May 23

Remembering Finch College – and its ground-breaking 1970s Art Deco exhibits

Last Sunday afternoon (May 18, ’14), I took a group of alumnae of Finch College – in town for a college reunion – on a walk of Art Deco architecture on the Upper East Side. After visits to Raymond Hood’s 1928 apartment house at 3 East 84th Street, Harry Allen Jacob’s 1930 town house at 49 East 80th Street, and the 1930 Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue, we stopped in front of the former Finch College Museum of Art building (completely refaced for a new owner) at 62-64 East 78th Street. Though Finch College closed in 1976, its alumnae remain committed to their memories of the small women’s arts college, and reminisced about their time there decades ago. Several of the alumnae remembered the ground-breaking Art Deco exhibits at the Finch College Museum of Art – and also remembered its director, Elayne Varian (d. 1987), who organized the shows. They recalled her as “avant-garde” and a major force at the College.

I brought along my prized copies of the two Finch College Art Deco exhibition catalogs – one from 1970 devoted to objects, and one from 1974-75 looking at architecture. These were the first important New York shows devoted to the subject – and got a lot of press coverage at the time. (more…)