Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Who is Rockwell Kent?

Posted on: February 12, 2013

RockwellKentA year ago I had no idea.   Now I know he was a prolific artist, writer, illustrator, adventurer,  progressive thinker, and social activist who spent a year in Winona one hundred years ago. Kent came to Winona, Minnesota from the east to work as an architectural supervisor overseeing the


Winona Republican Herald, 1913

construction of the twin Briarcombe Mansions built for two wealthy families.  While here he  developed friendships with wealthy and working class people. His art show was not well received, but his runaway horse in downtown Winona made the local news.  He raised a few eyebrows when he organized an anti-bosses convention and picnic.


Winona Republican Herald, 1953

Kent’s time here was celebrated in a multi-day festival including art gallery openings,  a symposium presented by Kent experts,  a documentary film, and  a lecture about his troubles with the McCarthy hearings and U.S. Passport office. There were even ice sculptures of Moby Dick and Captain Ahab to commemorate Kent’s illustration for Moby Dick.  A Winona County History Center exhibit has reproductions of original materials from the Smithsonian, the Center’s own Briarcombe artifacts and a video tour of Briarcombe narrated by a 5th generation family member. Primary sources including letters, It’s Me Oh, Lord  (Kent’s autobiography) and newspaper articles from the era were resources for a playwright who wrote an original play.

The Kent Festival was a unique event that brought a significant 20th century artist and local history to life, adding more than we expected to our knowledge.   I was inspired to explore online collections to learn more; here are a few idea.

Discover photos, documents and prints like  Workers of the World Unite  in Library of Congress digital collections. 
Explore Rockwell Kent’s papers at the Smithsonian
Search The Winona Newspaper project and the Library of Congress Historic Newspaper Collection for countless newspaper articles such as those shown above.


Ctn. Ahab greets visitors at the MN Marine Art Museum in Winona

How can I  use primary resources like these in the media center or classroom to teach local history or make interdisciplinary connections?
Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources


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