Victoria Hamilton and Paul Hobson

Recorded January 22, 2020 Archived January 22, 2020 40:45 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddf000457


Paul Hobson (70) talks with his wife Victoria Hamilton (68) about his early life as an artist working for Bauhaus master Herbert Bayer, how those experiences informed his later work as a designer, and how meeting his wife changed his career path. Victoria Hamilton also talks about her role as Arts Commissioner in San Diego.

Subject Log / Time Code

PH reflects on his opportunities in art, especially working with the last Bauhaus master as a young man. He tells a story about getting the job with Herbert Bayer.
PH talks about learning how to make art for kids that would help develop them.
VH and PH discuss the moment when The New Children's Museum was able to move into the warehouse in Downtown San Diego.
VH talks about working for the Arts Commission in San Diego and about seeing The New Children's Museum evolve over time.
PH remembers when he was younger he either wanted to be an artist or a pilot, but when he met his wife, VH, he decided to stick with art.
VH talks about some of PH's early work in San Diego, he remembers working on a vapor extraction unit at a San Diego police station.
VH and PH talk about the San Diego mayors she has worked with as an arts administrator on the arts commission, and discuss some of the highlights of her career.
PH says VH taught him how to get hired for jobs, how to pitch, how to work contracts.
PH and VH talk about the negatives of public art, list some lessons learned, and share advice for the younger generations in their field.


  • Victoria Hamilton
  • Paul Hobson

Recording Location

The New Children's Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service



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00:02 My name is Victoria Hamilton and I am 68 years old and today is January 22nd 2020 and I'm at the new Children's Museum in San Diego.

00:16 And my interview partner is Paul Hobson, who is my husband.

00:23 You hesitated manheim's bobson. I'm 70 years old. Today's date is January 22nd 2020. We're at the Children's new Children's Museum in San Diego downtown and my interview partner is my wife, Victoria, Hamilton.

00:44 So it's fitting that we would be here talking together about the children the new Children's Museum and the fact that this museum is different from any other Children's Museums across the country because it's focuses on art artist and you have a long career and as being an artist and even to have done some work here, but tell me tell me a little bit about how you started as an artist.

01:18 Okay, I am an opportunist and opportunities come my way. Some of the best anybody has ever had come their way and one of them was meeting up with Bauhaus Master name or where buyer he was the last of them and I went to work for him and 1975 is a studio sister and Montecito California. And the way I got the job was kind of interesting. I was in competition with one other artists and he looked at our portfolios. He looked at mine and he kind of poo poo did I don't think he was very impressed with it, but and I went home thinking I didn't get the job but that night it rained cats and dogs and Santa Barbara and has brand new home did he just moved into the roof leaked and he called me up in the middle of the night. So it can you come down and help me I said, yes, and I got the job the next day so and that lasted for 10.

02:18 I was just Studio assistant. I went there to learn how to paint. He was a well-known painter and

02:28 I

02:30 Did pain I was his?

02:35 Is I think he called me a second pair of hands for 10 years. We painted at least three shows for Marlborough galleries from New York to London. But while I was there, I he was also doing environmental art projects outdoor sculpture Highway sculpture. He did a huge water retention Basin and the City of Kent Washington and I assisted in my on those projects. I worked on drawings and I went on trips to visit some of these projects and I just fell in love with that kind of work. I realized that an artist can Branch out from the museum setting and into the outdoors and have a positive effect mitigating environmental on Capital Improvement projects. It don't always look so good.

03:27 So I got interested in that and when he died and 1985 I moved with you if you remember down here to San Diego and

03:42 I want an opportunity that I had was her at the Museum Children's Museum. I think I was the first artist that was employed by the museum to create a piece of art think I was first artist at the time that worked with a Child Development expert to realize the artwork. So there was some first there and Bob saying was a really good guy to work with beat the river there and

04:20 I'm created it in Kanab Eula cereals, but maybe talk a little bit about the shape primary landscape. And the other was Aspen Valley redesigned that he did a drawing of a design of the whole valley and it was it was so thank you. Buehler was totally inspired by those two pieces of materials or a variety of different materials. We put together form and then line the interior with EPDM Rubber, so it was a spongy surface.

05:15 And it had ring mounts and tunnels and things in it that were fun to play with you remember that the

05:23 Early Childhood experts said that younger children like not just colorful things but black and white is that right closely on the project you directed me to do the things I had no notion about kids and what they like to play with that. It was really fun having her direct me towards things that would you know be it would develop them.

05:56 And what would you think about it when the kids first came and started to explore the the artwork it was really fun to watch it was it was designed for toddlers until it was like an age. I think it's two and a half and below that the big kids got into. So that's a lot of times he would dominate the project but you know it held up pretty fairly. Well, I think they had to decommission up because the new plans for the museum, but it was there for several years and it was a lot of fun to work on with the folks it running the children. Are you part of the inner Lee charette when because the museum was down in La Jolla Shopping Center and they were leadership was looking out of a space in Balboa Park inside.

06:52 This is really difficult to get a space and Balboa Park very political and then is 100 days in a huge city block of a warehouse that we had a design charrette and I think the year before and it was actually painted by Patricia Patterson and Ernie Silva's peace when and and I think it was another show that an artist other artist Jean Lowe was there they had a dinosaur show open at the same time. It was just it was huge. It was a huge Extravaganza I picked for kids. That's kind of scary downtown to but at that time,

07:51 And this Museum I was a director of this as you remember for 24 years of the city commission for arts and culture the founding director. And so one of my jobs was to create a process for nonprofit organizations to apply for city funding. So I followed the Children's Museum before it became the new children's museum is trajectory and it's a forward-thinking and into leadership and thank goodness. They've their downtown because it's really made a difference downtown across from the convention center to Great tourist destination gotten a lot of recognition. It's been good for local artists as well quite a few artists.

08:38 To come in and do the right thing.

08:42 So you did that mean you were dreaming about being honest as you were growing up, right? Yes. It is between being an artist and being a pilot. I think I was hang gliding in Santa Barbara for a while. I got my pilot's license and actually it was you. I know you know this that you were the reason why I didn't go into Aviation cuz Herbert was if you remember he was on his deathbed and my career and his studio is coming to a the fast and I was totally and applying I totally love getting my pilot's license back when we met. You know, I realized I was

09:26 Which way I really wanted to go you were so into the yard said that about Bob house and what made that movement so important just I think Walter gropius is vision of combining arts and industry was a game-changer after World War II and Herbert bought into that. He went to work there as a typography volume are 1990 and 19 years old 19 years old and Austrian boy and met all these huge artist Laszlo. Moholy-nagy Kandinsky Parkway. They were all at the Bauhaus at that time and they had no stationery & Herbert are they had no, you know typeface for letterhead and so Herbert design

10:26 I think Brooke is fell in love with him later. But he also studied mural design with condensed. He and he did those famous stairwell murals with him.

10:47 But then Hitler came along and Herbert told me stories about how brutal those guys were. I need finally had to get out. His wife is Jewish and you had to get out. The Bell House was being labeled as a bunch of of degenerate creating degenerate art and they went so far as to create a shut mouth to show the travel to different cities in Germany to show the second at Art. And this is what he shouldn't be to do. I pick 4 for any kind of leader tutu and Herbert saw the writing on the wall and came to New York City and

11:35 He mad Walter Packy and Walter Pepsi was the chairman of the Container Corporation of America and Herbert started putting graphic on on labels on boxes. And that was a first and he answered he kind of went to work for him on a retainer as as hard as but at the same time he moved to Aspen where they had just founded the Aspen Institute with r o Anderson. So he was there to our Anderson was the director the chairman of the board of Atlantic Richfield company and he loved her and they became Fast Friends Herbert did all the architecture for the Aspen Institute. He worked with Buckminster Fuller on the music tent and work with Anderson at Arco as well. They were after I think I

12:35 IBM Atlantic Richfield had the first corporate art collection and Herbert helped select the art for that and had quite a few pieces and their own self.

12:49 I think her where it is such an interesting artists the time that I met you in the mid-80s public garden tended to be sore like flop art sculptures and plazas necessary thing and there are various artists that were very popular at the time for public art commissions and I just like her and I don't think it respected for their creativity and their use of different materials and and doing changing up by doing work in the public that might be more integrated similar to what you're successful at now is work in the environment now pepper and some of the others totally ignored Sherbert is being the first guy to do an earthwork.

13:44 That was in 55 and asked when he actually took the Phil from the building that they did instead of carting it off. He created these ring mounds and Earthworks that when it snows and when they're under the snow, it's just so unbelievably beautiful very much inspired by have you done an earthwork?

14:14 I know I haven't.

14:17 He proposed though and Herbert Herbert. It's not a household word. Whatever this year.

14:42 And Herbert was finally mentioned as one of the big masters of the Bell House of Germany, and it's right. So he finally got his due but I love the the book that was published about him. And he dedicated the book to you was the author of that book and I didn't give it to you.

15:16 My second that you're his second pair of hands back from the dead of Summer at the American Academy in Rome and I stayed in Montecito a did Studio stuff and when he came back he had done this painting called colore ramoni Beautiful small paperwork and he gave it to me in a row. At my second pair of hands cuz we just finished this Marlborough should I don't think there is some

15:48 Dedication and he wanted juice and then he would say something to your old man a Leo, but I think I'll austrians do to a certain extent. But God it was just it was having I mean outside of the art part Arco. Would one Herbert to go to their new building in Dallas or to Denver to look at something and they send a G3 and I was taking flying lessons to deposit would find out and they would invite me to set the front seat and did this ride with them up front?

16:34 Herbert died there was still a project in the pipeline that you help finish. It's a great story designed for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City a 50-foot articulated. Wall That's is so simple, but it's hard to describe what it looks like and it fell into disarray, but it's still there. I think it's been redone but our Anderson again, he had another project he was working on the Denver Design District and I was like this huge thing in Southwest Denver that had showrooms anyone at a spectacular piece of art and T came to Herbert and ask him if he could redo the articulated wall only bigger.

17:30 And the proposal was 485 feet with canary yellow yellow and so about the time Herbert said he could do it. He had his his final, you know, that really it was confined a bad for the rest of his life actually bet. Mr. Anderson's hoop. Can you do this to me? And I said heck yeah, I mean, you know, and so I spent a year on it building models. I think you remember you were with me and went to the 51st floor with that model and that's another story. Remember he said

18:18 We had we had to scramble around and look for for parts and there was a sinner post that the thing was about sort of way for shapes stacked on top of each other and going in One Direction and then reverse and go in the other and they're sort of like a spiral that never completes itself, but it had to have a center post and there was a Swedish firm. We were working with it was going to take him a year to produce this 85-foot post but there was an assistant of one of the guys were working on it that when I have to Seattle and was at a shipyard it just happened upon an aircraft carrier refueling mask that met the specs perfectly. So if the cut it up write it down and they erected that and it was just an amazing process to watch two cranes in a really tall cranes lift these pieces up.

19:18 Jaheim around and throw them under this pipe and watch the spectacular job working for the the visual weapon called Young At Art for the schools do that really cool thing, which is like a was about two blocks from here at the old police station. They had that the the northeast corner of the station used to be gas. Where the cops would fill up their cars with Dad and they noticed they were missing all this gas and and they had to set up guys and guard towers to look and see who is stealing at it.

20:15 It never dawned on him that the gas tank underground wheat and it did for years and it left a huge plume. They call it a plume of gas and it and it just ruin the environment headed towards the band one day. It would have gone into the bay. So they have this technology. It's a machine called a vapor extraction unit and it and it digs a hole in the ground and it and it somehow it extract the gas and then Burns it off and and this big ghetto machine and then what finally comes a missions about out of comparable to what comes out of the tailpipe of your car. So I cleaned it up pretty good, but it was a really ugly and so Paul gagliardo the city engineer at the time hard me to

21:06 To enhance it and that was a big it was a big project for me. I think it was my first one when I move when you got your job similar to Ben Kenobi lamp that you've built here for the new children's museum. How many mirrors did you go through while you were director of the Arts commission? There are temporary mirrors.

21:34 So I went through quite a few a city to city managers and five or six and mirrors and that time and they were all pretty supportive. I mean Siri, we understand Jerry, you know, I had to get the economy honor. Yeah, I probably one of my most favorite moments of being an Arts administrator is what time you went into a budget hearing in advocating for more funding for arts and culture when I first got here the budget was about four million dollars and now it's like 13 or something like that, but we could go to the the budget hearings and we'd have a lot of communities support and ours come out and speak and you know dancers and musicians or whatever and then we would talk about

22:34 How the Arts Impact the economy, you know how many tours for how many people are employed and that's her thing and they the council really set up and it's hard to listen to that. They really like those numbers the few years when I do we write a budget here. Anyway, you did the same, you know dog and pony show bigger numbers more employees more funding to arts and culture organizations an artist. And one of the city councilperson said, you know what I'm really kind of tired of hearing about numbers. This is like really arts and cultures really special. I mean, I was up this morning with my daughter and we were dancing around and listening to music. That's what's special about Arts. You know, how it how it makes me feel as a person.

23:25 So when ya was a good ride still doing arts and culture advocacy of Americans for the Arts UF you got the Autumn award and Seattle a few years ago. One of the conventions started my career and Bellingham, Yeah, and now you're at the Jacobs Center for neighborhood Innovation doing arts and culture there and working at the state to for advocating for arts and culture funding at the state level. I was at the dedication of DD's sculpture Deedee Morrison on Troy's creates a really nice additions to do the public art to install two pieces of art who has work here in the museum. His Gates is Gateway.

24:25 On Choice Creek sounds like a small community. We're dropping all these snakes. They're all like the Children's Museums or have something to do with it was good leadership here, and I'm good at opportunity. I think for artists and young Arts administrators.

24:44 True

24:51 Who's your relationship to Art when you were kids?

24:56 When I was growing up my relationship with arts and cultures.

25:04 Probably mostly dance when we always love to dance as a family and some of us are pretty talented actually Visual Arts, but not to say it was dance Menken all grown up a Shirley Temple, you know, that's not tap. What about you, sweetie?

25:32 You know other than just the regular stuff we got back in the day when you had art and in school and schools, that's what I got. I Was art major in college, but I didn't finish college. And so but now, you know just the stuff I would do on my own. I always had thought three-dimensionally a lot and I remember doing it called him would release where I would I would

26:09 I was pretty young then I would layer up plywood which is already layered and then sand it and it would give these really great strata back. So I did a lot of those hand painted some I was really into the airbrush for a while do airbrush pieces and then I when I grew up when I was about 35, I was already through with Herbert.

26:41 Pretty much started off on you know, public art never called and never even that word never even came up. I had never heard of public art until I met you and environmental art to him or outdoor are there was no like and he never he didn't go through the process. That was I think I learned from him how to design and outside, but you help me learn how to get the job cuz there's more to it than just design your very much process-oriented. You've got to sell it that, you know certain thing that you have to develop as how to get a job, you know how to compete for it what to say in an RFQ and RFP how to do an interview and you had done pretty much all of that before me and

27:41 I think you really taught me a lot. But you have the advantage of being a nice person as I recall when you work with Herbert and feet didn't work in the community was like you are his buffer. These Engineers would call the studio up and breathe a sigh of relief if I answered the folks talk to her talk to me and then and then tell me what was wrong and that I have to go tell him and then you yell at me and then I'd go back and it was like a

28:18 One thing I really like about public art to you have to be a problem solver. You have a funny story about trying to solve a problem for an artwork that you were doing in a cold climate.

28:34 It was a I think was a tile piece. That was a fountain and

28:41 Newtown Square, it was a narco polymer chemical and just outside of Philadelphia and Herbert had to sign this gorgeous series of ring silver concentric circles. They were different colors and it was a glass Mosaic piece. It was assembled or it was created by or a Sony in Rome and then and take back to cut it into small pieces backed up with paper backing and then put it in cartons put it on a Lufthansa plane flew over the pole landed in Philadelphia and when I got when I Herbert sent me to supervise the installation of the

29:23 When I got there that it was all up in this ruin, you know and ready to go and we took all the pieces down and I was working with a Mason and and he laid out the first in a layer of mortar mix put it down and you're supposed to just go out at be able to wet and peel the paper back will it didn't work when you pull the paper up and pulled up all the Mosaic and it was a mess. I mean we were like freaking out. What are we going to do? So I called Herbert and he was no help. He he said you're there you figure it out scared the heck out of me. So I grabbed the Mason and we went around it was For Heaven's Sake of his Arco chemical they got together, I hope you know with something and Chuck the alagai, you know, he was in this cubicle and told him the problem and came back the next day and in a smok a white Smock out to the job site freezing cold. And that what that's why it was not that's why there was happening was

30:23 Frozen in the non-heated cargo hold of loose talk Lufthansa. So this guy comes out with a beaker clear liquid and it's smoking and it's smocking classes. You know, what is that Nicholas? It's hot water hot water and it peeled right off.

30:50 You got because you got the paint on the life mask.

30:55 Yeah, I live Matt. No Herbert's wife. Chewelah is like another story altogether. She was married to Julianne Levy Levy Gallery in New York City in the twenties Levy Gary gave Salvador Dali is first American show and the only person that could work with him was his wife. Cialella & Sew in in token of his esteem. He took a life mass that man ray had done of Joella like 10 years before and painted it with with ants and brick walls. It was mainly orange at the actually do some restoration on that work. So I mean to be able to hold something that no man ray had made Dolly had painted her buyer had touched up and

31:55 And then I was touching it up and it was just fantastic was really great to get the to get exposed at work by everybody calder's in the house and jelly jar call Clay. I mean tons of work by tons of really great R Us.

32:15 Well, I think that's how you're still getting work and still do you know creating puppet cards pretty pretty wonderful.

32:32 Commissioner

32:34 Maybe you were talking about that.

32:38 Just really come to mind when you think about your career. I'm at the one down the street.

32:46 The

32:47 White piece on the electrical

32:52 Building

32:54 Oh.

32:55 Oh, that's a good one. Right down. The street on kattner is the I don't think it's called the

33:03 San Diego power and cooling plant anymore but used to be and it's a private sector place that has all this Machinery on its roof and they needed to hide it and they needed to dampen the sound so they put around it what they call a noise attenuation wall, which is a series of louvers and when they did that they wanted a piece of art up there. So they they contacted I think three or four the shortlist of three or four of us and we made proposals and they pick me and so I did the spider. I work with a Hollywood set designer and did a fiberglass artwork in panels that were like 20 feet long by 6 or 7 ft tall solid fiberglass, and it's like machinery and Engineers were all petrified A5.

34:03 Saying that that's not going to last that's just going to fall apart. And so we don't know but the guy who put this on had Faith then he hired me to do it and we did it. If you two years ago the louvers that they at the engineers put in we're totally rusted out just rusted through and falling apart fiberglass Christine perfect. And to this day, it's still it's still up. It's been reduced in size, but it's still there and it's it still looks really really good.

34:39 Cuz that's the way I got it. I have time to really bad stories, but there are few.

34:49 Now you don't want to hear a public art is is

34:54 Is a really difficult.

34:57 It's hard specially when you're have to do a lot of community work research on something you can disappear on you like like that or you get a fantastic proposal. They hired the other relevant and gorgeous or so. You just have to do your best to take what you've learned before and keep it fresh and clean for me. That's the most important thing as what I learned from Herbert was he didn't just pain he didn't just work in one medium. He did it all from tile to Glass to Steel painted steel. Everything and I try to do the same thing because you're not limited by, you know, if you just do tile work, then that's all you can come up with.

35:57 But if you keep an open mind, of course, that means you're going to dive into things that you've never done before which is dang risky yet me really really hard to do. So you have to align yourself with real professionals that understand what you're trying to do and buy into it like Mark that that's done. Most of my metal work as guy can just you can take a drawing I do and blow it up to a size and it looks exactly like I did it with my hand. I mean he's just

36:29 Serve on 901 real quick thing. You were doing a proposal for a city waste was in a Wastewater facility.

36:42 Until you can set up during drawings. Are we doing like photomontages city engineer saw that it was Miramar Landfill that it actually has been photoshopped can really make things look up. It's a great tool. So what I use data and Adobe Illustrator more than anything, I think

37:22 Share with young artist Fremont Olive Garden

37:27 My advice would be more towards.

37:32 Arts administrators to find out a way to take on an old-timer like me and uses. I mean the hardest thing to do is for a young artist who has no experience in public art vet great ideas as to how do you get a job? You have nothing that you typically will choose you based on what you've done in the past and how good it is. If you have nothing you have nothing to show it's very difficult a guy like me could you know, I could help a whole lot you could you could be very turned on, you know, a juror could be turned on by young artist that has no experience but likes their work, it could pair that artists up with somebody that's done it and I think it would benefit by the artist the city to ship program internship.

38:25 Victoria Smith

38:29 Everardus, I think that is not come from the dance world. And so it's been a lot of time with performing arts. And I think that the university is really need to expand their curriculum so that they understand how to write how to speak how to problem-solve how to do a business plan. So they learn skills outside of their art form and that way they can make themselves competitive in the end the job market

39:03 Maybe that's like to know how I am turning in arts Administration cuz my Anderson dance, so I did a big project with a dance Exchange program created between British Columbia and Washington state of Washington. And because I knew the dance and so I will also I became an Arts administrator because I love dance and I knew I was too old to actually make a living at him. So I'm glad I made that choice. Oh

39:42 Been a good ride.

39:45 Grass has been a great ride. I mean hell we're artists and arts administrators that own a home in the seen a difference since we moved here since 1988 has huge, you know, the budgets Crown there's more public are there more arts and culture organizations doing their healthy for your world is great the dance. I mean, it's great when we first moved here. I called this place a dumb blond a big dumb blonde. That's what it seems like but you know, it's cultured out now. We got got more culture than we know what to do with that.