Pages from the Notebooks of von Meier


Kurt's blue-lined notebook was never far from hand. Tucked into a manila folder, it sat by his spot on the couch ready for his pen whenever a thought or event stimulated Kurt's mind or heart (which happened frequently and easily). There are many dozens of these notebooks stretching over a 40-year period.

Here are two pages from 1990; not all of it is immediately understandable, given Kurt's personal "shorthand." But overall, these pages are revealing. 

C.I.R.C.A. - Center for Intermedia Research and Communication Analysis


During the late 1960s the world of Fine Arts (like much else at that time) was in a state of rapid change, in part fueled by the pervasive effects of advancing communication and imaging technology. Marshall McLuhan's ideas had a great impact on Kurt and his views about art, education, and society. In this letter intended for review by Jean de Menil, one member of the family of wealthy art patrons in Texas with whom Kurt had established a relationship (see Mixed Masters), Kurt proposes the creation of C.I.R.C.A., an Intermedia Center at the University of St. John in Houston, TX. Such centers were being established in various cities at the time.
          He writes, "The idea of an interdepartmental or interdisciplinary project provides one of the most direct and important opportunities for reintegrating education. Perhaps the brightest hopes lie in bringing together the revolutionary technology of the twentieth century with our study of the fine arts and liberal arts in the spirit of the great medieval tradition of humanistic scholarship....In a field such as art history it is fast becoming clear that truly sig­nificant research can be done now only by transcending the limiting conventions of academic departmentalization....The great promise of a center for interdisciplinary, or interdepartmental, studies lies precisely in these possibilities for a humanistic reintegration of education, which implies as its goal the enlightened individual human being, totally integrated in body, mind and spirit."

Gender Bias in the Discipline of Art History


As was so often the case, Kurt stepped forward to urge the University to assume a leading role in social and cultural transformation, in this case gender bias. He wrote a critique and set of recommendations about Sac State's art history program while Art Department Chair, a portion of which is excerpted here, and sent it to the President of the university. "Gender bias in the discipline of Art History is real, exists and persists on several different levels," he wrote, "and requires the thoughtful attention of peers, academic administrators and students as well as future textbook authors." In the light of issues surrounding gender bias today (2018) Kurt's observations were, as usual, progressive and timely.

A Sample of Kurt's Class Preparation


As these notes from 1986 amply demonstrate, even after 20-plus years of teaching Kurt continued to make careful preparation for his classes. Though he often made notes in his ever-present blue-lined paper notebooks, in the 1980s he also kept notes by computer.

This particular batch found in his archives--in preparation for his Creative Art and Mythology class 113-D--were printed on perforated, punched paper designed for use in a "daisy-wheel" printer. There's a good deal of solid art history contained within these pages.

Art 110A - Final Exam - UCLA 1966


An unconventionally presented course appropriately ended with an unconventional final exam. Kurt von Meier believed real and valuable education meant a working relationship with the subject and material, not rote memorization of dates, names and places. His tests were not tests about facts, because for Kurt facts were easily gathered from books. He wanted his students to demonstrate the ability to think and feel. As he says at the bottom of the exam, education "cannot be justified unless it results in a bona fide aesthesic experience, helping to make one a more beautiful human being--that is to say, important only in so far as it involves art." An important lecture for this course can be read here.