Cultural Resources
New York State Council on the Arts
Arts, Modern -- 20th century
Conceptual art
Genres
Clippings
Diaries
Drawings
Prints
Photographs
Posters
Prompt books
scripts (documents)
Scores
Notes
Biographical/historical: Ken Dewey (1934-1972) was a performance artist, playwright, director, and an arts administrator who was active in the Happenings movement of the 1960s. He was born on August 30, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois and attended Columbia University in the City of New York where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1959. While at Columbia University, he studied sculpture with Oronzio Mandarelli and playwriting with Theodore Apstein. After college, Dewey moved to San Francisco where he studied mime with R. G. Davis and dance with Anna Halprin. He became a member of the Actor's Workshop of San Francisco where he was an assistant director. Dewey became interested in Happenings when he saw Robert Whitman's piece American Moon performed in 1962. Performative art like Happenings appealed to Dewey as he had always desired to take theater off of the stage and into the streets. Dewey used geography, social science, architecture, and technology in his work. His projects were often designed for a particular city and focused on that city's infrastructure, history, and culture. One of his first pieces was City Scale, a series of musical and theatrical events that took participants to various locations around San Francisco. The majority of his early work focused on European cities where he lived from 1963 to 1964. He founded two companies to support his art, the American Cooperative Theatre (ACT) in 1961, and Action Theatre in 1965. ACT was a theater collective co-founded with Lee Breuer, R. G. Davis, and Anna Halprin. Action Theatre was a corporation formed solely by Dewey for the purpose of acting as a business entity through which to initiate and produce his projects. In addition to his Happenings, he wrote short stories, poems, and plays. Notable works of Dewey included Summer Scene (1964) in Jyväskylä, Finland, where 1200 people played capture-the-flag in groups led by composers, and Street Piece (1963) in Helsinki, where he scored eighteen events that would happen in one hour in the center of the city. Dewey achieved notoriety through his piece at the 1963 Edinburgh Festival Drama Conference which challenged Britain's nudity laws by having a nude model pulled across the stage. In Dewey's first New York City production, Without & Within (1965) at the Palm Garden Ballroom, he divided audience members into two teams who played a giant game of tug-of-war. Though he traveled extensively, he remained in New York for the rest of his life. In 1966, Dewey became a staff member at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). While at NYSCA he held the positions director of program development and director of research. In 1970, he was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve on the New York State Commission on Cultural Resources, a temporary state commission started by Rockefeller to study the current and long-range fiscal needs of cultural institutions. That same year he was also director of Planning Corporation of the Arts, a one-year research project, partially funded by the NYSCA, into the role of arts in a democracy Dewey died in 1972 in a plane crash. A posthumous retrospective of his work Action Theatre: The Happenings of Ken Dewey was curated by Barbara Moore at the Franklin Furnace Archive in 1987.
Content: The Ken Dewey Collection contains project files, photographs and slides, and writings that represent Dewey's work as a director, film maker, performance artist, and writer; files that represent Dewey's work as an arts administrator at the American Cooperative Theatre, Action Theatre, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York State Commission on Cultural Resources, and the Planning Corporation of the Arts; material pertaining the exhibition Action Theatre: The Happenings of Ken Dewey, a posthumous retrospective curated by Barbara Moore at Franklin Furnace in 1987; and a small amount of personal files and art by other artists. The project files and arts administration files make up the bulk of the collection. Project files consist of contracts, correspondence, diagrams, news clippings, photographs, posters, and scripts that represent Dewey's appearances, Happenings, and plays. His work is further documented by slides and photographs. Dewey's writing is represented in an extensive run of notebooks that contain diary entries, college writings, short stories, plot logs, and scripts and typescript drafts of short stories, scripts, and poems. There is a small amount of correspondence that is both personal and professional. Additional personal material includes resumes, subject files, and printed material. Files for the Action Theatre: The Happenings of Ken Dewey exhibit include diagrams used in Dewey's works, photographs, posters, and Barbara Moore's curatorial comments. The collection contains a small amount of art by other artists. Inquiries regarding audio and video materials may be directed to the Billy Rose Theatre Division (theatrediv@nypl.org). Audio/visual materials may be subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access.
Physical Description
Extent: 32 linear feet (69 boxes, 2 tubes)
Type of Resource
Text
Identifiers
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19834195
MSS Unit ID: 18853
Archives collections id: archives_collections_18853
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): ae4193a0-b810-0139-c001-0242ac110005
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