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Erie Art Museum

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Erie Art Museum Celebrates the Unique Talents of Industrial Designer and Architect Wilbur Henry Adams

Erie, PA, October 08, 2014 --( Erie born, M.I.T. educated industrial designer and architect Wilbur Henry Adams’ (1906-1958) brief but flourishing career is the focus of an exhaustively researched overview of a collection of drawings, sketchbooks, fine art, and ephemera from Adams that will be on view in the Main Gallery at the Erie Art Museum. The exhibit opens Friday, October 10 and will remain on view through January 4, 2015.

Adams followed studies at Academy High School under George Ericson (Eugene Iverd) with a year at the then Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. He established himself as a unique talent, winning a coveted one-year scholarship to M.I.T.’s prestigious School of Architecture. While there he crossed paths with the great architect and designer Eliel Saarinen, who recommended him to Raymond Hood just as plans for Rockefeller Center were taking shape. Praised by Saarinen as “facile with pen and pencil,” Hood readily hired the unseasoned Adams, employing him on a variety of private and commercial projects ranging from Rockefeller Center and the New York Daily News building to automobile concept drawings.

At just twenty six, however, Adams was ready to strike out on his own, opening a studio in Cleveland and working with his wife, Arleen, a talented artist and interior designer. Adams found instant success with his 1934 transition to the burgeoning field of industrial design, and the couple returned to Erie, settling in the country on Wolf Road where Adams worked from a studio in the barn on the old Metcalf estate.

Erie was a hub of industrial activity and an important part of the industrial corridor bridging the Midwest and the Northeast—Adams’ clients readily followed him to this now seemingly removed location. Adams designed, styled, and streamlined everything from toilets to tractors to the SkyWay Drive-In, all while raising prize chickens, four children and living the life of a country gentleman. Alexa D. Potter, curator of Styled by Adams, places Adams in his rightful role as a major figure in early American industrial design.

The Museum will host a public reception on Friday, October 24 from 7-9 p.m.
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Erie Art Museum
Carolyn Eller

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